Life's busy, read it when you're ready!

Create a free account to save articles for later, keep track of past articles you’ve read, and receive exclusive access to all RP resources.

Browse thousands of RP articles

Articles, news, and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians.

Get Articles Delivered!

Articles, news,and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians delivered direct to your inbox!


Most Recent


Culture Clashes, News, Recent Articles, RP App

Peppa Pig propagandizes preschoolers

During the COVID lockdowns, some North American children began developing a British accent, and started using words like “mummy” and “water closet.” This development was tied to watching Peppa Pig, a popular British animated children’s show about a 4-year-old piglet. Too much TV isn't a good thing, but if ever your children were going to overdose on a TV show, this was one of the better options. Peppa is occasionally bratty, but more often kind, her dad is a bit too bumbling, but he is also very loving, and overall the show is gentle but not inane. For 18 years now, Peppa has been a peaceful pig, but not a bore. In fact, the most controversy the show has previously garnered was for having a stay-at-home mummy – that was seen as misogynist.

However, on the September 6 episode, the show decided to begin promoting homosexuality to their young viewers. The scene involves Peppa’s classmate, a polar bear named Penny, explaining, “I live with my mummy and my other mummy. One mummy is a doctor, and one mummy cooks spaghetti.” Peppa is only the latest of many children’s shows to bow the knee to the LGBT lobby. Arthur has featured a teacher having a same-sex “marriage,” and a few years back Muppet Babies had baby Gonzo put on a dress and heels to become princess “Gonzorella.” And last year Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues and You featured an animated drag queen leading an animated gay pride parade to celebrate "Pride Month."

Some conservative commentators have criticized this “woke” turn, but with one arm tied behind their back. For example, Matt Walsh described princess Gonzo as “silly,” “ridiculous,” and “creepy.” But because the Catholic Walsh studiously avoids basing any of his objections on what God says in His Word, he can’t go much beyond name calling. What could Walsh offer, if he was asked why a children’s show featuring a boy in a dress is silly? What Walsh doesn’t address is the real reason it is creepy: that it is rebellion against God, and against His plan for men and women and for marriage. That rebellion has consequences, which can include separation from God, emotional turmoil, radical disfiguring surgeries, the inherent instability of same-sex coupling, and the impact on a child of not having a father in their life. That's something a lot more substantial than mere creepiness.

So what can we do about it? Should we start a petition? Maybe we can develop our own children's programming? Not bad ideas. But the easiest and quickest response is simply to tell our kids to turn off the TV, shut the laptop, and go outside and play.

The picture is a screenshot from the 7th season, Episode 41 show titled "families."

