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Parenting, Popular but problematic

Patricia Polacco gets woke

In my idyllic and very Christian small town I keep forgetting that even here there’s a spiritual war going on. This past weekend I got a reminder in amongst the books we borrowed from the public library when two titles were pushing the same agenda. The first was by well-loved children's author Patricia Polacco about a family with two moms. God's view of marriage – as being between a man and woman – was represented in the story by a snarling, glaring neighbor. The second was a chapter book about a girl competing in a TV game show who had two dads. While we parents should know what our kids are reading, if you have a child who reads a lot this becomes harder and harder to keep up with as they get older. But, as the Adversary knows, you are what you eat. And if he can sneak in a diet of "homosexuality is normal," he can win our kids over before parents even know a battle is happening. So, what's the answer? Should we monitor our children’s book intake closer? That's part of it. Should we rely on Christian school libraries more (if you have access to one)? That seems a good idea. Would it be wise to invest in a high-quality personal home library – only fantastic (and not simply safe) books? That’s a great idea. But, as our kids get older, it's going to come down to talking through this propaganda to equip them to see through it. It will mean explaining to them that we oppose homosexuality because God does, and that even in prohibiting homosexuality God shows his goodness. As Cal Thomas put it:

“God designed norms for behavior that are in our best interests. When we act outside those norms – such as for premarital sex, adultery, or homosexual sex – we cause physical, emotional, and spiritual damage to ourselves and to our wider culture. The unpleasant consequences of divorce and sexually transmitted diseases are not the result of intolerant bigots seeking to denigrate others. They are the results of violating God’s standard, which were made for our benefit.”

We have to share with our children that our Maker knows what is best for us, and homosexuality isn't it. Like many an idol (money, sex, family, career, drugs) it might even bring happiness for a time, but, like every other idol, it doesn't bring lasting joy, it won't save us, and it will distance us from the God who can.

News

Donald Trump, the pro-life rabble-rouser?

In April the president of the United States made headlines for a movie he didn’t watch, and didn’t comment on. So what was all the fuss about? He let an “anti-abortion” film be shown in his home. In the days leading up to the April 12 screening, mainstream media on both sides of the Atlantic let their readership know that Gosnell, was going to be shown at the White House. Gosnell is the true-life story of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist who in 2013 was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder for babies he killed after they were born. At the time both the prosecutor and the mainstream media emphasized that the case wasn’t about abortion, but about the murder of born babies. But what makes the film a powerful pro-life argument is the defense offered by Gosnell’s attorney: he argued that what Gosnell did to these babies after birth was not significantly different from what other abortionists were, with the law’s blessing, doing to babies before birth. It wasn’t enough to get his client off, but the argument is sound, and for any of the undecided in the viewing audience his reasoning could be convicting. President Trump didn’t watch the film, but in the lead-up to the screening he received a lot of criticism. So why did he let Gosnell be shown in the White House? The cynic might say this was a mostly-pain-free way to appease his Christian base – it excited them, and even though it got widespread negative coverage in the mainstream media, that negative coverage was over quite quickly. But there is another plausible explanation: maybe the former pro-choice Democrat has taken a genuine pro-life turn. If so, then this screening was the president making the deliberate choice to take some heat so an important film could get some much-needed publicity. To bolster that case, consider two other examples of presidential pro-life agitation from earlier this year. In January he once again spoke, via video, to the tens of thousands attending the Washington DC March for Life. Then in February, in his State of the Union address, he responded pointedly to a just-passed New York abortion bill. He told the millions watching:

There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our Nation saw in recent days.  Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.  These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world.  And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.

To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb. Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life.  And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth:  all children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.

This last line is remarkable – it gets at the very core of where our value comes from, and why our worth doesn’t differ, no matter our size, location, or level of development. Our worth doesn’t come from what we can do, but from in Whose Image we are made. Though this is the issue in the abortion debate, it’s almost never heard. We’re all very aware of this president’s faults, so it is not his body of work we are praising here. And we don’t even need to be convinced Trump is sincerely pro-life to see how his provocative, courageous, and sometimes downright insightful advocacy for the unborn is an example well worth imitating. He is loud. May we be so too.

Check out our review of Gosnell here.

