Unions Getting Creative in Election-Year Struggle

Unions Getting Creative in Election-Year Struggle.

Unions-1In our culture watch and Reformed worldview items we like to keep our eye on the worldly labor unions. They may not have the power and influence they once did (former President Ronald Reagan had much to do with busting their unquestioned power), but they still wield much of these. In fact, under our current President they are once again flexing their muscles.

With that in mind, this “Foundry” (Heritage Foundation) report from last week (April 2, 2014) caught my attention. Though brief, it is an interesting glance at both union advances and setbacks.

Here is the opening of the report; read the rest at the link above.

If it seems like unions are making a fuss lately, it’s because they are.

It’s an election year, and they need money.

Just one in 15 private-sector workers is a union member—in 2013, union membership was at its lowest rate since 1916.

That might explain why they’re grasping for new members in stunts like unionizing college athletes, especially as their influence in the workplace is being challenged in the courts.

As Kevin Mooney reported for The Foundry:

Lawyers with National Right to Work Foundation…argued before the high court that it is unconstitutional to compel Illinois residents to fund SEIU’s political activism. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, payment of union dues by personal caregivers no longer would be mandatory but become voluntary.

“They’re trying to lock people into paying dues while they still can,” said Linda Dobbs, a dues-paying California union member who questioned a visit she received from some aggressive union representatives.

Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court: landmark case for religious liberty to be heard Tues. – Baptist Press

Baptist Press -Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court: landmark case for religious liberty to be heard Tues. – News with a Christian Perspective.

Today, as the Supreme Court returns to its work, our justices will begin treating the cases of two companies owned by Christian families who are opposed to the unbiblical and unethical demands of the Affordable Healthcare Act (unaffectionately known as “Obamacare”). Baptist Press carried this report about the significance of these cases, and indeed, as Christians we ought to be informed and concerned about the outcome of these cases (Read the full report at the link above.).

Which means that we ought also be in prayer today for our SC and those defending these Christian businesses. The AFA (American Family Association) offered a sample prayer in its mailing yesterday, which I thought was appropriate to use as a guide (see below).

hobby_lobby_300x225WASHINGTON (BP) — The fate of religious freedom for Americans, especially business owners, could hang in the balance when the U.S. Supreme Court convenes March 25.

The justices will hear oral arguments that day in challenges by two family owned corporations to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs for their workers. Hobby Lobby, a nationwide retail chain based in Oklahoma City, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business, contend the federal regulation violates their owners’ consciences and a 1993 law protecting religious liberty.

Religious freedom advocates predict the Supreme Court’s decision will be far-reaching.

The high court’s opinion “will determine the next 100 years of church/state jurisprudence,” said Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Joshua Hawley, a lawyer assisting Hobby Lobby, described it as “a landmark case.”

“It has major significance for religious liberty” and “for what constitutional rights business owners can claim,” said Hawley, a member of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s legal team and an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law.

Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, explained to Baptist Press the consequences for not only the Green family, the evangelicals who own Hobby Lobby, and the Hahns, the pro-life Mennonite family that owns Conestoga Wood, but other people who seek to exercise their religious beliefs.

“If the Hahn and Green families lose, the door would be open to allow the government to force people of faith to pay massive fines threatening jobs and health coverage just simply because they are choosing not to violate their faith and conscience,” Bowman told BP in an email interview.

“If the Hahn and Green families win, it will protect religious liberty as promised in the Constitution and American law, and people of faith will not be subject to massive fines just because they don’t want to help destroy human life.”

P.S. You may also be interested in this infographic on the Hobby Lobby case.

The AFA offered this prayer as a guide for Christians today (You will want to adapt some of the wording to match your own convictions, but I hope you can appreciate its emphasis on the sovereignty of God.):

Lord God, Our Father, you are the Righteous Judge over all the earth. We pray that you will have mercy on the United States as the Supreme Court hears a case that will shape the balance between government power and freedom of religion.

Give words to the attorneys for Hobby Lobby as they argue that our free exercise of religion includes how Christians live and work, not just what we do when we gather for worship, so that whatever we do in word or deed, we may do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

God, enlighten the Justices of the Supreme Court to acknowledge that you alone are Lord of our consciences. Give the Court humility to recognize that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that you have instituted human government so that your people may serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before you, all the days of our life.

