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Dr. Rick Shrader is the editor of Aletheia a monthly publication which helps meet the need for a balanced conservative voice among Baptists.
Commonly known as the "Alpha Center".
"Today's tough issues dealt with from a Christian perspective"
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What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
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Across the globe this week, families are taking the time to show what a gift it is to have their brother, sister, daughter, or son with Down syndrome in their lives. It was just recently that Washington Post opinion columnist Ruth Marcus candidly stated that she would abort her own child if she knew from prenatal testing that they would have Down syndrome:There is a new push in antiabortion circles to pass state laws aimed at barring women from terminating their pregnancies after the fetus has been determined to have Down syndrome… This is a difficult subject to discuss because there are so many parents who have — and cherish — a child with Down syndrome… I can say without hesitation that…I would have terminated those pregnancies had the testing come back positive. I would have grieved the loss and moved on.For many, this sounded a little too honest and just down right offensive—especially for ranking Republican congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who has a son with Down syndrome. She took to Twitter to take Ruth Marcus to task (respectfully) to illustrate all the joys and happiness that loving families experience with their Down syndrome children.Both Rodgers and Marcus acknowledged that over two-thirds of women in America choose to have an abortion in those circumstances but according to Marcus, Rodgers’ happy face response is not how the majority of women may feel about having a child with Down syndrome. In a follow-up piece responding to Rodgers, Marcus highlights the emails she received from women confiding in her that they would’ve made the decision to abort and support a woman’s right to choose. One woman wrote:I’d never knowingly bring another Down syndrome child into our lives … My son turned 50 last September. He lives in a group home, has worked ... for 29 years and has a good life, with lots of fun and quite a bit of independence. My life has been filled with advocacy for those with developmental disabilities. We are the lucky ones with our son. Nevertheless, I would fight to the dying breath for a woman’s right to choose.Marcus says women like this represent the “silenced majority.” I don’t how true that is, but both women—the one who chooses to keep her child with Down syndrome and the one who doesn’t—should not be ignored. Everyone dreams for their lives and their children’s lives to be healthy, happy, and prosperous. I doubt any mother with a child that has Down syndrome or any disability would tell you it’s easy and that if they could they would do anything to make their child’s life easier and happier. But l believe Marcus’s words bring attention to a deeper issue in our society than simply the abortion of the disabled.I’m grateful for Ruth Marcus’s audacious opinion piece because I believe it forces us to really think about what we may treasure most: “the good life.” It speaks to where we are placing our hope and begs the question: is it better to have no life if it can’t be the good life? Why does it matter if they will be born with challenges or discomfort? Is it better to die than to be born with difficulties in life?In the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, we as a society have tended to emphasize the definition of a good life as one that is easy and comfortable, one without much self-sacrifice. However, the end goal of life should not be comfort but goodness, and sometimes goodness is not always pleasant. It’s the pursuit of what is good (or the lack thereof) that shapes a society. Our laws should reflect what is naturally good, and intrinsic to this is protecting and valuing all innocent life made in the image of God. We do not seek such virtuousness so we can boast of our own achieved morality; we instead pursue goodness because it draws us closer to God—by understanding who he is and who he wants us to be.We should not live strictly by the creed “you only live once,” as many pop stars have mistakenly sang as an excuse for hedonism. Jesus talked about where your treasures are, there the desires of your heart will also be (Matthew 6:21), so we should store our treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed. In this life, we will have troubles—this is not a utopia. The goal of this life is to prepare for the next, and that will give us strength to deal with today. Are we building our life on a firm foundation of truth so that when bad or unpleasant things happen we can stand strong, or are we only putting stock in what we can get out of this life? If we abandon the pursuit of God, it will quickly be replaced with the pursuit of the good life.Disability, discomfort, or making personal sacrifices does not automatically mean we will have no chance of a “good” life. In fact, the exact opposite occurs when, in those difficult moments, we come face to face with a divine strength and help. I say this not to bash anyone for the decisions they’ve made but to explain that the comfortable life is not necessarily the good life, and this life is not all there is. The natural law is written on our hearts and convicts us to pursue that which is good, and that will in its truest form lead us to God.
We must teach our children how to deal with the subtle thinking of this world that wars against our faith. Knowing your child involves far more than lecturing on what to believe. It mandates conversation and asking questions.It requires the Deuteronomy 6 method of discussing God's Word, day and night.