Culture Clashes

The problem with pacifism

“Wars are not abnormal; peace is abnormal” *****   The 20th century was the bloodiest in history. It started badly with the 1914-1918 conflict, which was called "the war to end all wars." People sincerely believed that after that terrible event a halt would be put to war preparations. An effort was made – in the years after this World War there were many proposals and negotiations for disarmament. In 1928, for example, the “Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy” known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, promised to "outlaw war." In 1931 the influential Dutch Reformed (GKN) pastor S.G. De Graaf wondered if the time had not come to condemn every war as sin. In Canada such interchurch groups as the Fellowship of the Christian Social Order strongly opposed war. And the United Church of Canada was heavily in support of the pacifist position. But all their well-meant efforts had dismal results. And all the duly signed peace treaties neither produced disarmament nor were able to prevent World War II. But the world keeps on trying. The United Nations Charter (Article 2) outlaws both the threat and initiation of war. But we still face entrenched dictatorships and totalitarianism on every side. Disease, poverty, and disorders are found in wide areas of the globe. Pacifism Pacifism - the belief that all disputes can be settled peacefully – was a strong movement in the 1930s. Many then believed that historical progress was inevitable and believed that human perfectibility was possible here on earth. The dream of a perfect society, a utopia on earth, seemed within reach. The famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy's (1828-1910) idealistic-pacifist ideology had a great impact on the liberal mindset. He believed in the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth rather than anticipating it in an afterlife. Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) was for Tolstoy the key to achieving this end. This sermon expressed the essence of love and the guidance for conduct that must follow it. And love admits no exceptions. Tolstoy wrote, "The Christian teaching in its true meaning, recognizing the law of love as supreme, and permitting no exceptions to its application to life, ruled out any form of violence and consequently could not but condemn the whole structure of the world founded on violence." He looked for a world where "men who practice daily in preparation for a universal war of extinction no longer hate those whom they must fight, and not one of the leaders has the courage to declare war." However, while he preached progress through a gradual evolution of moral self-perfection, men, women and children were being slaughtered on the streets of Russia. Tolstoy's most lasting influence was in India. He and Gandhi had begun a correspondence in the early years of the twentieth century, with Gandhi referring to himself as Tolstoy's "humble follower." In fact, Gandhi’s campaign of civil disobedience and passive resistance owes much to Tolstoy. For many Americans, Gandhi, with his rather successful resistance of British "imperialism," became the grand exemplar of the Christian "way,” the "strategy of love,” the "politics of the Cross." The American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) didn't share these utopian illusions. He abandoned pacifism to oppose Hitler, trying to persuade the Protestant church that military intervention was necessary. He regarded most Christian pacifism as not only a deplorable political strategy but also a pernicious heresy. He stated that it reduces the "good news" to a "challenge" and to a gospel of "we must try harder." But the heresy of the goodness of man seems to have a life of its own. Of all people who should know better, the famous South African Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, sounded more like Tolstoy than the apostle Paul when he addressed a crowd in Grand Rapids in March 2003. He said that after watching enemies in South Africa reconcile themselves with the past, he was more convinced that goodness prevails in the human heart. "At the end of the truth and reconciliation process, I came away exhilarated by the fact, that yes, we have this capacity of evil, but we have this remarkable glorious capacity of good. It is quite extraordinary. We are fundamentally good!" Sin But we are not "fundamentally good." The Bible paints a realistic picture of human nature. It plainly states that "there is no one who does good, not even one" (Rom. 3:12). "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). We live in a fallen world where evil people do dastardly things. We are all capable of doing real harm to our neighbor. We confess with the Heidelberg Catechism the brutally frank truth about ourselves that we have a natural tendency to hate God and our neighbors (Q&A 5). Human nature, therefore, may not make war inevitable, but it does make war difficult to avoid. Far from the world being a safer place than in the past century, terrorist groups have access to weapons that were previously restricted, or not even imagined. Wars are signs that we cannot and will not live in peace and harmony in this present age. We cannot be trusted to keep the peace. John Calvin said the Anabaptist pacifist position would be right "were we angels in this world." But the sad fact is the world is full of "cruel monsters and wolves and rapacious men. The rise of the sword will therefore continue to the end of the world." In his sermon in response to the war in Iraq, Philip Jensen, dean of Saint Andrew's Anglican Cathedral in Sydney, Australia, stated that wars and rumors of wars are normal in the last days. "Wars are not abnormal; peace is abnormal." Pacifism is a mistaken ideology. It is an impossible position to hold in a fallen world. The horrors of World War II led many pacifists to change their minds. German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) became deeply involved in the German resistance movement, which to him was more important than his natural inclination to pacifism. He saw how war exploits the baseness of the human heart. His deep commitment to Jesus Christ led him to do his utmost to oppose the barbaric-pagan tyranny of the Nazi regime. For his participation in the plot against Hitler, he was hanged at Flossenburg concentration camp, within a month of the end of the war. Bonhoeffer observed that the French Revolution revealed the true nature of man. He wrote, "The French Revolution was the laying bare of the emancipated man in his tremendous power and his most terrible perversity." Since the French revolution, the western world has become essentially hostile to the church. When people turn their backs to God, people will risk all for their own gain. As Bonhoeffer put it, "It is only when Christian faith is lost that man must himself make use of all means, even criminal ones, in order to secure the victory of his cause." So how can we expect a peaceful world when violence in the movies and on television is tolerated? How