Members of the California State Legislature received “goody bags” from Planned Parenthood on Valentine’s Day, and the messages they included were both vulgar and threatening.
Last Friday, the lawmakers found bags with condoms in packages that read, “Don’t f*ck with us. Don’t f*ck without us.” The bags also included the following note: “Roses are red. Violets are blue. Planned Parenthood promotes safe sex, now your office can, too!”
In a comment on Facebook, state Sen. Shannon Grove (R) referred to the promotional “gift” as “crass,” “disgusting,” and “vulgar.”
“This is how [Planned Parenthood] communicates with members of the state legislature,” she wrote. “Good thing I stopped a group of kids from seeing it in my office.”
“The top part of the condom wrapper,” she added, “appears to be a threat.”
California state Sen. Mike Morrell (R) didn’t see the bag from Planned Parenthood until he returned to his office after the weekend. In his own post about the distribution, Morrell wrote: “Aside from its vulgarity, it’s a veiled threat and a strong-arm tactic — something I don’t appreciate.”
“It crosses a line, clearly violating the workplace harassment policies in the Senate,” he continued.
Jonathan Keller, president of the California Family Council, said in a statement the distribution of these “these ‘goody bags’ would likely be grounds for termination inside most California corporations.”
“Yet Planned Parenthood once again shows they have little respect for those with differing beliefs, even when they are elected officials,” he added.
This is not the first time Planned Parenthood, a taxpayer-funded organization, has received criticism for its crass messaging.
In 2018, the nation’s largest abortion provider caused quite a stir with a campaign in New York City entitled “Freedom to F***.”
Over the course of the 24-second ad, actors featured in the commercial spewed the F-word some 20 times. After immediate and widespread rebuke, Planned Parenthood’s NYC chapter quietly removed the brazen advertisement.
Twenty-year-old singer Samantha Diaz delivered an emotional audition on ABC’s American Idol this week, concluding it all by asking the judges to pray with her, according to CBN.
The singer, who goes by “Just Sam,” was adopted by her grandmother as a child and lives in a project in Harlem, New York. She’s loved to sing since she was a kid and spends much of her time in the subways collecting money after her impromptu performances.
“My mother wasn’t there for me, growing up…neither was my father. My grandmother made sure we were fed, had a roof over our heads and had clothes on our backs,” she said.
Diaz’s grandmother, Elizabeth, gave her granddaughter three pieces of advice before her audition: “Believe in yourself. Believe in God. And learn to forgive people.”
During her audition, Diaz attempted to sing Lauren Daigle’s “You Say” but was overcome with emotion. The judges—Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan—gave her a moment to collect herself and offered words of encouragement.
She eventually decided to do what she felt most comfortable: singing like she does on the subway. She confidently sang Andra Day’s “Rise Up” to a stunned panel of judges. Each of them encouraged her to keep singing, win or lose.
“We’ve got you and I want you to rely on us to coach you through this,” said Richie after her performance. “I’m so grateful that God put you in front of us.” He also told her that she was safe with them, to which Diaz asked, “Can I pray with you guys, is that okay?”
While holding hands around the judges table, the four prayed, “Heavenly Father, Lord make my life brand new right here, right now, with my friends and my new fam, Amen.”
The audition sparked supportive tweets from host Ryan Seacrest. “Always need a box of tissues nearby when watching auditions like Just Sam’s. Admire her heart and strength so much,” he said.
No matter what happens, Diaz is grateful for the experience.
“I know that at this point in my life, I’ve already made my grandmother proud. Her seeing me on TV was my dream and it finally came true after all these years … I’m currently filled with so much gratitude, joy and so much peace. Being able to audition for American Idol has truly changed my life.”
A friend of mine was recently asked by a local youth pastor, “What’d you give up for Lent?” My friend quipped, “Lent.”
I can’t help but notice a growth in evangelicals who want to celebrate Lent by “giving something up.” I’ve heard of Christians giving up sugar, soda, Angry Birds, and Netflix (ok, I made up the last one—I’ve never heard of anyone giving up Netflix). For some evangelicals, apparently Lent is the new New Year’s. Those old resolutions were dropped by Feb 10, so time to dust them off and start over on March 1.
That is a bad idea. Here are a three reasons you should give up Lent for Lent:
1. Lent’s History
The idea of giving up something for Lent comes from a few factors—the growth of infant baptism, the increase of Roman Catholic traditions, and ever-changing Catholic approach to meat.
