How the Transgender Narrative Perpetuates Stereotypes

The church can offer hope to those who find it hard to love the body they’re in.

From the time Brandon was a toddler, he was what many call “gender nonconforming.” In preschool, while the boys roughhoused on one side of the room, he played with the little girls. By junior high, he felt sharply out of step with the prevailing John Wayne masculinity image. “I feel the way girls do, I am interested in things girls are,” he told his parents. “God should have made me a girl.”

By age 14, Brandon was scouring the internet for information on sex reassignment surgery. After extensive soul-searching, however, he concluded that it would not give him the results he wanted. “I realized that surgery would not turn me into a girl. It would not change my genes and chromosomes,” he told me. “A person is not a computer program that you can delete and redesign from scratch.”

Young people like Brandon live in a society that prompts them to question their psychosexual identity as never before. SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) laws—which increasingly affect schools, corporations, and even churches—are based on the assumption that a person can be born in the wrong body.

At the heart of the transgender narrative is the destructive idea that your mind can be “at war with your body.” It sets up an opposition between the body and the self, estranging people from their basic biological identities as male and female. Kids from kindergarten and up are being taught that their psychological identity has no connection to their physical self.

Nuriddeen Knight, a black woman writing for the Witherspoon Institute, says the transgender movement reminds her of a time, not so long ago, when light-skinned black people sometimes “passed” …

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The Radical Christian Faith of Frederick Douglass

The great abolitionist spoke words of rebuke—and hope—to a slaveholding society.

As Frederick Douglass looked out on the boisterous crowd that had gathered to celebrate America’s independence, he thought of Psalm 137.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept

when we remembered Zion.

There on the poplars

we hung our harps,

for there our captors asked us for songs,

our tormentors demanded songs of joy;

they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord

while in a foreign land? (v. 1–4)

The Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society had invited Douglass to deliver the keynote address for their Fourth of July celebrations in 1852. Fourteen summers earlier, Douglass had escaped from slavery. Now, at only 34, he was America’s most famous abolitionist orator.

Douglass usually felt a certain anger and sadness on the Fourth of July. That day, as he stood behind the speaker’s lectern, he felt like an Israelite in exile called upon to sing for his Babylonian captors.

The crowd wanted him to venerate the Founding Fathers and celebrate their heroic deeds. At the start of his speech, Douglass seemed happy to oblige. But those who listened closely might have shifted uneasily in their seats if they noticed how Douglass used the word your. He spoke of your independence, your freedom, your nation, your fathers. The Founders succeeded in creating a new nation, Douglass said, “and today you reap the fruits of their success.”

To the slave, Douglass told his white audience, “your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mock; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all …

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Words of Wisdom for Those Graduating High School and Beyond

God has a plan. He will pursue you. He will use you mightily—just trust him.

Recently, McLean Presbyterian church in Virginia tweeted a question out to several evangelical leaders in preparation for an upcoming weekend youth retreat. Their request: words of wisdom to share with seniors in high school as they prepare to navigate the challenges of life and faith in the years to come.

It’s an important question. We’ve all heard start about student dropouts. Students who found themselves eager to attend youth group and spend time in scripture during high school head to college and later find these disciplines hard to maintain. They’re isolated from their family—in many cases, the bedrock of their faith—and often attend secular universities where Christian communities are far and few between.

McClean tagged several of us, and my answer is at the end, but let’s take a look at some of the advice offered in response to McClean Presbyterian’s bold question:

Tim Keller

Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Now he leads Redeemer City to City, which has since launched 250 churches in 48 cities. His books—among them, The Reason for God, The Prodigal God, and Generous Justice—have been enjoyed by millions.

In his response, Keller advised students to “be resilient.” He pointed out that college is a place of discovery—a time to deal with life’s biggest questions of “identity, purpose and choice.” Going to college means leaving behind the familiar comforts of family, friends, church that youngsters always used for support during times of trial and weakness. According to Keller, the experience requires students to open up the floodgates and allow their minds to venture into dangerous territory …

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Make American Politics Hopeful Again

How the call to “carry one another’s burdens” breaks down partisan stalemates.

In our increasingly polarized nation, elections are not just perceived to determine the direction of our nation’s policies but as a declaration of who is included and who is excluded. We cannot have a nation where half of the country wakes up the morning after an election feeling like they no longer have a place in their own country without severely fraying our social fabric.

At a time when politicians and party activists increasingly argue that their obligation is only, or primarily, to a subset of the American people—defined by race, socioeconomic status, religion, ideology, or some other category—the American people themselves must take extraordinary steps to force political actors to consider problems, concerns, and ideas that they would typically ignore.