can we expect peace among nations when many families cannot keep peace among themselves? What are we doing to improve conditions for peace? How many in our Western society would be willing to lower their standard of living for the sake of the suffering people in the Congo, Ethiopia, or Haiti? Instead, in our consumer society many appear convinced that the good life can be bought. As one reads the newspapers and watches television, one can hardly avoid the impression that the interests of many people largely concern jobs, strikes, houses, inflation, prices, entertainment, sports, and cars. What is peace? What do we mean by peace? The horrors of modern warfare have made this question a matter of agonizing daily concern for every sensitive spirit. It has always thrown the Christian community into a fundamental struggle over the nature of the Gospel itself. It throws into clear relief our understanding of salvation, the nature of man and history. When we hear the word peace, we immediately think of it as the absence of war. But peace can also refer to war. Augustine said that those "who fight for peace" may do so because this is a way to ending an armed conflict. But real peace can only come when rebellious sinners become reconciled to God through Christ's shed blood on the cross (Col. 1:20). One cannot be a peacemaker until first he finds peace for himself. Reconciliation with God enables us to be reconciled with ourselves and with people from every race, nation, or background (Cf. Eph. 2). True peace then is not the result of human enterprise or transaction, but it is received. It is a gift of God. It is Christ Himself. "He is our peace" (Eph. 2:14-17; cf. Rom. 5:1). Peace means salvation from sin and death, from the devil and hell, being surrounded by the goodness of God, and living under the Lordship of Christ (cf. Luke 1:79). But peace with God does not guarantee a tranquil life. In fact, it is accompanied with warfare against the demonic powers still at work in our world (Eph. 6:12). Wherever the Gospel is preached, the devil opposes. We are sheep among ferocious wolves. Jesus warned His disciples about the cost of following Him, but also of the coming victory. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). So in the midst of tribulation we can have amazing peace. In this fearful world, Jesus' message for His people still is, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). But this peace is an active peace that we have to manifest in our daily lives and in the public square. Positive peace True peace then, is more than the absence of war. The Bible describes it as shalom. Shalom seeks the good and opposes evil (Jer. 29:11). Shalom brings joy to life (Isa. 55:12) and brings harmony. It means everything that is needed by the individual and society for wellbeing and happiness. It makes life worth living. But this “positive peace” is costly. It calls for responsible action. To be a peacemaker means more than sitting on a study committee to discuss peace; it requires more from us than demanding the Western world right the wrongs in underdeveloped nations; being a peacemaker means much more than demonstrating against the war in Iraq or elsewhere. As Christians we are to live in peace. It is the fruit of Spirit (Gal. 5:22). The Bible exhorts us to "live in peace," to "be in peace," to "seek peace with all." Furthermore, the Bible does not allow us to take refuge in our private little world and in our private virtues. We may not be blind and deaf to the wrongs we see and hear in our world. We have been given the word and deed ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20). And positive peacemaking is an implicit part of it. Peacemaking calls for loving your neighbor. As Christian this cannot be some type of abstract love – we can’t merely talk about our love. Talk is cheap, so deeds are demanded! Think of the many missionaries, for example, who have been called idealistic, unrealistic, and so on, but who use their talents, their resources, and accept cheerfully untold difficulties as positive peacemakers. They proclaim the liberating Gospel, feed the hungry, seek justice for the oppressed, not because they are do-gooders or taken in by a social gospel, but out of gratitude for what God has done in their lives. The history of missions tells us how during the 19th-century explosion of missionary activity, peacemaking often arose out of an encounter with immoral religious practices and unjust social structures. In India, for example, missionaries focused on sati, the burning of Hindu widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands, infanticide, and the caste system. In China, missionaries and mission stations were the main providers of modern medicine and care until the state began to take over the function in the 1920s. Millions of Chinese were treated. Hundreds were given medical training in Christian schools such as Peking (Beijing) Union Medical College. Missionaries were also among the leaders of the movement to abolish the horrible practice of footbinding. The toes of girls, usually aged between seven and eight, were bound under their insteps until the arches of their feet were broken. A crippling experience, it left women with short pointed feet that Chinese men found erotic. In her book The Small Woman, Alan Burgess tells the true and amazing story of Gladys Aylward, a London parlor maid who became an effective and courageous missionary. She did not only bring the Gospel in word. When she saw injustice, she spoke out. When she was asked by the Mandarin of Yangcheng to become a Foot Inspector to break down the centuries-old custom of footbinding, she accepted this position for the sake of the Gospel. Universal peace But despite all the best efforts of Christians, an ideal society will never be achieved. Many will continue to dream about a world without violence and war, with everyone living in peace and harmony, but it will remain a dream. We will have to live with wars and rumors of wars until the end of time. There is never any time or place for saying: Peace - when there is no peace (Ezek. 13:10)! The coming universal peace is bound to the coming of our Lord. The earthly city of self-love and rebellion against God will be replaced then by the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. In the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21), there won't be any more wastage of the earth's resources for war preparation, no more fear of nuclear proliferation, no more terrorist attacks, no more sickness, no more death, and no more senseless luxury of some or senseless poverty of others. The followers of Jesus, therefore, look forward to the end of time when God will intervene to bring about peace, "when nation shall not take up sword against nation, nor will train for war anymore” (Isa. 2:4). While the Church waits, prays, and longs for the Lord's return, she has the responsibility to proclaim "the good news of peace by Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years. This article first appeared in the December 2003 issue....