Psalm 56:3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. There is no doubt that there will be times when we are afraid. Getting scared is a given. It will happen. What we do when we are so scared is what matters. We need to make a decision. We will trust in the Lord. The minute the fear hits us; seizes us, we make a decision. We do not know what to do. We are afraid. We tell the Lord that but then we trust the Lord. We decide that we are unable to deal with this fear, but we will trust Him. He has promised to keep us in perfect peace if we keep our hearts and minds centered on Him. We are told to take all of our anxiousness and lay it at His feet. We ask Him to meet the need. We thank Him for meeting the need. Then we leave with peace. So we will be afraid but we decide that when we are worried, we will take it to the Lord. We will trust Him. We will believe that He loves us and will take care of us. So fears will come, and […]
Psalm 18:3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: So shall I be saved from mine enemies. When the psalmist was in trouble, he knew to call upon the God of heaven. He knew that God exists. He knew that God did hear and answer prayer. He knew that God would reward those that diligently sought Him. He knew that God was worthy of our praise. He was in trouble. He needed help. There was no one else who could help him. He turned to the only one with the power to make a difference in our lives. We need to learn to pray. We need to believe God and ask Him. Are you dealing with things that are bigger than your abilities? Do you need God to step in? Why don’t you realize that He is worthy of your praise? He is who He says that He is. The psalmist knew that he would pray and God would rescue him. I want to live with that kind of faith! Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash
Last week, in EEOC v. R.G. &. G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the religious freedom claim of a funeral home owner who wanted to run his business in accordance with his faith—and did not want to accede to the “gender identity” discrimination claim of an employee who desired to remain an employee while living out his transgendered lifestyle as he saw fit. The case is still ongoing (the appeals court ordered the case remanded for a lower court to continue sorting out), but there’s a very real possibility that business owner Thomas Rost may now be forced out of the marketplace rather than violate his faith.This is the first federal court case dealing with a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) claim in the context of a sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI) nondiscrimination claim (the only other such case is the state-level case of print shop owner Blaine Adamson in Kentucky), and SOGI came out the victor. The concerns of those who have warned of the religious freedom threat of SOGIs are validated by this decision.The Sixth Circuit, in an opinion authored by Judge Karen Moore, got its analysis wrong on several levels. First, the court claimed it was somehow very clear that Title VII sex discrimination prohibitions include “gender identity”—despite the fact that no court considered such a possibility for decades. Even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginburg, writing about the proposed Equal Rights Amendment decades ago, did not take “gender identity” under consideration as she dismissed concerns that sex nondiscrimination provisions could force bathrooms to be opened up to the opposite biological sex. So when the Sixth Circuit says “[n]or can much be gleaned from the fact that . . . statutes, such as the Violence Against Women Act, expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of ‘gender identity,’ while Title VII does not,” it isn’t very convincing. If it was so clear, no court would ever have rejected the notion that “gender identity” falls under sex discrimination—yet many have.The court continued to err when it analyzed the religious freedom issue here. The funeral home relied on RFRA as a defense to the SOGI claim, asserting that a sincere religious belief had been substantially burdened. At that point, the EEOC could only have prevailed if it had a compelling government interest which was accomplished through the least restrictive means.Judge Moore incredibly (and erroneously) claimed it was not a “substantial burden” on religious exercise to “forc[e] [the Funeral Home] to violate Rost’s faith,” which “would significantly pressure Rost to leave the funeral industry and end his ministry to grieving people.” Yet it is an elementary principle of RFRA analysis to observe there is a substantial burden on someone who is told they must compromise their beliefs in order to retain their job. The court accepted that Rost sincerely believed he should not be “directly involved in supporting the idea that sex is a changeable social construct rather than an immutable God-given gift,” but then summarily dismissed his concern, concluding that “tolerating [his employee’s] understanding of . . . sex and gender identity is not tantamount to supporting it.”The court tries to rely on lower federal court adjudications in the HHS mandate contraceptive litigation, claiming that “[m]ost circuits, including this one, have recognized that a party can sincerely believe that he is being coerced into engaging in conduct that violates his religious convictions without actually, as a matter of law, being so engaged.” Yet this second-guessing of religious beliefs has been roundly repudiated by the Supreme Court in Employment Division v. Smith, where the Court observed decades ago that “[r]epeatedly and in many different contexts, we have warned that courts must not presume to determine the place of a particular belief in a religion or the plausibility of a religious claim.” Moreover, despite citing HHS mandate cases from the lower courts, Judge Moore skips over the fact that when the Supreme Court handled those cases on appeal in Zubik v. Burwell, the justices told the parties to come to a resolution while honoring the religious exercise at issue, rather than flatly dismissing the substantial burden on the religious claimants.After concluding there was no substantial burden on religious exercise, Judge Moore didn’t need to continue her analysis, but did so anyway, offering her view that it was a compelling interest to force the funeral home to accede to the transgendered employee’s demands: “Failing to enforce Title VII against the Funeral Home means the EEOC would be allowing a particular person—Stephens—to suffer discrimination, and such an outcome is directly contrary to the EEOC’s compelling interest in combating discrimination in the workforce.” The court did not want to “hoist automatically Rost’s religious interests above other compelling governmental concerns.” The Sixth Circuit then concluded that uniform enforcement of sex nondiscrimination provisions without religious exceptions was the least restrictive means to accomplish this compelling government interest of eradicating discrimination.What are we to make of this? Aside from realizing that judges are not exempt from the temptation to arrive at a conclusion and then craft reasoning to help one get there, the court’s opinion shows us that businesses seeking religious freedom protections need to state clearly and regularly their religious nature (though part of a separate ministerial exemption analysis, the court did hold the business’s lack of numerous and overt religious indicia against it).More relevant for our current religious freedom concerns, this case shows the inability of RFRA to adjudicate modern religious freedom disputes with certainty, as the statute allows judges the leeway to craft conclusions of their own liking, an even bigger danger when issues of sexuality—on which they want to be on the “right side of history”—are involved in the case.Finally, and perhaps most significantly, this opinion demonstrates that when RFRA and SOGI claims intersect, the SOGI claims will likely win (and will almost certainly win in the hands of judges under social and cultural pressure to reach a certain result), thus vindicating many who have claimed that SOGI laws themselves are a threat to religious freedom.
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