And Lord, give us grace and boldness to use the religious liberty that we still have to make your truth and mercy known. Amen.

Honoring the Sabbath? Calvin College weighs opening library on Sundays | MLive.com

Honoring the Sabbath? Calvin College weighs opening library on Sundays | MLive.com.

CalvinHekmanLibraryAlso making the news in the past week was Calvin College, which is debating the opening of their library on the Lord’s Day, at least in the afternoon.

At first I was surprised that this was even an issue, assuming that Calvin had long ago opened up its library for student use on Sundays. So, on the one hand, it was encouraging to know they had not yet taken this step. On the other hand, we well know where this “careful study” of issues usually ends up in the CRC – on the side of the progressives who want to change nearly all the “old paths”.

Yet, I can appreciate the complicated issues involved with making a decision like this too. I copied this article and put it out in our own library last week, so that we could discuss it here too. Not that we would open the Seminary library on Sunday. But that we would carefully think through the reasons why Calvin – and we – would not take this step. So, what would you give as reasons not to open a Christian college library on Sunday? Or a Seminary library? I would also be interested in your thoughts.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Calvin College is weighing whether to open Hekman Library on Sundays, a decision that President Michael Le Roy said is symbolic of the Christian liberal arts school’s “current understanding of Sabbath,”according to the student newspaper, Chimes.

A college committee has recommended opening “the library from 1 to 5 p.m.” on Sundays, but Le Roy wants more time to study and review the proposal, according to Chimes.

“The decision ends up being really symbolic for the college and our current understanding of Sabbath,” Le Roy told the newspaper. “It’s complex and I want to have more conversation about it.”

Defining Marriage – Joe Carter

Defining Marriage by Joe Carter | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

marriagepic-2Just last night I finally finished reading all the way through my March issue of Tabletalk. The last article in that issue is the above-linked one by Joe Carter, an editor for “The Gospel Coalition”. And it is an excellent article with a clear message on the matter of how we Christians ought to respond to those who are trying to redefine marriage in our current culture.

I believe this is a great followup to my previous post. I quote a part of what Carter wrote here, but encourage you to read the rest the Ligonier link above.

Some Christians may even concede that while the state doesn’t truly have the authority to redefine marriage, we should go along with the legal fiction for the sake of the gospel witness. Although such Christians may have the best of intentions, they are actually subverting the very gospel they want to protect.

In acceding to laws that redefine marriage, they are doing the very opposite of what Jesus calls us to do: they are hating their neighbors, including their gay and lesbian neighbors. You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God’s wrath (Ps. 5:4–5; Rom. 1:18). As Christians, we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse it, we too become suppressors of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5).

What is needed is for the church to have the courage to speak the truth of the gospel: we cannot love our neighbor and tolerate unrepentant rebellion against God. We cannot continue with the “go along to get along” mentality that is leading those we love to destruction. We must speak the Word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31) and accept the fact that those who have fallen away may not ever return. We must choose this day whom we will serve. Will we stand with the only wise God or with the foolish idol-makers of same-sex marriage?

Wheaton Students Protest ‘Train Wreck Conversion’ Speaker’s Ex-Gay Testimony – ChristianityToday.com

Wheaton Students Protest ‘Train Wreck Conversion’ Speaker’s Ex-Gay Testimony | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

marriagepic-1One of the hottest and most serious debates that continues in force in Evangelical circles at present is that relating to homosexuality. We are well-aware of (or should be!) what the unbelieving world world is pressing the church and the Christian community to do on this issue. And we also know how so many Christians and churches have caved in to this pressure and abandoned the clear testimony of Scripture on this sin. And the debate keeps getting closer and closer to us.

A week ago I pointed you to a powerful piece that Rosario C. Butterfield wrote as a followup to a chapel speech she recently gave at Wheaton College. She was responding to protesters who showed up to object to her views following her conversion from the homosexual lifestyle.

Christianity Today also reported on this protest and on the current debate among Evangelicals at present. It is worth your while to hear and see what is going on on Christian campuses today, because our own students are being exposed to these opposing views. And while homosexual supporters remain a minority, they are a very vocal minority, as you know.

Here is part of CT’s report; find all of it at the link above.

