Christians and Politics

Christians and Politics

We live in a difficult time for the United States. Not only is the country divided, but the political leaders on all sides embrace moral decisions that fly in the face of how Christ taught us to live. We are concerned about issues regarding Christians and politics.

It is not a new thing for political leaders to clash with good morals. In Luke 3:18-20, we read that Herod the tetrarch imprisoned John the Baptist when he spoke out about Herod’s evil actions with his brother’s wife. (See Luke 3:18-20.) The enemies of Christ tried to get him in trouble by saying the He was opposed to Caesar and the Roman authorities. Today it is likely that someone speaking against the immoral practices of politicians may suffer consequences. Our courts now endorse immoral practices.

In spite of John’s imprisonment and execution by a Roman leader, Jesus told his followers to pay taxes. He said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Today, some religious leaders have gotten involved in politics to the extent of telling their followers how to vote. What is the proper relationship between Christians and politics?

Paul addresses that question in Romans 13. In verses 1 and 2 he tells us that God has instituted governing authorities and that Christians should be subject to them. In verses 3-5, he wrote that rulers are servants of God. The next two verses tell Christians to pay taxes and give respect and give honor to authorities. Paul wrote this to people living in a pagan, violent, immoral political system. Starting with verse 8, Paul talks about what Christians should be doing that was in contrast to the political system of his day.

God instituted civil law to provide order in the human community. Even the most corrupt politician does not want the culture he rules to be dominated by murder, violence, and anarchy. The Ten Commandments provide the structure we need for order in society. As humans have strayed from God, they still need order and structure. Even when the agents of this order and structure are corrupt, they still provide a framework in which people can live. As far as Christians and politics, we are not called to make a political agenda our number-one priority. Romans 13 ends with Paul saying, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Whatever you do politically, let your Christian values guide it. The wall of separation we need to be concerned about is the wall between walking in the light and walking in darkness. (See 1 John 1.)

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Negative Data on Marijuana

Negative Data on MarijuanaThe current craze on the use of marijuana has convinced many people that it is a miracle drug that will take care of all health issues. Some claim that it can not only help in cases of mental illness and dementia but that it also can cure cancer, Crone’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and a host of other common maladies. There are medical uses of components of marijuana that are promising and may be refined and used as pharmaceuticals in years ahead. What many are ignoring is negative data on marijuana.

There are good reasons to avoid using marijuana in some cases. In Colorado, the following negative factors are connected to the use of recreational marijuana:

1) Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, there has been an 8% rise in homelessness. The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice has shown that the legalization of marijuana has attracted transient people to the state.

2) The Colorado Health Department has shown a 400% increase in children younger than eight years of age who have been poisoned by high potency cannabis leading to emergency room visits.

3) Children ages 1 to 13 have been exposed to second-hand marijuana smoke in thousands of homes.

4) A study by the University of Colorado of 639 teenagers treated in 2015 in one Colorado hospital system either had cannabis in their urine or told a doctor they had used it.

5) The Highway Loss Data Institute has reported that Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have seen a 3% jump in auto collision claims since the legalization of marijuana in those states.

Having cannabis available as a controlled medical substance is one thing. It is another thing to make recreational marijuana available to anyone and everyone knowing the negative data on marijuana use. Like cigarette smoke, this is a health hazard that doesn’t just involve the user but also involves people in the user’s house and environment.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Rebecca R. Bibbs in the Herald Bulletin 11/4/19, page A2.

Presenting Alternative Lifestyles to Young Children

Presenting Alternative Lifestyles to Young ChildrenWe have frequently pointed out that the teachings of Jesus Christ make it clear that we must love and respect those with whom we disagree. Matthew 5:39-48 is hard to misunderstand. We must not attempt to harm anyone, including those who might be teaching things that oppose what the Bible says. There is no excuse for those who claim to be Christians to physically attack anyone because they are a part of the LGBT movement. At the same time, we have to be concerned and vocally oppose those who promote immoral behavior, especially when it involves presenting alternative lifestyles to young children.

