The old hymn goes, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine!” Unfortunately, though, many professing Christians struggle mightily with assurance that Jesus is theirs … that they are truly saved.
Perhaps just as fear-inducing, some Christians think they can lose their salvation. And this isn’t just a problem for new Christians Read more
Samuel G. Freedman of The New York Times took a look at the resurgence of pagan religions and practices in postmodern America. He found Michael York, a serious-minded pagan who observes Samhain, “the autumnal new year for Pagans,” and the historic precursor to the modern holiday of Halloween. Reading the names of his ancestors while facing a pagan altar, Mr. York remarks that, on Samhain, “the veil between the worlds is understood to be thinnest.”
Freedman also found the Rev. Selena Fox, senior minister and high priestess of Circle Sanctuary, a Wiccan church in Barneveld, Wisconsin. Rev. Fox won a major legal battle when the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to allow the Wiccan pentacle on the gravestones of dead Wiccan soldiers. “Our symbol was literally being carved in stone and taking its place alongside the symbols of other religions,” she said. “Our religion was at last getting equal treatment. It was one of those crossroads moments.”
The most significant feature of Samuel Freedman’s report is his recognition of how ancient paganism experienced a resurgence in postmodern America — now claiming as many as 500,000 to 1 million adherents of one sort or another:
In several ways, though, Paganism was waiting for modernity to catch up with it. The emphasis on the worship of nature in virtually all variations of Pagan faith, and the embrace of a female divinity in many, situated the religion to mesh with the environmental and feminist movements that swept through the United States in the 1970s.
Exactly. The resurgence of paganism in our times is not the recovery of ancient traditions simply reasserted in a new age, but a selective New Age embrace of pagan symbols, themes, and practices in order to add “spirituality” to ideological movements such as feminism and the radical ecologists. The gynecological and pantheistic focus of ancient paganism is exactly what Judaism and Christianity rejected in full — and the embrace of these ancient heresies is further evidence of the widespread rejection of Christianity.
“From academia to the military, in the person of chaplains and professors, through successful litigation and online networking, Paganism has done much in the last generation to overcome its perception as either Satanism or silliness,” Samuel G. Freedman writes. Well, whatever you want to call it, the resurgence of paganism is a keen reminder that old heresies never die; they just fade away only to return once again.
See, “Paganism, Just Another Religion for Military and Academia,” by Samuel G. Freedman, The New York Times, Saturday, October 31, 2009.
Dawn had not yet broken in Washington.
It was Sunday morning, November 4, when an urgent “Flash Traffic” message from Embassy Tehran arrived in the State Department’s top-secret communications center: “Demonstrators have entered embassy compound and have entered the building.”
More than three thousand Radicals, most of them students, had climbed over the embassy’s walls, penetrated the compound’s internal security fences and doors, disarmed the Marines (who had been ordered by their superiors not to shoot), and were holding sixty-six Americans hostage while rifling through whatever files they could get their hands on.
Staffers in the White House Situation Room immediately awoke the president at Camp David with a phone call at 4:30 a.m. The president spoke with Brzezinski, just back from Algiers, and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. Both were concerned, to be sure, but neither was overly worried, believing the situation would be corrected quickly, as it had been on Valentine’s Day. The president, therefore, went back to sleep. It was the last half-decent sleep Carter would get until after he left office on January 20, 1981.
U.S. intelligence officials soon had a translated copy of the students’ first communiqué, which blasted “the world-devouring America” and stated, “We Muslim students, followers of the Imam Khomeini, have occupied the espionage embassy of America in protest against the ploys of the imperialists and the Zionists. We announce our protest to the world; a protest against America for granting asylum and employing the criminal shah while it has its hands in the blood of tens of thousands of women and men in this country.”
Top officials at the CIA and State all expected Khomeini to order the students to free the Americans and their compound in short order. It never happened. To the contrary, the ayatollah quickly issued a statement praising the students. He then appointed his son, Ahmad, to serve as the liaison with the students holding the embassy.
