BP_blog

Priorities

plannedparenthood109By now, you’ve most likely seen some of the undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress. They show Planned Parenthood’s grisly commodification of aborted (or born alive) human beings.

You’ve learned that Planned Parenthood makes money from the sale of fetal tissues, such as livers. You’ve witnessed the callousness of salad-nibbling Planned Parenthood execs laughing at the shock workers might experience at seeing “intact” “babies.” You’ve learned that Planned Parenthood is willing to unethically alter the method of abortion in order to safely “harvest” certain body parts. You’ve even heard one worker describe how a doctor uses scissors to slice open a baby’s face to get at the brain.

The videos have stirred up a cauldron of controversy, including calls to prosecute representatives of the organization or at least to take away its federal funding. And yet you’ve also heard the impassioned defenses of the organization founded by eugenicist Margaret Sanger—even from Christians.
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The 40th Anniversary of Phil Keaggy's 'What a Day'

What_A_DaySometimes things are meant to be. Such was the case with Phil Keaggy’s album “What a Day,” now celebrating its 40th anniversary with a re-release. As Keaggy recalls,

Things started falling into place. I’d met a man by the name of Al Stevenson who had worked at Channel 25 in Cleveland. Out of the goodness of his heart, he said he would back me on this album project. So he put forth $2,800 and said, “Whatever the cost is, go right ahead. You can pay me back when the album comes out.”

It was really incredible. . . the desire of my heart for two years before this had been to record an album of songs the Lord had given me. So on January 2, 1973, “What a Day” began to be recorded. I spent six days in the studio with Gary [Hedden]. Sessions were from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Everything flowed. . . . Gary and I became good friends.

From the first notes of “That Is What the Lord Will Do for You,” with its cascading chromatic fall, listeners know that they’re for something rare, and very fine. “What a Day” is an album that displays a mastery of the guitar, wedded to lyrics with beautiful images from the first morning of faith. The effect is very much like a cycle of Psalms.

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Worldview and You

ID-100216056Last February my daughter, Lisa, bought a used car, not knowing that a brake caliper had been installed wrong and the entire brake system was headed for disastrous failure. She learned this about three weeks ago. She was on a trip to an out-of-town job about 60 miles from home, nearing her destination, when her brakes completely failed.

She was able to coast the car to a stop just off the road. Once she got her bearings—complicated by a quarter-mile GPS error and conflicting street signs—she realized she was properly parked in a legal parking spot at her intended destination.

A couple of passersby pointed out a large wet spot on the pavement under her vehicle there. It was brake fluid.
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All Things Examined

ID-100176056Two weeks after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex “marriage,” a Catholic priest withheld communion from Tim Ardillo, a gay man, during his mother’s funeral in southern Louisiana. Communion was denied Ardillo not, as insinuated by the media, because he was gay, but because he had "married outside of the church," having married another man in violation of Catholic teaching.

In the brouhaha that followed, Ardillo received apologies from the Diocese of Baton Rouge and the Archbishop of New Orleans. Although the content of the apologies was not disclosed, a diocesan spokesperson, channeling Pope Francis, opined, “We don’t deny people communion. . . . Who are we to judge whether they believe (the church’s teachings on the communion) or not?” (Emphasis added.)

The executive coordinator of the Canon Law Society of America also weighed in, suggesting that the only valid reasons to withhold communion are “if the person is known to be of a different faith or has been excommunicated or formally left the church.”
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Priorities

ID-10021703For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

Linda Greenhouse, the Supreme Court writer for The New York Times, thinks the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious nonprofits must have a political axe to grind against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate. “The administration,” she asserts, “has bent over backward to accommodate religious claims that are by any measure extreme. The problem is that the religious groups pressing these claims refuse to take yes for an answer.”

Under the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), non-church religious entities with religious objections may opt out of providing contraceptives (some of which may cause an abortion) in their health plans if they inform those insured under their plans how to obtain such coverage. The religious nonprofits object, claiming that this would make them complicit in contraception or abortion.
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Literary Lights

wordleRecently, as I was putting the final few touches to a book manuscript, a curious thing happened. Thinking to substitute the word “myriad” in place of the word “many,” I decided to double-check the meaning of “myriad” to ensure it was just the right word to use.

An online search of “myriad” in tandem with the word “dictionary” yielded a search list with one reference book right at the top—“The Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words.”

Really? I thought. “Myriad” is a difficult word?
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Worldview and You

62870_512x288_generated__UUXKixCY1ECw2C0w0QCO0AVice President Joe Biden reportedly told a group of same-sex marriage supporters on July 9, “This is the civil rights movement of our generation. This decision is as consequential as Brown v. the Board.”

