Ideals For A Third Party Platform Here In The U.S.
1.) The Supreme Court decides the policy on abortion, not a politician.
2.) Guns and/or ammunition can not be outlawed from the public. To me, the only exception should be such things as machineguns. Grenades, C-4 and such weapons should be banned unless you have a specific permit to own them, like with a licensed collector.
3.) Recreational marijuana should be just as legal as alcohol, Federally! This government prohibition is just as ignorant and illegal as the prohibition of alcohol was in the 1930’s.
4.) Flat tax rate of 10% on all things, no write-offs, no exemptions, no loopholes. 6% Federal tax. 2% State tax. 1% each for County and City. I look at taxes this way, the Lord asks us to donate at least 10% toward Him which He requires us to help others with like our communities.
5.) All people running for any office must supply the prior 10 years of tax returns when they officially or unofficially announce they are ‘running’ for an Office.
6.) Mandatory retirement age for any Office of 72 years old. If a person is wanting to be elected to any office if they will turn 72 or older during that 2, 4 or 6 years then you are not allowed to be in that or any such Office. You say that is not legal that it is age discrimination, I say no, I believe you are incorrect. The reason is, you have to be a minimum of 35 to be allowed to be President. If that isn’t discrimination then neither is my idea of being to old.
Just a thought folks on what I would like to see as the Platform of a 3rd political party. so here it is.
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It is ignored in the west, but Christianity is the most persecuted religion. Why is there such silence on the issue?
Iwas up before dawn this morning, preparing for our first service of Easter. This meant that, around the same time as bombs were going offin churches in Sri Lanka, I was reading a passage to my congregation taken from the book of Ezekiel. The passage tells of dead bones coming back together, of bodies being re-clothed in flesh and of life being breathed back into them. Over in Sri Lanka, bones were being blown apart, and flesh stripped from skin. These people woke up this morning full of hope, excited in anticipation of the story of Jesus’s resurrection. They put on their best clothes and polished their shoes. Now their blood is being mopped from the sanctuary floor.
I was talking the other day to the classicist Mary Beard about Christian persecution in Roman times – all that stuff about lions and the Coliseum. She was of the opinion that it might not have been quite as big a deal as later Christians made it out to be. And no doubt there is nothing quite like a few over egged stories of gory martyrdom to deepen a sense of group solidarity among a struggling religious community. Well, I bow to Mary’s greater knowledge of classical Rome. But while it may have been true that too much was made of Roman persecution, the very opposite is true now. We are living though one of the most serious phases of Christian persecution in history, and most people refuse to acknowledge it.
During the past century, Christianity has been all but driven out of the Middle East, the place of its birth. This time last year I was in Damascus, visiting the Christian community there. On the front of the church that I went to on Sunday morning there was a huge mural depicting the horrors of the Armenian genocide. These Christians were originally refugees from Turkey, and had arrived there fleeing the most sustained and horrendous persecution. How much of this story do we know? This week, the Israeli historians Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi will publish a much-awaited account of the period. The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of its Christian Minorities argues that from 1894 to 1924, the Turkish authorities systematically murdered some 2.5 million Christians. At the beginning of that period, in places like Anatolia, Christians accounted for 20% of the population. By the end of it, there were just 2% left. Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, Christians have been driven from the Middle East with bombs and bullets, and with hardly a bat squeak of protest from the secular west.
Why no outrage? Yes, these horrendous murders will make the press for a day or two – but we generally care more about the fire in a famous cathedral than we do about those people who have their bodies blown to bits in architecturally less significant places of worship.
Why the blind spot – especially given that we do care about so many other forms of oppression? No, it’s not a competition. But I do wonder whether on some unconscious level the secular and broadly progressive west thinks that Christianity had it coming. They associate Christianity with popes and their armies, with crusades and inquisitions, with antisemitism, British imperialism, Trump supporters and abortion protesters.
Christians in the west haven’t helped. By describing as “persecution” the minor run-ins that Christianity has had with the law – about cakes for gay couples or street preachers, for example – Christians have debased the word persecution and made it sound like a manipulation designed to reclaim some lost place in the culture. Moreover, porky and pink-faced bishops in the House of Lords do not look like a persecuted species, and so when they talk about Christian persecution they look faintly ridiculous.
And maybe there are some who don’t want to talk about Christian persecution because they fear that it could easily be used – as it sometimes is – as an alibi for Islamophobia. Easier to fall silent about the murder of Christians than to be seen to side with those racists who blame Muslims for everything. I understand this – but it’s still not good enough.