A recent student demonstration over a Wheaton College chapel speaker’s testimony on her religious and sexual conversion is the latest marker in the long-running debate over the way evangelical colleges approach sexual identity.

The protest focused on the personal testimony [listen/watch here] of a former leftist lesbian professor whose train-wreck conversion [CT's No. 2 most-read article of 2013] led her to become a pastor’s wife and Christian author.

Students Justin Massey and Jordan-Ashley Barney organized “More Than a Single Story,” the January 31 demonstration where Wheaton students sat on the steps of Edman Chapel and held signs that said “We’re all loved by God,” “This is not a protest,” and “I’m gay and a beloved child of God,” reports The Wheaton Record.

Are Evangelicals Bad for Marriage? | Christianity Today

Are Evangelicals Bad for Marriage? | Christianity Today.

marriagepic-1Published on Valentine’s Day, the above-linked article highlights yet another study on divorce among professing Christians in this country, especially in the South. Though this study too is quite limited, the results of these studies continue to be disturbing and shameful, though not altogether surprising, given the attacks of Satan, the pressures of the world, and our own fallen natures.

Yet, there is encouraging news here too, in terms of a rebuttal and in terms of reports that show the value of practicing a consistent, Christian faith. Of course, being grounded in the solid Reformed doctrine of the covenant and being constantly reminded of God’s standard for marriage in His Word is the best antidote (for resources on these subjects, visit the PRC website and look under resources.).

May we continue to listen and learn, repent of our own sins and return to the Lord’s ways in our own homes and marriages.

Here is the first part of this report from CT; read the rest at the link above.

Evangelicals are more likely to be divorced than the average American—even Americans who claim no religion.

This unexpected claim comes from an unexpected source: three researchers at Baylor University.

Jerry Park, Joshua Tom, and Brita Andercheck report that about 17 percent of white conservative Protestants and 16 percent of black Protestants are divorced, compared to 14 percent of all Americans.

They point to the research of demographers Jennifer Glass and Philip Levchak, who argue that the evangelical encouragement to marry young and have more babies, along with discouragement to obtain higher education, is to blame. A strong evangelical presence increases divorce rates across the board, Glassreported.

“The common conservative argument that strong religion leads to strong families does not hold up,” stated Park, Tom, and Andercheck in their February 4 report for the Council of Contemporary Families.

However, Bradford Wilcox, sociology professor at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, disagrees.

“The claim … that religion doesn’t help marriage is bunk,” he said. “In terms of people being integrated into a religious community—be it Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish—there is a strong correlation between the couple’s integration and marital quality.”

The key distinction in the data: identity versus practice.

Research has consistently shown that religious self-identification is much less important than actual religious practice, said Wilcox. People who regularly attend church are 35 percent less likely to divorce, he said.

“Lukewarm Christianity is a disaster for family life,” said Wilcox. “Nominal conservative Protestants and evangelicals do worse in their marriages than other Americans.… Being a lukewarm Baptist in Arkansas or Kentucky or other Southern states is a big risk factor for family dysfunction.”

Roe v. Wade’s Days Are Numbered | Christianity Today

Roe v. Wade’s Days Are Numbered | Christianity Today.

AbuseofDiscretion-CForsytheThis coming Sunday, January 19, 2014, is designated by various pro-life organizations as “Sanctity of Human Life” Sunday here in the United States. In connection with that Christianity Today highlights a new book (Sept., 2013) which calls into question some serious legal issues with the infamous Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision (1973) and points to the fact that it could actually be overturned someday.

Part of this article is an interview with the author, Clark Forsythe. Below is the opening part of this article. It is worth reading from many points of view, not the least of which is that we may know what developments there are in undoing this tragic law in our land. To read the entire article, visit the CT link above.

Forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision, a leading pro-life legal expert believes the decision has never been more vulnerable to being overturned.

In his new book, Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade, Clark Forsythe, senior legal counsel at Americans United for Life, details what he uncovered in examining the private papers of the justices, their case files, and oral arguments. After 20 years of research, Forsythe found that:

  • The justices decided to hear Roe under a misunderstanding that it concerned state criminal prosecutions, not a constitutional right to abortion.
  • They arbitrarily expanded fetal viability from 12 weeks to 28 weeks with little discussion or medical knowledge.
  • The Court’s majority relied heavily on popular, but unproved, ’70s-era evidence that there was an urgent need for population control in the United States.