He’s half right. It is indeed consequential, but the very language of the two movements reveals how little today’s gay rights have in common with historic civil rights.

The civil rights movement was almost never advanced under the banner of an “African-American rights movement” or a “black American rights movement.” There have been campaigns for Hispanics’ civil rights, but I cannot recall ever hearing of an “Hispanic rights movement.” There has been, however, a gay rights movement.

To call the distinction important would be to understate it badly.
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All Things Examined

ID-10020366If you were surprised at the Supreme Court ruling that redefined mankind’s most primal and essential institution, you shouldn’t have been. The Pandora’s box of state-sanctioned pseudotrimony was flung open in 2004, making the Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges inevitable.

After Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex “marriage,” it took a mere decade for 36 states to follow suit (although only three by popular vote) and for the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).*

Although the 2013 DOMA ruling did not make SSM a constitutional right, the High Court tipped its hand on future decisions by casting the Act as demeaning, disparaging, and injurious to gay people and their families. (It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to presage a time when the same reasoning will be used to libel two-partner, genderless “marriage” as equally injurious to heterosexual, homosexual, and non-sexual throuples and other varieties of familial associations.)
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Priorities

ID-100110273A razor-thin 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court has, as expected, redefined marriage. What’s next for Christians who believe what the Bible says about the matter?

First, we need to understand that that this didn’t happen just because of five rogue justices on the high court. Our now-prevailing culture of easy sex and shifting identities was decades in the making. Sexual expression is the new sacrament. Half a generation ago, of course, such huge tectonic shifts weren’t even contemplated in churches or in the larger society.

It will take much longer than that to uproot this unbiblical and ultimately destructive worldview. Rather than withdrawing into a new monasticism while the culture continues defining deviancy down, however, Christians and all people of good will must redouble their efforts to engage and ultimately transform the culture for the glory of Christ and the good of their neighbors.
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Literary Lights

A_London_Omnibus_1905_postcardThe idea of a crowd of human strangers turned into comrades for a journey is full of the oldest pathos and piety of human life.”

* * *

One might think this fine line, and its vivid imagery, has something to do with C. S. Lewis’s book from 1945, “The Great Divorce,” with the Dante-like conceit of a bus full of passengers, traveling through the realms of the hereafter.

However, the line above predates Lewis’s masterwork by 28 years. Nor was it written by him, but rather by someone to whom Lewis owed a great debt for his return to faith: G. K. Chesterton.

In the space of just one untitled essay, published in the January 13, 1917, issue of The Illustrated London News, Chesterton offered his conception of a magical mystery tour—and it had much to do with Lampposts and an Omnibus.

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Worldview and You

ID-10011658I met my wife on a glorious day of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. Much of our courtship in the years after that was on hiking trails. Lately I’ve been grounded by a persistent foot injury, but I’m still praying to return to the trails where I feel I belong.

One thing I’ve learned in hiking is the importance of keeping my eyes up off the path in front of my feet, not only for the view, but also to keep track of where I am, especially when walking in new territory. At the end of the day, after all, I want to find my way home again.

Christians in the Western world are walking new paths. Everything looks different from here on. At times I think we act as if we really are lost, threatened, seriously at risk. I see this in the inward-focused, self-protective posture we often adopt, and in the anger with which we too often lash out at those who are remaking our world.

We need a new orientation, a new perspective. We need to look up from our feet—ourselves, that is—and take a good look around.

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All Things Examined

ID-1005767It has been nearly 70 years since C. S. Lewis made public a mysterious correspondence that became known as “The Screwtape Letters.” The “letters” contained advice, instructions, and warnings from a senior demon to a junior demon about the handling of an earthling in his “care.”

Over the last several years, new correspondence has come to light bearing chilling similarity to the originals. Chronologically they are: The Matter of Abortion, The Matter of Stem Cells, On Science and Origins, Evolution Narratives, Toward Nihilism or Spiritualism?, Carnal Knowledge, The Immunized Believer, A Useful Religion, Doomsday-ism, The God of Science, ’Tis the Season.

Below is the latest installment.

The Swillpit Chronicles, No. 12, “The Real Identity Theft"

Dear Swillpit,

Have you noticed how obsessed earthlings have become with protecting their personal information for fear of identity theft, oblivious to the fact that they’ve been losing their identity long before the digital age?
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Priorities

ID-100324393This month there was just too much to write about. So, rather than focusing on a single topic, I decided to follow an established tradition for columnists and give you my reflections on numerous news stories and trends, with a little timeless spirituality thrown in just for fun. Most of these items are not intended to be the final word on a subject—though some are. I hope they help you to look at issues in fresh ways, causing you either to question or confirm your own thoughts. Enjoy!