Allowing for some oversimplification, for the first few hundred years of church history baptism was generally practiced on what we now call Easter Sunday. Candidates for baptism would spend a period of preparation where they would fast, not shave, and in some cases not even bathe. While the exact length of this time varied (some say it was a few days, while other sources say 40 days), it would end at baptism, when the believer would be baptized, thus ending his fast.
In some churches, the entire congregation would join the fast (but not the no bathing part), as a form of spiritual preparation for baptism Sunday. With the legalization of Christianity and the Council of Nicaea, churches began to formalize their practices. What the Council requested is that church leaders fast for 40 days (calculated backwards from the Monday before Easter), to prepare to lead the church for Holy Week.
By the rise of Catholicism in the 400’s, infant baptism had replaced believer’s baptism, and the period that was now known as Lent lost its connection to baptism, and became focused on “fulfilling your fast” (Pope Leo’s phrase). This fast was allegedly modeled by the Apostles.
Once Lent became about fasting rather than baptism, the rules grew and changed. Finding spiritual significance to the number 40, Lent became 40 days, not counting Sundays. As the fast spread from church leaders to the laity, it was narrowed, and by the 600’s it was simply abstaining from meat, milk, and cheese for those 40 days (except on Sundays). By the Dark Ages, it had morphed into a fast of meat, but allowing one meal in the middle of the day to fall outside the exception (similar to how Muslims fast today). And, of course, by the modern era that exception went away, but fish was allowed.
This leads to the arbitrary nature of the Catholic approach to meat. The Catholic Church had developed a simultaneous tradition of fasting from meat on every Friday. Until the 1900’s it was even a mortal sin to eat meat on a Friday. But fish was exempted from this restriction.
Other exemptions popped up around the world—here is a story about Venezuelans eating capybara, for example. Canadians were allowed beaver (they lived in water, therefore a fish!), and no, I’m not making that up.
Finally, in the 1900’s, the fasts merged. Catholics (between 14-60 years old) are forbidden to eat meat on any Friday, but different parts of the world are allowed to replace that with other restrictions, and in the United States, that restriction has become Lent. So in the US, you can eat meat on Fridays year-round, as long as you give up meat for Lent.
It even gets more confusing than that. In the United States, Catholics can exchange the meat fast for something else. It becomes like a three-way NBA trade—in exchange for eating meat on Fridays year-round, you give up meat for Lent; so that you can eat meat for Lent, you give up (to chose an example a Catholic Priest actually said) your cell phone for Lent.
The result: giving up your cell phone for Lent fulfills both the Lenten requirement, and the Friday fasting requirements. Although I suppose that’s better than eating beaver.
It can also work negatively. Because one function of Lent is “penance,” in place of a fast you can force yourself to eat something you don’t like. If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, eating them during Lent is a form of Lenten penance. Instead of giving up Netflix for Lent, you could force yourself to watch Downton Abby—voila, a form of penance.
2. Lent’s Practicality
By practicality, I don’t mean “fasting is hard, so don’t do it.” I mean, “if your goal is spiritual preparation for Easter, giving up something is not going to get the job done.”
Look, I appreciate Advent. My family celebrates it every night for the weeks leading up to Christmas. I’m not opposed to the liturgical calendar. And I do think we should look forward to Easter in the same way we look forward to Christmas. I’m in favor of talking more about the resurrection, not less.
But the idea of “spiritual preparation” for Holy Week is anachronistic. The early church preparation was for baptism, not for a liturgical day. And the notion that giving up texting, or sugar, or meat, will make you spiritually prepared is bogus.
Self-control is important. Self-discipline is a mark of a believer. Your body works for you, you don’t work for your body. If you find that order reversed, then get serious about self-control and tell your body no. Do that now. Don’t wait until March 1.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline, because it reminds your body who works for whom. But to tie it to a liturgical calendar is misguided. If you are really excited about preparation for Easter, then do a Bible Study on resurrections for a month. Be disciplined in prayer, and be contrite about your sin. But don’t think that spiritual preparation is found in “fulfilling your fast.”
Remember that the Pharisees turned Jesus over to be crucified, but they did so without setting foot into the Governor’s house, so that they would not be defiled for their Passover. Ironic that the Catholic Church celebrates Lent to “spiritually prepare” for Easter, wherein they will celebrate a Mass in which Christ is re-sacrificed!
3. Lent’s Lack of Biblical Basis
The Catholic Church misses the mark big time in assuming the authority to tell people what they can/cannot eat, and when they can and cannot eat it. Real sanctification is seen in what comes out of a person’s heart, not what goes into a person’s mouth (Matthew 15:11).
