Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Christian & Gay?


Rethinking four assumptions about sexuality and faith.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin!”

As a young, straight, Christian college student, I found myself uttering these words countless times during late-night theology discussions in the dormitory lounge. At the time, I felt this was a perfectly acceptable response to questions regarding the intersection of Christianity and homosexuality. What I did not realize at the time was that this statement was simply a scapegoat, a way to deal with the topic without actually facing it head-on. In fact, I've reached this conclusion about many Christian catch-phrases. This all changed, however, when I left the comfortable environment of my evangelical, Christian college and decided to go to graduate school at one of those Godless, heathen, state-funded institutions. It was there that I actually met and started building personal relationships with gay and lesbian individuals.

You know what I found? Gay and lesbian students at this university were having a positive college experience. To further increase my confusion, a significant percentage of them expressed a genuine desire to follow Christ!

This phenomenon was nearly beyond my comprehension, so naturally I decided to construct my entire Master's degree around a research project exploring the experiences of gay and lesbian students at evangelical, Christian universities around America. I wanted to understand what it must be like to grow up in a predominantly Christian community while experiencing feelings of same-sex attraction.

It is impossible to contain what I have learned from this process in one brief article. However, as a start, I have identified four dangerous assumptions we, as American Christians, tend to hold about the gay experience. It is important to note that these points are not meant to address the deep theological issues surrounding this divisive topic. I simply believe that before any constructive dialogue can take place, we in the Western church need to do a much better job at understanding the experiences of our brothers and sisters who grow up with feelings of same-sex attraction. Hopefully these points can serve as a foundation for this approach.

Assumption #1: Everyone is straight.
This point may seem redundant, given the title of this article. However, I have discovered that this assumption is very tightly held by those within the Christian subculture. If you disagree, simply think about the last time you or one of your friends loosely spouted off “that's gay!” regarding something you disliked, or when you jokingly called someone a “faggot” for doing something stupid. These words used to be prevalent in my own vocabulary, and I realized the reason I was so loose with my language was because I simply assumed no one around me was actually gay, and therefore no one would be offended. I found that this couldn't be further from the truth.

Assumption #2: Being gay is always a choice (preference), and no one is actually born that way (orientation).
First of all, my intention is not to discuss the science behind sexuality. There are many theories regarding why people are gay or straight, but nothing has been proven to definitively explain how we develop certain sexual attractions. Even if there were such a theory, I probably would not understand it well enough to explain it.

On a personal note, this was an assumption I earnestly believed for most of my life, and as I continue to learn more about this topic, I completely understand why this conviction is so pervasive in our culture. After all, as a straight person, it is nearly impossible to understand and genuinely relate to the struggles and social pressure experienced by someone who feels same-sex attraction. In an effort to wrap our heads around this phenomenon, then, we quickly latch onto the thought that it must be a choice.

I have also noticed a stark trend regarding this assumption, however. Most of the people I have met who sincerely believe this have also never been friends with any gay or lesbian people. This was certainly the case with me. Once you meet someone who was raised in a devout, Christian family, with constant love and support from siblings and parents, and this person admits to you in a tearful conversation that he/she is gay and always has been, this assumption begins to crumble. Why would someone simply choose a path that results in constant fear and self-loathing?

On the other hand, as Christians, we also need to realize and admit that there is an ever-growing subculture in America that is built on the foundation of accepting people who feel they cannot fit into the mainstream. As with any culture, it is defined by symbols, music and personalities that may prove attractive to young adults who feel a need to rebel. As a result, I believe it is possible for individuals to simply choose to become part of this subculture, and therefore choose to be gay.

In summary, every person has specific experiences and reasons for how their sexuality has developed, and I believe we do significant damage when we simply assume that being gay is always a choice. So while I confidently affirm a traditional interpretation of Scripture, which maintains that acting on homosexual attractions is outside of God's original intention and plan for human sexuality, I also confidently affirm that it is a failure on our part to sacrifice the opportunity we have been given to lovingly and humbly respond to the experiences of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Assumption #3: If you are not straight, you either need to read your Bible more or pray about it.
If someone within your close circle of friends ever gains the courage to speak with you about his/her feelings of same-sex attraction, possibly the most harmful response you could offer them would be either “Have you prayed about it?” or “Do you know what the Bible says about this?”

Largely because of assumption #1, people who grow up in Christian culture with feelings of same-sex attraction experience paralyzing fear at the prospect of actually identifying as gay or lesbian. As a result, these individuals spend many sleepless nights praying that God will take these feelings away. If someone approaches you about his/her sexuality, it is likely that he/she is reaching out to you because these prayers have not had the desired effect, and simply suggesting that they “pray about it” invalidates their experience and shows that you don't have the willingness to stand by their side as they process this part of their identity.

Furthermore, many of the people I interviewed had every biblical reference to homosexuality fully memorized, and they had a much deeper understanding of the cultural context of each passage than I did. I found that many gay and lesbian individuals from Christian families actively seek to reconcile their faith and sexuality, and understanding what the Bible says about their sexuality is an essential facet of this.

Assumption #4: Healing always equals being straight.
I absolutely believe God could change the sexual orientation of any gay or lesbian person if it was within His will to do so. However, we Christians tend to take the dangerous step of assuming this is exactly what God will always do. By setting up this paradigm, we end up perpetuating the expectation that if someone is truly following Christ, he/she will only experience heterosexual attraction. What happens, then, when a gay or lesbian person truly believes in the Gospel and desires to live out their life within this belief, but their sexual attractions remain unchanged? The only logical conclusion is that he/she must not really be a Christian, and I have seen too many people give up on the Gospel because of this line of reasoning.

Until we begin to adopt humility and critically examine our own assumptions regarding this topic, I fear little progress will be made in reconciling these two cultures. Perhaps it is not as simple as “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Joel Wentz is an aspiring writer and musician. He is currently on staff at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, and enjoys a good cup of tea and listening to vinyl records.

We’re Christian, say most Brits. How refreshing!

The overwhelming majority of British people reject secularism and are still happy to be identified as Christian

It’s not easy being a Christian in modern Britain. In recent years there has been a bad atmosphere of aggressive secularism, lurking like a dank smog. But there’s some refreshing news in the air.