According to the widely respected Pew report, Christianity remains the world’s most persecuted religion. And the only reason for mentioning this so crassly in terms of league tables is simply that it serves to highlight the deafening silence of our response to it. From North Korea (OK, obviously) to China, and increasingly even in places such as India – all around the world Christians are subject to real and sustained violence for the profession of their faith, the one that we proclaim most insistently today. That life is stronger than death. That love will ultimately triumph over hate.
And this means that we believe terrorism can never quench the proclamation of the good news of Easter. At Easter, darkness doesn’t have the last word. That is why people were going to church in Sri Lanka in the first place, to listen again to this message: Christ is risen. Allelujah.
• Giles Fraser is a parish priest in Elephant and Castle, south London
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In pictures: Coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka kill more than 200 people
Updated 9:43 AM ET, Sun April 21, 2019
Relatives of a victim of a blast at St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade, react at the police mortuary in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Sunday.
A series of bomb blasts struck luxury hotels and churches across Sri Lanka early Sunday. More than 200 people were killed and 560 injured in the coordinated attacks, which have put the entire country on lockdown.
The first wave of bombings struck at the heart of the country’s minority Christian community during busy Easter services at churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa.
Sri Lankan Special Task Force personnel gesture outside a house during a raid following an explosion at a property in the Orugodawatta area of Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.
Ishara S. Kodikara/Getty Images
Sri Lankan security personnel walk through debris following an explosion in St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, north of Colombo.
A relative of a blast victim grieves outside a morgue in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan military officers stand guard outside St. Anthony’s Church following an explosion. A series of bomb blasts at churches and hotels killed more than 200 people.
NurPhoto via Getty Images
Crime scene investigators inspect the scene of an explosion at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.
Sri Lankan security personnel keep watch outside St. Anthony’s Shrine. The attacks struck at the heart of the country’s minority Christian community during busy Easter services.
Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images
Priests view blast debris outside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade, Colombo.
NurPhoto via Getty Images
Security forces inspect the inside of St. Anthony’s Shrine after an explosion hit the church.
Anadolu Agency/Anadolu/Getty Images
A relative of a victim of an explosion at St. Anthony’s Shrine reacts at the police mortuary in Colombo.
Sri Lankan military officers stand guard in front of St. Anthony’s Shrine.
NurPhoto via Getty Images
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Most religious groups in the United States, including mainline Protestant denominations like the United Methodist Church, have become more Republican since 2008, according to a political science researcher.
Ryan Burge of Eastern Illinois University analyzed data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, between 2008 and 2018, using two-year intervals. He looked at 34 different religious groups in the United States who had at least 100 respondents in the biannual survey.
Burge noted that the average shift for all of the groups from 2008 to 2018 was +0.13 on the scale, with a positive change associated with becoming more Republican while a negative change meant becoming more Democrat.
Among surveyed religious groups, major shifts rightward included “Independent Baptist” at 0.69, “American Baptist Churches in USA” at 0.43, “Other Pentecostal Church” at 0.72, and “Eastern or Greek Orthodox” at 0.61.
Rightward shifts were also documented for non-Christian traditions like Buddhists (0.29), Agnostics (0.14), and Jewish (0.1).
The religious category that went the most leftward during the time period were respondents who identified as “Mormon,” with an overall shift of -0.31.
Other groups that leaned more Democrat in 2018 than in 2008 included atheists (-0.28), nondenominational Fundamentalist (-0.23), and “other” (-0.16).
“Taken together,” Burge concluded, “this evidence strikes a blow to the argument that there is polarization among Protestant Christian traditions. Looked at here, the overwhelming narrative is that Protestants are more and more Republican every two years. … American religion is becoming more and more synonymous with the Republican Party while those who have no religious affiliation tend to be the (weak) base for the Democrats. If one wants to be an active Christian but disagrees with Republican politics, where do they go? Despite the fact that most Democrats do currently claim a religious affiliation, it seems that the places of refuge are dwindling every year.”
Burge’s analysis of a rightward shift in most religious groups comes as many candidates in the crowded Democratic presidential primary field address faith issues.
Emma Green of the Atlantic noted in a story published earlier this month that “Faith has come up often in the 2020 Democratic race so far.”
“In her campaign-kickoff speech, Senator Kamala Harris of California nodded to the faith of abolitionist and civil-rights leaders, arguing that ‘to love the religion of Jesus is to hate the religion of the slave master,’” wrote Green.
“Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts referred to the Book of Matthew in a CNN town-hall interview in mid-March while talking about the importance of fighting poverty. At a similar CNN event, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey told potential voters that ‘Christ is the center of my life,’ and quoted Jewish teachings in Hebrew.”
Democrat candidate and openly gay South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg garnered attention for recent comments in which he argued that entering a same-sex marriage strengthened his Christian faith.
“My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man — and yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God,” stated Buttigieg at an LGBT Victory Fund event, as reported by USA Today.
“And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand, that if you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
In response, conservative commentator Erick Erickson argued that Buttigieg’s comments against Pence and others against President Donald Trump showed “why progressive Christianity is so corrupt and flawed.”
“As much as Buttigieg makes a valid critique on the president’s behavior and evangelicals’ excusing that behavior, Buttigieg wants to reject the inconvenient parts of faith he does not like,” wrote Erickson earlier this month.
“Buttigieg wants to use the social obligations as Christians against the president, but wants to avoid any implication on the personal obligations of Christians in terms of clear biblical sexual ethics and how we are to live our lives applying our faith even for ‘the least of these.”
When I was ten or eleven years old I started going to a local Church of Christ and I remained going there regularly until I was 17. I say this to help those who don’t know me to understand me a little better. I married a lady whom was a ‘non attendee’ Jehovah’s Witness. I do not claim to be a Bible Scholar, I am not. I have studied the Bible now for just over 50 years. I have done a lot of reading on different beliefs within different Church denominations as well as doing a lot of reading material from Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and several other large ‘Religious’ groups and beliefs. So, this article to you tonight is just simply my views and beliefs on this matter. Like in all of the letters I write to you I am requesting that you take a few moments and think about the subject matter I am speaking with you about.
In the Old Testament teachings in the Books of Moses (Jewish Torah) G-d ordered the destruction of all the people who possessed the lands that was to become the Land of Israel. At that point in history G-d did order the deaths of many thousands of ‘Creatures’. (I will explain in a moment). Even Jesus Himself referred to non-Jews as “dogs” and as “people who were not a people”. You see, before the resurrection of Christ the only ‘people’ who had any chance of salvation were the Jews. Since the resurrection of Christ Jesus everyone on the planet is born with the chance of eternal salvation. Now, once the people under the leadership of Joshua did invade the lands but they did not do as God had ordered. The people did not totally wipe the people off of the land, they let many live as since they disobeyed G-d He told them that there would be a remnant of these people mixed in within them and that these people would be a continues thorn in their side. Look at the reality that is Palestine today, that is one hell of a thorn folks. But, in answer to the main question of if it is okay yesterday, today or tomorrow for the Jewish people to use the Scriptures for guidance to commit violence against other people? The answer to that is no, it does not. Scripture does however give all people the right to protect themselves when an act of violence is being lain upon them or their family. Also, nowhere else in Biblical Scripture does the ‘Word Of G-d’ tell the Jewish people or later on, the Christian people to be killers of the ‘non-faithful’.
I had been thinking about writing a paragraph of so concerning the ‘Christian Bible’ but simply put, there is no place in the New Testament that Jesus ever told anyone to go and kill people. If a person is a follower of or believer of the Biblical Scriptures then there marching orders is to love, not hate. If we say we are a Christian but our heart is filled with hate toward any people, then Christ is simply not with us. G-d is indeed at war with the world but what He is at war with is the evil upon it and meaning mainly the Devil and His tens of thousands of Dark Angels. G-d hates the sin, not us sinners. And truly, we should all thank G-d for that every day we are still breathing.
