CP U.S. | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 08, 2023

By Samantha Kamman, Christian Post Reporter

Jewish groups have come to the defense of an Evangelical Christian postal worker who claims he was forced out of his job for refusing to work Sundays, the Christian day of the sabbath.

A joint amicus brieffiled last Tuesday by the American Jewish Committee and religious scholars Asma Uddin and Steven Collis asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of Gerald Groff, who began working for the U.S. Postal Service in 2012 and accused his former employer of refusing to provide reasonable accommodations for his religious practices.

Groff claimed that he was forced to resign from his job in 2019 because USPS would not “honor [his] personal religious beliefs.”

After the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Groff last year, the Supreme Court will hear the postal worker's case, Groff v. DeJoy, on April 18.

Groff is asking the court to reconsider a ruling in the 1977 case Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, which set limits for the accommodations employers are required to make for religious employees on the Sabbath.

The brief supported by the American Jewish Committee argues that the interpretation of “undue hardship” in Hardison permits employers to escape liability and avoid any need to accommodate even the “most modest needs” of their religious employees under Title VII. As the brief noted, the act was amended in 1972 to protect employees that practice the Sabbath on Saturdays and other religious minorities.

Furthermore, the brief stated that religious discrimination still exists within the American workplace by allowing employers to claim “undue hardship” under the Hardison standard. The brief argues that the standard is particularly harmful to minorities, including Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Seventh-day Adventists.

Despite comprising only 5% or 6% of the U.S. population, these groups bring over 65% of religious discrimination cases, of which two-thirds result in claimants losing in appellate courts due to the Hardison standard, according to the brief.

The Quarryville Postmaster in Pennsylvania, where Groff worked, entered a contract with Amazon in 2013 to deliver packages, which included Sundays, although Gross was initially exempt.

However, in 2016, the USPS and the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, a union, entered an agreement that required Groff to work Sundays during the peak season. The postal worker transferred to a smaller office, which also started doing deliveries through Amazon.

Groff claimed that his employer required him to find people to cover his shifts if he did not want to work on Sundays. He eventually resigned after facing multiple disciplinary actions for not working on Sunday when scheduled.

“Rejecting the Hardison standard and thawing its chilling effect will not result in a flood of expensive claims that injure American businesses,” the brief argued.

“In fact, this Court should expect that increased religious accommodations in the workplace will help American businesses, in the same way that disability accommodations maximize the value of disabled employees.”

Another amicus brief filed on Feb. 28 by the Zionist Organization of America made similar arguments about the 1977 Supreme Court ruling. The group argued that employers are free to deny religious employees “the most minor accommodations.”

“The interpretation of ‘undue hardship’ as nothing more than a de minimus cost to the employer is not supported by the plain meaning of the term,” the brief argued. “‘Hardship’ alone means more than de minimus or insignificant. Dictionaries define ‘hardship’ as ‘adversity,’ ‘suffering’ or ‘a thing hard to bear.’”

The group also called for re-evaluating the “undue hardship” standard on the basis that violence against Jewish people in the U.S. is reportedly on the rise.

“To discourage anti-Jewish bias and ensure equal employment opportunity for Jews, Title VII’s ‘undue hardship’ standard should be re-evaluated, and the de minimis cost standard abandoned,” ZOA wrote.

Another group that has voiced its support for Groff is the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization that joined with several other religious groups to file a Feb. 28 amicus brief.

“Religion is a protected class under the law and must be treated that way. If religious protections for employees can’t be enforced, they are effectively meaningless,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “People of faith will forever be unable to participate fully in society if they are forced to choose between their religion and earning a living. We urge the Supreme Court to revisit this decision and adopt a legal standard that will more effectively protect religious accommodations in the workplace.”

ADL was joined in submitting the brief by the Baptist Joint Committee, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Jewish groups support Christian worker at center of SCOTUS case | U.S. News (christianpost.com)

April 15

8:00AM EST 3/7/2023 STEVE REES

As Holy Spirit-led revival stirs students' radical devotion to Jesus on campuses across the nation, historically Black colleges are experiencing powerful outpourings of salvation, repentance, worship and prayer.

A Spirit-filled pastor in Atlanta, Georgia believes student revival and Holy Spirit outpouring is manifesting on campuses near his church—a predominantly Black congregation in the city.

Pastor Arthur Breland highlights three Atlanta-area schools—recognized as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs)—that show signs of God moving mightily among students.

The lead pastor at United Church Atlanta, Breland notes three campuses that are experiencing fresh outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, along with Clark Atlanta University—all three secular schools—are marked by student revivals like those on other secular and Christian campuses.

"They are gathering in groups of 50 to 70 students to pray, do evangelism, repent of sin and worship Jesus," Breland wrote on social media.

Hoping to fan the flames of revival, a movement of radical Millennial and Gen Z missionaries will visit four Atlanta-area campuses beginning Monday, March 6th.

A fourth Atlanta school, Morris Brown College, will be the first stop for the missions group that hopes empower students in their Christ-centered callings.

The Black Voices Movement gathering is empowering leaders of color into their Christcentered calling and it is a tool the Holy Spirit is using to stir even more revival on college campuses and, ultimately, to reach the nations with the gospel.

Comprised of Black evangelists who love Jesus, the cross of Christ and His gospel, BVM is aligned with Circuit Riders, a missions organization that empowers and inspires leaders to share the good news of Jesus.

A student at Morehouse, Carlton Bates travels with BVM, which will boldly proclaim with one voice the name of Jesus on his campus March 8.

Morehouse is one stop in Atlanta and 30 outreaches to HBCUs nationwide.

"There are young Black boys who can look and see that there's a young Black male that's going across the nation encouraging people, saying 'man, if no one else believes in you, I believe in you,'" Bates told a news network during a BVM stop in Greensboro, North Carolina.

After its first event on the Greensboro campus, the BVM team was gripped by the fact that most of the students did not know Jesus.

Full of faith and on fire for Jesus, Bates and his teammates returned the next day to preach the gospel in the student union, a three-story building.

"People stopped in their tracks all across the student union as he boldly says, 'If you know you need to give your life to Jesus today, I want you to come down here right now and we're going to pray for you," says BVM leader Yasmin Pierce.

From the third-floor people streamed down to commit their lives to Jesus Christ.

At another tour stop, a young man on the BVM team shared the gospel with three males. "They were so gripped that they call their friends over. All nine of them give their lives to Jesus," says Pierce.

Most campuses and universities have less than 5% of the student body engaged in Christian community. On many campuses it's closer to 1%, Pierce estimates.

A few years ago, a part of Circuit Riders sensed an important call to reach HBCUs. "We started to meet all of these on-fire Black, Bible-believing leaders who felt called to be missionaries; they started joining Circuit Riders," Pierce recalls.

In Revelation 7, the writer John describes a vision of every nation, tribe and tongue before the throne of Jesus Christ, declaring in a loud voice that salvation belongs to God. "That's the heart of Black Voices Movement and Circuit Riders," Pierce says.