Culture Clashes, News

The Great Reset: don't let a crisis go to waste

Over the past several months, the phrase The Great Reset has swirled around media headlines and social media. Many Christians are asking, should we support The Great Reset? But a better question would be which Great Reset should we support? We should also consider why any great reset is needed in the first place, and why now might be the time for it. So, why now? So why is there a push for big changes right now? To answer that we can turn to a quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, which argues we should: “Never waste a good crisis.” Democratic governments normally change course gradually. Since humans are slow to change their minds and admit that they'd been wrong, the political views of an entire population of a country tend to change slowly rather than very quickly. Thus governments’ policies will also tend towards incremental rather than revolutionary change. Thus, during regular times, the window of opportunity for policy change is open only a crack. But a crisis swings this window wide open. When the perspectives of an entire citizenry change rapidly, the revolutionary becomes ordinary. We see this in our country’s response to COVID-10. In the eyes of most Canadian citizens, journalists, and politicians, COVID-19 has triggered a crisis. This social, economic, and health crisis – and the fear that it provoked – have enabled the federal and provincial governments to do the previously unthinkable in an incredibly short time: prohibit international travel restrict religious worship services shutter businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars And this isn’t just the preferred response of politicians and scientific experts foisted on an unwilling public. Public opinion polling throughout the pandemic consistently reports that a significant majority of Canadians support these measures. COVID-19 has thrown the policy window wide open for change. The question is, what sort of change, what sort of great reset, will take advantage of this opportunity before it closes? The Great Liberal Reset The World Economic Forum (WEF) has one proposal to seize this opportunity. The WEF is an international organization aimed at improving partnerships between governments, corporations, and non-profit organizations. With governments unshackled from normal budgetary and policy constraints, the WEF proposed that government use this opportunity to tackle current public policy issues in new ways. The World Economic Forum calls this general plan The Great Reset. The Great Reset was the theme of the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which took place in the last week of January. On their website, the World Economic Forum describes The Great Reset: “The Covid-19 crisis, and the political, economic and social disruptions it has caused, is fundamentally changing the traditional context for decision-making. The inconsistencies, inadequacies, and contradictions of multiple systems – from health and financial to energy and education – are more exposed than ever amidst a global context of concern for lives, livelihoods and the planet. Leaders find themselves at a historic crossroads, managing short-term pressures against medium- and long-term uncertainties. As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons. Drawing from the vision and vast expertise of the leaders engaged across the Forum’s communities, the Great Reset initiative has a set of dimensions to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being.” More concretely, The Great Reset focuses on strengthening environmental protection against pollution and climate change; encouraging private companies to do more to care for their workers, their communities, and the environment; fostering multilateral cooperation; and promoting a rather left-leaning interpretation of inclusion, justice, and equality. So, let’s call this The Great Liberal Reset. To be clear, this is not a conspiracy by a secret elite. No, this is all out in the open. This is about world leaders (politicians, businessmen, activists, the wealthy) who share a common idea of how the world could be a better place trying to implement their vision through conventional channels – government policy, business decisions, grassroots advocacy, and targeted private investments. They are using the policy window opened by COVID-19 to advance their vision. While there are aspects of this vision we might be able to support, Christians should be cautious about supporting this Great Liberal Reset, as it also includes policies that Christians should oppose. More fundamentally, The Great Reset misdiagnoses what ails the world. That ailment is not COVID-19. The Great Moral Reset? Christians know that sin, not COVID-19, ails the world. Rather than reshaping the world according to a liberal vision (or conservative, or socialist, or libertarian agenda for that matter), we should seek to shape the world according to God’s Word. Christians should support a "Great Moral Reset" of sorts, one in which our government’s policies would be aligned with the morality of God’s Word. COVID-19 has opened the possibility for this sort of change. Our society has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect the lives of those vulnerable to COVID-19. Now we should go to even greater lengths to protect lives vulnerable to abortion and euthanasia, and provide better care for our elders. Many provinces have closed schools or moved classes online in their monolithic education system in their response to COVID-19. Promoting educational diversity, including supporting independent schools, homeschooling, and distributed learning in a decentralized education system where parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children, should be the new priority of provincial governments. The federal government has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into supporting families and businesses through the pandemic. It should continue to defend the vitality of families by upholding a biblical understanding of marriage, gender, and sexuality and uphold the dignity of work. But a Great Moral Reset isn’t enough. The Great Spiritual Reset Ultimately, Canada and the world do not need a Great Liberal Reset or even a Great Moral Reset. It is useless for our country to be a whitewashed tomb on the outside but full of dead bones on the inside. Our society needs a Great Spiritual Reset like the Great Awakenings spurred by George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and Dwight L. Moody. This spiritual reset isn’t the task of governments, businesses, or general non-profit organizations. This spiritual reset is the responsibility of the Church. COVID-19 has opened the window wide open for evangelism. With millions of fellow Canadians searching for hope, worrying about their employment stability, struggling with their mental and physical health, and mourning the passing of loved ones, many more people may be receptive to the Good News right now. As Jesus testifies, the gospel isn’t for those who are healthy and those who think that they have life figured out. The gospel is for those who have realized their brokenness and their need for a Physician. Are all our efforts directed to defending our personal freedoms (even if they are unjustly infringed upon)? Or are we bringing the gospel to our neighbors who need it now more than ever, using both our words and our deeds? Jesus calls us to be the salt and the light of the world, two metaphors that ARPA often draws upon. Christians have taken more seriously their calling to be a salt and a light in the realm of politics and public policy through the COVID-19 pandemic and the infringements on our freedom to worship. Let’s not miss the opportunity to also speak the gospel of life to a suffering world. Let’s not waste this crisis. Levi Minderhoud is the BC Manager for ARPA Canada. For more on the Great Reset, be sure to check out Chris deBoer's Focal Point podcast episode on the same topic which you can download here, or watch below. ...

