Memorial to Help Us Remember

Memorial to Help Us Remember

By definition, we establish a memorial to help us remember certain essential things. Memorials are very much a part of Christianity and of the history of Israel. Members of different denominations have instituted all kinds of special days and given them spiritual significance. In reality, those days are not found in the Bible, and there is no biblical command to observe them. Perhaps God knew that humans would corrupt special days and forget their significance and message. Christmas is an example of that.

In Exodus 3:15, God told Moses that the exodus from Egypt would be a “memorial to all generations.” Jesus spoke in Mathew 26:13 of a memorial for the woman who anointed him for burial. In Luke 22:19-20, Jesus gave His followers the one special memorial to observe. Early Christians met on the first day of every week to remember Christ’s body “which is given for you” as they ate the bread and drank the fruit of the vine–“the new testament in my blood which is shed for you.” Even though Jesus gave us this memorial to help us remember, it was very quickly corrupted. In 1 Corinthians 11:20-34, we read that it had become a drunken feast in the Corinthian church. The memorial’s purpose was lost because they were “not discerning the Lord’s body” (verse 29). Paul goes on in this description to say, “this is why many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (verse 30).

Today in the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day. The last Monday in May was made a national holiday in 1971 to honor the memory of those who died to defend America from those who would try to destroy us. It seems that each year there is more emphasis on this day being the “unofficial first day of summer” with little emphasis on its intended meaning. Like the words of 1 Corinthians 11, this day has become a drunken feast for many, and our population is weak and sickly as a result. Many of us are more concerned with Memorial Day sales and, in 2020, how to celebrate without getting the virus than with pausing to give thanks for America and for those who died to preserve it.

As Christians, we have one special memorial to help us remember the sacrifice Jesus made. Even as we stop every week to remember what Jesus did for us, we must develop an attitude of gratitude. As we thank God who sent His Son to die for our salvation, we should also remember those who died to keep us free to worship in this country.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Religious Anti-Science Rhetoric

Religious Anti-Science Rhetoric

For the 51 years of this ministry, we have confronted religious anti-science rhetoric. Our critics are those who feel that science is an enemy and that you can’t be a good Christian and embrace science. We are now in a period when the issue of whether people can meet together for worship services has become an issue of science and politics. Some politicians oppose churches resuming worship services saying there is strong scientific evidence that it will expose participants to the COVID-19 virus. Many religious leaders insist that this is an attempt by the government to restrict religion. They say that this scientifically-based objection is destroying the right of people to worship together.

In previous articles, we have pointed out that a great deal of ignorance is involved in rejecting science. According to the dictionary, science is knowledge. Knowledge is always neutral. The critical thing is how we use it. When new scientific knowledge gave us lasers, the question was how we would use lasers. Would they be weapons that cause massive destruction, or would they be medical tools to heal eyes?

We now understand how the COVID-19 virus spreads from one person to another. Will we use this knowledge to stop the progression of the illness, or will we use this virus to destroy whole masses of people? The bubonic plague from 1347-1351 killed 200 million people, which was nearly half of Europe’s population. Religious anti-science rhetoric today has the potential to create a catastrophe.

It isn’t our knowledge about the COVID-19 virus that is a threat to freedom or to worship. The reality is that science will eventually develop a vaccine that will allow everyone to worship together. Smallpox was killing 400,000 people a year in Europe, and it only stopped when scientists developed a vaccine. It is hypocritical for religious people to vilify science while they: 1) enjoy modern technology in their entertainment 2) go to medical facilities for treatment of disease, 3) use scientific advancements to grow and prepare their food, 4) use new scientific discoveries in their businesses, and 5) use science in their homes to improve their standard of living.

Proverbs 8 makes it clear that God has used science (wisdom) in all He has done. Psalms 19 and 139 refer to God’s creation, and Romans 1:19-20 points out that science reveals God’s existence through the things He has made. The following verses, Romans 1:21-32, point out that human moral and political choices cause the pain and destruction we see in our world.

Christianity doesn’t need to violate social distancing to worship and to practice our faith. James 1:27 defines true religion, and Jesus made it clear that He is there when just two people come together in His name (Matthew 18:20). First Timothy 6:20 tells Christians to avoid scams and religious claims called science. Ignore the religious anti-science rhetoric and know that God and science are friends. Don’t listen to politicians and religious hucksters and rely on evidence and the message of proven researchers. Join together in prayer and worship in our homes on Zoom, YouTube, Facebook, or whatever method you choose. Rejoice that, through science, God has given us new ways to come together, encourage each other, and glorify Him even in the middle of a pandemic.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Discover magazine, June 2020, page 11.