A missionary herself, Pierce knows students want a relationship with Jesus, who says to pray for laborers to bring in the harvest.

"We're empowering this generation to share the gospel and, specifically, young Black men and women as laborers, creatives, musicians, worship leaders, preachers and evangelists," says Pierce.

While BVM is sometimes mistaken for Black Lives Matter in political conversations, the two movements are worlds apart. "In Joshua chapter 5, God shows up and He tells him He's on neither side.

"Even Moses, Joshua's predecessor, tried to work justice from his frame of mind, but God pulled him to the burning bush to say, 'I have My way of doing this; surrender to Me for the work I want to do,'" Pierce says.

Simply, BVM provides a biblical understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. "He's a God of solution and, as we surrender to Him, He will lead us to be ministers of solution," says Pierce.

BVM is driven, especially as missionaries, by the Great Commission to preach the gospel in every nation according to Matthew 24.

Throughout revival history, large open-air meetings marked by bold proclamation of the gospel have produced great harvests. Seeking to fulfill its role as a tool of Holy Spirit awakening, BVM is headed to Newark, New Jersey—with its majority-minority population—in April for a weeklong gospel festival including preaching, training and outreach. The main event is Friday evening, April 21 beginning at 7 p.m.

Steve Rees is a former general assignment reporter who, with one other journalist, first wrote about the national men's movement Promise Keepers from his home in Colorado.

Holy Spirit Moving Mightily at Secular Black Colleges — Charisma News

March 11 Current Events

BY JOSHUA ARNOLD/WASHINGTON STAND FEBRUARY 07, 2023

Driving kids to Vacation Bible School would become a misdemeanor in Nebraska if a recent proposal by Nebraska Senator Megan Hunt (D) passed into law. Hunt proposed to "amend" a bill that would protect children from adult-themed drag performances (LB371) by striking all the language and replacing it with similar language to bar children from attending a "religious indoctrination camp" instead.

Hunt's amendment (AM74), filed on January 23, defined a religious indoctrination camp as "a camp, vacation Bible study, retreat, lock-in, or convention held by a church, youth group, or religious organization for the purpose of indoctrinating children with a specific set of religious beliefs."

The amendment would prohibit anyone under 19 (Nebraska's age of majority) from attending such a camp and declared anyone 19 or older who "knowingly brings" someone under 19 to a religious indoctrination camp to "be guilty of a Class I misdemeanor." The amendment would also prohibit anyone under 21 from a "religious indoctrination camp" with alcohol, "regardless if such alcoholic liquor is being served as part of a religious ceremony." Finally, the amendment slaps a $10,000 fine per offense on "any business, establishment, or nonprofit organization that hosts a religious indoctrination camp" and permits underage persons to attend.

The amendment specifically targets Christian parents, churches, and faith-based organizations in its sweeping ban on virtually all youth outreach efforts -- including communion, in some denominations. The legislator who introduced the amendment said she did it "to make a point." "It won't pass," tweeted Hunt. "I would withdraw it if it had the votes to pass."

Somehow, she expects others to take her point seriously when she doesn't even take her own job seriously. But it's not immediately obvious what point Hunt was trying to make.

One option is that Hunt is legitimately concerned about the safety of children. This option is suggested by the one subsection of her amendment that does not parallel the language of the original bill:

"There is a well-documented history of indoctrination and sexual abuse perpetrated by religious leaders and clergy people upon children. Abusers within churches and other religious institutions often use events like church or youth-group-sponsored camps and retreats to earn children's trust and gain unsupervised access to such children in order to commit such abuse."

In other words, because some wolves don sheep's clothing, Hunt suggests shepherds should never gather the flock. It's hard to consider this amendment with a straight face. Ultimately, by declaring that she would withdraw the amendment if it stood a chance of passing, Hunt herself admits that child safety isn't her true motivation.

Another option suggested by this added subsection is that Hunt's point is mere "whataboutism." If you think kids are being groomed at drag shows, says Hunt, what about grooming in the church? Sadly, sexual abusers do target children in the church, and every crime is one too many. But Hunt tries to prove more than the evidence will justify. Words such as "well-documented" and "often" imply that everyone knows that abuse is rampant at church camps. But if that were really true, parents would keep their children home.

In reality, most church camps come off without incident, and many churches observe child protection policies to prevent abuse. Additionally, the phrase "indoctrination and sexual abuse perpetrated ... upon children" insinuates that religious instruction and sexual abuse are 1) equally bad for children and 2) related. Yet not even Hunt attempts to prove that religious instruction harms children. Charity requires us to find this explanation unsatisfactory also.

A third option is that Hunt introduced the amendment to demonstrate a parallel between church camps and drag shows. That may sound surprising -- nay, offensive -- but it's actually quite revealing.

Imagine for a moment that the LGBT ideology is really a religion -- not an independent religion, mind you, but a photonegative, cult mockery of Christianity. It has its own deity -- the self -- and core doctrines, such as "identity is self-determined." It has its own system of positive and negative morality, requiring affirmation and rejecting all constraints on sexual expression. It has its own community, which, like a church community, cares for its own. The parallels could go on.

In this analogy, a religion built around sexual perversion -- and therefore hostile to procreation and family -- must find some way in which to sustain itself, and it does so by imitating Christian evangelism strategies. Just like a church camp or Vacation Bible School proclaims the gospel and other Christian teaching to children (including some who wouldn't otherwise hear), so an "all-ages" drag show exposes children (including some who wouldn't otherwise be exposed) to the doctrine and values of the LGBT religion: sexual promiscuity, defiance of gender norms, and celebration of "uninhibited" self-expression.

LGBT apologists often distinguish themselves by their uncompromising religious fervor, and Ms. Hunt is no exception. In addition to AM 74, Hunt proposed an array of amendments -- more creative than sincere -- to challenge and parody the drag show bill LB371. One amendment (AM204) ordered that "No manufacturer shall distribute chocolate-coated candy" to minors "without ... explicitly identifying the candy's gender assigned at birth on the packaging." That amendment is a clear nod to the short-lived M&Ms female "spokescandies" campaign, but it makes no sense in the real world. She introduced two amendments that would forbid minors from watching R-rated movies (AM206) or "any television program depicting sexual themes or violence" (AM178).

In fact, Hunt has introduced ridiculous amendments to numerous bills that would protect children from exposure to the LGBT religion. The Let Them Grow Act (LB574) prohibits the performance of "gender altering procedures" on minors. Hunt introduced an amendment (AM72) to change the phrase to "gender affirming procedures."

She introduced another amendment (AM71) to change the bill so that it prohibited gender altering procedures on "a legislator appointed by the governor." That amendment takes an ill-informed swipe at the bill's sponsor, Kathleen Kauth (R), who was appointed by the governor to fill an empty seat before winning reelection in her own right.