Recently the popular children’s show “Arthur” on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) ran an episode entitled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone.” It featured a wedding ceremony between Mr. Ratburn and a character named Patrick. This program is funded by tax dollars and is aimed at preschool children. Disney has placed LGBT characters in the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast and its television cartoon series Doc McStuffins. Drag Queen events have been held in Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, in programs aimed at preschool children.

LGBT leaders claim that these promotions of their lifestyles are no different than a PBS program on Christmas music, or Christmas events held in public venues. It would seem that presenting material to preschoolers about drag queens and gay marriage is far more complicated than historical stories. Since tax dollars fund PBS, and religious programming is constantly refused by the same media, it seems that promotion of the LGBT lifestyle should also be prohibited.

The bottom line is that parents need to monitor what their children are exposed to. You can’t rely on PBS or Disney to offer only factual and moral material and avoid presenting alternative lifestyles to young children.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Family Research Council, October 2019 newsletter pages 1-4.

Most Difficult Issues of Life

Most Difficult Issues of LifeI believe that one of the most difficult issues of life is what to do when…
…you have been told you are going to die
…you are in enormous pain
…there seems to be no hope of recovery
…your care is using up the inheritance of your children
…and quality of life for you is absolutely zero with no hope it will ever get better.

I have seen friends and family in that situation and observed it in people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. This issue is a growing problem because our population is aging. At my age, I find that when I read the obituaries in the South Bend Tribune, there is someone I know listed nearly every day. We are not talking about “pulling the plug,” where a mechanical device keeps a body technically alive. We are talking about physically doing something to a patient that will result in death.

In 2019, New Jersey, Maine, Oregon, Hawaii, and New York all passed laws that either allowed medical aid in dying or made it easier to get help to die. Hearings that will lead to medical assistance bills were conducted in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Nevada. An organization called “Compassion and Choices” has spearheaded a national movement to promote physician assisted suicide, and they have enormous support from celebrities and academics.

The fact is that death remains one of the most difficult issues of life. The arguments against physician assisted suicide are especially emotional. By choosing that path, we are trusting human judgment about whether death is close at hand. There are cases where someone who was expected to die made an amazing recovery. Psychological and spiritual healing sometimes results when a person knows that they are about to die. Support as friends and family rally around a dying person can rebuild relationships and restore family unity that is rare in today’s world. Many believe that leaving the time of one’s death in the hands of God is a necessary spiritual responsibility.

There is no question that we need to make changes in the laws and practices concerning the most difficult issues of life and death. Dealing with Alzheimers and dementia is very different from dying of cancer. Huge medical strides are making judgment difficult in all of these cases. Making a person comfortable throughout the last stages of life should be a priority for geriatric medicine. Limiting the use of medications and devices to relieve pain for a dying person is not only cruel but unnecessary. We should be able to win life’s final war with pain without resorting to terminating life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Frightening Polarization and Violence

Frightening Polarization and ViolenceFor 51 years, we have presented public programs on scientific evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. During that time, we have seen a lot of violence, going beyond verbal threats. I have had a pie thrown at me during a lecture. Someone smashed the windows of my truck with a hammer. Personal property at my home was set on fire. In a few situations, I have been shoved, pushed, or hit with a stick. Those incidents have always involved disgruntled individuals with an ax to grind who felt that I was persecuting them. In each case, the damage was minimal. Receiving threats is common for anyone who takes a strong position on God or politics. The frightening polarization and violence is a whole different matter if those threats are physically carried out.

We regularly get reports of violence against believers in God who are public about their faith and why they believe. We recently heard of a threat against Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos by Austin College professor Robert Rancho. He posted a statement that “.. I’d be ok if Betsy DeVos was sexually assaulted.” Nahweed Tahmas tells of being punched, kicked, and spat on for stating his patriotic beliefs because he is a conservative with a positive message about God. I want to emphasize that the problem is not that some people may not agree with the position of some public speakers. I don’t agree with some things these two people have presented. The problem is that we have reached the point in America today where it is acceptable to use violence when we disagree with a public speaker.

The frightening polarization and violence are being addressed by an organization called The Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia. Dealing primarily with incidents of campus violence, The Leadership Institute is organizing and recruiting people on all campuses to report abuses. While the Does God Exist? ministry does not have a political agenda, we do understand that we are all affected by the polarization of Americans that encourages militarism and physical retaliation for perceived injustices.