Ahmad would later write that his father expected “thunder and lightning” from Washington, a quick and fierce military operation that would both rescue the embassy staffers and punish the new regime. But weeks turned into months without such a response. Instead, in Ahmad’s view, the Carter White House churned out feckless, limp-wristed statements and showed no serious interest in a military confrontation. President Carter’s envoy to the United Nations, Ambassador Andrew Young, publicly implored the ayatollah to show “magnanimity and compassion.”
Khomeini smelled weakness. He mocked the Carter administration as acting “like a headless chicken,” and exploited Carter’s indecision to the fullest.
For well over a year and a half, fifty-two American citizens were subjected to torture, interrogation, and all manner of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of Islamic Radicals.
Some of the hostages were blindfolded and paraded before the Iranian media in pictures that would be flashed around the world. Others were repeatedly kicked and beaten. Some had guns put to their heads while students threatened to blow their brains out if they did not open safes or answer questions. At other times, the students played Russian roulette with them. At one point, a group of students forced a diplomat to the floor. One pulled out a knife, positioned it mere centimeters from the diplomat’s face, and threatened to cut out his eyes, one by one, if he refused to divulge classified information. And all the while, the Ayatollah Khomeini gave his full approval to such activities, and his son oversaw the terrorists’ day-to-day operations.
Back home, Americans felt a growing sense of humiliation and outrage as they saw the crisis in Iran play out on the evening news night after night with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel. Most people did not understand the motivation of the Radicals who had seized the embassy or the ayatollah whom they apparently worshiped. Nor did they understand why President Carter looked so weak in the face of such a serious threat to U.S. national security. All they saw were millions of Iranians chanting, “Death to America! Death to Israel!” and violent, fanatical mobs burning the American flag and burning President Carter in effigy. As the crisis worsened, Carter’s approval rating plummeted to a mere 25 percent.
Muslims around the world—Sunnis and Shias alike—were stunned by such a dramatic turn of events. Radicals were energized. Reformers were horrified.
Officials in Washington were stupefied. In less than a year, the White House, the State Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency had missed the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the rise of Khomeini, the fall of the shah, and the takeover of the U.S.’s own embassy in a country central to its national security and sharing a 1,600-mile border with the Soviet Union.
Admiral Stansfield Turner, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Carter, would later admit in his memoirs, “We in the CIA served the president . . . badly with respect to our coverage of the Iranian scene. . . . We had not appreciated how shaky the Shah’s political foundation was; did not know the Shah was terminally ill; did not understand who Khomeini was and the support his movement had; did not have a clue as to who the hostage-takers were or what their objective was; and could not pinpoint within the embassy where the hostages were being held and under what conditions. . . . We were just plain asleep.”
The question today is whether Washington is “just plain asleep” with regards to the genocidal, apocalyptic objectives of the current regime in Tehran. God forbid.
S. Lewis Johnson Message of the Week
Jonah 1:17-2:10 Difficulties in life often lead us to reexamine our views of God. Charles Spurgeon said it this way, “Suffering is the college of orthodoxy.” Listen as Dr. S. Lewis Johnson explains how Jonah’s circumstances led him to an orthodox understanding of salvation.
Click here to listen: Jonah – Salvation: All of God; Damnation: All of Man
Part 3 of a 5-weeks series on Jonah
Tim Tebow, a Heisman trophy winner and two-time national champion quarterback for the Florida Gators football team, is a committed follower of Jesus Christ. The son of missionary parents, Tebow wears his faith literally on his face, writing Scripture references like John 3:16 on the glare-tape under his eyes. His works give evidence to his faith: he preaches in prisons, helps the poor in the Philippines, and is committed to celibacy until marriage.