Over 70 per cent of the British public is happy to call themselves Christian, new official Government figures show.

Yes, we all know that most of those people don’t attend church each Sunday or read the Bible or pray regularly. But nevertheless, despite massive secularism in education and the media, the overwhelming majority of people reject secularism and are still happy to be identified as Christian. How refreshing for Government statistics to show this.

It is worth noting that people were given the option of saying they had no religion at all if they wanted to. And about one fifth of people did so (that doesn’t mean they’re all atheists, by the way). But most people – 71.4 per cent to be precise – chose to call themselves Christian.

This was no trivial show of hands. These numbers come from a whopping great Government survey of almost half-a-million people. Just to put that in perspective: an opinion poll is generally regarded as robust if it surveys a representative sample of 1,000 people or more. This survey included almost 500 times more people than that.

The news will embarrass those urbanite celebrity atheists who seem to dominate our popular airwaves, constantly telling us that Christianity should go stand in the corner and keep quiet. In their world Christianity is a private eccentricity practiced by a tiny collection of aging oddballs and moral hypocrites.

They’re entitled to their opinion of course, groundless though it may be. But when that opinion is repeatedly and uncritically served up by the mainstream media it becomes somewhat more corrosive.

The mainstream media – films, dramas, soaps, documentaries, news – often treats Christianity as if it was something of a rare species to be observed from a distance, rather than a familiar part of everyday life for millions of Brits.

This fog of secular spin has drifted into many areas of life. It has created an atmosphere where it is OK – even commendable – to uproot Christianity from the public square. The most popular justification for this push is “equality and diversity”.

In my job at The Christian Institute I have the sobering task of helping individuals who have lost their jobs, spent time in police cells, had their businesses crushed, or had their community work de-funded – all because their Christian beliefs don’t square with the latest “equality and diversity” decree.

These men and women are some of the gentlest, kindest, most lovely people you could ever hope to meet. They’re not campaigners or activists. They’re not out to create a fuss. They’re just ordinary Christians who want to live their lives according to their faith and their conscience.

In seeking to be true to their beliefs they have each found themselves caught up in a secular whirlwind that buffeted them and pounded them in the hope of then dumping them at the margins. Thankfully, the Christian Institute and others have been able to stand fast in the midst of the storm and offer these Christians some robust protection.

This aggressive application of “equality and diversity” has cheapened the phrase. It has become disconnected from a nobler idea. Decent people believe in fair play and a sense of justice for all our citizens. But “equality and diversity” has become political-speak for something entirely different – and people know it too.

Today if you mention the phrase to the ordinary man on the street then, Christian or not, they will most likely roll their eyes, shake their heads and mutter weary discontent about political correctness. People are crying out for some authentic common sense.

Which is why these Government statistics are so refreshing. They have thrown open a window and allowed the fresh clean air of truth to blow away the stale atmosphere of secular spin. Breath deeply and smile.

Mike Judge
Monday, September 27, 2010
Mike Judge is head of communications at The Christian Institute.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Millions of Unchurched Adults Are Christians Hurt by Churches But Can Be Healed of the Pain

One of the objectives of many churches is to attract people who do not participate in the life of a church. New research from The Barna Group, however, points out that most of the unchurched in America may be different than expected.

A Large Group

The Barna data indicate that 28% of the adult population has not attended any church activities, including services, in the past six months. That translates to nearly 65 million adults. When their children under the age of 18 who live with them are added to the picture, the number swells to more than 100 million people.

While the aggregate proportion of unchurched adults is down from its high point of the past quarter century (32%), it remains within sight of that high water mark. Consequently, due to the continued expansion of the nation’s population, the total numbers of unchurched people has remained relatively steady in recent years despite the minor proportional fluctuations.

Mostly Self-Identified Christians

One of the biggest surprises to some people, however, is that a large majority of the nation’s unchurched population is drawn from the sector comprised of people who consider themselves to be Christian. In the United States, 83% of all adults label themselves “Christian.” The percentage is lower among the unchurched, but such self-identified Christians still outnumber those who do not embrace Christianity by a three-to-two margin (61% vs. 39%).

However, several interesting insights define the self-identified Christians among the unchurched. A majority of them (53%) have distanced themselves from being either Protestant (30%) or Catholic (17%), although almost all of them had at one time been associated with one of those groups. Also, close to one out of every five (18%) can be considered to be “born again” – not based on self-description, but upon saying they have “made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” and that when they die they believe they will have eternal life with God only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.

Other interesting insights into the self-identified Christians who have distanced themselves from a conventional church relate to their beliefs. Two-thirds (68%) hold a biblical view of God – that is, He is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe and He still rules that universe today. However, only one-third (35%) agree to any extent that the Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches. Only one in seven (15%) claim that their religious faith is very important in their life. One out of five (22%) contends that the ultimate purpose of life is to love God with all their heart, mind, strength and soul. A mere one in seven (14%) claims to have a clear sense of the meaning and purpose of their life. And minorities of the group, ranging from one-quarter to one-third, support the notions of salvation by grace alone, Jesus Christ living a holy and sinless life on earth, and Satan existing today.

Demographically, the self-identified Christians among the unchurched stray from common assumptions. Within this group, women outnumber men; Boomers and their elders outnumber the young; downscale adults double the number of upscale unchurched; conservatives are more common than liberals; and whites outnumber minorities by nearly a three-to-one margin.

Reasons for Avoiding Church

Based on past studies of those who avoid Christian churches, one of the driving forces behind such behavior is the painful experiences endured within the local church context. In fact, one Barna study among unchurched adults shows that nearly four out of every ten non-churchgoing Americans (37%) said they avoid churches because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people.

Bestselling author Stephen Mansfield has written a new book (ReChurch) that digs into those experiences. As one who has been wounded by past church behavior, Mansfield encourages those who have been hurt by the local church to overcome that pain and suffering – if not in response to a biblical command or for the benefit of the church, then for their own healing and maturation.