Letter Writing

Activism 101: 4 tips on being heard

If you are waiting in-line at a grocery store you are guaranteed to be bombarded by flashy magazines. These magazines are often, if not always, an assault on the senses. They are visually disturbing with pictures of scantily clad women and men. Not only that, the headlines and featured articles promote gossip and obsession about sex, weight-loss, image and power (unfortunately those topics all seem to go hand in hand). It is interesting that these magazines are a temptation for women. On a first glance you would think that it would only be visually tempting for men (which they are). However I admit, and know many other females that would concur, that each time again I have to choose to refuse to look at or read the covers of these magazines. They are there for a reason. And it is not uncommon to see women spontaneously buy the latest glossy bit of smut. In fact, that is the very reason they are displayed there. To add to the problem, women who are grocery shopping are often accompanied by their small children. Enough is enough As a family living in Lethbridge (at that time) we witnessed this onslaught of images and ideas each time we shopped. It often bothered me that this was practiced by companies that received so much business from Christian families like ours, who did not want to see these magazines at all. One particular day my husband was shopping at the Lethbridge Save-On-Foods. He saw a young boy (maybe seven or eight years old) waiting in line with a parent. This child happened to be at eye-level with a Cosmopolitan magazine and out of sheer curiosity was staring at it. The cover featured a woman pulling her shirt wide open to reveal herself wearing only a white lacy bra. Now we all know the power of images and how hard they are to purge from your mind. And we all know the vulnerability of a young school-aged mind. And so when he told me about it I felt physically sick. I had had enough. The next time I was in the store I went from the checkout to the customer service counter and filled out a comment card. I briefly described what had been seen and suggested that they also would probably not care for their eight-year-old to see these images. I requested that the magazines be removed. If that was for some reason impossible I asked that they provide a family-friendly checkout that did not have the magazines. Quite a response It was very encouraging to receive a personal phone-call from the local store’s manager a few days later. He said that he agreed with me but then apologized that he could not change the store’s layout. Apparently every Save-On-Foods across Canada follows the same design and this layout is dictated from the head office. However he provided me with the email for the national customer service centre and offered to also contact them to add his support to my suggestions. Soon after, I sent an email to the head office with my concerns, suggestions and contact information. I then forwarded the email I had just sent to friends and family so that they could also send a similar email. After all, the more response that Save-On-Foods would receive the better. Right? A few weeks later a manager from the Overwaitea/Save-On-Foods head office phoned our home. He spoke with my husband and (at that time) agreed that something should be done. He offered to initially contact some of the magazine companies to see if the covers could be improved. If this wasn’t possible then he would look into cascading them or removing all or some of them from the checkouts. He let us know that it would likely be a few months before we would see any changes in the stores. It was once again a very encouraging response. We were looking forward to seeing what changes would take place. Quiet response Unfortunately, since then we have not noticed any significant change. The store in Lethbridge did provide one checkout aisle where they put a plastic cover in front of just one of the magazines (Cosmopolitan) so that only the cover was showing. However, this was the only change and on one’s first glance for a free checkout it was impossible to notice this. We waited for a few months like the manager had suggested but we did not see any other improvements. After that waiting period I sent a follow up email to see if anything was going to be done but I did not receive a response. My husband called again two months after that and was able to speak with the same manager. Unfortunately he was no longer so helpful. It was very disappointing to hear that they have no plans to standardize the idea of family friendly checkouts. According to him, the store is “not in the business of censoring.” They believe that most customers are not upset by the magazines being there and that they are serving their customers. He also reported that one of the stores in Abbotsford, B.C. does provide family friendly checkouts but he refused to provide any suggestions on how or if they could be implemented at other stores. Not the end? I suppose the reason is obvious. When it comes to consumerism, the almighty dollar writes the rules. The magazines are there because they rely on impulse buyers. The customer service team simply has not felt enough pressure to change. So the next logical step is for more customers to step forward. After all, how do you feel when you notice an innocent eight-year old staring at the cover of Cosmopolitan? If one comment card and one email could create a stir like this just think what could happen if more of us step up to the plate! Things we learned from this

1) Follow up, follow up, follow up. Keep the contact information of every person you spoke with in the issue so that you can speak to the same person again. Be sure to let them know in your email or phone call that you plan to contact them again.

2) Set a date. Write on your calendar when you are going to contact them again. Life is busy so it’s easy to forget how much time has gone by.

3) Get more people involved. A message is always stronger if it is spoken by more people. The decision makers need to know that they are serving more people by changing the status quo.

4) Offer your assistance. Ask how you can continue to help with this so that the decision makers don’t feel it’s all placed on their shoulders. They are also busy and they may feel more disposed to help you if you are also helping them.