Culture Clashes

"Let's meet in the middle": the con in compromise

A new administration has taken over in the US, and President Joe Biden and friends are using a lot of conciliatory talk about unity, and working together. This same sentiment made an appearance during Superbowl LV, where the viewing audience of millions was treated to a sermon from Jeep and Bruce Springsteen about "meeting in the middle” as Americans. But the middle of what? "We should meet in the middle" is: a charitable statement if you and your friend live an hour away, have relatively equal means, and want to get dinner at a central location. a terrible idea if there's a yawning chasm between the two of you. Without fixed goalposts, you really don't know where you'll end up when you aim for the middle. Republicans in the States would agree that meeting in the middle with former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken moderate Democrat, is a very different thing from meeting in the middle with Sen. Bernie Sanders. And Democrats would agree that meeting in the middle with Mitt Romney, a moderate Republican, is a very different thing than meeting in the middle with Donald Trump. If you’re negotiating the price of a house, there’s a great difference between meeting in the middle on a price with someone who starts the bid at $1, and someone who starts the bid at $100,000. A tactic Often in negotiations the term functions in a similar manner to the word "fair." Nobody wants to be thought of as unfair, so by leading off as the “fair one” you can cast your opponent as the other, unfair side. The same tactic is sometimes stated as “finding the common ground.” When your opponent in the negotiation is not budging, or more often, before they even know what direction you want them to budge in, you establish that you are, in point of fact, aiming for "the middle." It sounds so agreeable, but just as soon as a political actor says, "We hope to meet in the middle" he is maneuvering to make his opponent look like the stubborn and unreasonable one. The effect and often the intent is to weaponize people's sense of neighborliness and appeasement to push a point of view. In short, it's not negotiation, but manipulation. We can’t compromise with evil This middle-ground appeal is both caused by and a symptom of the general lack of conviction of our society. If there is no absolute truth, it’d make sense for everything to be negotiable, right? In fact, meeting in the middle may be entirely sensible on how the last $10 million of the budget should be allocated between 3 worthy projects. But meeting in the middle about whether a panel should decide who lives or dies by euthanasia is impossible. There is a fixed right response to euthanasia as an idea, because the government is tasked with punishing evil and murder is evil. Because believer and unbeliever alike know of the Truth (Rom. 1:18-22), and especially because those of us who have the Spirit have had our eyes opened to see and understand it, we must reject "meeting in the middle" on morality. We must reject "compromise" and "fair-mindedness" whenever it is proposed on principles that cannot be compromised. Right and wrong cannot be bargained, and the man on TV telling you they can is manipulating you. Need for uncompromised truth As Christians, we understand the need for showing love to our neighbors and seeking the peace of our community. But we also heed the warnings of David in Psalm 28, who pleads with God to “Not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts.” This ought to lead us to recall the words of Christ in sending his disciples out, saying “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) And as Christians, we are called to seek the peace of the country God places us in, and to love our neighbors. But these commands find their grounding in the first and greatest commandment, to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:36-40) This calls us to exercise wisdom in identifying where there is common ground to stand on, and where the only ground to stand on is the solid Rock that is Christ. In so doing we will ensure that we are no more: “tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:14-15)....

