Thanksgiving Encourages Us to Count Our Blessings

Thanksgiving Encourages Us to Count Our Blessings

Of all the secular holidays that Americans celebrate, Thanksgiving is the one that has the greatest Christian syzygy. Syzygy is an astronomical term referring to an alignment of astronomical bodies, and Thanksgiving aligns uniquely with the teachings of Christ. Thanksgiving has no mysticism as Halloween does and does not involve special objects like Easter bunnies or eggs. It does not have the commercialism of Christmas. Instead, the family time of Thanksgiving encourages us to count our blessings.

In my 41 years of public school teaching, I saw kids whose parents did not appreciate them. Those kids were a problem for the school and society in general. In addition, I have observed marriages ending in divorce. In most cases, the collapse of the marriage was rooted in the partners not telling each other they were appreciated.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the nation of Israel to observe feasts and festivals of Thanksgiving. In the New Testament, communion is a time for Christians to pause every Sunday and be thankful for Christ’s sacrifice and the forgiveness it offers. We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 that Christians should “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.” Romans 1:21 identifies those alienated from God as people who “knew about God but neither glorified Him nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

We give thanks not because God has an ego problem that He needs us to fill. We thank God because humans need to be thankful for the blessings we have. Focusing on what we don’t have or comparing ourselves to others is a short road to depression and unfortunate behavior.

Christians should be thankful 24/7/365, and Thanksgiving encourages us to count our blessings. For our own mental and spiritual health, we need to be grateful. Be thankful for the creation, family, friends, life and health, freedom, food and water, the Church, and salvation. May this Thanksgiving Day remind us of all our blessings. Focusing on what we don’t have and anguishing over our losses will not bring the joy and security God intends for us to have.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Legalizing Assisted Suicide in the Netherlands

Legalizing Assisted Suicide in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has been a trailblazer in legalizing abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia. For many years, that country has had a euthanasia law that allows doctors to actively kill a patient with an injection of drugs. It is supposed to be done only under strict conditions, but some cases have resulted in criminal actions. Now a group has filed a suit to force the Dutch government into legalizing assisted suicide.

The group called Cooperative Last Will, which claims 30,000 members, brought the suit. They want to legalize assisted dying, in which patients are provided with a lethal substance they take themselves. Lawyers have presented their arguments both for and against assisted dying, and the Hague District Court will render a decision on December 14.

From a purely secular standpoint, there are obvious problems with this issue. There are times in life when you hit rock bottom, and dying can look pretty good. Taking your life might make sense if you believe you are an animal with no more value than any other animal. However, people thinking of taking their own life are not considering what their death does to those who love them, to material possessions, or their obligations to society.

The Christian view of life and the physical body is explained in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. It tells us that the body is the temple of the Spirit and expresses God’s displeasure with anyone destroying it. I have been with several Christians when they died. Their expressions of love, forgiveness, sharing, and caring have impacted the lives of their family and friends. In some cases, the actions or words of one who was dying have changed the lives of others.

Assisted dying is a selfish, cowardly, atheistic choice by someone who may be influenced by any number of destructive agents. We need to work toward ending our lives in a positive way that expresses our love and the care that we have for others. Doctors need to work on relieving pain, not finding ways to terminate a life. Legalizing assisted suicide to allow distressed individuals to end their lives is filled with problems.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Mike Corder in an Associated Press article for October 11, 2022. Featured in the South Bend Tribune for that date on page 6A.

Should We Treat an Aborted Fetus as a Deceased Person?

Should We Treat an Aborted Fetus as a Deceased Person?

In 2016, when Mike Pence was governor, the state of Indiana passed a law requiring “the burial or cremation of any fetus.” The question at hand is should we treat an aborted fetus as a deceased person? Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Finally, in 2019, the court ruled that Indiana law had a legitimate interest in disposing of fetal remains.

In 2020, a group of women who had abortions in Indiana, along with abortion providers and an abortion clinic, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. They said that the requirements caused abortion and miscarriage patients “shame, stigma, anguish, and anger” because they “send the unmistakable message that someone who has had an abortion or miscarriage is responsible for the death of a person.”

In September of 2022, U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young ruled that the law violated the U.S. Constitution because it infringes upon the religious and free speech rights of people who don’t believe that aborted fetuses have any rights.

Whether we should treat an aborted fetus as a deceased person highlights the real issue in the abortion question. That is, whether or not a baby is a human before birth. Those who argue for abortion do not have scientific support for their position. The unborn child is not “an extension of the mother’s body.” Every medical attempt to define when a baby is a human fails because of the criteria used. Using brain waves, the ability to live outside the womb, the heartbeat, or when the fetus responds to outside stimuli are all arbitrary and change as technology advances.