Communist Chinese Priority

Communist Chinese Priority

While the world is trying to stamp out a contagious virus that originated from China, the Chinese Communist government is battling something else. The Communist Chinese priority is to stamp out Christianity.

In March, the Chinese government went on a campaign to remove crosses from churches in three eastern provinces. They brought in cranes to lift the crosses off the church steeples because, they said, religious symbols cannot be physically higher than the Chinese national flag. Government officials told the church leaders that the crosses “were too eye-catching” and might “attract people into the churches.”

Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, Illinois, has a Chinese Institute. The director, Jian Zhu, said that China’s persecution of house churches has intensified. Chinese authorities ask people to spy on their neighbors and report churches meeting in homes. They also require teachers and students to sign statements denouncing Christianity.

Zhu said, “Cameras are all over to watch church and Christians go to Sunday services.” What do the Communists do with the data they gather concerning Christians? According to Zhu, they threaten families not to go to church, “or they will be punished or their relatives could be in trouble.”

As those of us in the United States are prevented from meeting together because of a virus, remember the Chinese Christians. The virus will soon be controlled, but the Communist Chinese priority to persecute Christians will probably only get worse.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Reporting by Fox News and The Christian Post.

Army Chaplains from Overseas

Army Chaplains from Overseas

A recent article in Christianity Today (April 2020, page 19-20) said that roughly 1/5th of today’s Army Chaplains were born outside of the United States. One example is Army chaplain Sebastian Kim who was born to Korean parents in Argentina and then moved to Brazil at the age of 7. This makes us ask why such a high percentage of Army chaplains were not born in the United States?

Raja Kandanada, who was born in India, now works at the Pentagon as a family-life chaplain. He says that although he was born in India, he was born again in the United States. Although he experienced discrimination in India because of the caste system there, he has come to understand the meaning of God’s love in America and the debt he owes to his adopted country.

As America veers away from belief in God, those who have lived elsewhere see the effect of faith in this country, and they want to be a part of it. Today’s military is not made up of people who were drafted. Today’s soldiers are people who see the value of being Americans and want to serve others and serve God. Cornelius Muasa, an Army chaplain from Kenya, says, “My job as a chaplain is to empower those who fight evil.”

These Army chaplains stand out and fit the description in Philippians 2:14-16, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world holding forth the word of life…”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

LGBTQ Lessons in New Jersey Schools

LGBTQ Lessons in New Jersey Schools

Starting in the fall of 2020, all of New Jersey’s public middle schools and high schools will be required to teach LGBTQ lessons. The state is not requiring a separate class on the subject, but to incorporate LGBTQ into various subjects. Every course on history, economics, grammar, etc. must include three to four lessons on “social, political, and economic contributions of LGBTQ people.” The requirement for LGBTQ lessons in New Jersey schools follows a similar law in California.

Included in the curriculum, now being tested in twelve schools in four cities, is a lesson about a gay boy forced into “gay conversion therapy.” The education manager of Garden State Equality, the advocacy group leading the pilot program, said, “We want students to see themselves in the stories that are told.” LGBTQ promoters will serve as curriculum coaches making site visits and training teachers. The state will dictate to local school boards what policies, curriculum, and textbooks they must use to comply with the LGBTQ law standards.

As a public school teacher, I find it hard to understand why this would not add a level of conflict to the classroom. Having a “coach” who has an agenda invites more conflict. Knowing that there will be parents who have anti-LGBTQ plans will add another layer of conflict. A group called “The Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey” is collecting signatures on a petition calling the law a violation of religious liberties that “forces sexual ideology” onto children. The petition goes on to say, “This law violates the fundamental and constitutional rights of parents to direct the moral and educational upbringing of their children.”

We have discussed the LGBTQ issue before such as HERE and HERE. There is no justification for the abuse of any person based on sexual orientation. The problem with governments promoting moral laws for individuals is that they never tell the whole story. The Bible speaks against the gay lifestyle, and history indicates abuse both by and towards gays. It’s a fact that LGBTQ participants have a shorter life expectancy. Transgender persons need continual medical support, including a lifetime of hormone drugs. LGBTQ persons historically have a vastly higher rate of STDs. Will all of these facts be presented in the LGBTQ lessons in New Jersey schools?