Additionally, Hunt proposed an amendment (AM73) to LB575, a women's sports bill, that would replace the word "violation" with the word "compliance" in a phrase allowing a student to bring "a civil cause of action against the school committing such violation," which would completely reverse the meaning and contradict the bill's overall purpose.

Hunt's progressive activism extends to the abortion issue, too. She has introduced a whopping 34 amendments to mock or derail the Nebraska Heartbeat Act (LB626), including amendments as petty as "Strike the enacting clause" (FA7). You might say that Hunt proposes bill amendments serially, and you'd be correct; her amendments to LB626 bear the filing numbers AM13-AM27, AM29-AM42, and AM59-AM62 (she also filed AM71-AM74 on the gender bills). In fact, of the first 75 amendments to receive an "AM-" number, Senator Hart filed 37 -- all goofy.

Hunt has moved to indefinitely table all four bills, LB371, LB 574, LB 575, and LB626. All that means is the legislature will have to vote down that motion before beginning floor debate -- a motion that will have little effect if the bill is likely to pass anyways.

Hunt offered another motion that would have sent LB626 to a different committee; as soon as the motion failed, she offered a motion to reconsider it, which also failed. It must be hard to serve as a progressive Democratic legislator in a chamber with a permanent Republican majority, but surely Senator Hunt could do better. With all her energy and creativity, there must be some way she can work to improve the lives of her constituents in a way that is respected by her GOP colleagues.

Instead, she simply works to gum up the legislative gears with a paste thick with bitter irony. Her pro-LGBT worldview and value system -- one might even say, "her religion" -- stands so entirely opposed to the state's conservative majority that she believes obstructionism is the most productive use of her time.

How else do explain an amendment that proposes, instead of barring kids from attending drag performances, let's ban them from attending Bible camp and VBS instead?

Originally published at The Washington Stand

Democrat Senator Wants To See Children Protected From Vacation Bible School (prophecynewswatch.com)

April 8

CP CHURCH & MINISTRIES
MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2023

By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter Pope Francis condemned transgender ideology in a recent interview, declaring that it is “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations.”

The pontiff, who was born and raised in Argentina, spoke with the Argentine newspaper La Nacion last week, in advance of his 10th anniversary of assuming the papacy.

When asked if he “had been asked to write a document on the subject of gender,” Francis responded that while “no one” had requested that he create such a document, people always seek “clarifications” on the Catholic Church’s views on the matter.

The term "gender ideology" is often defined as a set of beliefs that characterizes gender as a social construct, not based on one's biological sex, and rejects the gender binary of male and female. It is often associated with the LGBT movement.

In his remarks to La Nacion, Francis suggested that a difference exists between compassion for people who identify as members of the LGBT community and adherence to gender ideology.

“I always distinguish between what pastoral care is for people who have a different sexual orientation and what gender ideology is,” he said. “They are two different things. Gender ideology, at this time, is one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations.”

Francis said he views gender ideology as “dangerous,” lamenting that “it dilutes differences” between men and women. He described “the tension of differences” as “the richness of men and women and all of humanity” and stressed that “growing through the tension of differences” constitutes an important part of humanity.

Francis also decried gender ideology for “diluting the differences and creating an equal world” that is “all blunt, all the same” and “goes against the human vocation.”

According to the pontiff, “there are somewhat naive people who believe that it is the path of progress and do not distinguish what is respect for sexual diversity or various sexual options from what is already an anthropology of gender, which is extremely dangerous because it annuls differences, and that it annuls humanity, the richness of humanity, personal type, as cultural and social, the differences and the tensions between the differences.”

While gender ideology is known to be particularly prevalent in the United States, it also exists to an extent in Argentina, as the South American nation decided in 2021 to allow citizens to identify as nonbinary on their national ID card.

The embrace of gender ideology in the U.S. has led to policies enabling athletes to compete on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity as opposed to their biological sex, allowing people to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their stated gender identity and permitting transidentified youth to undergo gender transition procedures.

Concerns about the short-term and long-term impact of these policies have led to pushback and the enactment of laws intended to counter those effects.

In defining its policies USA Powerlifting said that, on average, men have “increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure, and connective tissue."

The biological differences between the sexes have led to fairness concerns about the impact of allowing trans-identified males to compete against women.

In December 2020, the British Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that found that biological males, on average, retain certain competitive advantages over females even after two years of taking feminizing hormones.

At present, 18 states require athletes to compete on sports teams that correspond with their biological sex rather than their stated gender identity: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

Additionally, gender ideology is tied to the promotion of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and gender reassignment surgeries for trans-identified youth.

The conservative group the American College of Pediatricians warns that puberty blockers can cause “osteoporosis, mood disorders, seizures, [and] cognitive impairment” while cross-sex hormones give users “an increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, blood clots and cancers across their lifespan.”

A smaller but growing number of states have implemented laws that restrict the performance of some or all gender transition procedures on transidentified youth: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, South Dakota and Tennessee.

Pope: 'Gender ideology' is 'dangerous,' against 'human vocation' | Church & Ministries News (christianpost.com)

March 4

February 11, 2023

We recently asked Black members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us the reason they left Christianity. Here are their insightful replies:

Warning: This post contains mentions of sexual abuse.

1."First, I never wanted to go to church, it was something my mom made us do. Second, homophobia. The last time I went to a church it was a lovely and inspirational sermon until the pastor started disparaging gays for absolutely no reason. Even at my grandfather's funeral, the pastor there managed to blame gays for the state of the world. Just random unnecessary hate."

—justchillman

2."When I was younger, the pastor at the family church was allegedly involved in a scandal with a child and no one would do anything because he was a 'man of God.' I was instantly turned off of organized religion after finding out. That was the catalyst and the more I grew up and did some soul-searching, the more I realized I could not believe in a God that would protect a monster over a child (amongst other things as well)."

—sdhendrix182

3."I stopped believing because my ancestors were forced to convert to what their masters believed. Plus, we pray so much and are some of the hardest believers, yet our lot in life remains the same generation after generation. I didn't understand why we were suffering so much even though we went to church and prayed so much. So, I stopped believing, stop praying and start doing and became very successful."

—Anonymous

4."The amount of gossiping that went on in my church was astounding to me, even as a child. I always felt I had to be perfect or else I would give everyone else even more to talk crap about. The irony of the 'judge not lest ye be judged' Christians being the judgiest people I ever met was lost on them, but it made me really evaluate if I actually believed or if it was just putting on a show so I could fit in. I found out it was the latter."

—afinallullaby

5."I was raised Catholic but as I got older, I questioned the church and its teachings more and more. A lot of it started to not make sense. When I discovered that I was nonbinary and pansexual, the church responded by forcing conversion therapy on me rather than accepting me. A God that supposedly loves everyone is not going to force that sort of hell on anyone."