Citing numerous examples, Mansfield notes that God uses people’s pain – and their own immaturity, in some cases – to reshape us. There is no denying that many churchgoers get wounded by the insensitive or ignorant actions of others in the church. Mansfield points out, though, that those instances are opportunities for us to love others who, like ourselves, are simply “flawed sinners.” Fleeing from the source of pain and suffering, rather than addressing and overcoming it, leaves us wounded and bitter, and does nothing to enhance our lives or those of the people responsible for that suffering.

For more information about Stephen Mansfield’s new book, ReChurch, or to order a discounted copy, click here
The solution, according to Mansfield, is forgiveness – the same forgiveness that Jesus offers to each of us who have wounded Him. Christianity, after all, is about receiving freedom through God’s forgiveness extended to us. Offering that same forgiveness to others is the only means to us becoming healthy and whole again.

Mansfield’s new book, released is April, is entitled ReChurch. That title reflects the research showing that most unchurched people – more than four out of five – were formerly regular participants in church life, many of whom departed after an ugly incident that hurt them deeply. A former megachurch pastor who personally experienced the pain of a church disruption, Mansfield writes about his own experience of leaving and then returning to congregational life, as well as exploring the stories of others who have walked that road and the biblical support for such restoration.

About the Research

This Barna Update is based upon nationwide surveys among random samples of 4,020 adults conducted by The Barna Group from August 2009 through February 2010. Of those adults, 1,144 were unchurched and 703 were self-identified Christians. Interviews were conducted with respondents based upon samples of both landline telephones and cellular phones. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample of unchurched adults is ±3.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the subsample of self-identified Christians who are unchurched is ±3.8 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Minimal statistical weighting was used to calibrate the aggregate sample to known population percentages in relation to several key demographic variables.

"Born again Christians" are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as "born again."

The survey defined “downscale” individuals as those who do not have any college education and whose total annual household income is less than $20,000. Upscale individuals were defined as having completed at least a Bachelor’s degree and living in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more.

The Barna Group (which includes its research division, The Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization that conducts primary research on a wide range of issues and products, produces resources pertaining to cultural change, leadership and spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each new, bi-monthly update on the latest research findings from The Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources, both free and at discounted prices, are also available through that website.

© Barna Group 2010.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Study of Leaders Identifies Their Weaknesses

Effective leaders are expected to possess a variety of skills that produce measurable results. A new study from The Barna Group shows that most leaders are at their best when it comes to using existing resources – and at their worst when it comes to developing needed resources.

The Barna study interviewed 1,736 individuals who qualified as leaders. Those individuals were then evaluated in relation to 15 core leadership competencies. The results indicated that the three competencies which leaders struggle with the most all relate to developing the tools needed to succeed. Specifically, leaders are most likely to have difficulties developing the tangible resources (e.g., funds, personnel, facilities) needed to accomplish plans; developing the skills of other leaders to facilitate more effective organizational performance; and developing the systems required to efficiently complete the tasks at hand. Each of those dimensions encompasses a variety of tasks and efforts.

According to the research, the specific behaviors that leaders do most poorly include:

Negotiating agreements that maximize benefits at minimal cost
Attracting new resources to the organization – especially human and financial capital
Developing and implementing individualized developmental plans for emerging leaders
Nurturing robust relationships with existing colleagues, demonstrating sufficient care and attention to their needs

The research also discovered that leaders sometimes perceive themselves to be more effective at specific aspects of leading than their performance suggests. A prime example relates to vision. While an overwhelming majority of leaders believes that they are very effective at using the organization’s vision as their chief decision-making filter, the study found that one of the greatest weaknesses of most leaders is relying on the vision to protect the organization from over-commitment. “Leaders tend to point to their vision as the reason to say ‘yes’ to opportunities,” explained George Barna. “But our research showed that there is much less willingness to use the vision as a reason to say ‘no’ to opportunities that are not in the best interests of the organization.”


Lessons from Master Leaders

With the recent release of a new book on leadership, entitled Master Leaders, Barna noted that his research for that book also underscored the challenge of some of these same issues.

“Many of the master leaders concurred that if you are called by God to lead and you have the quality of character that motivates people to follow you, you can succeed because the competencies required can be learned,” he commented. “Toward that end, it is invaluable to have one or more proven leaders who take you under their wing and systematically coach you in the kinds of skills you need.”

Barna also discovered that a leader’s attitude makes a big difference in his/her trajectory. “Potential leaders who are wise and have a deep commitment to using their leadership capacity to help other people are likely to grow into effectiveness. A potential leader who is smart and aggressive but fails to see leadership as serving, and is more worried about gaining credit and fame than doing what’s right regardless of the personal cost, is in for a long, difficult journey.”


Creating a Healthy Culture

Another leadership skill among the lowest-rated activities of qualified leaders is creating a healthy corporate culture. While some analysts contend that it is not possible to orchestrate the organizational environment, the master leaders indicated that a mark of effective leaders is the ability to craft the parameters of a group’s culture through specific leadership practices.

Among the leadership behaviors described as central toward generating a healthy culture were hiring emotionally and spiritually healthy individuals; modeling and rewarding positive behavioral habits; instilling vulnerability and candor as hallmarks of the environment; maintaining a team orientation, rather than a focus on individuals; identifying and supporting particular traditions, customs, symbols and relationships that advance the desired culture; fostering free-flowing communication; and creating a unique language that bonds people within the culture.

Master Leaders is a fast-paced, fun read that provides countless insights into the art of effective leadership. Based on conversations with thirty of the nation's most respected leaders, Master Leaders is a practical guidebook for raising one's leadership to the next level. For more information, click here.

The Barna research indicated that a valuable but uncommon practice related to culture development is having every recognized leader actively engaged in mentoring other leaders. Such mentoring not only facilitates the long-term passing on of the characteristics of the desired culture, but produces a steady stream of leaders who are capable of maintaining the desired culture.


About Master Leaders

Master Leaders is a new book from researcher and bestselling author George Barna based upon conversations with 30 of the top leaders in the country. The book provides a veritable greatest hits of leadership wisdom from renowned leaders in business, ministry, government, military, education, entertainment and sports. This hardback book contains 16 chapters focused on different components of leadership. The topics dealt with include vision and values, creating a healthy culture, hiring and firing, developing leaders, conflict and confrontation, character development, facilitating trust, following effectively, building teams, moral authority and power, handling criticism and pressure, and discipline. In each chapter, multiple leaders are involved in the dialogue about the topic at hand, providing practical lessons drawn from their deep reservoir of experience and understanding.