Now, Islam. I do not claim to be a scholar of Islam but I have studied a lot of their material now for decades. One of the things that the world and our politicians ( especially the Democrats in the U.S.) do not understand is that Islam is not a race, it is not a minority, it is the world’s most dangerous ideology though. I as a person, I as a Christian have no hate for Muslim nor Persian people even though most believe in the Islamic Faith. What the Religion of Islam tries very hard to hide is the fact that they have two ‘Holy Books’ not one. We here in the West when we hear about Islamic teachings and the Islamic Holy Book we are all used to hearing about the Quran and that’s all. What is the Quran then? This is a simple fact, the Quran is one of Islam’s Holy Books, what is it though? It is a book of the ‘saying of the Prophet Muhammad’. If the Quran was the only ‘Holy Book’ that the believers of Islam believed in the world we all live in would be a whole lot safer and friendlier place to live. There is a huge problem though and that is the fact that the ‘real’ Holy Book of Islam is called the Hadith. What is the Hadith and if it is such an important book to the believers of Islam shouldn’t they be quoting ‘in public’ the works of ‘the Prophet’? You see, the Quran is ‘the sayings’ of the Prophet, the Hadith is ‘the works’ of the Prophet. All good believers of Islam if they wish to be a follower of the Prophet must also emulate his works. Read the Hadith people, if there is a sin that Muhammad did not do it would be a rare thing. This man teaches his followers to be liars, cheats, thieves, pedophile and mass murderers, that is how true believer are supposed to live their lives. Islam is at war with the world as are the Christians yet the difference are as different as the Sun and the Moon. For a true believer of Islam all people must convert to their brand of Islam or you will be enslaved or murdered, it is that simple folks.
War, really? We are all at war right now yet it seems that the politicians of ‘the West’ have their heads stuck so far up a sand crabs butt it is scary. Will the politicians sell out the people of this planet? What do you think?
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At first I was thinking of using the title ‘is it past time to kill your dictator as I am not sure which title was the most appropriate, or, is neither appropriate? In today’s world it does seem that most dictators choose to keep power in a country by fraud sham elections so as to say they are legally elected Presidents. Examples of this could be Mozambique and Robert Mugabe, Cuba with the Castro’s or even Mubarak of Egypt. I used these three as my first examples because none of the three actually died in Office. Mugabe and Mubarak were both removed from Office by their Nations military at the insistence of the will of the people. I am not nor have I ever been a fan of either of the Castro’s but surprisingly they gave up power of their own accord mainly because of age and health reasons. The Castro brothers are different in the reality that most dictators refuse to give up power until they are dead or removed from power by their military.
Any time that a country has a ‘one party’ political system that is simply another way to say dictatorship. Good examples of this are with Syria’s President Assad and Russia’s Putin. Then there is the illegitimate Communist government on mainland China where only the Communist Party leadership decides who will be their ‘President’ every 10 years that is until their current President Xi Jinping came into the picture. Now the Mainland has themselves a ‘President for life’ with Mr. Xi Jinping and the people have no power to get rid of him outside of killing him. Another type of example of a Dictator resides in North Korea where their Leader Mr. Kim Jong Un considers himself to be a living God even though I find it odd that the two former ‘gods’ of North Korea are dead. One of the things that these people have in common, just as in Turkey with their ‘President’ Mr. Erdogan, they are all mass murderers. Then there are cases like in Iran where the actual Leader who calls himself the ‘Supreme Leader’ whom should be known as the Supreme Murderer of Iran who has final say in all things even over the Nations President.
I know that by the Biblical Scriptures we are told that we should pray for our Leaders. Scripture says nothing about whether these Leaders are Kings (Dictators), Priests or honestly elected Presidents or Prime Ministers as these are just titles. Folks, titles do not go to Heaven nor to Hell, people do. People also tells us that we are not allowed to murder anyone yet it is very plain that in cases of war we are allowed to defend ourselves and our families. We as people are also allowed to defend ourselves and families if our lives are in imminent danger such as someone who is armed breaks into our home and threatens you. This would also be so if let’s say you are in a store, a concert or a Church and a person or people come in and start shooting, we have every right to defend ourselves. Folks this does include the reality of ‘anyone’ whom is trying to kill you or your loved ones. Folks, this does mean anyone whom is trying to kill you, by this I mean if military people, police or even a Congressman or a President is actively trying to physically harm you, you have the absolute right to defend yourselves. By this I do mean (for example) what happened in Waco Texas in the early 1990’s where the government murdered over a hundred people, women and children included. This was a case where police came bursting through the doors and windows while shooting at the people inside whom had not yet shot one bullet at the Officers.
Now let’s get back to the issue of killing your Dictator, do you/we have the right to do so? Even though the human in me says that there should be no Dictators on the face of the Earth, this is not a reality. When it comes to G-d’s Judgement Day all Leaders will have to answer for all of their actions as Leaders both good and evil. On a smaller scale the same situation exists within a Church community as far as the Leaders who are responsible for the safety of the Flock who committed crimes against the Flock. I am not saying here that the members of the Church have the right to kill (lets say, a pedophile) though we do have the right to not allow them to be a part of the Congregation at all and we do have the right to charge them in front of our Nation’s Courts. What I am saying though is that all Church Leaders will have to answer for their actions as ‘Guardians’ of the Flock whether good or evil. So, do we have the right to kill our Dictator even if they are a murderer like Mr. Putin or Kim Jong Un? These Dictators, are they actively trying to kill you or your loved ones? When the answer is no, we have no such right to harm them, peacefully try to remove them from their position, yes, kill them, no.