—Anonymous

6."I am a 60-year-old heterosexual African male and was increasingly bothered by the comments and jokes about gay people from the pulpit. I was a devoted and tithing member of a non-denomination mega church. My childhood years were spent every Sunday in a southern Baptist church. But I began to feel more and more uncomfortable with rhetoric that was justifying why gay lifestyles were 'unacceptable.' In short, I asked myself is this what Jesus would say or do with anyone or any group? My answer was no. This caused me to have enough doubt to question a number of teachings and stories in the bible that I was now able to look at with open eyes." "I began to research the origins of religion and came to understand it is all about a belief, not facts. I then asked a basic question is there any area in my life where I operate on belief and not fact? With that in mind, I had to get honest and admit, I have no concrete data or facts that clearly show me there is a God. The idea of attributing what we don't understand to a God is no longer acceptable to me."

—Anonymous

7."I grew up in church with pastors on both sides of my family. It's overwhelming as a child to be told all the things you can't do because it's a sin and you'll go to hell. Don't get me started on the teachings about relationships and sex. I wasn't allowed to date until I was 17 and once I turned 17, I was suddenly supposed to be okay with openly dating without feeling conviction. Religion played a huge part in me not dating or having significant relationships until my mid-20s and even then it still felt wrong." "Additionally, end-time prophesy teachings (the rapture) were genuinely traumatizing. I was under constant fear that the rapture would happen and I would be left behind for some unknown sin I committed. I now have a child of my own and I REFUSE to put any sort of religious teachings in her head and I've told my parents that I will decide what's appropriate for her until she's old enough to make her own decision about religion."

—Anonymous

8."At a very young age, I was forced to attend church. It felt like a cult. I was cognizant of the so-called church body I convened with. All I did was look and listen. Attending church continued until I was in my early teenage years. After all that I have experienced and been through I made a conscious decision that I did NOT want to be in the same place with any of those people which I will never do."

—Anonymous

9."I didn’t grow up in church or a religious household, I was just told God exists, sin exists, and went to a few summer bible schools. As an adult, I wanted to grow my faith. The more I started reading, researching, and contemplating, I called bullcrap. It took about three years of combing through Christianity, Black Hebrew Israelites, and belief in God with no attached religious text before I settled on atheism. Honestly, I never felt more at peace or free."

—Anonymous

10."As I got older, a lot of things in the bible just didn't add up (no mention of dinosaurs, no one could give an exact timeline of the events in the bible, the fact that the whole origins of the bible itself are a matter of debate). Not to mention that Christianity was used to keep slaves in check. I definitely have been persecuted for my stance, but I will never go back to any religion."

—Anonymous

11."I did research on the history of the church and became very knowledgeable on all its past. Once I understood the roots of the faith, it became impossible for me to logically subscribe to it."

—Anonymous

12."I grew up in a Baptist church in a religious extended family. My belief in some higher power diminished because of multiple reasons. Multiple friends of mine died in the same year and I just can't fathom how a higher power allows so much grief and hurt (at a personal level as well as across all of society). Mass shootings, violence, homelessness, assault, and so many heinous acts get explained away by free will, but why let people suffer if an all-powerful being could make it better? Modern Christianity is so far from the teaching of the bible. Looking at the mega-churches and the pastor and their lavish lifestyles, they're businesses."

—Anonymous

13."I was raised in the church and the older I get, the more it seems to me how religion is used just to control the less fortunate."

—Anonymous

14."I would say that actually reading the bible for myself without someone else's interpretation led me out of Christianity. Once I read it fully, I saw how humans created a God in their image depending on their circumstances and state of mind. While Christians will believe their God is going to save us from ourselves, the work of being better stewards of the Earth and each other falls on us. We must evolve into better humans."

—Anonymous

15.And "I was baptized at 12 and literally a year later I started to question my faith. So I read the bible in full. So many questions that many refuse to logically answer besides the usual 'Have faith.' I have not found anyone that can explain to me why God needed to kill all the animals except for the only two of own their kind on Noah’s ark when it was the humans who sinned. So many inconsistencies and not to mention man has touched the bible. What better way to control people than saying promises of heaven or being condemned to hell? I consider myself an agnostic atheist."

—Anonymous 15

Stories By Black People About The Turning Point That Made Them Leave Christianity (yahoo.com)

April 1

BY BEN JOHNSON/THE WASHINGTON STAND
MARCH 11, 2023

British police will continue to arrest Christians for the crime of praying within hundreds of feet of an abortion facility, after the U.K. Parliament voted down an amendment that would have legalized "silent prayer" -- a situation Christians have described as a "dystopian" ban on pro-life "thoughtcrime."

On Tuesday, Members of Parliament rejected an amendment to prevent police from arresting anyone "engaged in consensual communication or in silent prayer" within 164 yards of an abortion facility in England or Wales. The amendment, offered by Conservative MP Andrew Lewer, failed 116-299.

"The idea that we should interrupt the relationship between an individual and their God seems to me to be pretty monstrous," said Sir John Hayes, a Conservative MP. "This is about freedom; it is not about the purpose of that freedom or the location of it. It is about the ability to think, speak, and pray freely."

The bill, which originally imprisoned protesters, allows judges to impose a potentially unlimited fine for unauthorized prayer.

"What are we doing, by saying that people should not be allowed to pray, quietly, on their own?" asked MP Danny Kruger. "Never in modern British history have we criminalised thought," he added. Similarly, Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative Member of Parliament and a pro-life Roman Catholic, said he could not remember Parliament barring "any previous thoughtcrime in this country."

Another Conservative MP, Sir Edward Leigh, invoked George Orwell's "1984," in which "the state was trying to regulate not just people's actions but what goes on in their minds." Sir Hayes described the law as "dystopian. It's like a mix of ["Brave New World" author Aldous] Huxley [and] Philip Dick."

Yet British citizens have had a "lackluster response" to the bill, because the media's distorted coverage claimed "this legislation that would have stopped abortion has been defeated," said Peter McIlvenna, co-founder of the U.K.-based Hearts of Oak podcast, on Tuesday's "Washington Watch with Tony Perkins."

MPs had already adopted an amendment to the Public Order Bill which penalizes anyone who "seeks to influence ... attempts to advise or persuade, or otherwise expresses opinion" about abortion within 150 meters (approximately 492 feet) of an abortion facility "by any means ... without limitation." Its author, Labour Party MP Stella Creasy, boasted after Lewer's amendment failed that free speech exclusion zones had been "protected from the sabotage amendment."

The amendment came after arrests of Christians praying quietly outside abortion facilities garnered international media attention. Police arrested Isabel Vaughan Spruce, the 45-year-old director of the U.K. March for Life, last December 6 for admitting, "I might be praying in my head" outside a Birmingham (U.K.) abortion facility. Officials charged her with "engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users," in an area covered by a public space protection order (PSPO).

Officers also took a Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Fr. Sean Gough, into custody last month for standing silently outside the same Birmingham abortion facility while holding a sign that read, "Praying for free speech." Prosecutor Ekene Pruce dropped four counts of violating PSPOs against Fr. Gough and Vaughan-Spruce inside the Birmingham Magistrates' Court on February 16.