Used with permission: The Barna Group

Friday, September 24, 2010

THE GREATEST MIRACLE IN ACTS

All these years as a Bible student, teacher, preacher, writer, and pastor, and something big just occurred to me in the last few days. You know what I think the biggest miracle in the whole book of Acts was? Perhaps the greatest miracle in the Bible? Maybe in all of church history?

Not the tongues of fire or the gift of tongues (Acts 2:3-4). Not the healing of the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-8). Not the healing of Aeneas (Acts 9:33-34) or even the raising of Dorcas (Acts 9:36-41).

I think the greatest miracle is one that apparently happened over and over in the early days of the church. It's recorded in Acts 1:14. And again in Acts 2:1. And Acts 2:46. And Acts 4:24, and 5:12. The miracle is described in Acts 2:1 in just nine words:
"They were all with one accord in one place."
The early church is repeatedly described as being "in one accord."

I wonder if that's the miracle that engendered all the other miracles. I wonder if the Holy Spirit worked so mightily in those first days of the church BECAUSE of the church being in one accord. I wonder if THAT miracle made all the OTHER miracles possible, even commonplace. They weren't arguing about worship styles or hair styles. They weren't judging each other or jealous of each other. They weren't petty, piqued, or peeved with each other. "They were all with one accord in one place."
Wow.

That is a miracle.

It's one I've never really recognized before as a miracle. But it deserves to be recognized. And repeated.

I don't know if I've ever experienced that "in one accord"-ness. Maybe in the earliest days of my church, Cobblestone. And, indeed, I think that "in one accord"-ness resulted in miracles. But, as will happen when human nature wins out over God's nature, we've lost that. But I pray with my whole heart: God, please do it again.


Bob Hostetler
Former
USA East

Bob is a pastor and writer from southwest Ohio whose 26 books include American Idols (The Worship of the American Dream). He is also the Pastor of Leadership and Teaching at Cobblestone Community Church, which meets Sundays at 10:00 and 11:30 AM at The Loft (4191 Kehr Rd.) in Oxford, Ohio.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CAN A POOR SINNER COME HOME AGAIN?














When Charlie visited London in the 1970s he made a stop at The Salvation Army hall on Kennington Lane in South London. He was fortunate to evade all publicity and the event only became known to the general public recently.

It was in this same SA hall that Charlie Chaplin participated in meetings as a child. He shared his childhood memories with a few officers who recognized him seated among the congregants. However, most of those in the congregation did not notice or recognize him. He entered the hall as the meeting began and during the singing of the opening song he seated himself in the last row.

Chaplin had much on which to reflect… His childhood in this London neighborhood had been tumultuous and unhappy. His father drank himself to death, His mother became mentally unstable and was remitted to a mental hospital , And, Charlie was placed in a home for destitute and abandoned children. Subsequently he was ‘placed’ with a woman who was to care for him, but she threw him out ! The police found him at 3:00 in the morning, huddled on a street corner and so frozen that he appeared to be “blue”.

The bright moments in his life during his childhood years were those spent ‘when joining in the children’s meetings at The Army’s hall in Kennington Lane’. There was much to reflect on for Charlie Chaplin when he once again joined in a meeting in the little hall. He joined in singing the closing song: “Can a poor sinner come to Jesus?”


(Veckoposten, Weekly Mail – translated; Dr. Sven Ljungholm)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pastors — Wimps or Endangered Species? - Part Two

The same goes for your children. Honestly, the statistics on pastors’ children are the ones that scare me more than anything. Pastors’ children leave the church in droves. This is an area I am constantly monitoring because it is so easy to drop the ball here!
...
Don’t try to be Superman. You can’t do it all. Resist the urge to let your church set you up as the “big man on campus”. You’ll only be setting yourself up for a fall. Don’t even get me started on the whole “Senior Pastor” thing… it’s a dangerous trap. Lead alongside other leaders in your church, not above them. You’re not a CEO, you’re a shepherd… an undershepherd, at that. Forget what the Church has bought into with the whole “clergy/laity” thing. It’s a lie, and it’s completely unbiblical. Yes, God has ordained leadership in the church, but teach your people that you are no “better” than they are; you’ve only been called to a different role. Teach them who they really are in Christ — that they are the church. Don’t be timid — tell them the truth — that their mission as Christians is not to come and occupy a seat every Sunday so you can fill up their spiritual tank, and then they’re done for the week. Remind them again and again that they are the church, and that if the mission of Jesus is going to be accomplished, it is going to happen through them being the church. Teach them that the Church is not some place they go to watch the pastor do ministry… but that ministry is what happens through their lives. Then, (and this is critical), give them your blessings and unleash them to go and do ministry in whatever ways God burdens their hearts for… whether it has anything to do with your church or not. Remember, it’s not about your church. It’s about the Mission of Jesus Christ. I believe that church pews across America are filled with people who are gifted and ready to explode into ministry, but they’ve never been given “permission” by their pastor to do it. This will be one of the greatest things you will ever do for your church, and for yourself.

Stop comparing your church to other churches. There are only two possible outcomes of doing that — pride or discouragement. You’ll either think you’re doing a much better job than somebody else, or you’ll feel like you will never measure up. Don’t do it. It’s deadly. I know how hard it is to not get caught up in all that, especially here in America! It has reached epidemic proportions. There are Christian organizations that publish lists every year like, “The Top 100 Churches in America”. Have we lost our minds?! Pastors who never make it on that list live with a constant sense of not accomplishing anything noteworthy for the Kingdom of God. And pastors who do make it on the list — at least a few of the honest ones — have admitted how it got inside their head and started playing mind games with them. They would look and say, “Wow, we’re number 8 this year… we’re ahead of so-and-so… I wonder what it would take for us to move up next year?” Listen to me pastors, this is dangerous stuff. We don’t need to be caught up in those things. In the last few verses of John 21, Jesus told Peter what kind of death he (Peter) was going to die. Peter looked over and saw John, and he asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered Peter and said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow me!” As pastors, we do not need to be concerned about the ministry God has given to someone else. Jesus says the same thing to us… “What is that to you? You follow me!”