When Jesus declared that, the disciples interrupted him and said, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” (vs 12).
As it should be! Religious leaders of works-based systems get offended when it’s pointed out to them that controlling what people eat—as if it had any bearing on sanctification at all—is a sign of false religion, not truth!
The Pharisees wanted to know why Jesus’ disciples didn’t do the ceremonial washings, and Jesus said, “you hypocrites!” He went on:
This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men… You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! (Mark 7:6-9).
This is why for the rest of the New Testament, connecting spiritual growth to abstaining from foods corresponds to the spiritually immature, not to the mature (and certainly not to the “apostolic model” as the Catholic Church claims). “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1 Corinthians 8:8). If your conscience is defiled by food, then it is a sure-fire sign that it is spiritually “weak” (1 Corinthians 8:7).
If you give up something for Lent as some form of spiritual perpetration for Easter, let me give you this challenge. Read this passage:
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:20-23).
Now, ask yourself, in light of this passage, does giving up sugar (or whatever) for Lent highlight your connection to Christ, or to “self-made religion”? Either you are giving up something significant, or something minor. If it is a significant fast, then it is “severity to the body,” which is something Paul particularly says “has no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” If it is something minor, then there is little reward, and only a latent connection to the sacerdotal system of Rome.
A reminder: “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled (Titus 1:15).
North Korean Christian Risks Life, Walks ‘Many Hours’ to Be Baptized
A North Korea Christian woman who fled to China illegally was recently baptized, even though such an action could have resulted in her being repatriated back to her nation and killed.
The woman, identified as “Bon-Hwa” by Open Doors, crossed the border more than two years ago into China, where it is illegal to help North Korea escapees.
Despite the risk, Open Doors ministry partners have set up “safe houses” along the border for North Korean Christians as well as for women who could be forced into a marriage. It was at one of these safe houses that Bon-Hwa became a Christian.
“She wanted to be baptized so badly that she couldn’t wait any longer,” the Open Doors pastor who baptized her said.
She could not be baptized in her new hometown – it would have been too risky – so she and two other Christians, including the pastor, walked to a remote location.
“It took many hours to reach the place,” an Open Doors staffer said.
The pastor opened the ceremony in prayer, and the Christians recited the Apostles’ Creed. Unlike baptisms elsewhere in the world, there was no crowd. Including Bon-Hwa, there were only three in attendance.
The pastor became emotional.
“I had to contain myself and focus on the steps of the ceremony,” he told Open Doors. “Or else, I would have cried loudly myself. It was such a beautiful moment and such a privilege to baptize a North Korean believer in these circumstances.”
The pastor asked a series of questions, with Bon-Hwa answering each time:
“Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior of your life?”
“Do you believe that only through Jesus’ blood, you can enter Heaven after death?”
“Do you accept that you are sinful and you can only be saved by Jesus’ name?”
Bon-Hwa, too, cried, as she was baptized “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
“It was a holy moment,” the pastor said.
She has memorized Psalm 119, Romans 8 and other biblical chapters since her conversion.
“She is acutely aware she could be arrested any day,” Open Doors said, “yet she rests in Jesus.”
Photo courtesy: Pixabay/Chicken Online
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, TheChristian Post, TheLeaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star andthe Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Monday, February. 17, is Presidents’ Day in the United States.
In general, most people are aware that it’s a day set aside to honor the Americans who have served as our presidents throughout our nation’s history. But for many Americans, this holiday represents little more than an opportunity to relax at home or get out of town for an extended weekend.
Yet Presidents’ Day also celebrates a remarkable fact of our nation’s history that every American should be proud of: for 244 years, power has been transferred peacefully from one United States President to the next 44 times. This is not a power line determined by birth or military power, but by the people.
The history of Presidents’ Day begins, appropriately, with our first president, George Washington.
In September 1796, worn out by burdens of the presidency and attacks of political foes, George Washington announced his decision not to seek a third term. Washington knew that as the first ruler of our new nation he would have the once-in-a-generation opportunity to set a historic precedent for the Executive Office. With the history of lifelong rulerships of kings back in England, Washington believed a president should not view the office as a lifelong appointment but rather as a term of service to one’s nation. So, after serving two terms as president of our early nation, he announced he would not seek a third term as president.
With the assistance of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Washington composed in a “Farewell Address” his political testament to the nation. Washington’s address included his carefully thought out counsel to the American people as they would ensure the success of the great American experiment. He wanted to remind them that religion and morality must remain the foundation and the fabric of our society:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.
