Category Archives: Faith and Culture

Like Summer Snow: On Josh Duggar and Christian Scandals

It’s official: Josh Duggar is a serial adulterer and p*rnography addict. The data unearthed in the recent hack of Ashley Madison, a subscription web service designed to facilitate extra-marital affairs, left no room for speculation. Josh has made public statements confirming his infidelities, liberally laced with appropriately shamed/repentant language. Of course, whether he means a word of it remains for his wife and immediate family to see.

I wrote an article back when the first Duggar scandal broke a couple months ago. I criticized people who praised public school sex ed and said the homeschooling culture cultivated sexual repression, which led directly to Josh’s molesting his sisters. Whatever else you may think about how the Duggars handled the situation, to blame the whole thing on homeschooling and hold up public school sex culture as an enlightened alternative was laughable. However, I did strongly question the wisdom of starting a reality TV show in such a dysfunctional context, and I wasn’t necessarily on board with the particular ATI brand of sex ed curriculum the family used. But I was prepared to forgive them and to forgive a (seemingly) repentant Josh, now nearly twice the age he was then and with a family of his own. And I still firmly believe that it would not have been better for the family to be torn apart and dragged through the mud in the immediate aftermath of Josh’s crimes.

However, while I still have great sympathy for the Duggar family and now for Josh’s own immediate family, I have not one iota of sympathy left for Josh himself. Without going into details, the data from Ashley Madison shows that he was prepared to experiment with the most sleazy kinds of sexual activity, tagging a laundry list of “turn-ons” in a potential sexual partner. In one chat, he said he was “looking to have a steamy affair.” He even paid a perverted kind of “warranty” fee, which guaranteed that if he didn’t get an affair in some set time period, he would get his subscription money back.

This slap in the face to Josh’s wife and family is tragically compounded by the shame Josh has brought to the Church and the name of Christ. As president of the Family Research Council, he has vocally lobbied for genuinely worthy conservative causes, like fighting the re-definition of marriage. All that work is now tainted by his involvement with it.

Tragically, Josh is not alone. In fact, he is only the most recent example of a conservative Christian political activist who has been caught living a double life.  Continue reading

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GOP Candidates, First Impressions

Republican Elephant Boxing

I caught bits and pieces of the FOX News-hosted GOP debates last night and wanted to share a few first impressions, as well as additional information about the candidates that might be helpful. I don’t know enough about every candidate to give comments on all of them (and frankly, it’s too early for me to do that much research!) But for now, these are my thoughts. FOX has also put up some choice clips that I will embed in case you missed the debate or need a replay. Those of you who are resolutely trying not to get caught up in the hype, feel free to resist the “Click for more” urge and come back in a year. (But really, you know you want to click. Come on now.)

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On Homosexuality and Singleness: A Response to Christopher Yuan and Rosaria Butterfield

Butterfield and Yuan

Last week, I had some thoughts on SCOTUS’s gay “marriage” decision that seemed to strike a chord with a lot of readers. I was honored that New Testament professor Robert Gagnon shared it on his Facebook page. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, I recommend that anyone who wants to be encouraged by a thoughtful, biblical perspective on the issue seek out Gagnon’s writing. He strikes the perfect balance between meticulous scholarship and sharp-eyed observation of our culture.

In that post, I critiqued a few different conservative leaders who have thrown in their .02 on the decision. Today, I’m going to discuss a special joint response by two more speakers named Christopher Yuan and Rosaria Butterfield. Yuan and Butterfield have distinctive ministry platforms, based on their personal testimonies of being delivered from the homosexual lifestyle. While Yuan remains single, Butterfield has married and raised a family since her conversion. In their statement, they articulate a certain philosophy of marriage and singleness that dovetails with other comments I’ve heard Yuan make. In addition, they close with a parallel between pro-marriage and pro-life activism. While I have no essential doctrinal disagreements with either writer, I believe parts of their joint statement are simply wrong. Unfortunately, I have yet to see anybody offer a corrective to it. So I’m afraid that once again, it falls on me to rush in where Gospel Coalition pastors fear to tread.

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A Place for Outrage Post-Obergefell

While I’m on a political roll, I’ll take a post to look back at the fateful SCOTUS decision on gay “marriage,” which I didn’t get around to writing about at the time it was actually handed down. In particular, I want to critique some of the more unhelpful reactions I saw from allegedly conservative Christians, who took it upon themselves to lecture other conservative Christians about how they should or shouldn’t react to the decision.