Obviously this letter to you is just my thought, my beliefs. Like is almost all of my letters to you I am simply trying to get you to think about the issue that I am writing to you about. What are your thoughts on this matter, what do you believe? Leave me a note, let me know your thoughts?
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Has Donald Trump Murdered Christianity In The U.S.?
While I was thinking about this article and what to call it I at first thought to name it ‘Donald Trump HAS Murdered Christianity in the U.S.’ but I realized that this was not the truth, he has not done so. To me, I believe that Donald Trump is a very VERY immoral and a very evil human being but he did not murder Christianity in this country nor in any other country. The Christian faith has been under attack by the Media and by simply ignorant people for decades now here in the U.S.. Having someone like Mr. Trump as our Nation’s President has without a doubt (in my opinion) hurt the Christian faith though. Now, I am going to write about who I do blame for hurting the reputation of The Faith and I promise that this will not be a long drawn out article. This is not going to be an article about whom I blame the most, then second most and so on, it is just going to be about guilt over all.
1.) First Donald Trump for daring to say in his ignorance that he is a Christian when he knows nothing about Christianity. He is what The Lord refers to as “lukewarm water”, he says he is a Christian and for those who don’t know any better some will tend to think that he is one of us and will use him as an example of why Christians are such bad people.
2.) The Media (over all). Not all media outlets are ignorant nor are they all evil by nature and some, are just stupid. Many outlets have been blaming Christianity as a ‘bad thing’ for years here in the U.S. through ignorance and some through hate.
3.) The Republican Party (especially Senator Mitch McConnell, the leader of the U.S. Senate) whom has been trying to say they are the “Christian right” all the way back to the time of the Reagan Presidency in the 1980’s. For the past 20 years or so there has been a group within the Republican Party who calls themselves the “Tea Party” who considers themselves “Conservative Christians” whom over all, I believe are far from being Christians at all. One of the big reasons that I am saying this is because they are a huge portion of the steadfast base of Mr. Trump. What these folks have been proving to the rest of the Nation and to the whole World is that they (Trump base) are ignorant, uneducated racists white people. The Media in turn has been glad to say “see, these people are examples of Christians” so, do you see how horrible these Christian people are.
4.) This group is without a doubt (to me) the main villains in this story and that is the people themselves. The people who dare to call themselves Christians yet enthusiastically endorse Donald Trump. I know that a lot of people will say things like “well I have to endorse the Republicans because the Democrats endorse abortion and I just can’t go with them.” To a degree this can seem to make some sense but in effect all these people are doing is choosing one Demonic entity over another Demonic entity. Some people who call themselves Christians have chosen to not vote at all because of this issue even before Mr. Trump came onto the National political scene yet, is this the best way for the actual Christians in this Country to respond? My thought on this issue is no, Christians need to be voting in force in this and in all Countries but not for the Democrats nor for the Republicans.
I have heard for the past 40 years or so how we need more than two Political Parties in this Country and I do agree with this issue. We The People whom are Christians do need to come out of these two very evil Political Parties and to form at least one other Political Party. I believe that this would start the development of other Political Parties. There could end up being 5-10-15 other ‘Parties’ on the ballots but at least then groups of people could have real choices of whom and what they agreed with and did not agree with when or if they choose to vote. Christians MUST come out from ‘the world’ for we are not of this world, to not do so is to indorse Satan whom rules this world.
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When I was an 8-year old child in 1968, I took part in a voluntary school-bussing program to promote desegregation in Syracuse, New York. In the spring of 1968, soon after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, letters were sent to some families in the suburbs of Syracuse asking if they’d be interested in having their child attend a school in the inner city of Syracuse. At the time, I remember my father and mother debating why a young white boy like me should be allowed to go to a predominantly black school. Many relatives and family friends were concerned it may not be a good idea to send me far from my neighborhood. My father, who was an editor at a large newspaper in Syracuse, was supportive of me being bussed. In time, my mother became supportive of the idea too.