But police arrested Vaughan-Spruce a second time on Monday, March 6, again for offering wordless prayer outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service abortion facility in Birmingham.

"I'm not protesting," she told police.

"You're engaging in prayer, which is the offense," one of the officers replied. "You were still engaging in prayer. It is an offense." Vaughan was then arrested, reportedly by six officers.

As a condition of her bail, the Catholic pro-life advocate cannot be within an even larger proximity to an abortion facility than the area covered by the new free speech-exclusion zones. The U.S. Justice Department under Democratic leadership frequently seeks similar penalties for American pro-life advocates seeking to avoid trial for violating the federal FACE Act.

Tuesday's vote proves a majority of MPs "heard the outrageous example of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce being arrested for silently praying in Birmingham and decided this needed to happen nationwide," said Alithea Williams, public policy manager of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a U.K.-based pro-life organization.

Not all those engaging in prayer escape penalties for interceding inside the prayer free zone surrounding abortion facilities. Authorities fined British Army veteran Adam Smith-Connor £100 (approximately $120 U.S.) for praying for his son, whom he lost in an abortion, outside a Bournemouth abortion facility last November.

The U.K. abortion industry argues silent prayer and non-affirming speech about abortion must be criminalized to protect abortion-minded women from harm. But a 2018 government review found that the "main activities reported to us that take place during protests include praying, displaying banners and handing out leaflets. Since the comprehensive investigation turned up "few" accounts of genuinely "aggressive activities," said then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid, "introducing national buffer zones would not be a proportionate response" to peaceful pro-life sidewalk counseling.

Banning consensual conversations might also harm women who are being "coerced into going into one of those places to have a forced abortion," noted Conservative MP Nick Fletcher. A BBC survey taken last March found that 15% of women had been pressured into an abortion, including 5% who reported physical abuse and 3% who had been given an abortion-inducing drug without their knowledge.

Discussions about abortion would reap the greatest benefit from the unique insights Christians bring to bear, said McIlvenna. In much of the U.K., "there doesn't seem to be any understanding of the importance of life," McIlvenna told Perkins. "That's where I think our Christian understanding comes into this, because everyone has intrinsic value, because we are all made in the image of God." Yet even secularists understand the legislation violates Britons' rights. A European Convention on Human Rights memorandum released last month found the Public Order Bill may violate numerous rights recognized by the charter, including freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of expression; and the freedom of association and peaceful assembly.

"The government should never be able to punish anyone for prayer, let alone silent prayer, and peaceful and consensual conversation," said Jeremiah Igunnubole, a legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom's U.K. branch. "Today it's abortion. Tomorrow it could be another contested matter of political debate."

"A free society should never prohibit the peaceful exchange of information," Igunnubole concluded.

Originally published at The Washington Stand

UK Punishes 'Thought Crime' Of Praying Silently At Abortion Facilities (prophecynewswatch.com)

An issue that has been of vital importance to Seventh-day Adventists since our beginnings is Sunday laws. Adventists resolutely oppose Sunday laws. There are three primary reasons for this opposition.

The first reason Adventists oppose Sunday laws is that the governmental enforcement of Sunday rest is a violation of freedom of conscience. Some claim that Sunday laws do not violate the religious scruples on non-Sunday keepers because they do not force non-Sunday keepers to go to church or engage in other religious activity. Those that make such claims forget that the act of rest on a holy day is in itself a religious activity. In fact, the only religious activity that the Ten Commandments require on the Sabbath is to cease from work. Therefore, forcing non-Sunday keepers to keep Sunday holy by resting is in itself a violation of their religious freedom. In addition, forcing Seventh-day Adventists, Jews, Seventh-day Baptists and members of the Church of God (seventh-day), who already shut their businesses on Saturday to shut them on Sunday as well creates an impermissible economic burden on their religious practice. As such, Sunday laws violate the guarantee of the free exercise of religion found in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Sunday laws also violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause forbids the government from enforcing or promoting religion. This is precisely what Sunday laws do by enforcing a religious holy day rest.

Finally, Seventh-day Adventists oppose all civil enforcement of religious doctrines, but civil enforcement of false doctrines is particularly galling. Sunday laws establish through civil power a false Sabbath. The seventh day of the week was declared holy at creation. It was confirmed in the Ten Commandments. Jesus kept Sabbath on the seventh day, Saturday. Early Christians also kept Sabbath on the seventh day (the book of Acts mentions the Sabbath nine times, including instances of Gentiles keeping the Sabbath and Sabbath meetings that did not occur in Synagogues - each time it is clear that it is referring to the seventh day Sabbath. In addition, there is overwhelming evidence that early Christians kept Sabbath on the seventh day, Saturday). While Seventh-day Adventists respect the right of all to rest and worship on the day of their choice, and we actively promote legal protections to ensure that people can do just that, we oppose the establishment of any particular group's holy day as an official national day of rest.

Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming evidence of the religious origin, motivation and impact of Sunday laws, the Supreme Court has upheld such laws as constitutional.

In 1961, the Supreme Court decided cases challenging the constitutionality of Sunday closing laws. The Supreme Court went through a lengthy analysis of the origins and the nature of Sunday laws at the time of the cases. It acknowledged that "profaning the Sabbath" and other similar blatantly religious language. Nevertheless, the Court found that by the 1960's the motivation behind Sunday laws was the protection of workers' rights. Thus, as Sunday laws now protect worker's rights rather than enforcing religious doctrine, they do not establish a religious belief. In addition, the Court also found that Sunday laws do not violate the Equal Protection Clause or the Free Exercise of Religion Clause of the Constitution.

It is worth taking the time to read the Court's opinion for yourself to see the reasoning the Court employed. It is particularly interesting to read the dissenting opinions in each case, which are located at the end of the discussion. You can visit the cases at: McGowan v. Maryland (Sunday laws are not laws pertaining to the establishment of a religion); Braunfeld v. Brown (Sunday laws do not violate the guarantee of freedom of religion or equal protection).

Adventists are not alone, however, in opposing the constitutionality of Sunday laws. For example, Justice Stewart joined with Justice Brennan in dissenting to the Court's opinion in Braunfeld. He noted in his dissenting opinion that: "I think the impact of this[Sunday] law upon these appellants grossly violates their constitutional right to the free exercise of their religion."

Similarly, Justice Douglas dissented in McGowan, stating: "The Court picks and chooses language from various decisions to bolster its conclusion that these Sunday laws in the modern setting are 'civil regulations.' No matter how much is written, no matter what is said, the parentage of these laws is the Fourth Commandment; and they serve and satisfy the religious predispositions of our Christian communities It seems to me plain that by these laws the States compel one, under sanction of law, to refrain from work or recreation on Sunday because of the majority's religious views about that day."