Culture Clashes

Animal rights vs. animal welfare

If you think that a dog’s owner shouldn’t be allowed to beat it for fun, you might think you support animal rights. But Wesley Smith, the author of The War on Humans wants us to understand that as a stand for animals' welfare. Why the different word choice, and why does it matter? It’s because those making the loudest call for animal rights are also those who have the least interest in animal welfare. As Smith explains: Advocates of animal rights ideology seek to end all domestication of animals. Advocates of animal welfare, on the other hand, seek to create ever-improving standards of animal husbandry. Christians know we have been put in charge of the animals – we are stewards of creation, and animals, even the wild ones, are ours to be managed and cared for. But animal rightists want us to think of animals not as objects of care, but as our moral equivalents. As Ingrid Newkirk (one of the founders of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) put it: “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” No Ms. Newkirk: while a lonely boy is a sad situation, a lonely rat is often a cause for celebration, as rats without playmates cannot beget more rats! As Smith concludes: You may think you are for animal rights when you are really for animal welfare. It is time to use the correct terminology so that "animal rights" becomes a scorned and shunned movement. This post first appeared in the Oct 2015 issue....

Culture Clashes, RP App

Are you “blessed” or “privileged”?

They might seem close synonyms but the Devil is in the details **** A couple of years back a viral video showed a large group of older teens getting ready to race for a $100 bill. It was men and women, blacks and whites, athletic sorts and not so, and all things being equal, we’d expect one of the long lean guys to run away with the money. But the point of the video was to explain that things are not equal. The leader of the group, Adam Donyes, had a series of eight statements to tell the students before the race got started. The teens were supposed to take two steps forward for each one that applied to them: “Your parents are still married.” “You grew up with a father figure in your home.” “You had access to a private education.” “You had access to a free tutor growing up.” “You never had to worry about your cellphone being shut off.” “You never had to help mom or dad with the bills.” “It wasn’t because of your athletic ability that you don’t have to pay for college.” “You never wondered where your next meal was going to come from.” Doynes was trying to make a very specific point. He told the group that each of his statements had “nothing to do with decisions you’ve made.” The students up front were there not because of anything they had done, but because of the position they had been born into, or their parents had put them in. He told those students: “…if this was a fair race, and everybody was back on that line I guarantee you some of these black dudes would smoke all of you. And it is only because you have this big of a head start that you’re possibly going to win this race called life. That is a picture of life, ladies and gentlemen. Nothing you’ve done has put you in the lead that you’re in right now.” Then he shouted “go!” and the race was on. Drawing out biblical truths There are some clear biblical truths that could be drawn out of this video. Luke 12:48b might come to mind: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” Or we might think of how the three servants were given different amounts of money in the Parable of the Talents in Matt. 25. It’s important for us to understand that for those who have been blessed with more, God has raised expectations for us. The video also lines up well with 1 Cor. 12 where Paul notes our different gifts, comparing them to parts of the body. One person might be a hand, another a foot, and another an eye. And just like the "eye cannot say to the hand 'I have no need of you'" so too we shouldn't look down on those with different gifts than our own. That's an important lesson, and Doynes tries to make that specifically to those out in the front. But in this same chapter Paul also makes another point that would have been an important one for all those farther back. We are all part of the body, and we shouldn't overlook what God gifts has given us: "...the body does not consist of one member but many. If the foot should say, 'because I am a hand I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body....there are many parts, yet one body." Guilt vs. gratitude So there was a lot to love in this video. But what made it go viral was how it seemed the perfect illustration of “privilege,” and specifically “white privilege,” since blacks were clustered in the back, and the very front was populated with whites. The way the term privileged is used it can seem like a close synonym to blessed. One person says, “I’m blessed to have always had a roof over my head” and another says, “I was privileged to never have to worry about being homeless.” Just a matter of tomato/tomatoh, right? Two terms for the same idea. But there’s an important sense in which the two words are actually opposites. Blessed is an inherently positive word. When we say we are blessed in this way or that, it is a note of appreciation to our “blesser” whether that is God, or maybe our parents, spouse, friends, or children. But whereas we celebrate the ways in which we are blessed, one admits to being privileged – we’re supposed to “check our privilege.” Being blessed makes us grateful, but being privileged brings guilt. Parents stayed together? You got to go to a basketball camp last summer? Lucky you, but not all of us are so privileged. There's more to privileged than just guilt. Often times it is shorthand for something like: "You're privileged so you don't know me – you haven't lived through what I've had to endure." There's truth to that – if we've been sheltered from some of the world's harshness that can bring with it a naivety. And that might leave a gulf between us and others who haven't been so blessed. But even in this usage privileged is a negative word. Noting differences can be a step to understanding, to beginning to know one another. But the way privileged is used it is not a conversation-starter. This is a putdown used as a conversation-stopper. While Donyes didn’t use the word privilege in his video, there was a reason so many others thought it fit – his video wasn’t a celebration of blessing; there was a touch of shame instead. If the difference between blessed and privileged is still muddy consider this: when we are blessed and others are not, what do we want for them? Don’t we want them to have what we have? But when we admit to being privileged, is that a state we’d wish on anyone else? Being privileged isn’t something you aspire to. This is part of the “victimhood culture” where the worse off you are, the less guilt you have to feel for what you have. But when it’s good, or at least less shameful, to be hard off, then it’s bad to become more “privileged.” A wise man once said that the battle we're in is over the dictionary, and this is an example. These two words – blessed and privileged – seem almost synonyms, but whereas the first takes us to gratitude and God, the second leads to unremitting guilt and stagnation. Inequality vs. poverty Inequality and poverty are also used interchangeably. When we see people who don’t have a warm bed to sleep in, or don’t have money for needed medical expenses, then we’ll quite naturally wish their situation wasn’t so unequal. We want them to have what we have, and wish that they could live like we do. But what we’re really lamenting here is not inequality but poverty. If inequality was our concern, we could be happy as long as everyone was equally needy. But that’s not what we’re after. Our real goal is for the poor to be raised out of poverty.  So here, too, there’s a sense in which this is all just tomato/tomatoh– we might use different words, but we all want to help the poor. But once again there is an important sense in which two seeming synonyms have dangerously different meanings. Whereas “fighting poverty” is focused on helping the poor, fighting inequality is sometimes about tearing down the rich. That shift of focus happens whenever we start believing that one person’s success happens at other people’s expense. That’s what Donyes taught in his video. Donyes told students that his $100 race was like “this race called life – this is a picture of life ladies and gentlemen.” But his race had only one winner. And that winner could only succeed if others failed. In this setting every two steps someone got to take forward diminished the chances of winning for all those left behind. If that’s how you thought the world operated, what sort of attitude would you have towards millionaires and billionaires? If you believed they got their wealth by impoverishing the rest of us, what would you see as the best way to help the poor? Just that quick, concern for the poor becomes “Let’s get the filthy rich!” The world’s wealth isn’t fixed and limited. If it was, would the Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17) make sense? There God tells us it’s none of our business what our neighbor has, but if our neighbor could only get wealthy by keeping others poor, wouldn’t we all have a legitimate interest in making sure he didn’t get too much? The truth is, life is not a winner-take-all-race. We can thank God that’s true spiritually, with God’s children numbering as the sand on the seashore – God has made us all champions, and there are too many of us to even count. And it’s just as true materially. Even if someone beats me out for my dream job, that doesn’t mean I have to go jobless. There are other careers. I can succeed too. And if I start a successful business, yes, I might grow wealthy, but I’ll be making my money by creating a product that others find useful enough to pay for. I won’t become wealthy at my customers’ expense. They’re only buying my widget because they think it is worth more than I am asking for it (or they would never buy it). In a very real way in all the countless merchant/customer exchanges that take place around the world both sides are the wealthier for it. That’s why both customer and merchant will say thank-you at the conclusion of a sale – both have become richer...and at no one’s expense. Of course, robbers do exist – some people do become wealthy only by taking from others. But that’s not the rule. God has so made our world that we can work together to each other’s benefit. That’s why the Tenth Commandment makes sense. And when we realize that our neighbors’ wealth isn’t making anyone poor, then we can get back to fighting poverty in fruitful, rather than covetous ways. Conclusion Does that mean we should shake our finger at anyone who speaks of being privileged or uses the word inequality? Not at all. We can put some care and attention to what terms we use, but we don’t need to stress it when others use something else. Rather than going all grammar-nazi on them we can listen in humility, try to be understanding, and use context to hear what they are saying. What’s actually important is seeing through the Devil’s gambit here. Many a best-of-intentioned Christian loves the Lord with all his heart, but there’s a reason God also demands our minds (Matt. 22:37). The Prince of Perversion loves to misdirect what is good and right to his own completely different ends, and our guard against Him is knowing God’s Word, and learning how to apply it. Otherwise, the Devil might have us, in the name of helping the poor, casting covetous eyes at the wealth of our neighbor. And if he could, he’d love to rob God of the praise that is His due by making us feel guilty, not grateful, for all the blessings our Father showers on us. Thankfully, in the great blessing of the forgiveness of sins, we can put away all guilt and all envy, and instead respond in wholehearted, full-throated gratitude to our great God....