Since Roe, there have been 50 million abortions in the United States. Currently, there are about 1 million per year. But public opinion has slowly been shifting toward ending abortion on demand. The 2013 Gallup poll showed that since 1995, more Americans than ever consider themselves pro-life. Overall the nation remains very evenly divided on abortion. Gallup reports that there is a difference of only 3 percentage points between pro-life and pro-choice (48 percent vs. 45 percent).

Timothy C. Morgan, CT senior editor of global journalism, recently interviewed Forsythe about his book, which The Wall Street Journal said “provides a cautionary tale about the political and constitutional hazards of unnecessarily broad Supreme Court decisions.”

My Top 10 Theology Stories of 2013 – C.Hansen, The Gospel Coalition Blog

My Top 10 Theology Stories of 2013 – The Gospel Coalition Blog.

Though my own list in this category would be different – reflecting my own Reformed (and Dutch!) lineage -, yet I find Collin Hansen’s year-end summary of the top theology stories from a broader Evangelical perspective always interesting and revealing.

It is healthy for us to take spiritual stock of what has happened around us in the church world theologically and in the world culturally, so that we may also learn to respond Biblically and confessionally. As you read over this list, make a mental note – and maybe some literal ones on paper – on how you would evaluate these stories as a Reformed Christian.

Here are Hansen’s top two stories (he has them in reverse order on his post). Visit the Gospel Coalition link above to view the rest.

2. Strange Fire book, conference force evangelicals to pick sides.

We’re living in perhaps the most dramatic global expansion of Christianity in history. Yet many evangelicals often have little idea about what Pentecostals and charismatics believe. Longtime charismatic critic John MacArthur’s new book Strange Fire forces evangelicals off the fence and demands they pick a side: you either see this growth as the work of God or Satan. He contends that if you’re cautiously open to the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, then you implicitly endorse common Pentecostal malpractices, such as the prosperity gospel. Already MacArthur has emboldened cessationist allies even as critics pick apart his biblical arguments. When self-described “charismatic with a seat belt” Mark Driscoll showed up uninvited at MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference, social media documented this heavyweight clash in real time. That odd encounter produced more heat than light, but MacArthur’s influence will ensure that none of us can remain agnostic to the purpose and practice of the charismatic gifts.

1. Pope Francis makes fast friends.

With Billy Graham nearing the end of his life, only one church leader can compel the world’s attention. Pope Francis assumed leadership of the Roman Catholic Church under peculiar circumstances, and he has captivated attention ever since. It may not be surprising that Pope Francis was named Time magazine’s person of the year when you consider that his competition included the aforementioned Bashar Assad and Miley Cyrus. But when you learn The Advocate, a gay magazine, also awarded him the same recognition, you start to wonder what the world sees in him. When he says “I am a sinner,”do they see humble confession or tolerant surrender? When he says “proselytism is solemn nonsense,” do they see careful differentiation between forced conversions and the gospel call to repentance and faith, or do they see an ally in the effort to privatize religion? When Time first congratulated Pope Francis as person of the year, the editors credited him for his “rejection of church dogma.” But they failed to point to one church teaching he had rejected. Wishful thinking, perhaps?

Word Wednesday: More Websterisms

WebsterismsFor our word feature this Wednesday we return to the “new” book I recently picked up and which we started to explore together last week: Websterisms: A Collection of Words and Definitions Set Forth by the Founding Father of American English (viz., Noah Webster in his 1828 Dictionary). This fascinating book is compiled by Arthur Schulman and includes an important introduction by Jill Lepore (Free Press, 2008).

Today I wish to reference that introduction by Lepore again (with the catchy title of “A Nue Merrykin Dikshunary” – more on that another time), this time where she points out the distinctive Christian flavor of this first American Dictionary. I believe you will find this interesting and significant:

But what contributed most to the dictionary’s success was its auspicious timing: it was published at the height of America’s greatest religious revival, the Second Great Awakening. Webster’s own conversion, in 1809, came at the movement’s beginning. Webster’s dictionary was a Christian dictionary, almost a catechism. It wasn’t only the just-so, evangelical etymologies. Webster’s faith shines through on every page, even under the most unlikely bushels:

COLONY, n. …The first settlers of New England were the best of Englishmen, well educated, devout christians, and zealous lovers of liberty. There was never a colony formed of better materials.