What would happen if a state passed a law mandating that historical Christian values must be presented across classes by teachers and coached by Christian ministers? The history of the Christian belief systems would emphasize great accomplishments, but it would also reflect the bias of whoever did the coaching. LGBTQ lessons in New Jersey schools will possibly drive more and more people to charter schools and private schools, weakening the diversity of the public schools.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Source: USA Today, January 8, 2020, page 5A.

Why Homeschooling?

Why Homeschooling?

One of the challenges that parents face today, perhaps more than at any time in history, is the challenge of how to educate their children. The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that 1.7 million children are homeschooled in the United States. Why homeschooling?

There are many problems with homeschooling. Many times parents do not have enough education to do an adequate job of educating their child. Homeschooled children tend to have social issues because they have not interacted with a wide range of children with other abilities and beliefs. Perhaps the most compelling reason for homeschooling is to provide religious instruction for the child. That has become more necessary in recent years as churches have veered away from moral instruction and Bible teaching while using entertainment to attract students.

In the 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Education, the main reason given for homeschooling is safety, with bullying and school shootings being a significant concern. The government report said that for 34% of all homeschoolers, safety was the most important motivation. Religious instruction as a reason, has dropped 13% in four years.

Where you live has a major impact on whether you feel motivated to homeschool your child. Shootings can occur anywhere, and church buildings have been a primary target of shooters in recent years. Unfortunately, bullying is likely to occur at any age and in any situation. As an adult, I have faced bullying by people who claimed to be Christians attempting to stop my ministry. Having been bullied as a child has allowed my ministry to survive. I learned anti-bullying skills early. Parents maintaining good communication with their children and being proactive at stopping bullying is a better solution than trying to avoid it.

Why homeschooling? There is a place for homeschooling, but “training a child in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6) doesn’t always mean withdrawing them from the challenges of life.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Christianity Today, March 2020, page 22.

Christian Martyr Data Discrepencies

Christian Martyr Data Discrepencies

We live in a time in which many people who wear the name “Christian” are being killed. Various groups who keep track of Christian martyr data have wildly different counts of how many have died for their faith.

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity says that 90,000 Christians were martyred in 2019. The International Society for Human Rights says that 10,000 were martyred. Open Doors puts the number at 4,305. The problem here is that the definition of a “martyr” is not the same for everyone.

The Nazis killed Dietrich Bonhoeffer in World War II because he was involved in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. His Christian faith was the reason he became involved in the plot. Does that make him a martyr? Christians were killed in civil wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. Should they be classified as martyrs? There is a monument in Bicknell Park in Montebello, California, in memory of one of the worst genocides of the 20th century. Between 1915 and 1921, the Turkish government killed 1,500,000 Armenian Christians. Does that make all of them martyrs?

Martyrs have always been held up as examples of faithfulness. In today’s world, there are many countries where converting to Christianity is a sure way to be executed. The early Roman persecution of Christians is undeniable and uncontested. Determining Christian martyr data in our modern world varies by how we define “martyr.”

Those of us who live in the United States should be thankful that, so far, we don’t have to be worried about being singled out or killed by the government because of our worship. That may change, but we should thank God for the freedom Christians enjoy now in the U.S. and other countries.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Christianity Today, March 2020, page 23-24.

Potential Problems of Prayer in Public Schools

Potential Problems of Prayer in Public Schools

As a public high school science teacher with 41 years of experience, I have watched with interest the struggle over school prayer. We recently reported on the United States government easing restrictions. At the same time, we must be cautious about potential problems of prayer in public schools.

At one time, I taught at Jackson High School in South Bend, Indiana. The school was aware that I traveled on weekends giving lectures on why I believe God exists. They decided to allow the students an opportunity to hear my presentations. There were some atheist attempts to get me fired for doing that, but they had failed. Even though I traveled on weekends, I never missed a day of school because of the lectureships. I also never brought my material into the classroom. I was hired to teach physics, chemistry, and earth science, and that is what I did. I gave my presentations during what was called “mini-courses” during the homeroom period. The students could choose to hear me in the school auditorium, or use the swimming pool, or shoot baskets in the gym, or attend a class on ballroom dancing, or play cards in the cafeteria. The school enrollment was around 1600, and we had over 1000 who came to the auditorium.