In today’s world, having an abortion is safer than natural childbirth. The number of women who die in childbirth worldwide is vast, and even in the United States, there is a risk in giving birth. When you look at the arguments for abortion, consider how they can be applied to euthanasia for a person with age or mental issues. Some people want to use similar arguments to eliminate the cost and personal inconvenience of people at the other end of life’s journey. Ethics proponents like Dr. Peter Singer use them to justify euthanizing the mentally ill and the severely physically disabled.

Should we treat an aborted fetus as a deceased person? As our civilization embraces atheism, naturalism, and humanism, will it embrace a 100% materialistic view of human value? The recent ruling in Indiana seems to indicate that is the case.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Indianapolis Star and USA Today Network for September 30, 2022.

Banning Books in Public Schools 

Banning Books in Public Schools 

What books should be in a public school library? That issue has erupted into a serious battle with librarians and teachers caught in the middle as special interest groups fight to include books supporting their causes. In contrast, others are intent on banning books in public schools. 

A research group known as PEN America found 2532 instances of banning books in 32 states in the previous school year (2020-21). They also counted 50 groups fighting to ban books. The American Library Association estimated 1600 different books targeted for bans or restrictions in the same period. 

A group called “Moms for Liberty” was founded in 2020 to fight the use of certain books and now has 100,000 members in 38 states. Legislatures in Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida have passed laws calling for criminal charges when authorities deem books promoted to children are “pornographic, obscene, or inappropriate.” However, we have not seen a consistent definition of these words. 

The books being targeted fall into two general subject areas. One is race, and the other is LGBTQ issues. Teens or perhaps preteens can deal with those issues, but they should not be forced on kindergarten or first-grade children. Some targeted books have passages about masturbation, oral and anal sex, and sexual assault. Such subject matter is not what a small child should be confronted with at school without preparation at home. 

The issue of race is quite different. Describing each race as having a built-in bias or set of properties is foolish. Not all white people are racial bigots. Not all people of color are poor or uneducated. Schools must teach the history of racial issues in America without polarizing our culture with sweeping generalities. 

The reaction of many Christian parents has been to remove their children from public schools and either home-school or send them to private schools. The challenges parents face will only get worse because our country has rejected Christian values. Our books have been banned in the past because they promoted faith in God and the validity of biblical Christian values. Atheists have led an effort to forbid our books on science and faith because they contain positive support for belief in God. 

Christianity opposes racism and teaches sexual morality, but banning books will not solve today’s problems of racism and immorality. The Church and home must be involved in teaching children proper sexual conduct and preparing them for the challenges they will face. For Christian parents, Proverbs 22:6 applies here: “Teach your children right from wrong, and when they are grown, they will still do right” (CEV). That teaching must be by example as well as by words.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Week for October 21, 2022, page 11.

Persecution of Christians Continues

Persecution of Christians Continues

The latest data on the persecution of Christians around the world is disturbing. Unfortunately, getting data from some areas is difficult, but several organizations have worked hard to get numbers that tell us how bad it is. By “Christians,” these organizations mean any group that recognizes Jesus Christ in any form as divine, including Catholics, Mormons, and all denominations.

China is an area where it is hard to get accurate data. According to the “Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life,” there are 67 million “Christians” in China. That includes 9 million Catholics, 23 million “Three-Self Protestants” (the group approved by the government), 35 million independent protestants, and 20,000 “Orthodox Christians.” The current government has been shutting down churches and confiscating their property, so most of the ones listed are meeting as house churches. During the Cultural Revolution in China from 1983 to 1993, the government imprisoned 3,000 Christians, but the current imprisonment rate is estimated to be over ten times that number in 2021 alone.

The second most extensive national persecution of Christians is in Nigeria. In June of 2022, terrorist attacks on Christian churches resulted in 125 deaths and numerous kidnappings. In Nigeria in 2020, 3,530 Christians were murdered, and in 2021, 4,650 were killed during attacks on church services. Kidnappings have increased from 990 in 2020 to 2500 in 2021, with 470 churches attacked. Vietnam and Pakistan have smaller numbers.

It is amazing to note that these numbers far exceed the attacks by the Roman government on Christianity during the first century. We continue to see legal attacks on practicing Christians in the United States. The military has clamped down on chaplains who hold Christian services of any kind. That includes observations of Christmas, Easter, or even Sunday worship. Secular groups can rent facilities on most state universities. The Does God Exist? ministry did that from 1968 until 2019. Now we are told that facilities can not be rented by “Church groups” at the same universities where we used to do lectureships.