A new year calls for a new kind of politics, and there is one radical idea as old as Scripture that might provide a way forward.

When the apostle Paul was writing to the Galatians, he was addressing a community that was in deep disunity. Paul had helped form the Galatians through his teachings, but they were straying from their foundational commitments. Sin, false teachers, and parochial motives and interests were creating, well, polarization. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, then, represents an attempt to speak clarity into the conflict, and help the community reform around its foundations.

Into this polarized environment, Paul instructs them to do something radical, something completely contrary to everything polarization promotes: They ought to “carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2, CSB).

Paul’s command shows no favoritism. His call is not to one group only, to those with …

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Rural Fish Bowl

Pastor Dad needs to be just Dad.

Growing up in a rural town, I came to understand the lack of privacy just by picking up the local newspaper. Our local gossip column was called “Out and About.” It kept everyone in the loop of how many ladies made it to bridge club that week and that Ida Hayes was absent due to a cold.

Holidays were always a little more interesting because of folks coming to visit. Every time my aunt came down from Kansas City, it was big news! I remember reading my pastor’s name in this section on a regular basis. He had been “out and about” delivering groceries, meeting for coffee, or praying for the meal at the fire hall fundraiser.

As he was my mentor, I was destined to do the same. As a young 20-something youth pastor, I went to the Assisted Living Center to have coffee and lead a Bible study. Sure enough, I would be in the news. I thought it was cool because I was meeting the expectations of the community and they all knew it.

Unfortunately, it did not occur to me that those expectations would be placed on my wife and my children. It has been a harsh reality-check and weight that I hate they have to bear. It seems like it’s magnified in a small town.

My daughter is a sophomore in high school and has always been very responsible, helpful, and smart. Teachers often tell us that she’s a leader among her peers. However, this past semester has been a challenge of a different kind.

Although she attends a public school, God and his provisions are often referenced in literature class. Every time religion or spiritual topics come up, many students (and even the teacher) look to her for the answers. After all, she is the pastor’s daughter so obviously she would be the expert on the subject.

Not only …

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Christian Parents and Schools Have 529 Reasons to Like New Tax Law

A Q+A on how college savings plans can now be used to pay tuition at private elementary and high schools.

Parents now have another way to save for Christian school tuition—and this one comes with tax benefits.

Thanks to the GOP-led tax reforms, the 529 college savings vehicle—so named for the relevant section of the Internal Revenue Code—can now also be used to save money to pay tuition at any “elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.”

CT spoke to George Tryfiates, director for government affairs at the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), to find out how it works. His office worked for months on this small section of the tax bill by visiting legislators, joining coalitions, and generating almost 9,000 calls to Congress, President Donald Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence from the ACSI community.

How did this come about?

Trump made such a priority of parental choice in education during his campaign that, immediately after his election, people began working on school choice proposals in earnest. All the ideas people have had over the years—education savings accounts, Title 1 portability, tax credit scholarships—got new life. So did expanding the 529 savings accounts.

How does a 529 savings plan work?

The 529 savings plans were created by a federal law but are administered by the states, so the benefits can be twofold—in other words, from both federal and state taxes (depending on the state).

Parents create and put money into a 529 account, which is then invested in stocks and bonds, more like a 403(b) or a 401(k) than a bank savings account. They can select their level of risk: perhaps choosing a plan that invests in higher-risk options with higher rates of return for a child in first grade, then switching to safer options such as bonds as a child …

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Church-Based Academic Partnerships—How the Church and the Academy Can Better Connect to Raise Up and Train

Students receive practical ministry training and a MA in Evangelism and Leadership.

Ed Stetzer: Why bring the church and the academy together? Why is that important?

Colin Smith: Study matters, but so does hands-on experience. So bringing what can best be learned in the classroom together with what can best be learned in the church offers the best way to equip leaders for sustainable ministry.

Ed: What’s the advantage of doing theological formation while in ministry apprenticeships?

Colin: Everything we do in life needs to have a purpose and that includes studying theology. When people say, “I want to do a degree in theology,” I ask them, “Why? What is God calling you to do with your life?” The answer I hear most often is, “I want to serve the church.” That’s a great answer, but anyone who wants to serve the church will be best prepared for what they want to do by being immersed in the life of the church. That’s the opportunity we want to offer, and it has huge benefits in making progress towards the goal.

Then when it comes to the complexities of church leadership, the art of pastoral care, and the demands of sustaining a preaching ministry, nothing can beat a total immersion in the life of a healthy local church.

Weeping with those who weep is better learned at a funeral or beside a hospital bed than in a library. Rejoicing with those who rejoice is better cultivated at a wedding or a baptism than in a classroom.