--The spectacle of Bruce Jenner’s very public transformation into “Caitlyn” is a tragedy for others who struggle with this psycho-social disorder, for our children, for our rapidly decaying culture, and, certainly, for Bruce Jenner himself.
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G. K. Chesterton and the Forgotten Art of the Essay

Detail_of_G.K._Chestertons_Illustrated_London_News_column_masthead_graphicOne winter’s day in 1913, the 1st of January to be precise, American readers were treated to a memorable opening sentence in an article about G. K. Chesterton for The Dial magazine. It read: “A monstrously lazy man lives in South Bucks, partly by writing a column in The Saturday Daily News.”

A bright flash of literary wit, and one with a bit of a backstory . . .

It seems the unnamed author of this article in The Dial had wisely concluded there was little point in assaying an opening sentence that was wholly original; and had, just as wisely, opted to purloin a sentence from Chesterton himself—all with a view to catching the reader’s eye.
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Internally Displaced Person

ID-10089159In late April, the Indiana legislature “voted to let any county that can prove it is experiencing a drug-linked outbreak of HIV or Hepatitis C . . . set up a needle exchange program.” Governor Mike Pence, who had previously been opposed to these programs, said that he was “looking forward to signing [the bill] into law.”

What prompted the about face was an outbreak of HIV—more than 150 confirmed cases—in Scott and Jackson Counties in the southeastern part of the state. Austin, Indiana, population 4,200, has “a higher incidence of HIV than ‘any country in sub-Saharan Africa,’” according to Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control. In fact, Austin “had more people infected with HIV through injection drug use than in all of New York City last year.”
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Worldview and You

ID-100167270The Pew Research Center has reported recently on the continuing increase of the "nones"--the religiously unaffiliated. Over the past five years, says Pew, "the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%)."

On first glance it might appear that Christianity is in decline. The truth is rather more complex--in some ways encouraging and in other ways ominous, for what the numbers signify is a widening polarization of American society due to the collapse of the middle.

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All Things Examined

ID-100256431Despite the serious and well-known flaws of Alfred C. Kinsey’s iconic research on sexuality, many of his conclusions have become so embedded in our cultural DNA that they persist even though proven false.

Take his claim that 10 percent of the population is homosexual.

In 2013 the CDC found that less than 2 percent of people are gay, about half the percentage found in previous studies. Yet judging from the numbers of gay folk on prime-time television and in movies, one would conclude that the percentage is 10 times higher or more. Think “Modern Family,” “The New Normal,” and Ellen DeGeneres’ “One Big Happy,” where the best friend of a heterosexual married man is a lesbian. Really?
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Priorities

ID-100279910I don’t claim that my troubles are any worse or more challenging than those of others. In fact, in the case of many believers, assuredly they are not. I haven’t gotten a cancer diagnosis. No ISIS terrorist is about to behead me. My livelihood hasn’t been threatened because of my faith—at least not yet.

Nor do I believe that my response to the current trial—actually, a cluster of heartaches—has been especially godly. It is, shall we say, a work in progress. And yet that progress, though painful and fitful, has been real, although I still have far to travel. Perhaps some of the lessons I have been learning will help you in your own journey.
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Literary Lights

whistlestopsmI first began to understand the role of aspiration in an artist’s journey 30 years ago, when I discovered a nine-minute piece of music called “The Eye of the Storm Suite.” It was part of an album called “Drawn to the Light” by Paul Clark, a gifted singer/songwriter known also for his skill on keyboards and guitar.

“The Eye of the Storm Suite” was, and is, a remarkable piece. It opens with a trio of ambient sounds: the keening of a sea-bird’s cry, ropes creaking aboard an old schooner, the somber music of a foghorn in the wind. Then slowly these subside, yielding to a plaintive, rainfall-like melody on piano, and the subtle shimmer of chimes.
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Worldview and You

LionsI had never been treated less like a human in my life. Maybe I was asking for it.

It was March 24, 2012, and along with leaders and students involved with a very new campus apologetics ministry called Ratio Christi, I was spending the day at the “Reason Rally” on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Its organizers said it was “the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history.” We were there handing out bottles of water and a flyer I had written on “True Reason” from a Christian perspective.

What was it like? “Unfriendly” would be understating it. My friend Blake and I ran into P. Z. Myers, one of the Internet’s more vocal proponents of godlessness, who asked us, “Are they ridiculing you here?” He followed that with his own answer: “They should be.”
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