Contrast that experience with what has happened in recent years. We have mentioned cases where students received disciplinary action for mentioning their faith in graduation exercises. Coaches have been fired for kneeling in silent prayer before or after a game. All of this has prompted the Family Research Council (FRC) to draw up what they call the “Declaration of Religious Rights in Public School.” The document says that students do not lose their constitutional rights of religious freedom and free speech when they step onto school grounds. As long as it does not interrupt instructional time:

1) Students can pray, read their Bible and other religious material, and talk about their faith at school.

2) Students can organize prayer groups or religious clubs and promote the meetings.

3) Students can express their faith in classwork and homework.

4) Teachers can organize prayer groups and Bible studies with other teachers.

5) Students may be able to go off campus to have religious studies during school hours.

6) Students can express their faith at a school event.

7) Students can express their faith at their graduation ceremony.

I’m sure that the FRC had lawyers involved in preparing this, and many of their ideas are very good. But they may be an invitation to potential problems of prayer in public schools. They may not understand what goes on in a public high school like James Whitcomb Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, where I taught in for 41 years. For example, how do you control students going off campus? Maybe their religion promotes free love and rejection of parents. Are kids allowed to go for all religious classes? If not, which ones? Is the school facility going to be used to have meetings of religious clubs, and, if so, who is responsible for what goes on? If one student expresses their faith at a school event, do you have to allow every student who has a faith of any kind to share it? These are a few of the potential problems of prayer in public schools.

Jesus made it clear that the Church is not to be a part of the state (Matthew 22:21 ). If the state is providing education in math, English, science, etc., it cannot become an arena of religious conflict. A politician can have a religious faith, but the floor of the congress is not the place to promote doctrinal principles. The public school cannot be that either.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Blessing Nuclear Bombs

Blessing Nuclear Bombs

One of the great teachings of Jesus Christ is the separation of Church and State. The issue came up many times in His ministry and during the life of Paul. Christ’s enemies raised it directly to Him in Matthew 22:17-21. Jesus’ response was, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” Secular rulers have often tried to use the Church to validate what they did. A classic example of how far astray things can go is blessing nuclear bombs.

Vladimir Putin has made the Russian Orthodox Church an arm of the state, and for some time now, he has had the priests blessing nuclear bombs. They do it by splashing “holy water” on the nukes. Previously the Church was doing the blessing on all arms as well as seeking divine protection for soldiers. A church commission has been set up by the Russian Orthodox Church to investigate whether weapons of mass destruction should be included in the blessings.

The Russian military is building a cathedral in a military park outside Moscow, further emphasizing the close connection between the state and the Church. Jesus did not confront the Roman authorities of His day. Paul taught the importance of Christians being subject in civil life to civil authority (Romans 13). The idea of Christians blessing war and destruction flies in the face of all Jesus taught.

Atheists can justifiably complain about abuses like this one, but we must separate what Jesus taught from what various denominations teach and do. We can defend everything Jesus taught and show its wisdom, but blessing nuclear bombs is not defensible.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: The Week, February 14, 2020, page 9.

Government Easing Restrictions on Prayer in School

Government Easing Restrictions on Prayer in School

In 2003, the United States Education Department issued a document called “Guidance on School Prayer.” It contained very restrictive rules for prayer in a school setting. We have reported on some cases where a student was prohibited from giving a talk connected to an earned award because they insisted on including a prayer. Now, we see the government easing restrictions on prayer in school.

The 2020 release by the Education Department states that “student speakers can pray at assemblies or sports games as long as they were not chosen to speak based on their religious perspective.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says, “Our actions today will protect the constitutional rights of students, teachers, and faith-based institutions.”

The new rules also expand the ability of faith-based groups to participate in government programs, and it “aims to put religious groups on equal footing when competing for federal grants and other funding.” We have recently pointed out the problems with accepting government money when it means the government gets to decide what you can teach, preach, and do.

Since this new set of rules comes in an election year, some may impugn the motives of the government rule-makers. I am sure it will generate a lot of reaction from atheistic groups. At the very least, the government easing restrictions on prayer in school will move it away from a totally atheistic stance on the rights of young people.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Associated Press, January 17, 2020.

You can read the new guidelines HERE.