Take time off. (Yes, I know… our leaders at LifePoint are rolling their eyes as they read this.) I’m the world’s worst in this area. I admit that. But I thank God for surrounding me with elders and ministry leaders who relentlessly but lovingly beat the tar out of me for not taking enough time off to rest my soul. I am doing a little better with it though, and the older I get, the more I see how important this really is. My problem is, I was raised and taught to be a faithful man, and I usually try to be faithful to the point of exhaustion. But the truth is, there’s really nothing noble or smart about burning yourself out. That’s not faithfulness at all. It’s not healthy for you as a pastor, nor is it healthy for your family or your church. This has definitely been a blind spot for me as a pastor, and believe me, I have felt the consequences. (Take some time to read Exodus 18 and see how Moses was burning himself out. Then see how someone came along and pointed out his blind spot to help solve the problem. There are powerful lessons in that chapter!) Thankfully there are people in my life who are helping me see my blind spots. So pastors, learn to do what I’m learning to do… let others preach for you at regular intervals… let others help take phone calls for you… let others help handle church emergencies for you… find time regularly where you are completely unplugged from everything to do with your church. Everything. Believe me, your church will survive for a while without you.

This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list. The burdens of ministry are so vast that they could not possibly be addressed in this format. But remember this, Jesus loves the Church more than you do; so much that He gave His life for it, and He does not expect you to serve alone. He is with you. And Jesus also loves you, pastor, and He has not forgotten where you are for a single moment! Although you may be laboring in a difficult field right now, He knows where you are and He sees your faithfulness. May I leave you with a verse that has helped me many times during those moments when I felt like I was wasting my time and that my labor for the Lord was amounting to nothing? Take this verse to heart. Think upon it often…

Hebrews 6:10 – God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.

May the Lord bless you and encourage you in the coming days. You are doing a work that matters! That’s precisely why it is so hard. Don’t let up. Stay the course. Hopefully one day we’ll see each other at the finish line!

Phil Pike

Pastors — Wimps or Endangered Species? - Part 0ne

More than 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month. Read that again. It is not a typo.

And if you think that statistic is troubling, you should probably stop reading this right now. I’m serious. This is not for the faint of heart. If you do choose to keep reading, you may want to go grab some Mylanta or Pepto Bismol first. These statistics are very upsetting.

In the past month alone I have been asked to meet with two pastors, both of whom are seriously considering packing it in and walking away. Two, in just one month! And these guys are no slouches. They are both good men who love their families, love the Lord, and love the church. They are gifted, dedicated, hard working, passionate guys with a proven track record, both of whom have made a significant impact for the Kingdom of God. But they both look like weary prize fighters with their backs against the ropes; bruised, bleeding and discouraged, wondering how many more rounds they can endure. It’s heart breaking, and frankly, it scares the living daylights out of me. Are pastors wimps, or are the demands being placed on them so far beyond reason that they are cracking under the pressure?

Take a look, if your dare, at just a few of the gut-wrenching statistics compiled by George Barna, Focus on the Family, and other respected organizations:

80% of pastors believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.

90% of pastors feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the demands of ministry.

Only 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.

The profession of Pastor is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions.

Over 4,000 churches closed in America last year. That’s more than 10 every single day.

Many denominations report an “empty pulpit crisis”. They cannot find ministers willing to fill positions.

More than 50% of all pastors are so discouraged that they regularly consider leaving the ministry.

80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.

85% of pastors said their greatest struggle is dealing with problem people such as disgruntled members, elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors.

90% said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be before they began.

80% of pastors’ wives feel left out and unappreciated by the church members.

80% of pastors’ wives wish their spouse would choose another profession.

50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.

70% of pastors constantly fight depression.

What in the world is happening? Something has gone horribly wrong. And I didn’t even bother to include all the grizzly statistics of the pastors who get involved in adultery and other horrid things, often with members of their own church. But you’ve already seen enough of that on the news, as has the rest of the watching world… ad nauseam.

I have to tell you, this stuff really shakes me up, not only for all the obvious reasons, but because I’m a pastor, and I know I’m not immune from any of this mess. I think about my family, our church, the cause of Christ, and it makes me tremble to consider what’s at stake. And I’m one of the fortunate pastors. I know that. I have the privilege of being part of a church that is genuinely characterized by love, where the leadership is truly united as one… but even with that, I still feel these statistics stalking me. I can feel them breathing down my neck at times, ready to pounce and sink their fangs into me. So if I have to be constantly vigilant to safeguard myself against these things while serving in a great church, how must pastors feel who slog away in a church filled with strife and church politics? No wonder the dropout rate is so high.

Believe me, I’m aware that writing an article of this nature might come across as self-serving — you know, be nicer to “us pastors”… but you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that my intentions are far from that. I am just so deeply troubled by these numbers, (which continue to worsen every year), and my heart aches so much when I see pastors becoming “statistics” instead of finishing strong. I also realize that pastors crash and burn for a myriad of reasons — sometimes through their own doing, and sometimes because of what churches do to them — and I know I can’t solve this crisis by writing this article. Still, I felt compelled to say something in the hopes of maybe encouraging a few people out there.

If you’re not a pastor, these statistics may come as an enormous shock to you. If you are a pastor, they don’t shock you at all. In fact, I guarantee you that you’ve already identified with several of them, and there’s probably one that is your “biggie” — the one that keeps you awake many nights. Let me just leave you with a few things to ponder.