Culture Clashes, Theology

May I judge?

I hear repeatedly that we’re not supposed to judge another.  Young people express themselves this way, and that’s not surprising – after all, not judging others fits hand in glove with the postmodern dogma of tolerance that’s so rampant today. Different strokes for different folks, so let the other be; who am I to say that what you’re doing or thinking is wrong…. I’ve heard Christians appeal to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount to provide Biblical justification for the position, for Jesus told His disciples: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Case closed: do not pass judgment on another. Inconsistent But the Internet is full of comments passing distinctly unfavorable judgments. These leave me puzzled.  We’re quick to repeat the mantra "do not judge" but judgments abound. Something is not consistent here. This sort of thing happens more often. In our relatively small community we hear numerous details of what happens in the life of the person in the next pew, or in the congregation up the road.  And very quickly we have a judgment ready on what we hear. It affects what we say to one another, and affects too how we think about or treat the person(s) about whom we heard a story. Do not judge rashly A quick judgment is simply unbiblical. Solomon put it like this: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). The Lord in the 9th commandment gave the instruction not to “bear false witness against your neighbor,” and the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes the instruction of this command with this confession: “I must not … condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard” (Lord’s Day 43). That counts for what we say on Facebook too. We do well to repent before God and man of our easy judgmentalism and seek to learn that God-pleasing habit of doing to others as we’d have them do to us (Luke 6:31). As we hate being on the receiving end of perceived gossip or slander, so we need studiously to avoid being on the giving end of gossip or slander. Test the spirits This does not mean, however, that I’m to be neutral concerning all I hear. The postmodern mantra that I’m to be OK with whatever anybody else thinks or does is simply not biblical. Consider, for example, John’s instruction to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). So much gets said, and people believe so many things.  But I’m to test whether what they say and believe is “from God.” John emphatically wants us to have an opinion on that – and then reject what is not from God. Testing, of course, involves so much more than hearing one thing and swallowing it dumbly as the final word on the subject. Testing involves listening carefully, understanding the details and circumstances, and then evaluating in the light of the revelation of the Lord of lords. You’re meant to have a considered opinion. That’s why, in 1 Cor. 5, the apostle Paul was emphatic to the Corinthians that they needed to pass explicit condemnation on the brother in their congregation who lived in sin, sleeping with his father's wife. They were not to be neutral on this man’s behavior but were to take a stand and excommunicate him. That’s because in this instance the details were abundantly clear (it wasn’t hearsay but indisputable facts evident to all parties), and so the saints of Corinth were obligated before God to form a judgment and carry it out. That obligation was so self-evident that Paul put the matter in the form of a rhetorical question: “is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthians 5:12). Judging: that’s your duty…. Jesus wrong? Is Jesus wrong, then, when He in the Sermon on the Mount tells His disciples, “Judge not, that you be not judged?” (Matthew 7:1). Actually, Jesus does not tell us not to have a judgment on what we hear or see.  Instead, Jesus’ point is that we’re not to judge rashly. That’s clear from Jesus’ next line, “For” – yes, note that connecting word! “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged...” (vs. 2a). If you are quick to condemn another, do not be surprised when others will be quick to condemn you; “...and with the measure you use it will be measure to you” (vs 2b). So if you hear one side of a story and condemn before you’ve heard the other side, be prepared to have folk condemn you on hearsay before they’ve heard your side of the story! Similarly, if you, from a self-righteous height, condemn others' behavior while you are yourself entangled in sin, do not be surprised that you’ll find no sympathy when others find out about your sin. Jesus puts it like this: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (vs 3). That, Jesus adds, is hypocrisy (vs 5). As long as you try to hide skeletons in your own closet, you are in no position to draw attention to skeletons you think you see in someone else’s closet. Clincher But Christians are not to hide skeletons in their closets! True Christians are repentant of their sins, and confess those sins to God and to those they’ve hurt by their sins. Then you’ve pulled the log out of your own eye – and at the same time have great understanding and empathy for another’s weaknesses and failures. Then you’ll test the spirits, and you’ll have an opinion on what you hear, and carefully avoid condemning the other in a spirit of lofty self-righteousness – and certainly avoid trumpeting your condemnation to John Public. The person who knows his own weaknesses and failures will instead sit down beside the sinning brother to show him his wrong and lead him on the way back to the Lord. It’s Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” Judge? May I judge another? It depends on what you mean by the word "judge."  I am not to condemn rashly and unheard. But I am to have an opinion on my brother and help him in the way the Lord wants him to help me. This article was first published back in 2014. Rev. Clarence Bouwman is a pastor in the Smithville Canadian Reformed Church....