To my parent’s credit, they didn’t make the decision for me to attend the school and didn’t pressure me. Before a decision was made my parents asked me what I thought of the idea. At first I didn’t know what to think. However… I soon came to support the idea and agreed to change schools in the fall. The adventure had begun. To this day I still am glad I had the experience of going to Martin Luther King Elementary.
My memories of the school have many positive aspects. However, the transition to my new surroundings took a while. Although it was difficult to get used to sitting on a bus for over an hour a day, I eventually got used to the ride. In addition, many features of the school were radically different than what I was used to. For one, I felt alone as a young white boy in a sea of black faces. In addition, since we had very few blacks in my suburban school, I now knew what it was like to be a minority. Understandably, my appearance at the black school caused reactions in my black classmates. For more times than I can remember I was called “Honky” as I was jokingly asked by my classmates whether I was lost or why I was far from home.
Interestingly and contrary to the concerns of many, I was never beat-up or in any fights in my new school. Although there were a few times when I was nudged by assertive boys or glared at, I never had concerns for my well-being and made friends in my new school. In particular, I became close friends with two young black boys in my 4th grade who looked out for me. We made an interesting trio on the campus of school. In addition to my close friends looking out for me, what helped me cope was the fact I realized at a young age that who I was as an individual actually mattered more than the fact I was white. Soon after I got to my new surroundings I learned to defuse tensions caused by my whiteness. What I quickly learned was that if I was defensive or reacted angry to the joking caused by my appearance, that things could escalate.
When I look back on my experience with the integration of blacks and whites, I realize that the experience definitely helped me understand that it is who we are as human beings, regardless of race, that truly matters. As many of us remember, many appeals were made by leaders such as Martin Luther King to not only seek equality of opportunity for blacks, but to also have people focus on the content of the character of each person as opposed to just their skin color.
When we fast-forward to the issues of today, lets try to understand that the modern concept of white privilege can be used to judge a person solely on the color of their skin. To truly heal racial tensions in America it may be best if we try not to look at outward appearance and race as a predominant factor in our lives. Obviously, racial differences are there and cannot be ignored. And yes…there is such a thing as the fact that certain whites go through life in ways that may be easier than some blacks. However, if we focus on race predominantly in judging individuals we’re basically reinforcing a stereotypical approach.
In today’s America it is valid to seek equality of opportunity for minorities. However, to make race such an intense focus in our day to day lives creates high levels of tension throughout all of society. Ultimately, and in the final analysis, it is the content of our character as individuals that matters most in life. When all Americans of all races put the quality of an individual’s character above their outward appearance, we may finally get to the place that Martin Luther King dreamt about.
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As the religious landscape of America continues to change and those identifying with faith continues to decline, the fear of standing out as a Christian is growing.
And that is impacting evangelism efforts.
There’s a greater apprehension among those who do count themselves as Christians to not only share their faith but to even appear differently from the rest of society, according to Bo Rice, assistant professor of evangelism and preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. They’re too afraid to stand for beliefs that might be seen as offensive to others in a diversifying culture.
“I believe in the politically correct, politically charged climate of our culture today, believers are afraid to take a stand and to look different for fear of being accused of being intolerant toward others. Unfortunately, we have reached a point in American history where Christians are afraid to speak biblical truth in love out of fear of retribution,” Rice told The Christian Post.
“Many Christians have just assimilated into the culture of the world so they won’t ‘offend’ anyone.”
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Charles “Chuck” Kelley Jr., who earlier in October announced he will be retiring from his position, makes a similar point in his recently released book, Fuel the Fire.
Kelley laments that Christians are simply blending in with the secular world.
Overchurched to underchurched
While it can be argued that the older generations might have been “overchurched,” the reality today is that some people have “never stepped foot in a church,” said Noel Heikkinen, lead pastor at Riverview Church in the Lansing, Michigan.
Many people in the current generation don’t have the church experience that previous generations were exposed to.
As a result, “their view of Christianity is what they have seen in pop culture, and what we are seeing even more so is that it’s derived from social media,” Heikkinen explained to CP.
He said that for a lot of younger people, “their whole perception of Christianity is not about the Gospel, or Jesus, or any of that.”
Unlike previous generations, young people today “have very much an ‘a la carte’ approach to spirituality,” meaning that they want to “pick and choose what strands of their spirituality are important to them,” the Michigan pastor said.
“Even if they hear a preacher say Scripture has to be the ultimate authority in their lives, there is always going to be an asterisk” next to that, and they will turn to their “own truth” if they hear something they disagree with, he noted.