Below is the email sent to the Customer Service Team:

To whom it may concern,

I am a resident of Lethbridge, Alberta after moving here from Langley, B.C. and I work as a physiotherapist in the local area. I have been a long time shopper at Save-On-Foods in Langley and now here in Lethbridge and I have been very happy with most of the service.

However I have always been disturbed by the magazine displays at the checkout aisles. There are always glossy magazines with full front cover stories that include pictures of very scantily clad women. If they are not in a very tiny bathing suit that shows most of the breast, they are in a dress that reveals almost as much. Recently there was even a full cover picture of a woman pulling her shirt open and holding it open to display her breasts barely covered by a lacy bra.

Now I have no need to see these, what I would consider pornographic, pictures. I realize that as an adult I can choose to turn my head away, which I do, but it becomes even more of a concern to me when I see a small child of 7-8 years old peering at the cover of Cosmopolitan which has been put right at his eye level. Would you want your child perusing the cover of Cosmopolitan? How confusing for our kids to be taught about people's privacy at home and then to be bombarded by these images at the local grocery store.

As a leading business group in Canada I would highly encourage you to rectify this situation, to make a moral stand and refuse to have those magazine covers take over your checkout aisles. Customers know where to find them in the magazine section. There is no reason to have them at every aisle. It is a disgrace to an upstanding business such as yours. Why sponsor this industry?

If somehow the increased magazine sales trumps that decision, I also have a few suggestions: You could opt to display the magazines in a cascading order so that only the title is visible as opposed to the entire cover. Alternatively, you could offer "family friendly" checkout aisles which do not have the magazine displays.

I can not express how grateful I would be to see the change occur. Please take the time to consider these suggestions. I appreciate hearing back from you regarding this email.

Sincerely, Jaclyn Penninga

This was first published as "One comment card and one email" in the October 2008 issue of Reformed Perspective.

Assorted

What does God's "favorite" Bible verse tell us?

We all have our own favorite books, chapters, and verses in the Bible. I love the last 5 chapters of Job, where God answers Job and his friends. In a confusing world, I find this such a comforting passage - I may not understand why things are happening, but God does, He is in control, and I can trust to leave things with Him. My grandfather loved Ps. 23 for similar reasons – reading through it was a source of comfort for him. Other passages are favorites for different reasons. When it comes to the verse we most often share with the world, it must be John 3:16, written up large on poster board and displayed at football, baseball and soccer stadiums around the globe. In 2009 this was the most read verse on BibleGateway.com. The world's favorite verse has to be Matthew 7:1a: "Do not judge." They don't want it in context - half a verse is more than enough Bible for them. God's favorite verses? But what is God's favorite Bible verse? In the last couple of months two Reformed authors have shared their thoughts. Dr. Joel McDurmon noted that, according to the number of times it is quoted in the New Testament, the clear second-place finisher is the latter part of Leviticus 19:18:

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

McDrumon writes: "This shows up in seven different places in the NT [while] the vast majority of other verses quoted appear a couple times, or only once." Of course, it may not be quite right to think of this as God's favorite – it might be better to think of this as a passage He knows we really need to hear over and over again. So if that's second, what's first? Reformed Baptist pastor Jeff Durbin suggests it must be Psalm 110:1:

"The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'”

This passage is cited or referenced nearly two dozen times in the New Testament, or three times as often as Leviticus 19:18. An instructive contrast What we read here is a proclamation of Jesus' sovereignty - the focus is on His reign. But when you google "favorite verses" the passages that often come up have a different focus. Spots 2 through 4 on the BibleGateway.com 2009 most-read-verses list had these familiar passages:

Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Like my grandfather's favorite, and my own, these passages are a source of comfort to many (though the Jeremiah and Philippians passages are often misapplied). While they do speak of God, the focus isn't so much on Him as what He can do for us - the focus is largely on us. Our loving Father knows what we we need, and so provides us with text after text that assure us of his goodness and power and love. It's no wonder these are among our favorites – they are a gift from Him. But the difference between our favorites and God's "favorite" is instructive. God wants us to understand that Jesus has triumphed. He wants us to realize that Jesus has won every battle, beaten every enemy, and rules over all. This is so important for us to understand, that God tells it to us again and again and again. Are we listening? And do we believe it? As the Westminster Shorter Catechism explains, our purpose here on earth is to glorify God, but we are so often scared and too timid to even mention His name. How can we glorify Someone we don't dare name? God wants to embolden us, telling us that Jesus already reigns. When we are intimidated by our professors, boss, coworkers, classmates, or political caucus, we can be assured that Jesus is king. He is Lord of our university classroom. He rules the business world and our job site too. And while government might seem to be spirally ever downward we can rest secure in the knowledge that God appoints both Prime Ministers and opposition leaders. His domain extends to everywhere and everything.