One theme that folks like Ed Stetzer, Russell Moore and others kept harping on was the unhelpfulness of “panic” or “outrage.”  Stetzer’s Christianity Today article contained subtly downplaying language like this: “As Christians, this is just another step as Christians are losing long-held cultural clout in the West. The focus must not be panic… or anger… or fear… or disdain.” (As if Christians who express alarm at the profound social ramifications of this decision are merely pouting over their loss of “cultural clout!”) Russell Moore wrote two pieces, one for the Gospel Coalition that was more constructive, and one for the Washington Post that included lines like this: “Some Christians will be tempted to anger, lashing out at the world around us with a narrative of decline. That temptation is wrong.” And a few lines later, “This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing.”

I wonder whether the work of somebody like Ryan Anderson, who immediately responded to the decision with five practical actions Christians could take, would count as “politicizing” or “lashing out” by Moore’s standards. I’m also at a loss as to where Moore gets this idea that it’s “wrong” and unbiblical to be angry, outraged or even fearful at the moral decline of a nation. There is most certainly a place for outrage in the wake of this decision, and it presents a false dichotomy to divide it necessarily from evangelistic compassion.

The truth is, I don’t think Stetzer, Moore, and their ilk have really thought through all these finger-wagging soundbites. I think they feel compelled to put them in there as part of a knee-jerk reaction against anything that might be perceived as blunt, or harsh, or rough around the edges. As proof of my hunch, I’d like to offer an incident I actually observed for myself when I recently sat in on an interview taping with Sean McDowell. (Yes, THAT McDowell. Sean is the son of Josh and has his own writing/speaking ministry, including a recent book with Breakpoint’s John Stonestreet on same-sex “marriage.”)

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Pro-Lifers, Be Angry and Sin Not

In the wake of the disgusting revelation that Planned Parenthood has been trafficking the remains of its victims, and apropos of some thinking and listening I’ve been doing lately on the subject of abortion, a few words seem appropriate.

On this breaking news, there’s not much more to be said that Matt Walsh hasn’t already said volubly and elegantly, so everyone, just go read his columns at The Blaze and thank me later. However, one paragraph of his in particular caught my attention and did seem worth expanding on (emphasis added):

I am incredibly angry as I write this. I try not to be, usually. Writing angry is often like going to the grocery store hungry; you’re bound to make choices you’ll regret later. But I anticipate that much of the media will ignore this story, so I have to write about it. And if I’m going to write about Planned Parenthood selling dead children, or Planned Parenthood doing anything else, it’s impossible to be anything but angry in the process. This is the most wretched and contemptible organization in the world, and I don’t think I ever want to get to the point where they don’t make me angry when I think about them.

It’s unfortunate that some pro-life activists, even wonderful representatives for the cause who are doing great work and saving lives, will distance themselves from the idea of feeling anger at abortion. Without naming names, I recently heard one make an inspiring pitch for his organization in which he still felt a need to explain that grief as opposed to anger is what really saves lives. He described anger as a temptation to resist, something that’s not constructive and not helpful.

I beg to differ. I think Matt gets it exactly right. And so does a friend of mine, who’s a little bit famous (is that a thing?) and very polarizing, so in the interests of avoiding google trolls, I’ll just call him Mike (‘cuz that’s his name).

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Can We Still Be Patriotic?

The other week I was listening to Rush Limbaugh, and I heard a very sad call-in from a 60-year-old southern gentleman. He was talking about loss of faith in the Republican party, in the judicial system, in the military—all these institutions that as conservative Americans we would love to throw our support behind. He talked about current and possible future erosion of liberties like speech and gun ownership. What was there left for him to believe in and defend as a patriotic American? Rush had no pat answers. All he could do was empathize.

By coincidence, I was listening in on the same day SCOTUS upheld Obamacare 6-3. Once again, the allegedly conservative Justice Roberts co-authored the majority opinion. (It’s enough to make one wonder if someone has incriminating photos of the guy, but that’s neither here nor there.) Meanwhile, Justice Scalia added yet another gem to a long line of eloquent dissents. Read a few choice quotes here. “Interpretive jiggery-pokery,” indeed. And of course, the day after that, SCOTUS miraculously “found” the “right” to redefine marriage in our Constitution by a 5-4 majority. Kennedy wrote this opinion, in a style “as pretentious as its content was egotistic.” (Scalia again. How I love that guy).

In these times, the southern gentleman’s question is a fair one. When even the most conservative justices in our highest court can’t always agree on a matter of basic interpretive integrity, where do we place our hope? What does it even mean anymore to say “God bless America”?  Continue reading

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The Enduring Power of Hymns

Much ink has been spilled over the worrying statistical reality that millennials are leaving their parents’ churches, and a lot of them don’t make a return appearance. Mega-church strategists everywhere are no doubt feverishly putting their heads together to figure out how this can still be happening (even after they installed that sick light show and put all their youth pastors in skinny jeans!) Some of these discussions are probably revolving around worship music. Maybe (some of them are still wanly hoping), we can keep tweaking our music formula until it’s so cool our kids will never want to leave, cause they just gotta have their weekly dose of worship band.