Ed: What do you hope for people who walk through the apprenticeship / academic partnership?

Colin: The partnership is designed to bring people to a place where they are ready to be deployed in ministry. I would like to see people who commit to this program gripped by the gospel, devoted to the church, fired up for service, passionate about godliness, …

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Let the Little Children Come Less

Experts debate whether restrictions will save or strangle international adoption.

This fall, America’s only active accreditor of international adoption agencies quit.

The Council on Accreditation (COA) protested that the US State Department was requiring “significant changes” that would likely reduce the already record-low number of intercountry adoptions, put small adoption providers out of business, and prohibit prospective parents from pursuing such adoptions.

However, the State Department argues that the changes in question aren’t changes at all. Officials point back to a 2008 agreement by the United States to adhere to the Hague Adoption Convention, an international attempt to regulate intercountry adoptions.

“We came to realize there were pieces of the regulation that were not being enforced,” a State Department official, who requested anonymity, told CT. Making sure the Hague laws are followed is crucial for helping foreign countries entrust their children to American parents, she said.

That was the motivation behind a set of proposed regulatory revisions which included a “country-specific authorization” in order to work in some countries, beefed-up training for adoptive parents, and a record of all financial transactions with foreign service providers.

The changes were meant to be part of “proactive efforts to maintain intercountry adoption as a viable option for children in need of permanency around the world,” the State Department stated in its spring report to Congress. For example, introducing country-specific authorization means that not all agencies have to get authorized for all countries.

But almost no one else in the adoption community saw it that way. A petition to immediately withdraw the proposed rules garnered more than 27,000 …

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Not an Act of God: Ministries Respond to Surge in Mass Shootings

Christian counselors once focused on natural disasters now frequently address manmade crises.

Chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) arrived in Parkland, Florida, within hours of Wednesday’s deadly school shooting that killed at least 17 teens.

This is the fifth deployment this year for the ministry’s rapid response team, trained to provide emotional and spiritual support amid crises.

Each 2018 deployment has been gun-related.

“Our hearts break for the parents who sent their children to school, and are now with them in the hospital, or living a parent’s worst nightmare,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, in a statement.

“So many lives have been forever changed by this evil act. As we pray for the students, faculty, and families, we know God can bring hope and comfort, in Jesus Christ, in the darkest hours.”

At times of tragedy, Christian churches and ministries rally to remind survivors of a God who the Psalms tell us “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

For decades, they have been among the first on the scene to care for people in the wake of hurricanes, tornados, fires, and other uncontrollable natural disasters. In recent years, ministries increasingly find themselves consoling victims of manmade violence: shootings and terrorist attacks.

BGEA president and CEO Franklin Graham first formed the rapid response team in the wake of 9/11, and its chaplains have since responded to hundreds of crisis events, including last year’s major shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Last month, the BGEA sent 14 chaplains to Benton, Kentucky, where they set up outside a barbeque restaurant to hear from and pray with families impacted by a January 23 shooting that killed two …

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Shootings, Grace, and the Gospel: An Interview with Pastor Eddie Bevill of Parkridge Church on the Parkland Shooting

Parkridge Church met in the high school for 7 years—now they’re hosting a vigil for those killed in the shooting.

Another tragedy has struck our nation, this time at a high school in Parkland, Florida. According to reports, it’s one of the nation’s deadliest attacks at a high school. My heart dropped when I heard the news yesterday. Another community, and more families, wrecked by violence. I reached out to Pastor Eddie Bevill of Parkridge Church, which first met at the school, to learn how churches are responding.

Ed Stetzer: Tell me a little bit about the background of the church, specifically related to that facility.

Pastor Eddie Bevill: My wife and I founded Parkridge Church in 1992, and we met in the facility for about 7 years, until we were able to purchase land and build our first building, and we are now currently located about a mile or less from that school, and still have a strong relationship there.

We have several families who have students who go there because it is our local high school. We also have a few employees. I know for one, the band director is a member of our church, and maybe some others as well. As far as I know, they are all safe, and not harmed. But information is still a little sketchy on all the names. But as far as we know, we’ve heard from all of them, and they seem to be basically okay.

Ed: How are you and other pastors in the community responding to minister to the community?

Pastor Bevill:TJ McCormick is the pastor of Coastal Community Church and they happen to lead a first priority club group meeting there. And when all this went down, they actually had a couple of their staff on the campus. And so I was getting texts from TJ. He was sharing that they have some people there, and they weren’t letting anybody else in at that point, because by then law enforcement had come. So they’ve …

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