It is over forty years since these cases were decided. This raises the question whether the Court has subsequently found Sunday laws violate the Constitution. The answer is no. In fact, the Supreme Court has confirmed the concept that Sunday laws are constitutional relatively recently. In 1990 the Supreme Court decided Employment Division v. Smith. Justice Scalia writing for the majority of the Court in this case used Sunday laws as an example of the types of laws that impact on people's ability to practice their faith but that are nevertheless constitutional. He stated: "Subsequent decisions have consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a "valid and neutral law of general applicability.... In Braunfeld v. Brown,.... we upheld Sunday-closing laws against the claim that they burdened the religious practices of persons whose religions compelled them to refrain from work on other days."

This raises one final obvious question - if Sunday laws have been interpreted by the Supreme Court to be constitutional, why aren't we forbidden from working on Sunday? Currently the national mood does not support the passage or enforcement of Sunday laws. Thus, as we live in a democracy with legislators who are sensitive to the mood of the populace, there is no great effort to pass Sunday laws or to enforce the Sunday laws that remain on the books. If and when the public mood changes, however, Sunday laws can be passed and enforced with criminal penalties and it is unlikely that courts would prevent such enforcement.

At the time of writing (October 2001), there are no bills pending in Congress to pass a national Sunday law. Whenever such a proposal is made, Seventh-day Adventists will vigorously oppose it as we are told that we are "not doing the will of God if we sit in quietude, doing nothing to preserve liberty of conscience."

In conclusion, Adventists support laws that protect workers - including laws that limit the number of hours that can be worked during the week. We actively support laws that encourage employers to give employees time off on the holy days of the employee's choice (see the description of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act on this page). In addition, we encourage people of faith to follow their conscience and take their holy days off work. We oppose, however, the imposition of Sunday rest through civil legislation.

The Office of Legislative AffairsPublic Affairs & Religious Liberty DepartmentWorld Headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church12501 Old Columbia PikeSilver Spring, MD 20904-6600

Rolling Stone

Tim Dickinson
Thu, February 23, 2023

Jason Rapert has likened himself to an Old Testament seer, conveying hard truths on behalf of an angry God. On his broadcast Save the Nation, the 50-year-old preacher and former Arkansas state senator calls himself a “proud” Christian Nationalist, insisting: “I reject that being a Christian Nationalist is somehow unseemly or wrong.”

Long a shadowy force in American politics, Christian Nationalism is having a coming out party. The movement seeks a fusion of fundamentalist theology with American civic life. “They believe that this country was founded for Christians like them, generally natural-born citizens and white,” says Andrew Whitehead, author of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States. Whitehead emphasizes that the danger of Christian Nationalism to democracy is that the movement “sees no room for compromise — their vision must be the one that comes to pass.”

Thanks to Rapert, the Christian Nationalist movement now commands a burgeoning political powerhouse, the National Association of Christian Lawmakers. A first-of-its-kind organization in U.S. history, NACL advances “biblical” legislation in America’s statehouses. These bills are not mere stunts or messaging. They’re dark, freedom-limiting bills that, in some cases, have become law.

NACL’s impact has already been felt nationally. The group played a significant role in the legal fight that culminated in the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. NACL member Bryan Hughes, who serves in the Texas legislature, led passage of S.B. 8, the bounty-hunter bill that all-but outlawed abortion in Texas by allowing private citizens to sue women who terminate pregnancies after six weeks, and their doctors, in civil court.

By the time that bill passed in Texas in Sept. 2021, it had been adopted by NACL as model legislation. The reproductive-rights group NARAL later tracked copycat legislation in more than a dozen states. Rapert takes substantial credit for that spread: “NACL was the first and only paralegislative organization in the country to adopt the Texas methodology as a model law,” he tells Rolling Stone, “and we promoted it to be passed in every state.”

The NACL logo is a crusader’s shield: red emblazoned with a white cross. Rapert says the red represents “the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross as a sacrifice for the salvation of all humanity.” The emblem, he says, is meant to evoke the biblical “shield of faith” that promises to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Yet far from the defensive posture suggested by its shield, NACL is unabashedly on the offense. Rapert brags that NACL is at “the forefront of the battles to end abortion in the individual states” and also seeks to drive queer Americans back into the closet. “For far too long,” Rapert insists, “we have allowed one political party in our nation to hold up Sodom and Gomorrah as a goal to be achieved rather than a sin to be shunned.”

Today, NACL has legislative members in 31 states, and touts a dozen “model laws” that its members can introduce “in legislative bodies around the country.” NACL previously made four of its model laws public — including the Texas-style anti-abortion bill and a bill to mandate the display of “In God We Trust” in public buildings.

Rapert would not share NACL’s current legislative lineup, though he promised the group’s website would soon be updated with its model bills “posted for public viewing.” Meantime, Rapert shared that NACL’s top priorities include the fight to block “radical LGBTQ indoctrination in our public schools” and to halt “radical transgender ideology and irreversible genital mutilation of minor children.”

With a national agenda and a state-by-state focus, NACL is emulating the American Legislative Exchange Council. An infamous corporate front group, ALEC pioneered the strategy of pushing for national political goals by advancing carbon-copy bills through state legislatures. But where ALEC serves far-right billionaire masters and polluting special interests, NACL sees itself as serving the Lord on high. Rapert has touted NACL as “basically ALEC from a biblical worldview.”

Founded in Aug. 2020, NACL is tied to top Christian spiritual and political leaders. The group’s advisory board includes onetime presidential candidate Mike Huckabee — the former governor of Arkansas and father of the new governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders — Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, and Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel. (Liberty Counsel is a frequent litigant before the Supreme Court; the head of its ministry, Rolling Stone exposed, bragged of praying with SCOTUS justices.)

Rapert declares that America was founded as a “Judeo-Christian nation.” And he believes that from the moment the founding fathers “dedicated this nation to God” that “Satan and his forces [have] put a target on the United States of America, trying to take us out.”

Rapert sees America embroiled in “a spiritual struggle that is predicted and prophesied in the 66 books of the bible.” He rails against the separation of church and state as a myth, and insists that America’s struggles with debt and division are the result of straying from a Godly path. To regain heavenly favor, he says, the country must free itself from the “yoke of bondage [to] the LGBTQ movement…and the abortion movement.”

Typical of Rapert’s political views, in December, NACL called on Congress to reject the Respect for Marriage Act, which now requires all states honor the marriage licenses of same-sex couples. Rapert condemned the act as “Satan dressed up as a family man” arguing the law “demands respect for every kind of marriage except the only acceptable one — the sacred union of one man and one woman.”

Rapert accuses the current administration of using “the reigns of government to drive our nation into unrighteousness.” And he levies a warning for the White House: “I’m telling you Joe Biden, you cannot keep mocking God and expecting there not to be a consequence. There will be a consequence.”