For many young people, “there is no real truth that lies outside of their own personal experiences, biases and assumptions.”
“The self becomes the arbitrator of personal truth; personal truth becomes greater than absolute truth,” Heikkinen said.
Rice also believes that the number of people in the U.S. who have never heard of Jesus Christ is growing.
“We are seeing and hearing of more stories right here in the U.S. of people coming to faith in Christ after hearing about Jesus for the first time. However, I do agree, in America, we often encounter those who are ‘disillusioned’ with ‘religion’ altogether,” Rice said.
Christianity in decline
Many polls have painted a complex picture of the religious landscape in America. One overarching trend that has emerged in most surveys and analyses is that the proportion of those identifying with Christianity, especially young people, is shrinking.
A study by Gallup in April found that while 71 percent of Americans identified with a Protestant denomination back in 1955, the percentage decreased to less than half (47 percent) of the population in 2017.
Roman Catholics retained a more stable rate of identification, making up 22 percent of the population in 2017, compared to 24 percent in 1955.
Young people were found to be one of the chief drivers of the rising “nonreligious” demographic, with 33 percent of those aged 21 to 29 stating that they follow no religion.
J. Warner Wallace, a cold case detective, author and senior fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, chronicled more than 50 similar surveys back in January and concluded: “Fewer people claim a Christian affiliation than ever before, and those who claim no religious affiliation are the fastest growing group in America.”
Researcher George Barna of the American Culture & Faith Institute noted, following a survey of 9,273 American adults in November 2017, which found that only 31 percent of adults identify as born-again Christians, that faith is undergoing a “substantial challenge.”
“The Church at-large is not likely to grow in the future unless some fundamental changes in practice are made,” Barna warned.
The survey found that people are most likely to accept Christ as Savior before they finish high school, with two out of every three individuals who say they are born again revealing they made the choice before the age of 18.
Currently, evangelism — defined as the act of proclaiming the message that Jesus Christ is Lord — in America is in what Rice calls a “confused” state.
One of Merriam Webster’s definitions of confusion is “a state or situation in which many things are happening in a way that is not controlled or orderly.”
“I believe that this is a good picture of evangelism today. We are not seeing the large-scale, structured evangelism campaigns emphasized as strongly in present-day churches like we have in the past,” Rice, who is also the dean of Graduate Studies at the Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated NOBTS, observed. “So we have lost the ‘controlled’ aspect of systematic approaches and more accurate reporting of numbers.”
Evangelism is still being done by individual churches and individuals but for Rice, the main question is whether their approach is effective in “reaching people for the Kingdom of God.”
Heikkinen is, meanwhile, involved in another approach to evangelism: church planting.
He serves as the U.S. Midwest network director for Acts 29 Network, which focuses on planting churches in areas that have “a lot less Gospel influence.”
There are certain pockets in America where there’s been a good response to church planting and evangelism.
“Some of the most successful efforts in the past 30 years” have been “primarily in suburban areas,” Heikkinen noted. “It’s been a much easier place to plant churches.”
He acknowledged that churches in America are “declining faster” than they are growing. And church planters are struggling to plant in an urban context as well as in rural small towns.
In the major cities, people, especially in economically disadvantaged zones, are “suspicious of those coming in from outside” and would ask “why are you here?”
Suspicion against the church has intensified with the rise of the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements. People are seeing churches “as a place to cover up” sexual assault and to “protect those that are hurting vulnerable people,” Heikkinen added.
Church planters are encountering a lot of that sentiment, particularly from the younger generation.
Both the Protestant and Catholic world have been mired in sexual abuse cases. The sexual assault accusations against and downfall of high-profile megachurch pastor Bill Hybels, as well as Andy Savage in Tennessee, have prompted much discussion on accountability in evangelical circles. While the Catholic Church has faced scandals worldwide, decades of clergy sex abuse and institutional cover-ups were revealed in Pennsylvania and other states earlier this year.
Underlying those scandals have been the thousands of #ChurchToo stories shared in online circles by people, mostly women, who say they have suffered rape and other forms of sexual abuse by Christians in leadership and others within churches.
All of this has a direct consequence on how Christianity is perceived in America and creates difficult challenges for evangelism, both Rice and Heikkinen affirmed.
“Unfortunately, I do think when a believer falls, especially clergy and lay leaders, it’s a deterrent to the advancement of the Gospel,” Rice commented.