He also added:
“And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
“It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”
Because of George Washington’s example, the Twenty-Second Amendment establishing a two-term limit on the office of the President would eventually be added to the U.S. Constitution.
Since 1896, Washington’s Farewell Address has been read on the floor of the Senate by a United States Senator. This takes place close to President’s Day each year, on February 22, commemorating Washington’s birthday. The member selected to read the address alternates between political parties.
The 7,641-word speech serves as a powerful reminder to serve our nation as George Washington did – sacrificially and to unite on the foundational principles that birthed our nation.
We cannot forget Washington’s strong charge to us – to cherish religion and morality because it is upon those pillars that the security of our nation rests.
Jason Yates is CEO of My Faith Votes, a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. To learn more, visit www.myfaithvotes.org.
Government officials within China have confiscated Bibles from churches in recent months and threatened fines as part of an intensified crackdown on Christianity and an effort to eradicate “illegal publications,” according to a new report.
The campaign has targeted illegal underground churches as well as legal Three-Self churches, which are registered with the government.
“If our Bibles are taken away, we have no more,” a pastor of a Three-Self church in Jiangxi province told Bitter Winter, the watchdog behind the report. “We are thinking of asking our congregation members to hide them in the mountains.”
In December, around 10 government officials raided a different Three-Self church in Jiangxi in search of “pirated Bibles” either not printed in the country or printed at illegal printers, Bitter Winter reported. The pastor told them the church owned only legal Bibles printed within the country, but the officials nevertheless seized 30 Bibles.
According to the persecution watchdog, similar raids have taken place “all over the country” as part of a nationwide campaign to “eradicate pornography and illegal publications.”
Government officials raided an underground church in Jiangxi province and seized multiple boxes of Bibles, hymn books and other literature. They also wrote down the IDs of church members and threatened to arrest them if they met again, Bitter Winter said.
In some locations, church members have stopped bringing their Bibles to church out of concern they will be taken. Such is the case at a Three-Self Seventh-day Adventist Church, where over 100 “pirated” Bibles were taken during a December raid.
“According to a church co-worker, believers don’t bring their Bibles to the church anymore, fearing the government might take them away,” Bitter Winter reported. “They read from the sacred text at home after each service, according to chapter numbers the preacher gives them during sermons.”
A Three-Self pastor in Zhejiang province said the local Religious Affairs Bureau has threatened fines ranging from $430 to $1,400 (USD) for churches caught with illegal Bibles.
Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered a temple-like structure and a large rock they say may be the one described in 1 Samuel – and if so, it would have played a role in the Ark of the Covenant that housed the Ten Commandments.
The team from Tel Aviv University digging near the Beth Shemesh site outside Jerusalem discovered a structure apart from the residential area that had sturdy walls and dates to the time of the biblical Israelites. They also found piles of animal bones.
“There is a lot of evidence that this was indeed a temple,” archaeologist Shlomo Bunimovitz of Tel Aviv University told Haaretz. “When you look at the structure and its content, it’s very clear that this is not a standard domestic space but something special.”
Yet it is the unusual rock – a huge stone slab resting on two rocks – that perplexed the archaeologists. Initially, the archaeologists believed it was a pillar that had fallen over.
“But soon we realized that it was meant to be a table,” archaeologist Zvi Lederman of Tel Aviv University told the newspaper.
The stone table resides inside the temple.
Both Bunimovitz and Lederman believe the table could have been a resting place for the Ark of the Covenant that is described in 1 Samuel. 1 Samuel 4-5 tells of the Philistines capturing the Ark of the Covenant but then being punished by God for having it in their possession. Then, in 1 Samuel 6:13-15, the Philistines return the Ark:
“Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight. The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and there it stopped beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood of the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD. The Levites took down the ark of the LORD, together with the chest containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. On that day the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the LORD.”
This “large rock” is the one the archaeologists believe may be the stone table they uncovered. The Old Testament says the Ark of the Covenant was housed in the tabernacle and then in the Temple in Jerusalem – although it also, at one time, rested on a large rock. First Samuel 6:18 says, “The large rock on which the Levites set the ark of the LORD is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.”
“This would be a rare case in which we can merge the biblical narrative with an archaeological find,” Lederman told Haaretz.
There are other hints that the temple was viewed as special. Archaeologists say the temple was destroyed and covered with animal dung.
“Very shortly after it was destroyed, the entire place was turned into an animal pen,” Lederman said. “To me, this is an act of hostility, an intentional desecration of a holy place.”