"The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'”

Whether we're looking for comfort or courage, can it get any better than that?  

Science - Environmental Stewardship

The making of the Cornwall Alliance

How did we get our biblical stewardship group going?

Editor’s Note: Dr. E Calvin Beisner will be featured in Reformed Perspective’s Spring Speaking Tour “The Grass is Greener” so we wanted to share a little bit about him, and the organization, the Cornwall Alliance, that he heads.

****

Where did the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation come from? It is the ongoing result of decades of study by scores of scholars – theologians, scientists, economists, and others – and myself.

My own personal background played a major role in shaping it, so let me share that with you.

When I was an infant, my father, working for the U.S. State Department, was posted to Calcutta, India. We returned to the States around my second birthday, so I don’t have many direct, personal memories of life there. But two picture memories stand out starkly.

The first is of the beautiful tropical garden in the courtyard of the apartment complex where we lived.

The second is of the scores of bodies of those who had died of starvation and related diseases, over and around which, early each morning for several months, before trucks came around and picked them up, I walked, hand in hand with my “Aia,” the Indian lady who led me by the hand from my parents’ home several blocks to the home of an Indian family where I spent the day because my mother was paralyzed by a tropical virus that attacked her spine (from which, thank God, she eventually recovered).

Over the years, those two memories came to bespeak for me two things: the glories of God’s creation, and the horrors of abject poverty.

The Bible speaks about the poor too

When I became a Christian, and when in high school I began dedicating my life to the service of Christ, I at first failed to recognize the connection between the Christian faith and either of those two matters. I thought the Christian faith was about nothing but the salvation of sinners – which is indeed the heart of the Christian faith and the most glorious part of it! I witnessed the gospel constantly to fellow students, then to teachers, and to many others, all through high school and college. I studied apologetics so I could answer arguments against the Christian faith. I rejoiced to see the Lord bring many people to saving faith in Christ. Evangelism and apologetics were my almost sole interests.

Three years after I finished college with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies in Religion and Philosophy with double minors in Classical History and Classical Languages (in 1978), a pastor friend urged me to read a book about Christian responsibility to care for the poor. I did, and I realized for the first time how much the Bible has to say about the poor. However, I suspected that much of what the author said was mistaken – that he misinterpreted Bible passages, used faulty theological reasoning, and often argued invalidly (as a philosophy student I had studied logic). I didn’t know much about economics, but I suspected that he misunderstood that, too. Yet his book was tremendously influential, so I decided to learn economics to better evaluate the book. I read a lot of textbooks and other studies of economics. Then I earned my M.A. in Society with Specialization in Economic Ethics (International College, 1983) with a thesis focusing on economic ethics.

The beginnings of a group

Meanwhile, a theologian friend who knew of my prior work in evangelism and apologetics had started the “Coalition on Revival” to help what eventually became several hundred Christian theologians, philosophers, historians, lawyers, educators, psychologists, economists, and other scholars to work together producing “white papers” setting forth the Christian worldview as it applied to each of the major spheres of life.

Knowing of my studies in economics, he asked me to chair the economics committee, and I consented. Dr. Marvin Olasky and Dr. Herb Schlossberg, along with about 20 others, were on that committee, and after the third year of our meetings, they asked me to write a book on economics for a series they were editing, and Prosperity and Poverty: The Compassionate Use of Resources in a World of Scarcity (1988) was the result.

One chapter was supposed to discuss how population, resources, and the economy interrelate, but as I worked on it, I found that it was far too much to treat in a single chapter. Marvin told me, “Okay, then do a whole book on that.” After two more years, I finished Prospects for Growth: A Biblical View of Population, Resources, and the Future (1990).

Becoming a professor

When people in the administration and board of trustees of Covenant College read those books (and others I’d written), they invited me to teach. I did, from 1992–2000, as Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, focusing on the application of Biblical worldview, theology, and ethics to economics, government, and public policy, with special attention to economic development for the poor and environmental stewardship.