Our country’s political struggles have polarized every segment of our culture. Antichristian organizations and the media have assured us that the days when Christianity was socially acceptable are pretty much over. This persecution of Christians may purify us as those who merely want to go to Church social events leave, and the persecuted minority that remains will continue to do the will of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: Touchstone magazine, November/December 2022, page 12 ,and Wikipedia.

Clandestine Actions of Major Corporations

Clandestine Actions of Major Corporations

The dictionary defines clandestine actions as things done in secret or executed with secrecy or concealment, especially for purposes of subversion or deception. For example, one of the issues facing us today is corporations and the government promoting ideas and values opposed to Christian principles. That is especially true of moral issues promoted in schools, the entertainment industry, and even the military.

The Family Research Council revealed the political activities of several corporations that most of us are unaware of because they are clandestine actions.

STATE FARM has joined efforts with GenderCool, which recruits children to be part of the transgender movement. In addition, state Farm has recruited employees to flood local libraries and schools with transgender books aimed at children as young as five.

PIZZA HUT has a program called “Book It,” which features a book about a young boy dressing in drag.

DICKS SPORTING GOODS has announced they will provide employees up to $4,000 to access abortion. AMAZON, BANK OF AMERICA, COMCAST, MACY’S, and PAY PAL are just a few of the companies offering abortion stipends and travel reimbursement.

THE CURRENT POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT is displaying rainbow flags over U.S. embassies.

MILITARY members can get transgender surgeries paid for by taxpayers. The U.S. Navy has produced a training video on how to use “inclusive language” and the proper use of pronouns. A similar program has begun in the Air Force Academy.

The Family Research Council says that their surveys show that 57% of all Americans want companies to stay out of cultural and social issues. America is becoming an atheist state where the government dictates what is morally acceptable or unacceptable. At the same time, major corporations use clandestine actions to promote immorality. History tells us that nations collapse when they leave God and embrace immorality. Will we learn from history or repeat it?

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Family Research Council August 2022 information letter

Parental Rights in Education

Parental Rights in Education

What rights should parents have concerning the education of their children and the environment they are forced to live in when they leave home? If you are involved in the current new theories about sexual identity, race, and learning, you know that parental rights and input have been shoved aside as schools struggle with pressure from special interest groups. This is especially true if parents want to give their children spiritual instruction at home that is not opposed by secular learning at school. 

ParentalRights.org reports that 39 states have no statutes that expressly define and protect parental rights. In the late 1900s, I was head of the science department at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana. At that time, we were required to have a parent participate in evaluating the textbooks we would use. The Goldwater Institute (January 2020) reports that 47 states do not grant parents the right to review the learning materials and activities before their use. The Heritage Foundation (May 2019) says that 12 states do not allow parents to be involved in their schools’ sex ed curriculum. As a result, schools are forcing many things on very young children without their parent’s consent or knowledge. That is the state of parental rights in education today.

The transgender movement in America has become a fad, with many children being pressured by school officials encouraging kids to change their gender identity. This is called “affirmative care” and can even involve the use of drugs to catalyze a child’s movement away from their birth sex. The long-term effect of this kind of counseling, especially the drugs and surgical procedures used, is destructive. We have had personal contact with situations where the parents were unaware that their child was being pushed to change. 

The introduction of critical race theory to young children without the knowledge or consent of their parents is another issue of concern. Children are being taught that all white parents are racist or that all black parents feel that no matter how hard they work, their success will be limited by their skin color. That is simply not true. The terrible history of race relations in this country, neglected in the past, must be presented in history class. A first grader of any race should receive a positive picture of the American dream and that all humans are of equal value. 

As a public school teacher with 41 years of experience, I know the challenges American schools face today. However, if public education is to survive, it must acknowledge parental rights, allowing parents to determine their children’s moral, sexual, and racial training. Parents must not be excluded from the process of making public schools neutral on these issues. Parents must have the right to raise their children in what they feel is best for them. As it is right now, America is becoming a police state where parents have no rights and children are forced into a framework that violates what public education is all about. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: Faith and Justice magazine for August 2022, pages 5 – 7, and parentalrights.org

Carson v Makin Discrimination Case

Public Private Religious Schools - Carson v. Makin Discrimination Case

On June 21, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a rare decision supporting Christian institutions. The case was Carson v Makin, in which the court decided that the state of Maine could not discriminate against schools with a religious affiliation. Maine had a tuition aid program for nonsectarian private schools but barred faith-based schools. The Supreme Court invalidated that rule saying, “The State pays tuition for certain students at private schools – so long as the schools are not religious. That is discrimination against religion.” This decision overturned a 2019 ruling by the U.S. District Court of Maine.