“Satan uses the ‘fall’ of leaders whether it be through the abuse of innocent children and the abuse of women, adultery, and addiction, to name a few, to attempt to destroy the credibility of believers and of the Gospel. Through this, the sin is magnified and these ‘Christians’ are made out to be ‘worse than the world’ so that all who see their fall and who do not know the story of Redemption through Christ have no desire to be associated with them.
“However, it is our job to make sure we preach the Redemptive portion of the story. … We need Jesus because of those very sin issues.”
Heikkinen reflected that there is mistrust in the U.S. toward authority in general, and that mistrust “bleeds into the church,” especially when it comes to cases of sex abuse.
Looking at just how many people have been accusing Christian leaders and churches of varying degrees of abuse and cover-ups, the Michigan pastor said that he can’t claim to be surprised.
“But I would say I am heartbroken,” Heikkinen said.
“I truly believe that sin is real,” he added, stressing that when looking at history, people know such abuse has “always been there.”
“I want our churches to be a light to this world,” Heikkinen emphasized, admitting that “it’s hard right now to be a voice in our culture” due to the scandals.
Christians need to regain trust and the universal Church has to take big steps in that regard.
He pointed to 2 Timothy in the Bible, where the Apostle Paul says in part:
“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my Gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Rice turned to Acts 1:8, which reads:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.”
Rice insisted that the future of evangelism in America is not bleak.
“If the believers of Christ will look to Him for His promised Spirit, direction, and power, then we will see Him accomplish great things through us,” he underscored. “In short, evangelism will be successful because Jesus is on His throne, and He still desires to use His people to bring about His purpose and will.”
How to evangelize
Traditional methods of evangelism include preaching on the streets, which was popular in the ’70s, but it might not be as effective as before.
For Heikkinen, the most effective way to spread the Gospel message and bring people to Jesus is through relationships.
”I think what we are discovering is that evangelism is about being friends with people,” speaking with them honestly, and not hiding one’s own sins, he explained.
Rather than starting with theological teachings right away when engaging with nonbelievers, he emphasized the importance of building friendships with them first.
When something happens in their lives and they need someone to talk to, the Christian friend can step up and share how their beliefs have helped them, he said.
“Some of the people I have personally been able to lead to faith in the last several years have all been my friends first,” he revealed.
Heikkinen noted that the opportunity presents itself when something happens in people’s lives, and then they think of him: “He is a pastor and a Christian, I should talk to him.”
That strategy is also discussed in Friend of Sinners: An Approach to Evangelism by author and pastor Harvey Turner, also of the Acts 29 Network. The book details how the approach mirrors the ministry of Jesus Himself, who had conversations with everyday people and chose to be a “friend of the sinners.”
Rice noted that while his personal approach to evangelizing hasn’t changed much, he also tries to practice what he called “Gospel conversations,” namely “taking the time to develop relationships with people (even if it’s in a short amount of time) and then transitioning to a Gospel presentation in regular conversation.”
And that presentation must be the “full truth,” Rice stressed.
“To many, the Gospel and biblical principles are controversial and offensive. But we are called to be witnesses of the full truth, not just the parts of the Bible that make us ‘feel good’ or ‘comfortable,’” he said.
“So yes, the culture is changing and the context of ministry might be more difficult in our postmodern world, but that doesn’t mean we should water down biblical truth just to make it ‘easier’ for us … because if we do that, what Gospel are we preaching? Our own? May we never make a mockery of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross in such a way.”
Christians must also not forget to extend a clear invitation to respond to the message of Jesus Christ.
Rice observed that in recent decades, fewer evangelicals ask for an “explicit response to the Gospel.”
“Some no longer extend an invitation because they are fearful it might come across as manipulative,” he cautioned.
“I believe we must never use any form of manipulation in calling people to respond to the Gospel, but we must call for a clear and decisive response of people to repent of their sins and trust in Christ as Savior and Lord. We must plead and urge people to respond to the truth.”
Heikkinen often wonders what the state of Christianity in the U.S. will look like in the future.
“The trend that I see happening, and I hope I am wrong, is that American churches will [continue] declining in influence,” he said.
But that doesn’t leave him pessimistic in seeing more people in America gain salvation through Jesus Christ because the work of evangelism will still go on, but not always from within.
There’s another trend that can’t be ignored — the Christian faith is growing overseas, such as in China and in parts of Africa and South America. And they will send a new “generation of missionaries to come to the United States and preach,” Heikkinen said.
Those overseas churches are earnestly praying for faith in America, he highlighted.
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