It’s easy for the demands of ministry to become so consuming that they drain you of your passion for Jesus. That sounds impossibly ironic, but it’s true. You can’t pour water out of an empty bucket, and you can’t minister to others when your soul is parched. Don’t make the mistake of allowing your “study time” for sermons to replace your own personal time with the Lord. They are not the same. Spend private time with God exclusively for your own nourishment, letting Him feed your soul. Regardless of how pressed you feel for time, your family and your ministry will reap more benefits out of your private time with God than you could possibly accomplish through any other means. Pray often. Don’t try to shoulder the burdens of the church without God’s wisdom and guidance. Take your struggles to Him and you will find uncommon grace and insight to help you through.
Your wife comes before your church. The world already has enough “successful” pastors who are failures at home. Don’t be one of them. Be on your guard… I promise you that Satan is going to try and trip you up in this area! There is no ministry worth sacrificing your marriage for. None! One of my favorite childhood memories is when I overheard my mom talking about my dad to some people, and she said, “He’s the same man at home that he is in the pulpit. He lives what he preaches.” Pastors, if your wife can’t say that about you, it’s time for a reality check. Fall in love with your wife all over again. Put her needs before the needs of the church. She is your first ministry!

Phil Pike

Monday, September 13, 2010

Burn The Koran Or The Constitution

SUNDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2010 The media's coverage of the 9th anniversary of the Muslim murder of 3,000 people was overshadowed by their panicked coverage of the possibility that Terry Jones, the pastor of a tiny Florida church, might actually burn the Koran. Last week Newsweek ran Fareed Zakaria's piece insisting that Americans overreacted to 9/11. So instead the media showed us where their priorities lie, by shortchanging the dead, ignoring their killers and instead turning the pastor of a small Florida church into a villain for even talking about the possibility of torching a book, whose contents helped inspire 9/11. It's as if on Holocaust Memorial Day, the key topic of discussion was not the murder of 6,000,000 Jews, but a protester who wanted to get his Bic lighter close to Mein Kampf.

In the weeks leading up to the anniversary, the media had been sanctimoniously lecturing Americans that their sensitivities regarding Ground Zero were irrelevant in the face of a Muslim desire to put up a massive and completely unnecessary Islamic complex in the area. Constitutional freedoms, real or imagined, trumped any sensitivities. But when a Gainesville pastor proposed returning a couple of copies of the Koran back to the environment by way of lighter fluid, suddenly freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and all that other stuff created by dead white men before the age of Walter Kronkite and CNN, were irrelevant in face of Muslim sensitivities.

Time Magazine and USA Today both ran polls asking whether burning the Koran should be criminalized as a hate crime. CNN gave a forum to a Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri to argue that burning a Koran would have been worse than 9/11 and warned that such actions "should be stopped by the U.S. government at any cost". Now Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri shows in his article that while he may not know the difference between "principal" and "principle", or "ensure" and "insure", he understands exactly how to push for the imposition of the horrifying barbarity of Islamic Sharia law in America.

In Dr. Qadri's own words: "any act of an individual or group which... hurts the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslim should be stopped at any cost." There are no details of just what "any cost" would imply, but certainly Dr. Qadri argues that Freedom of Speech cannot be used to protect anything that offends Muslims. And since just about everything from eating on Ramadan to liquor in taxi cabs to ice cream cones that look like Allah, has been known to offend Muslims, that means for September 11 you can kiss freedom goodbye. Or risk offending 1.5 billion Muslims. And we know what happens every time you offend the peaceful worshipers of the Religion of Peace. Riots, murder, terrorism and of course burning the American flag.

The same media which has consistently opposed a Constitutional amendment that bans flag burning (generally because they tend to agree with the flag burners), has now decided that burning the Koran should be a crime. Because burning the flag or killing thousands of Americans is no big deal-- but burning a Koran, someone should make a law about that.

Given a choice between burning the US Constitution or burning the Koran-- the media happily raises a lighter to the First Amendment. To them nothing American is sacred, but everything Islamic is.

Their defense of the Ground Zero Mosque was never about the Constitution. It was about kowtowing to the morally superior victims of American imperialism, starving in Dubai or Islamabad. If it helps them make their case to the people they think of as "The Great Unwashed", still clinging to their guns and religion, they will invoke the Constitution or the Magna Carta or an instruction manual from IKEA. From Obama on down, centuries of ideas about self-government are nothing but toys that they keep in the attic and bring out whenever particularly dull company comes over. They don't believe in self-government themselves. That is something they have in common with their brethren ruling with an iron fist beneath the sickle and hammer, or the crescent and star. Ideas, not the referendum or a national legacy of rights and responsibilities, are their source of political power. What the people and the law have to say about it, doesn't matter.

And so we come down to the ugly choice. Burning the Koran or burning the Constitution. The left has already made its choice. You can walk down the streets of Europe's greatest cities and see what remains of centuries of national struggle, republican ambitions and millions dying so that their language and their culture might have the shelter of a nation of their own. Now America is being presented with the same option. Touch your head to the floor or risk offending 1.5 billion Muslims. And what is the value of freedom compared to the feelings of a bunch of followers of Mohammed, with a long string of zeroes trailing after them around the globe.

It isn't about whether burning someone else's sacred book is right or wrong. To appease Muslim sensitivities, the US military burned a large number of Christian bibles last year. The same media which is panting breathlessly at the notion that anybody would dare use a holy book for kindling, smiled approvingly then. Because the issue isn't about burning anyone's holy books, but offending Muslims. That is the one law we are left with, after all the others have been tossed into the fire. Thou Shalt Not Enrage the Mohammedan.

What offends Muslims is anyone who disobeys their laws. And if our laws are to always defer to their sensitivities, then that means we have replaced the United States Constitution... with the Koran.

The media has put on a show of being concerned about US troops as outraged murderous members of the Religion of Peace might try to kill US soldiers in the full fury of their peacefulness, but if the media hadn't focused attention on the story, how would all those peaceful bearded types in Pakistan have even known about the Koran burning? In 2005, Newsweek falsely reported that American personnel in Gitmo had flushed a Koran. There was no actual truth to the report, but still 15 people died in the rioting. Yet the smug blond talking head on CNN who berated Terry Jones for "having blood on his hands", did not accuse Newsweek of having blood on their hands, even though they actually did. Just as there are no "blood on their hands" accusations for the media outlets who broadcast the heavily edited Wikileaks tape, or any of the Bin Laden videos, or leaked sensitive information about US military operation.

Dead US soldiers, like the Constitution, are only of interest when they're a handy talking point. If dead US soldiers were of interest to the media or General Petraeus, perhaps there might be some interest in just how many US soldiers have died in Afghanistan because they were denied proper aerial support or the right to fire on their assailants under McChrystal and Petraeus's Rules of Engagement, which put the focus on appeasing Muslims, over the lives of American boys on the front line.