What a great young man, right? Not so fast. Two recent articles, one in USA Today and the other in Read more
Guest: Michele Bachmann, US Congresswoman (MN, 6th District)
Government-run health insurance. Just-signed hate crimes legislation. Enormous government spending. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
President Obama proclaimed a fundamental transformation of the United States when he became president and he has certainly delivered on that promise, enacting socialistic, humanistic policies on the above issues and many others. Read more
There are few national tragedies that can match the devastating effect of the Divorce Revolution. Four decades after California launched the revolution, the impact of divorce and the break-up of marriages and families is now well documented, coast to coast.
The availability of divorce without cause, so-called “no-fault” divorce, rendered every marriage less than it was before. Once impermanence became a mark of marriage in the law and in the culture, couples were required to muster a special level of marital commitment to remain married. Right before the nation’s eyes, divorce redefined marriage.
The revolution was, as is so often the case, led by members of the cultural, academic, legal, and political elites. Liberal intellectuals made the case for divorce as liberation, subverting marriage as a repressive institution. The moral revolutionaries attacked marriage as sexually limiting and oppressive. Feminists demanded divorce as a means of escaping marriage and achieving a right of exit for wives. There were even liberal religious leaders willing to offer a benediction over the dismantlement of marriage.
But as University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox recounts, it was none other than Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, who signed the nation’s first no-fault divorce bill. Reagan, who had recently experienced a bitter divorce from actress Jane Wyman, saw the legislation as a way to humanize divorce. Reagan later saw his role as, in Wilcox’s words, “one of the biggest mistakes of his political life.” Nevertheless, the damage was done — with effects far beyond California. As Wilcox explains, the availability of no-fault divorce “gutted marriage of its legal power to bind husband to wife, allowing one spouse to dissolve marriage for any reason — or for no reason at all.”
Professor Wilcox is one of the nation’s most knowledgeable authorities on the effects of divorce. He is director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and a senior fellow at the Institute for American Values. In “The Evolution of Divorce,” published in the inaugural issue of the journal National Affairs, Wilcox traces the effect of the revolution:
This legal transformation was only one of the more visible signs of the divorce revolution then sweeping the United States: From 1960 to 1980, the divorce rate more than doubled — from 9.2 divorces per 1,000 married women to 22.6 divorces per 1,000 married women. This meant that while less than 20% of couples who married in 1950 ended up divorced, about 50% of couples who married in 1970 did. And approximately half of the children born to married parents in the 1970s saw their parents part, compared to only about 11% of those born in the 1950s.
Every revolution requires cultural preparation, and the Divorce Revolution is no exception. Wilcox helpfully traces three developments that fostered the acceptance of no-fault divorce. First came the sexual revolution. An age of sexual obsession not only celebrated sex outside of marriage; it also elevated sex as, in effect, the only motivation for a relationship. Second, the “anti-institutional tenor of the age” undermined the authority of the churches to oppose divorce. Third, the psychological revolution undermined marriage with its “focus on individual fulfillment and personal growth.” Of these three factors, the last was most central.
Wilcox’s article covers a wide range of issues related to the evolution and effects of divorce, but one section of his article deserves particular attention. Early in his analysis he cites the complicity of the elites in bringing about the revolution of no-fault divorce. Yet, the elites never felt the impact of divorce in the same way that the poor and less educated did. As he explains, “This imbalance leaves our cultural and political elites less well attuned to the magnitude of social dysfunction in much of American society, and leaves the most vulnerable Americans — especially children living in poor and working-class communities — even worse off than they would otherwise be.”
Later, Wilcox returns to this imbalance, documenting the “divorce divide” that marks American society. Among more educated and wealthier Americans, divorce is now more rare that it was in 1980. These privileged Americans have seen the impact of divorce and have more to lose if a marriage dissolves. They are now more likely than their parents’ generation to remain married. It is surely good news that “a clear majority of children who are now born to married couples will grow up with their married mothers and fathers.”