Culture Clashes

Bruce Jenner & Micklewhite: Adult problems lurk amongst the picture books

It was a beautiful day. The temperature had soared to eighty degrees plus and one of our daughters and four of our grandchildren were over for a few days. Together we watched the Baltimore oriole as he perched on the hummingbird feeder and pecked at a slice of orange. The downy woodpecker showed up as well as the cardinal and an indigo bunting. We carefully tiptoed past a ruffed grouse sitting on its eleven eggs. Here in our backyard was a wonderful array of color and sound made by the fifth-day creatures God has made. And we, the sixth-day image-bearers of Himself were privileged to see and hear them. It was a work-holiday. The kids helped us with raking, gathering up leftover leaves from last autumn, as well as mowing huge swaths of lawn. Our daughter straightened flowerbeds, and weeded. And afterwards there was swimming and splashing in the pool. Children and grandchildren are truly a marvel! After supper, Tirzah, our daughter's youngest child, was ready to curl up on the sofa next to her Mom for some before-bedtime reading. It's my wont to always visit the library prior to a visit, if I know about it, and to stock up on a variety of books. Tirzeh and her Mom were rummaging through the pile and I was putting away some laundry. Half-way up the stairs with an armload of towels, sheets and shirts, I heard my daughter call out. "Mom!!" I paused. Was there a problem!? She called out again. Actually it was more like a yell. "Mom – this is awful!" I turned, descended the stairs, still carrying the laundry. "Have you looked at this book, Mom?" I was in the hall by now, searching my brain as to what she was talking about. Entering the living room the most aghast look of the twenty-first century hit me. "Mom, did you know that you took out a book on cross-dressing?" "No," I responded, and truly I had not known it. Then I recalled that when I had gone to the library the previous Saturday, it had unfortunately been fifteen minutes before closing time. Quickly scanning the shelves, first for literature for the older grandchildren (and becoming rather engrossed in some of these volumes), I had been nudged by the librarian that they were closing and that it was time to leave. Running into the children's section of the branch, I had raced around the room taking all the display books off the racks. I figured that these were likely popular favorites and probably indicated good reading. Obviously it was not a well-thought out assumption! "Mom! This book is horrible! Do you know what it's called?" I shook my head: "No, I don't." "Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress!" Cute name, Morris Micklewhite, but the glaring truth was that it was a boy's name – and boys, unless they are Scottish and kilt-oriented, ought not to wear dresses. Deuteronomy 22:5 is very clear on that: "A woman is not to wear male clothing, and a man is not to put on a woman's garment, for everyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord your God." I'm very thankful that my daughter is a conscientious child of the covenant and that she recognizes evil when it approaches, even under the innocent guise of a child's book cover. There are, sadly enough, a number of Morris Micklewhites in the world. Bruce Bruce Jenner was born on October 28, 1949, in New York. This means that he will be 70 years old this fall. Like all children, Bruce was sent to school when he turned 6. Dyslexic, Bruce had trouble with spelling, reading and grammar and disliked school very much. Not diagnosed until the fifth grade, he had nightmares about the teacher having him read in front of class. Like Morris Micklewhite, he had to overcome certain fears about going to school. But Bruce managed to complete grades one through twelve. Not an academic, he turned all his energies into outdoor activities. He had such a penchant for sports, as a matter of fact, that he earned a football scholarship in 1968 which allowed him to attend Graceland College in Iowa even though his grades were not very good. A knee injury, however, soon forced him to stop playing the sport of football in which he excelled. Worried about losing his scholarship and being drafted into the US army, he changed his sports focus. Having a natural gift for track and field, Bruce made the switch to the decathlon. In 1973 he graduated from Graceland College with a degree in physical education. He married his high school sweetheart, a minister's daughter, and set his mind on training for the Olympics. His wife, a flight attendant, worked, even as Bruce trained during the day, selling some insurance on the side. Although he finished tenth in the 1972 summer Olympic Games in Germany, his rigorous day training eventually paid off and he won the decathlon gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Rugged and tough, Bruce was built like a natural athlete. Had he lived during King David's time, he possibly would have qualified as one of his mighty men. But after winning the gold medal, muscular Bruce Jenner settled for being the spokesperson for Wheaties breakfast cereal for several years, posing for the cover of the box. This supposedly encouraged buyers to think, "If you eat this cereal, you could possibly be as brawny and sports-oriented as Bruce Jenner." He also drank orange juice for Tropicana and took pictures for Minolta. Six foot two and 194 pounds of well-distributed muscle, he gradually evolved into a public advertising idol. It paid his bills. It made him rich. Outside of the athletic arena, Bruce Jenner was making more money from winning that single gold medal than any other athlete had before him. He continued to be in demand for countless commercials, promotions, and public appearances. All this publicity took a heavy toll on his marriage – a marriage which dissolved in 1980. In the wake of his broken marriage, Bruce turned to a film and television career, and married again. During the next five years, he also became a successful racecar driver. Then there was another divorce and another marriage. In all, he fathered six children – two by each of his three marriages. Truly the man was a broken puzzle, a sad book to read! The 2015 chapter in Bruce Jenner's life, however, was the saddest one yet - on page April of this chapter he announced that, like Morris Micklewhite of the children's literature, he wanted to wear a dress. In other words, he announced that he was transitioning into a woman, a yearning which, he said, had always lived within himself. Although he had been created a male by the Lord God, Bruce Jenner questioned his Creator's decision, rebelling against it. Changing his name from Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner, he went on to pose, two months later, for the cover of Vanity Fair, as a female. As to be expected, Bruce was praised for his “courageous” action by all those who love evil. That same year of 2015 saw him as the winner of the Social Media Queen award; Glamor magazine named him one of its 25 glamour women of the year; in December he was named “Barbara Walter's most fascinating person of 2015” and he was on the Time's short-list for the 2015 person of the year. Looking back on his athletic career, it would appear that Bruce had been dissatisfied with it, that he'd had no long-term goal for which to aim. He is quoted as saying: "I spent twelve years training for a career that was over in a week." And apparently having no handle on who he is as a male person made in the image of God, he referred to his transition as a “female” by saying: "I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self." Conclusion What a sad thing to so blatantly disregard God's good intentions for one's life! Healthy and wealthy, he fell far short of being wise, fell far short of fearing God. Throughout all this there is no doubt that Bruce Jenner is looking for meaning, searching for fulfillment, but he will fall flat on his face unless he acknowledges that the only meaning in life is to be found in our Lord Jesus Christ; that the only fulfillment is to praise God and enjoy Him forever. God have mercy on the Micklewhites of the world. They will never find peace following the intention of their own base hearts and the prodding of the devil's evil strategies. All this to say that no matter how cute little boys can look in tangerine skirts, we do well to remember that the words of Deuteronomy 22:5 are not cute, are not to be dismissed lightly. A person detestable to God lives in darkness and the Micklewhites of the world are heading for eternal darkness....

Culture Clashes, News

ESPN.com Embraces Nudity

Sports Illustrated has been featuring near nudity in their swimsuit edition for years now. Pictures from that annual issue were also featured prominently on their website, so if a fellow wanted to follow the happenings of his favorite team, but didn’t want to see barely clad women, then he’d best idea head to rival sports website, ESPN.com. But no longer. On July 5 the front page ofESPN.com featured a nude picture of Mixed Martial Arts fighter Conor McGregor. The picture was from The ESPN Magazine “Body Issue” in which prominent athletes pose nude. ESPN started the Body Issue in 2009 as competition to the Sport Illustrated swimsuit issue, but until this year the nudity wasn’t front and center on the website. Conor McGregor’s exposure was a departure and the website’s Public Editor, Jim Brady, heard from annoyed and disgusted readers. So is ESPN.com going to listen and stick to reporting on sports? Nope. Brady noted that while he had heard a lot of complaints, they seemed to be exclusively from people over 40. And when he polled friends and co-workers he found that no one he knew under 30 thought the pictures were offensive. SoESPN is going to show flesh. And if you’re offended, they’re sorry you’re such a prude. So what’s a sport fan to do when the continent’s two most prominent sports websites are selling sex? Well, there are still other options. In Canada there’s TSN.com, which, while it has ties to ESPN (ESPN has a minority stake), doesn’t have links to the Body Issue on their website. But nudity isn’t the only problem. With the NBA moving their 2017 All-Star Game from North Carolina because the state didn’t want men in women’s washrooms, and the NHL embracing homosexuality with promotions like “pride tape,” and the NFL putting on half time shows that we don’t want our children to see, it’s clear that professional sports are, overall, embracing evil. I love my NBA. But if this league, and the NHL, and the NFL and so many others, and the media that reports on them, are all intent on shaking their fist at God,is it time to tune out? And if not now, when?...