This is a complicated issue. As a retired public school teacher, I know the problems created when tax money is divided, so public schools get less funding. The point is not whether tax money should go to private schools but whether, if money is taken away from the public schools, who should get it. Parents who don’t want their kids in public schools desire the option of having their tax money go to a school of their choice.

The problem is that public schools get poorer, and teacher quality goes down. Years ago, I gave a lectureship in a public school that competed with several private schools. The public school was a mess. The restrooms hadn’t been cleaned in several weeks, there were rats in the building, and the furniture was in disrepair. The students in that school were from low-income families. The more affluent families sent their kids to private schools with better funding, a superior environment, and better teachers. The private schools expelled the kids with discipline problems, sending them to the public schools.

The Carson v Makin ruling is a victory for church-affiliated schools, but the problem for public education continues. The Supreme Court’s decision is not over how to manage education but how to eliminate discrimination against Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: drjamesdobson.org

Where Biblical Morality Violates Government Regulations

Where Biblical Morality Violates Government Regulations

The persecution of Christians by governments began during the time of Paul and Peter and continues today in various countries. There are times and places where biblical morality violates government regulations, resulting in imprisonment. For example, today, in communist China, we see that simply meeting together to worship can result in lengthy jail sentences.

We assume that places where biblical morality violates government regulations are far away in countries where dictators, kings, or dominant philosophies control the population. At the same time, we assume that won’t happen in democratic America, where we are all free to live as the Bible teaches. However, in today’s America, that is not the case.

In 1968, the Fair Housing Act of the Civil Rights Act became law. The law intended to ensure that people were not denied housing because of race, religion, or national origin. On his first day in office, President Biden expanded that to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The administration has further expanded it to include facilities used by the general public, meaning that a bathroom that only one gender can use violates the law.

This regulation has become a particular problem for high schools and colleges. For example, what happens when a young man goes into a bathroom or locker room occupied by a woman, or vice versa? We see the situation where a male cannot be denied access to a female bathroom. A dormitory confined to one gender also becomes illegal. That presents a problem for Christian colleges and universities.

A Christian college is suing the federal government over this issue in the case of College of the Ozarks v. Biden. With elections coming up, it would be good to know the position of politicians in situations where biblical morality violates government regulations.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Censorship on American College Campuses

Censorship on American College Campuses

We have conducted seminars on university and college campuses since 1968. But, unfortunately, in recent years, we have experienced and seen in the media increased censorship on American college campuses. 

In 1968, we could go onto virtually any university campus, rent an auditorium or classroom, and give a presentation of evidence for the existence of God. We could prepare and distribute posters on the campus and advertise in the student newspaper. Workers could pass out brochures and invite students and faculty to attend. 

Our sessions always included a question/answer session. We did this on hundreds of university campuses, including major state and private schools like Stanford, Princeton, University of California, Virginia Tech, University of Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State. These sessions were associated with a local Church of Christ or campus group and brought in a sizeable audience.

In the past ten years, we have seen a militant attempt by these schools and others to stop presentations like ours. An organization called the “Foundation for Individual Rights In Education” (FIRE) has released a report about the state of free speech on college campuses that is very critical of American education. They evaluated 481 colleges and universities on a scale with 100 meaning a totally free-speech campus. The colleges studied were all under 73 on that scale. That says a lot about censorship on American college campuses.

One of the highest-ranking schools was Texas A & M. President Michael Young of A & M said, “A free exchange of ideas is not only the cornerstone of our democracy, it is the surest path to truth, discovery, and scholarly advancement.” How can a young person grow and expand their understandings of others if the university only promotes what The Atlantic magazine calls a “New Puritanism.” 

The Dallas Morning News” summarized this situation by saying, “…we should prepare our students to enter a world where they are unafraid to consider and discuss ideas from many perspectives. That is simply not the case on too many college campuses, where an orthodoxy of thought, usually but not exclusively progressive, has led students to silence themselves, each other, and their professors and administrators.” 

Jesus Christ challenged his listeners with questions. See, for example, Matthew 17:25, 18:12, 21:28, and 22:42. Censorship on American college campuses does not allow the free exchange of ideas, especially when someone tries to present a Christian view.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: FIRE website and South Bend Tribune, 12/22/21, page 5A.