But like the Constitution, the bodies of American soldiers must burn, in the name of Muslim sensitivities.



In 1987, the National Endowment for the Arts partially funded Piss Christ, an image of a crucifix in urine. Two decades later in 2007, a Koran in a Pace University toilet triggered a 10 month investigation (in New York City, few murder cases are investigated half that long) and finally led to the arrest of one Stanislav Shmulevich on Hate Crime charges.

Piss Christ, you see is a work of art. But Piss Koran is a hate crime. Similarly burning the Christian Bible soothes Muslim sensitivities. Burning the Koran inflames them. Killing US soldiers makes Muslims feel good. Killing Muslim terrorists inflames their sensitivities.



The Pace University case, in which a Muslim NYPD detective was assigned to pursue a student for a violation of Muslim law, served as a warning that the media chatter at Time, USA Today and CNN about making burning the Koran into a hate crime should not be taken lightly. Under the Constitution, burning the Koran is completely legal. But the Islamists and their Leftist allies have no regard for the Constitution. No more than they do for the lives of US soldiers or the dead at Ground Zero. They prefer Islamic law, with all its concomitant tyranny and brutality, over the freedoms and values of Americans.

Why do the hate the Constitution of ours so much? Because it is premised on legal equality and self-government, two sets of values anathema to the left and Islam. Under Islamic law, Christians, Jews, Hindus and all others are inferior to Muslims. Women are inferior to men. Koranic experts are superior to ordinary Muslims. First wives are superior to second wives. And so on it goes, a pyramid of discrimination and segregation, sanctioned and approved by Allah, Mohammed and Islam.
Under Islamic law, the sensitivities of Muslims trump the rights of non-Muslims. That is why in the Muslim world, no church or synagogue was allowed to be taller than a mosque…



Today at Ground Zero, a man did burn the Koran. He gave no interviews, only to say; "Americans should never be afraid to give their opinion". Such a view is not favored by Islam and the Liberal media, which is very determined that people should be afraid to give their opinions. And this last week has been a tremendous exercise in just that. In intimidating Americans. In intimidating America itself, with the threat of 1.5 billion Muslim sensitivities inflamed into a killing rage. Yet again.

But these handful of pages from the Koran were not the first thing burned at Ground Zero. Nine years ago, thousands of human beings were burned alive in the name of the Koran at this place. Pages from their books, their Rolodexes, their memos and their family photographs flew burning into the air, taking wing over the city and drifting down to the place where Imam Rauf and his gang of grinning henchmen would like to erect their symbol of contempt for the dead. The Muslim world did not tremble at the sensitivities of 300 million Americans when they burned 3,000 people at this spot. Like Fareed Zakaria, they either did not care, or they grinned in triumph, and danced in the streets.

Now when the moderate Muslims crawl out of their sewers to warn us that burning the Koran will lead to murder-- all they manage to do is show off their sick and hateful values. A value system that places a higher priority on printed pages than on the lives of non-Muslims. Such a value system cannot and must not be allowed to impose its will on the people of a free nation. Not on this sacred day, and not on any day. Ever.

Daniel Greenfield is a columnist born in Israel and currently living in New York City. He is a contributing editor at Family Security Matters and writes a daily blog column on Islamic Terrorism, Israeli and American politics and Europe's own clash of civilizations which can be found at Sultanknish.blogspot.com.

Friday, September 10, 2010

IT'S IN THE NUMBERS...

We now have, unlike original Christianity, a complete cast of bishops, deans, and pastors; educated clergy, degree and all, talented, gifted, humanly well-meaning. They all preach with tremendous confidence, doing it well, very well, stupendously well, tolerably well, or badly, but not one of them lives in character with the Christianity of the New Testament. This grand cast of characters accomplishes one thing: it gives rise to a false impression that because we have such a complete cast we must of course have Christianity, too.

We also have what one might call a complete inventory of church buildings, bells, organs, pews, altars, pulpits, offering plates, and so on. But when Christianity does not exist, this inventory, so far from being an advantage, is a peril, because it is so very likely to give rise to the false impression that we must have Christianity, too.

The illusion of a Christian nation, a Christian "people," masses of Christians, is no doubt due to the power that numbers exercise over the imagination. And yet how many are able to say of their Christian acquaintances that they are truly Christians in the New Testament sense, or that their lives are even close to resembling those of the first disciples. But when there are thousands upon thousands who confess to being Christian, one becomes easily confused. Perhaps we are all Christians after all.

Why be so harsh?

This brings to mind a ridiculous story about an innkeeper.
It is said that this innkeeper sold his beer by the bottle for a cent less than it cost him. When a certain man said to him, "How does that balance the account? You’re losing money," he replied, "No, my friend, it’s the big number that counts." When you have finished laughing at this story, you would do well to take its lesson to heart, which warns against the power that numbers exercise over the imagination. No doubt this innkeeper knew very well that one bottle of beer at 3 cents meant a loss of 1 cent since it cost him 4 cents. And, no doubt, he realized that selling 10 bottles also meant a loss. But 100,000 bottles!

Here the big number stirs the imagination. The innkeeper becomes dazed. It’s a profit, he says, for the big number does it. So also with every calculation that arrives at a Christian nation, and dare I also say at a church, by adding up units which are not Christian, getting impressed with the results by means of the notion that it is the big number that counts!

Numbers are the most dangerous of all illusions. Inasmuch as Christianity is spirit, the honesty of eternity, there is nothing its detective eye is so suspicious of as of Christian states, Christian lands, Christian endeavors, Christian movements, a Christian people, and (how marvellous!) a Christian world. Even if there were something true in this talk about Christian peoples and cultures, everything this world has up to this point seen in the way of criminal affairs is a mere nursery rhyme in comparison with this crime.

Christ requires followers and defines precisely what he means by this. They are to be salt, willing to be sacrificed. But to be salt and to be sacrificed is not something that the thousands naturally go for, still less millions, or (still less!) countries, kingdoms, states, and (absolutely not!) the whole world. On the other hand, if it is a question of size, mediocrity, and of lots of talk, then the possibility of the thing begins; then bring on the thousands, increase them to the millions no, go forth and make the world Christian.