Furthermore, elite opinion among the academics has also shifted significantly on divorce. As Wilcox reports:
Although certainly not all scholars, therapists, policymakers, and journalists would agree that contemporary levels of divorce and family breakdown are cause for worry, a much larger share of them expresses concern about the health of marriage in America — and about America’s high level of divorce — than did so in the 1970s. These views seep into the popular consciousness and influence behavior — just as they did in the 1960s and ’70s, when academic and professional experts carried the banner of the divorce revolution.
So far, so good. But this is not the end of the story. Hauntingly, Wilcox observes that “marriage is increasingly the preserve of the highly educated and the middle and upper classes.” Further:
When it comes to divorce and marriage, America is increasingly divided along class and educational lines. Even as divorce in general has declined since the 1970s, what sociologist Steven Martin calls a “divorce divide” has also been growing between those with college degrees and those without (a distinction that also often translates to differences in income). The figures are quite striking: College-educated Americans have seen their divorce rates drop by about 30% since the early 1980s, whereas Americans without college degrees have seen their divorce rates increase by about 6%. Just under a quarter of college-educated couples who married in the early 1970s divorced in their first ten years of marriage, compared to 34% of their less-educated peers. Twenty years later, only 17% of college-educated couples who married in the early 1990s divorced in their first ten years of marriage; 36% of less-educated couples who married in the early 1990s, however, divorced sometime in their first decade of marriage.
This “divorce divide” compounds the scandal of divorce, adding yet another level of moral responsibility to the issue and even greater culpability to the culture at large. The subversion of marriage flowed from the elites to the larger society. As Wilcox observes, working class and poor Americans once held more conservative views of marriage and divorce than the elites. No longer.
Now, the effects of the Divorce Revolution fall disproportionately on the poor. Even as the elites recover a significant level of commitment to marriage (and to being and remaining married in order to raise children), the effects of the revolution now fall on the poor, the less educated, and the less powerful. Even more tragically, the tragedy of divorce and the subversion of marriage fall on their children.
The Divorce Revolution is a national tragedy with enduring pernicious effects. Now we can see more clearly that the “divorce divide” is nothing less than scandal added to tragedy.
What Bradford Wilcox calls “the fallout of America’s retreat from marriage” now disproportionately harms the least among us. Shame on us all.
I am always glad to hear from readers and listeners. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Albert Mohler.
Professor Bradford Wilcox was my special guest on Tuesday’s edition of The Albert Mohler Program. Listen here.
National Affairs is an important new journal of ideas. As editor Yuval Levin explains, “To think a little more clearly means first of all to be better informed, and National Affairs will publish essays that bring to bear hard facts and figures and employ the social sciences, even as we remain aware of their limitations. It also means thinking more deeply, and we will publish essays that look to the philosophical foundations of our public life. And it means thinking constructively, so that we will publish not only diagnoses but, when possible, proposals for plausible remedies.” I welcome this new journal and recommend that you take a closer look.
S. Lewis Johnson Message of the Week
Jonah 1:4-16 A believer’s neglect of the word of God is like strapping on a suicide bomb; the damage is devastating and rarely limited to the life of the offender. Listen as Dr. S. Lewis Johnson exhorts us to obedience in light of Jonah’s behavior during his escape from God’s will.
Click here to listen: Jonah – Man Overboard, or The Doctrine of Christian Declension Part 2 of a 5-weeks series on Jonah
Raising children to be committed followers of Jesus Christ is 2009 America is anything but easy. What with pervasive internet porn and online social networking sites, television and movies that glamorize unbiblical values, a sexual ethic that sees nothing wrong with “hooking up”, an educational system that is humanistic to the core, and drug and alcohol availability that would make any parent lose sleep, Read more
Guest: Ken Ham, founder, Answers in Genesis
Last week in part one of our interview with Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis and author of Already Gone, we learned the sobering statistic that 2/3 of conservative evangelicals young people will leave the church in their 20′s. Ham said this is partly the result of Sunday Schools and youth groups (and parents) not teaching a more literal and historical interpretation of Scripture, Read more