Personnel Is Policy. Every new president has close to 4000 people he must appoint to positions of leadership, and these 4000 people are essential to getting the president’s agenda implemented within the massive federal bureaucracy. When a president leaves a post unfilled, means the president’s agenda in that agency or department is likely not moving forward, or is still moving in the direction set by the last administration. That’s why many religious conservatives are distressed that two key posts are not yet filled in the Trump administration. According to Religion News Service, “No one has been named to direct the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which since 2001 has linked government with a broad range of religious groups.” Even more disturbing to some is the fact that the State Department has not yet filled the post of the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. The previous officeholder, Rabbi David Saperstein, told RNS, “This cause and office has such strong and bipartisan wall-to-wall support throughout both the Republican and Democratic components of the Congress.” The ambassador-at-large post is especially important, given the horrible persecution of Christians around the world.
Turkey’s Burning. We’ve seen a positive though minor development in the effort to release American missionary Andrew Brunson from a Turkish prison. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Brunson’s wife, Norine, and the meeting made it into Turkish newspapers. According to Mindy Belz’s “Globe Trot” column, “Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu dodged a question about Brunson when asked about the case at a joint press conference with Tillerson—but ‘this is a good step in the right direction,’ Turkey expert Aykan Erdemir told me.” Belz added that the situation in Turkey has deteriorated: “In 2015 I traveled breezily through Sirnak to visit areas along the Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi border. Now the area is a dangerous no-go zone. Turkey’s crackdown on its Kurds, who are key in the fight against ISIS, is a key sticking point in U.S.-Turkey relations. Hopefully Tillerson and the Pentagon will gain Brunson’s release without making concessions regarding the Kurds.”
Christian Genocide. If there’s any positive activity regarding ISIS in the Middle East, it is that the State Department seems to be getting something of a grip on reality. The original version of the State Department’s 2016 Human Rights report had no reference to ISIS-led genocide. But the report was amended to read: “Da’esh [ISIS] was responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims, and was also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.” New bipartisan efforts in Congress are also focusing attention on the atrocities of ISIS against religious minorities.
Dads Matter. You may have heard the old quote “The problem with common sense is that it is not very common.” Mark Twain and Will Rogers often get credit for the quote, but Voltaire may be its true father. Whoever first said it, it is increasingly true, and this next story falls into that category. According to studies reported in The Daily Mail (UK), “children are healthier and more likely to grow up with a good education and get a good job if their biological father lives with them.” The study is raising hackles because it also suggests that “when a stepfather moves into a family home there are no benefits for the children, the pioneering study of British families found.” The results came from a study by researchers from the London School of Economics of more than 1000 children “born to single mothers at the turn of the Millennium.” According to the Daily Mail article, “If a stepfather joins a family headed by a lone mother, then the children are likely to grow up with the same problems as children from families that continue to be led by a lone mother. They are also less likely to do well at school or keep a job, and more likely to slip into teenage pregnancy or crime.” To read my interview with the University of Virginia’s Bradford Wilcox, making many of the same points, click here. Hopefully, with all this excellent research floating around, what used to be common sense will now become more commonly accepted by those who make public policy.
Image courtesy of David Sacks at Thinkstock by Getty Images.
Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.