The New Testament alone, not numbers, settles what Christianity is, leaving it to eternity to pass judgment upon us. It is simply impossible to define faith on the basis of what people in general like best and prefer to call Christianity. As soon as we do this, Christianity is automatically done away with.

There are, in the end, only two ways open to us: to honestly and honourably make an admission of how far we are from the Christianity of the New Testament, or to perform skilful tricks to conceal the true situation, tricks to conjure up a forgery whereby Christianity is the prevailing religion in the land.

Honestly, New Testament Christianity simply does not exist. If the human race would rise in rebellion against God and cast Christianity away from it, it would not be nearly so dangerous as this clever way of making Christians of everybody and giving this activity the appearance of zeal for the truth. This is nothing but a scoffing at God by offering him thanks for bestowing his blessing upon the progress that Christianity was making.

Søren Kierkegaard
While studying for the Ministry

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Hansen Report: Comedy in the Pulpit

UNDER ARREST: ATTEMPTED HUMOUR IN THE PULPIT



What will endure when the jokes go stale?

I love to laugh. And when I laugh, you’ll hear me if you’re in the same zip code. I have a few all-time favorite comedy TV shows that I can watch over and over again. And I enjoy funny movies, so long as they forego the explicit sexual content.

So why do I often cringe when pastors crack jokes during their sermons on Sunday morning? Maybe the joke’s on me, because comedy has become many pastors’ best friend. Apparently, seminaries may want to consider adding a course in stand-up comedy to prepare their preachers. One church I know recently hosted “Church Joke Sunday.” In lieu of hearing a sermon, a dwindling number of people who actually understand denominational humor laughed about the differences between Methodists and Presbyterians. And during the recent Festival of Homiletics in Nashville, Susan Sparks coached pastors in clerical comedy.
“Close to 200 ministers crowded a classroom at First Baptist, with more hanging out in the hallway for her workshop on bringing humor into the pulpit,” Bob Smietana wrote for The Tennessean on May 20. “She says that humor can help preachers connect with their parishioners, defuse church conflict and deal with an often-stressful calling. To help get her message across, Sparks gave preachers a Ten Commandments of stand-up comedy.”

I don’t suppose there is any way to criticize this approach and come across as anything but dour. So be it. I can’t help but wonder about the health of American churches when comedy is considered a cure. Are we just bored with the gospel? Do we have nothing to offer the broader world except jokes that few outside the church would consider funny? Is anyone aware that the watching world laughs at us, not with us?

Let me be clear that I find no biblical prohibition against humor in the pulpit. I don’t even think we should make a rule against telling jokes. When I visited a pastor who has publicly argued against using humor in sermons, he joked around with his respectful, adoring congregation to great effect during an anxious time of transition. Other pastors whose sermons top the mp3 download charts wield humor as the medicine that makes their challenging preaching go down more smoothly. When listening to them, it sounds like someone is playing a laugh track. But you can’t fault these pastors for shying away from the Bible’s difficult doctrines. And for what it’s worth, I enjoy the inside jokes pastors share through the award-winning cartoons in Leadership.

I’m here, though, to defend the preachers who would flop as stand-up comedians if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-34). We are to be pitied. All we have is the good news that Jesus came to save sinners, of whom we are foremost (1 Tim. 1:15). As ambassadors for Christ, we study all week and preach our hearts out on Sunday morning, imploring everyone to be reconciled with God (2 Cor. 5:20). We might not be the best preachers, but we have the best message. We want to grow as effective communicators. But we’re tempted to despair when congregations exhort us to include more funny stories and lighten the mood.

John McClure, the Charles G. Finney Professor of Homiletics at Vanderbilt Divinity School, told The Tennessean that pastors have been debating the merits of humor for centuries. Does it aid communication or steal attention from God? Both, I think we can say, depending on the situation. On balance, though, comedian preachers run the serious risk of flaunting their funny at the expense of glorifying the God of the gospel. “Getting people to laugh feels good, and preachers can get caught up in showing worshipers that they are funny and likable,” Smietana writes.

I’m also concerned, then, for the occasionally funny pastors who will someday realize they can’t make it on the stand-up circuit, either. We can understand why they take this quick path to a congregation’s good graces. Pastoring is hard work. Ministers looking for love and support need to discharge every available arrow in their quivers. But sooner or later, those arrows will run out. If you win the congregation with humor, you need to keep the congregation with humor. The vast majority of pastors, who lack an extraordinary gift for comedy, eventually exhaust their repository of funny things kids say. Rather than an aid, comedy becomes the pastor’s cruel taskmaster.

For the unfunny and kinda funny alike, the good news is that the gospel is enough. You can win your congregation with its beauty, which will never lose its luster. There is power in this preaching when it’s faithful to God’s Word and backed up by a life of integrity. Such preaching, in fact, will leave a lasting legacy that endures long after the jokes go stale.

Collin Hansen is a Christianity Today editor at large and co-author of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Subverting Rule of Law in Britain

“In Britain it is becoming ever harder for Christians to be allowed to live according to their religious ethics. There has been a string of cases in which Christians have been forced to step down from their jobs as marriage registrars or from adoption panels because they refuse to officiate at gay partnership ceremonies or hand children for adoption by gay couples.

In such cases, it seems there is no longer any room for the exercise of religious conscience. Until now, the law has not required someone to act against their religious beliefs. Doctors, for example, can conscientiously opt out of performing abortions. Similarly, in instances of gay partnership or gay adoption, the Christian officials should have been allowed to stand down in those cases. But it seems that the demands of the "oppressed" gay groups require the extinction of any contrary interests.

This is an abuse of power and the antithesis of a free and liberal society. Furthermore, what is under assault is not some minority creed but the moral codes that lie at the very root of British society and Western civilization.

Now this onslaught appears to be subverting the rule of law itself. Objectivity and neutrality are being replaced in the justice system by subjectivity and bias. Feelings are being allowed to trump facts.”

Melanie Phillips writes in The Wall Street Journal.