In late 1999 the trustees and administration of Knox Theological Seminary invited me to teach. As Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Social Ethics (the latter including the ethics of economic development and environmental stewardship) I taught there from 2000–2008. (While teaching at Covenant and Knox, I also earned a Ph.D. in Scottish History (University of St. Andrews, Scotland, 2005–2003), focusing on the history of political philosophy.)

Starting in the early 1990s, a variety of religious scholars – Jewish, Catholic, mainline Protestant, and evangelical Protestant – were studying how Biblical ethics should inform environmental stewardship. I was one among many who participated in small colloquia hosted by various groups – the Evangelical Environmental Network, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Acton Institute for Religion and Liberty, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and colleges and churches – to deliver papers and discuss ideas.

From West Cornwall…

One such meeting, involving about 30 scholars, took place in the autumn of 1999 in West Cornwall, Connecticut. Following it, several of us thought it would be helpful to create a statement of fundamental principles, and I agreed to draft it. That became, after editing by several scholars, The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, which was released publicly in March of 2000, after it had been endorsed by several hundred prominent religious leaders, and which eventually was endorsed by over 1,500 religious leaders and thousands of lay people.

In the summer of 2005, a handful of those who had been instrumental in organizing the gathering that led to issuing the Cornwall Declaration asked me if I would write some articles, speak in various places, and coordinate the building of a network of scholars to promote the basic ideas of the Declaration. I agreed to do it on the side.

…to the ISA

From that grew the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA), a loose-knit network of theologians, pastors, other ministry leaders, scientists, economists, other scholars, and policy experts, all donating their time, dedicated to applying Biblical worldview, theology, and ethics together with excellent science and economics to the interrelated challenges of economic development for the very poor and environmental stewardship. Our first major product was An Examination of the Scientific, Ethical, and Theological Implications of Climate Change Policy (November 2005).

Over the next two years, ISA functioned as a loose-knit network of people with mutual interests. It had no budget, almost no funding (just small amounts donated by a few individuals), no office, and no staff except myself on a small part-time stipend. But the quality of that first paper, and then of our second, A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming (July 2006), resulted in our scholars’ being asked to speak for a variety of organizations and in my being asked to give testimony as an expert witness before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (October 2006).

New name

In 2007 we changed our name to The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation to make our connection to the Cornwall Declaration clear. To respond to rising demand for our teaching and writing, we incorporated The James Partnership, a 501(c)3 non-profit religious, educational, and charitable organization. (Two other organizations also operate under The James Partnership.

We were able to hire a part-time assistant, and then in 2008 I left Knox Theological Seminary to divide my time between the Cornwall Alliance and serving on the pastoral staff of a church I had helped plant.

We are supported by donations from private individuals and non-profit foundations, not by corporate gifts, and by donations of time and expertise by over 60 scholars in our network, such as the authors of hundreds of articles we’ve published in scores of venues; the speakers for our Resisting the Green Dragon video lecture series and documentary; the author of our book Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion, Not Death; the scholars interviewed for our Where the Grass Is Greener: Biblical Stewardship vs. Climate Alarmism and other video documentaries; and the authors and reviewers of our major papers, including:

As of this writing (early 2017), with two full-time staff (our Director of Communications and me), one paid part-time staff member (our Director of Donor Relations), and two part-time volunteer staff members, the Cornwall Alliance remains largely a loose-knit network of theologians, pastors, other ministry leaders, scientists, economists, other scholars, and policy experts dedicated to applying Biblical worldview, theology, and ethics together with excellent science and economics to the twin tasks of environmental stewardship and economic development for the poor through writing, speaking, social media, and our websites www.CornwallAlliance.org and www.EarthRisingBlog.com.

*****

E. Calvin Beisner will be touring Canada, as part of RP‘s “The Grass is Greener: biblical stewardship and an age of climate alarmism” speaking tour. Dates and location are below. Can you help us spread the word? Please like and share this post!

May 1 – Hamilton Cornerstone CanRC
May 2 – Smithville CanRC
May 3 – Fergus Maranatha CanRC
May 4 – Burgessville Heritage NRC
May 5 – Strathroy Providence URC
May 8 – Winnipeg Redeemer CanRC
May 9 – Lethbridge Trinity URC
May 10 – Edmonton Parkland Immanuel Christian School 
May 11 – Ponoka Parkland URC
May 12 – Barrhead CanRC


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