Theologically, Rapert is a dominionist, who believes that Christians are charged by God to remake the world according to Old Testament mandates. “God told us to go out there, fill the Earth … subdue it and have dominion over everything,” he said on a recent episode of his broadcast. “The reason this country is struggling … is because the Christians in America have failed to take authority.”

To join NACL, legislators must agree to a “statement of faith” that anchors them on the fundamentalist fringe. It calls the bible the “supreme and final authority” and proclaims belief in the ”imminent return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” as well as the “bodily resurrection of the just and the unjust” and the “everlasting conscious punishment” of the latter.

NACL legislators must also agree to a mission statement that inveighs against the “spiritual decay of our culture (including churches).” It blasts the aggression of “atheists and anti-Christian groups” and it blames these “godless” entities for “trampling on the Christian liberty we have enjoyed in this country for centuries.” Despite this decried downfall, it proposes that “the fervent prayer and action of the Christian remnant in America can make a positive difference.”

As a matter of policy, NACL members must pledge to “uphold the sanctity of human life” from the “moment of conception” to “natural death”; to define marriage as the “sacred union exclusively between one man and one woman”; and to oppose “unhealthy influences such as alcohol abuse, drug addiction, pornography, prostitution, violence, gambling and crime.” Ironically, NACLs website is “Powered by GoDaddy,” a web service firm that sells .sex and .porn domains.

NACL is a natural outgrowth of Rapert’s own history as a member of the Arkansas state Senate from 2011 until he retired this year, due to term limits. Rapert has a nose for controversy — and intolerance. At the beginning of his career, he was caught on tape ranting that then-President Obama “didn’t represent the country that I grew up with” and vowing to his constituents: “We’re not going to let minorities run roughshod over what you people believe in.” (Today, Rapert insists that NACL stands “publicly against racism and antisemitism.”)

In 2013, Rapert spearheaded passage of what was then the nation’s first “heartbeat” anti-abortion legislation, prohibiting the procedure after fetal cardiac activity is detectable. (That law was ruled unconstitutional). In 2015, Rapert successfully got a revolutionary war banner, featuring a pine tree and the words “An Appeal to Heaven,” raised over the state Capitol in Little Rock. The flag-raising was nominally an homage to George Washington. But the Appeal To Heaven banner’s revolutionary and Godly sentiment have been adopted by Christian Nationalists who believe a Christian America is fated to remake the world, biblically, in advance of Jesus’ Second Coming.

Taking a page out of Roy Moore’s handbook, in 2017 Rapert passed a bill to install a 10 Commandments monument at the state Capitol in Little Rock. (The monument was almost immediately destroyed by a vandal driving a Dodge Dart, but later rebuilt.) Last year, Rapert settled a related legal case, after being sued for blocking atheist constituents on his official social media accounts.

The June 2022 Supreme Court decision Dobbs legalized direct limits on reproductive freedom. That decision, in turn, activated previously-passed, state-level legislation known as “trigger laws.” These bills specified that if Roe were to fall, abortions would immediately be banned. The lead sponsor of the trigger law in Arkansas was one Jason Rapert, and he brags: “Now the Little Rock surgical abortion clinic has completely shut down.”

Rapert founded NACL because, he believes “ungodly leaders have led to ungodly results.” He calls his organization “the strongest force for good this nation has seen since the American Revolution.” Even the group’s acronym is biblical: NaCl is the chemical composition for salt. It is meant as an allusion to the biblical instruction that Christians should act as the “salt and the light” to preserve and purify holiness on Earth. To Rolling Stone, Rapert insists: “I am simply a child of God who understands that Psalm 33:12 says, ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.’”

In a sign that NACL is not just targeting state legislatures, but also governors’ mansions, a top member of the group’s governing board, Hunter Lundy, recently launched his bid to become the governor of Louisiana, promising to be a fighter for “Faith, Family and Freedom.” (Lundy, in a legitimate excuse for a man from Southern Louisiana, was unavailable to be interviewed due to Mardi Gras.)

Apart from his leadership of NACL, Rapert has recently made waves seeking friends in high places — and even on the high court. During a recent trip to Tallahassee, Rapert visited with Florida state legislators and left a a hand-written note on the desk of Ron DeSantis, telling the GOP governor, “We’re proud of your stand for God and Country.” (Rapert later praised DeSantis as “one of the best governors in America,” calling him a “Proven leader” with a “Backbone of steel.”)

While in Florida, Rapert also bragged about meeting Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Rapert said he approached the justice “after a dinner meeting,” saying he “shook his hand” and told the conservative justice “we have been praying for them” before telling Roberts about the National Association of Christian lawmakers and handing the justice “our NACL card.” (A spokesperson for Roberts has described the encounter as a passing greeting of a stranger.)

Rapert is a paradoxical figure, a man who wraps himself in language of Christian love while preaching a doctrine that sounds a lot like hate. Rapert calls gay marriage a “stench in the nostrils of God.” He sees the growing rights of trans Americans, whom he calls the “transgenders,” as a mortal threat: “Now is the time to fight to save the country,” he’s said. “Do you think that America is going to be free with a bunch of drag queens running this place?”

On Twitter, Rapert often seems possessed of the Trolly, rather than the Holy, Spirit. Last week he praised a headline-making exchange in the Arkansas legislature, where a GOP senator demanded that a trans witness identify the makeup of her genitals before the body:

“You said that you’re a trans woman,” the legislator asked.

“A trans female, yes sir,” replied the witness.

The senator then probed, to horrified gasps in the room: “Do you have a penis?”

Rapert was equal parts pleased and amused. “The ⁦Arkansas Senate is in good hands!” he tweeted, offering “congratulations” to his former colleague for “refusing to play the crazy LGBTQ games and demanding truth.”

The head of NACL added, for good measure: “It was a fair question!”

The Christian Nationalist Machine Turning Hate Into Law (yahoo.com)

The Courier Journal
Claire T. Ackleow
December 29, 2022

In light of the Department of Homeland Security’s most recent statement warning against domestic terrorism to the LGBTQIA+ community, I would like to briefly address homosexuality in the Bible in an effort to further this community’s Biblical literacy and reduce the hate in people’s hearts.

The Bible is often used to condemn the LGBTQIA+ community. The specific verses used to further homophobic and transphobic agendas have come to be known as the “Clobber Verses.” However, these verses aren’t actually saying what many people think they are saying.

Biblical marriage

For example, when people condemn same-sex marriage in favor of “Biblical marriage,” they are ignoring the many and diverse examples of marriage that are found in the Bible. In actuality, the Bible endorses monogamous marriages between one male and one female in addition to polygamy, sexual slavery, incest, and forced marriage to virgins…and God even blesses all these varieties of marriage.

Another example is this: just because two genders are mentioned in the creation stories does not mean that only two genders exist. God created man and woman in Genesis 2, just like God created day and night in Genesis 1. However, the time of the day is not just two things; it’s actually a spectrum that includes things like dawn, midday, dusk and twilight. Similarly, gender is a spectrum that includes things like people who are trans and nonbinary.