INSTRUMENT, n. 2. …The distribution of the Scriptures may be the instrument of a vastly extensive reformation in morals and religion.

DEROGATORY, a. …Let us entertain no opinions derogatory to the honor of God, or his moral government.

MERITORIOUS, a. …We rely for salvation on the meritorious obedience and sufferings of Christ.

LOVE, n. 1. The love of God is the first duty of man… v.t. 1. …The christian loves his Bible.

Born-again Americans applauded it; they loved it as they loved their Bibles. Many still do: today you can buy a handsome facsimile edition of Webster’s 1828, published by the Foundation for American Christian Education, which plausibly reports that it contains ‘the greatest number of Biblical definitions given in any secular volume.’ Webster’s Federalist views on politics, his republican opinions about language, his crustiness, the political turmoil that had swallowed up his 1806 dictionary – all these were forgotten. Webster began writing for his country; he ended up writing for Christ (pp.31-32).

J.G.Machen on the Mission of the Church in the World – Old Life Theological Society

Transforming History | Old Life Theological Society.

Back in August of this year a bit of a firestorm erupted on the blogosphere when certain prominent Reformed and Presbyterian men opened up some solid criticism of the neo-Calvinists and their transformationalist philiosophy (that Christians and the church ought to be in the business of transforming culture). Carl Trueman was one of those who swung the machete against this new Kuyperianism (in “honor” of the noted Dutch churchman Abraham Kuyper and his theory of “common” grace which gave and still gives much impetus to this neo-Calvinist philiosophy), and he was in turn taken to task by many, including a certain Bill Evans. Darryl G.Hart came to Trueman’s defense, quoting J.Gresham Machen’s statements on the true mission of the church in this world.

JGMachenInterestingly, the calling of the church toward social/moral issues of the day also came up in our Bible study this past Wednesday. I found Machen’s comments to be helpful in guiding us with regard to these matters. I hope you do too.

Here first is Hart’s comment and then his quote from Machen:

For one, he (i.e., B.Evans -cjt) does not seem to recall that WTS’ chief founder was J. Gresham Machen, a man whom neo-Calvinists will contort into a transformationalist but who better than anyone else in the first half of the twentieth century articulated the spirituality of the church over against the transformationalism that dominated the PCUSA:

But when I say that a true Christian church is radically intolerant, I mean simply that the church must maintain the high exclusiveness and universality of its message. It presents the gospel of Jesus Christ not merely as one way of salvation, but as the only way. It cannot make common cause with other faiths. It cannot agree not to proselytize. Its appeal is universal, and admits of no exceptions. All are lost in sin; none may be saved except by the way set forth in the gospel. Therein lies the offense of the Christian religion, but therein lies also it glory and its power. A Christianity tolerant of other religions is just no Christianity at all. . . .

There are certain things which you cannot expect from such a true Christian church. In the first place, you cannot expect from it any cooperation with non-Christian religion or with a non-Christian program of ethical culture. There are those who tell us that the Bible ought to be put into the public schools, and that the public schools should seek to build character by showing the children that honesty is the best policy and that good Americans do not lie nor steal. With such programs a true Christian church will have nothing to do. . . .

In the second place, you cannot expect from a true Christian church any official pronouncements upon the political or social questions of the day, and you cannot expect cooperation with the state in anything involving the use of force. Important are the functions of the police, and members of the church, either individually or in such special associations as they may choose to form, should aid the police in every lawful way in the exercise of those functions. But the function of the church in its corporate capacity is of an entirely different kind. Its weapons against evil are spiritual, not carnal; and by becoming a political lobby, through the advocacy of political measures whether good or bad, the church is turning aside from its proper mission. . . .

The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life — nay, all the length of human history — is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that He has revealed Himself to us in His Word and offered us communion with Himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whosever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the earth — nay, all the wonders of the starry heavens — are as the dust of the street. ( “The Responsibility of the Church in the New Age,” 1933)

 

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