Of course, you know and I know that if anything, the mega-church strategists’ fever dreams are part of the problem, not the solution. I propose that this is because with all their bumbling good intentions, they fail to see there’s something fundamentally transient about turning church into a product. They’re hoping to keep kids in church by breathlessly trying to keep up with the latest trends in pop music, culture, etc. But kids don’t need a fad. They need a foundation.

That foundation should take a number of different forms: doctrinal, apologetic, and even musical. One of the most shameful gaps in the foundation for many of our young people is a firm grounding in how to defend their own faith, but that’s a discussion topic for another day. Today, I want to talk about building a musical foundation for our young people. In particular, I want to focus on the enduring power of hymns. 

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A Few Thoughts on the Duggar Debacle

[05/29: Comments on this topic are closed.]

Well, I had determined not to say anything about this mess, but after I read one particular Patheos article about it, it did occur to me that I had something to say. I’ll try to limit this to the specific points I want to make, though I realize how tempting it is to render a verdict on the situation as a whole. I do have my opinions, and I suppose you can read between the lines and put together what I think. But my intention is not to open up a whole can of worms about abuse issues writ large.

(In case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what I’m referring to, the Duggar Family’s 19 Kids and Counting show may be canceled in the wake of the reveal that son Josh Duggar fondled his sisters inappropriately at the age of 14. As you can see on the right, Josh is now a grown man with his own wife and family.)

So, with that in mind, I want to come down really hard on a few points made in this response piece. Specifically, I want to focus on how the writer uses the Duggar case to criticize homeschooling in general. While she doesn’t come right out and gloat, “See, I knew you should just send your kids to school like everyone else!” it’s implicit in the whole thrust of the article. She makes these points in bold:

Good sex education is very important.

Sheltering children from the world doesn’t work.

Homeschooling can limit children’s ability to report abuse.

Okay. Let’s dismantle this piece by piece.

*cracks knuckles*

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Andy Stanley’s Disturbing Leftward Spiral

I’ve been catching myself up on Pastor Andy Stanley’s recent comments regarding the issue of homosexuality. They’ve created a little stir in liberal media circles, who are triumphantly running pieces that contrast Andy’s more relaxed approach with Stanley Sr.’s hard-line rhetoric. Andy Stanley has a wide following, particularly in the South, and so far he’s managed to tiptoe around hot-button social issues without saying something outright heretical that would alienate his fan-base. (This fan-base includes a number of relatively conservative Christians, including readers of this very site, and it clearly includes the same kind of people who attend Gaither events, since Gaither has invited him on their latest cruise.) While not all the remarks being quoted on leftist sites are taken from the same context, it’s not hard for us to look at the individual pieces and notice a leftward drift that should concern Christians who follow Stanley Jr.’s ministry. I’ve already mentioned his remarks in a USA Today piece dissing the Kansas religious freedom bill, where he said that he found it  “offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the Kansas law” and continued, “Serving people we don’t see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn’t see eye to eye. If a bakery doesn’t want to sell its products to a gay couple, it’s their business. Literally. But leave Jesus out of it.”

Most recently, he gave an address to young church leaders in April in which he set up a list of three things that he “wishes would change for the local church in our generation.”

1. The local church should be the safest place on the planet for students to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction.

2. The church must stop expecting outsiders to act like insiders while insiders act like outsiders.

3. The church must capture and keep the hearts and minds of students.

You can probably tell already that there are a lot of directions he could go with all of these points, and some of them are not good at all. And you’d be right.

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Christians in Entertainment: Denzel Washington

‘Tis the season for pretentious, overly long commencement speeches. But one commencement speech has been getting particular attention in the media recently: Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington’s address to the graduates of Dillard University. Dillard is a small, private school for black students in New Orleans. When Washington stepped to the podium, he announced that he was going to “keep it short,” unlike his commencement speaker, who “went on forever, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…” (Yes, this is pretty much spot-on. I speak from experience.)

Here is the short, simple message Washington wanted to convey: “Number one: Put. God. First. In everything you do, put God first. Put God first in everything you do. Everything you think you see in me, everything I’ve accomplished, everything you think I have (and I have a few things), everything that I have is by the grace of God.”

The speech has gone viral. There’s some unfortunate prosperity gospel business towards the end, but on the whole it’s pretty great, and you can read more quotes here, or watch it in full here if you don’t mind handheld video. The passion and conviction of Washington’s delivery is disarming, considering his stature in Hollywood. But then, Washington has never been one to shy away from talking about what he believes.

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