Lost in translation

In modern translations of the Bible, Leviticus seems to condemn homosexual activity. However, the Hebrew words used to write scripture have much more nuanced meanings than can be conveyed in one quick, easy translation. When you look at these scriptures in their original linguistic and cultural contexts, you can see that Leviticus is specifically condemning sexual activity that involves incest.

In the same way, what we read in 1 Timothy seems to condemn homosexual activity. But when we go back to the scripture in its original Greek form, we can see that it is talking about sexual acts that are coercive in nature (specifically pederasty and rape) rather than sexual acts that occur between two consensual adults of the same gender.

In Romans, Paul is writing against unbridled passions as opposed to stable, appropriately utilized desires within committed relationships. In 1 Corinthians, he’s responding to the patriarchy and pederasty that existed in that society.

Of course, all of these examples are much more complicated than what can be explained in such a brief piece of writing, but the important thing to remember when reading the Bible is that we are reading a translation of what was originally written. Throughout time and through the process of translation, the meaning of the Bible as we know it today has lost much of what the original authors actually intended.

More:LGBTQ rights keep progressing in the workplace so why not in schools?

Out of context

In addition to losing the original authors’ intentions over time, we have forgotten to look at the historical, cultural and linguistic context that the Bible exists in. Instead of translating it and understanding it according to the time, place and language it originally existed in, we try to translate and understand it in our own current contexts.

This is like taking instructions written by a Renaissance woodworker on how to build a desk - instructions that detailed how to hew the wood from trees, lathe and carve all the appropriate pieces, and hand-fitting everything with an iron chisel and mallet - and using those 1,000 year old instructions to put together your IKEA desk today. It’s talking about the same basic idea, but it’s saying very different things.

Loving relationships

The one thing that the Bible does talk about in nearly every verse is the importance of living in right relationship with God, with each other and with all of creation. That is, creating, strengthening and maintaining relationships and communities that are supportive, life-giving and lived in love. This also includes reconciling damaged relationships and communities wherever right relationship is possible.

The Bible also tells us that all people are made in the image of God. This means that when you are looking at another individual, you are looking at a reflection of God…even if you are looking at an individual who is queer or trans.

You will never look upon a person who is not one of God’s beloveds. So the next time one of us feels like we have something hateful or hurtful to share with someone, I would like to encourage us to remember whose we are talking to.

In conclusion, I would just like to say to my queer siblings that in a world filled with hateful people, please know that you are sacred and holy, created by a loving God who cherishes and delights in you and who is proud of you for living your life authentically. This world is a better place because you are in it.

The Rev. Claire T. Ackleow (she/they) is the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church (ELCA) inJeffersonville, IN and a board member of Southern Indiana Pride.

Homophobic and transphobic agendas are not supported by the Bible: Opinion (yahoo.com)

March 18 Current Events
Religious News Service

Leaders representing more than 35 million Anglicans said the English church’s decision to allow clergy to bless marriages and other unions of same-sex couples would further split the worldwide Anglican Communion.

February 16, 2023
By Fredrick Nzwili

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — Conservative Anglican archbishops in Africa are challenging a decision by the Church of England to allow clergy to bless same sex couples’ marriages, warning that the move puts the worldwide Anglican Communion in further jeopardy.

The leaders are reacting to the Feb. 9 vote at the Church of England’s General Synod to permit the offering of prayers and liturgies at civil marriages. The compromise measure included the church’s desire to “lament and repent” its failure “to welcome LGBTQI+ people and for the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced — and continue to experience — in churches.”

The church has not changed its doctrine that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, but the archbishops of Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria are rejecting the decision to bless the unions as contrary to the teaching of the Bible. The Church of England joined the Episcopal Church of America, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church of Brazil and a few other member churches in recognizing all civil marriages.

The archbishops, who together represent more than 35 million Anglicans, posted their responses to the Church of England’s decision on their diocesan websites.

“The Church of England is very good at making contradictory statements and expecting everyone to believe both can be true at the same time. That’s what they have done with this decision,” said Archbishop Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu of Uganda in his statement.

Kaziimba said that despite the English church’s insistence that it was not changing its doctrine on marriage, it is doing exactly that, the only significant difference being the terminology of wedding versus a service of blessing.

“The Church of England … has now departed from the Bible and their message is the opposite,” said Kaziimba. “They are even offering to bless that sin. That is wrong. As the Church of Uganda, we cannot accept that. God cannot bless what he calls sin.” After the Episcopal Church in America supported the installation of Bishop Gene Robinson, a gay man, as a bishop of New Hampshire, Kaziimba said, the Uganda province broke fellowship with the American church and has since maintained it was the latter that left the Anglican Communion.

“We are not leaving the Anglican Communion; we are the Anglican Communion,” the Ugandan primate said, referring to the Global Anglican Future Conference, known as GAFCON, and the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans, coalitions of socially conservative Anglican dioceses that formed in response to LGBTQ acceptance elsewhere in the church.

“There is no way we are walking together,” said Kaziimba. “These are the provinces that have walked away, but we pray for them to repent.” In his statement, Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, the primate of the Church of Kenya, attributed the move to “the unfortunate rise of devious liberal churchmanship within Anglican Communion.”

Said Ole Sapit: “We make a humble request to these churches: Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead.” According to Archbishop Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba of Nigeria in a statement on Sunday (Feb.12), “History is about to repeat itself. The Anglican Church is at the threshold of yet another reformation, which must sweep out the ungodly leadership currently endorsing sin, misleading the lives of faithful Anglican worldwide.” The primate urged the GAFCON diocese and other orthodox groups within the communion to remain resolute in defending the faith.

The news from England pleased LGBTQ activists in Africa, including some who are Anglican clerics.

The Rt. Rev. Christopher Senyonjo, a former bishop in the Anglican Church of Uganda and a founder of Integrity Uganda, an advocacy group for LGBTQ people, said the Church of England had allowed the blessing of partnerships, not marriages.

“It is expected that when two people come together in a love relationship, they are going to have children, but as time goes on, it is realized that two people can be in love when they are not going to have children. I think that’s where we have to think hard about what human sexuality really is,” Senyonjo told Religion News Service in a telephone interview. “We should not just condemn the action (by the Church of England) without a very careful consideration of what love relationship is.” The Rev. Michael Nzuki Kimindu, a former Anglican priest who is now president of Other Sheep Africa, a Christian organization that advocates for LGBTQ rights in Christianity and Islam, criticized the African hierarchy’s attempt to paint the Church of England’s action as a Western anomaly.

“Homosexuality is not a Western issue,” Kimindu told RNS. “It is a human condition found in every culture, geographical area and religion. It’s just fair that people should understand that it is not going anywhere no matter how much we bury our heads in the sand.”

https://religionnews.com/2023/02/16/we-cannot-walk-with-you-unless-you-repent-african-archbishops-tell-church-of-england/

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