Years ago, I worked with a group in London, England, who were reaching the British people. They said they had arranged a public meeting for me, and they led me to platform in a city park. “Start telling your message,” they told me. As I spoke, a crowd gathered, and I wondered if I was physically safe. The group was polite, paid attention, asked good questions, and stated objections in a pleasant way.

I wonder if that could happen in America today? I suspect that in many places, it could not. A physical, political organization that encourages the use of force is not the answer. Jesus went up onto a hill, and people came to him (Matthew 5:1-2). When He had physical opposition in Nazareth, He simply passed through it and went on His way (Luke 4:16-30). We need to present our case as Jesus did, with patience, love, and consideration, not increasing the frightening polarization and violence in America today.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Marriage Versus Cohabitation

Marriage Versus CohabitationA U.S. Census Bureau report released September 25, 2019, says that the number of unmarried partners living together has tripled in the past two decades. The report says that the number went from 6 million in 1996 to 19.1 million in 2018. There are all kinds of editorials about this data, with some writers referring to it as “increasing normalization.” The report comments that people who cohabitate are “older, better educated, more likely to earn higher wages and more racially diverse.” The report also says that cohabitation is “an alternative to marriage for low-income and less educated people.” What is the truth about marriage versus cohabitation?

Why government reports find it necessary to attempt to explain data escapes me. Interpreting the data in an atheistic way is not only illogical but raises more questions than it answers. What was the population from which the data was taken?  How many of the people cohabitating have children, and what effect is the cohabitation having on the children? How does cohabitation provide a viable alternative for low-income people? My wife and I were eligible for public assistance when we got married. We had no money, and I was a public school teacher making $4300 a year. Working as a team, we lifted ourselves out of that poverty and provided a stable home for our three children. On my own, none of that would have been possible.

Another vital aspect the report doesn’t mention is the role of sex in marriage and cohabitation. First Corinthians 7:1-6 describes the concern married Christians should have for the sexual needs of their mates. Every expert from Masters and Johnson to modern specialists has shown that a committed relationship provides the best in sexual satisfaction and the most fulfilling relationship for both men and women. Cohabitation may satisfy the immediate sexual gratification of some, especially males. It does not meet the real needs of both men and women in the long term.

It is no wonder that many young people are embracing alternative living arrangements. They have been lied to by their culture and often influenced by the bad examples set by their parents. Also, they have had no instruction or education in God’s teaching on the divine plan for sex and marriage. The collapse of the nuclear family leaves children struggling with life and with increased learning disabilities. The result to fill the void they feel is the increasing use of drugs and a radical increase in suicide. When it comes to marriage versus cohabitation, God’s plan works. The alternatives do not.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Prison Ministry Reaching Inmates Who Want to Learn

 Reaching Inmates Who Want to LearnOne of the major efforts of this ministry is to provide educational materials and support for men and women in prison. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, both numerically and in the percentage of the nation’s population. For that reason, workers are greatly needed in prison ministry.

In 1962 John Clayton began working with men and women in the local jail, and then at the state prison in Michigan City, Indiana. Helen Richards had been doing work in prisons, and the two of them began teaching both classes such as mathematics, and Bible-study classes. It became very apparent that a high percentage of the prisoners had embraced atheist teachings. When convicts were brought into the prison to begin their period of incarceration, they would be asked about their religious affiliation. They would pick a denomination, or the clerk would do it for them. The reality was that a vast percentage of inmates had rejected God and the Bible as useful in directing their lives. We wanted our prison ministry to help those prisoners.

In 1968 John Clayton wrote a three lesson apologetic course to use in prisons. This quickly evolved into a 13 lesson course so that prisoners could complete a lesson once a week each quarter. This course was written at a 4th-grade reading level, and there was a question sheet at the end of each lesson. The number of students grew rapidly, and the course became a nationwide correspondence course. Ten years later, John developed a college-level course reaching inmates who want to learn more advanced material.

At the same time, Helen Richards built up a series of lessons that were straight Bible studies. Interest in this educational prison ministry was so great that additional help was needed, and more courses were added. We now have just under 4,000 students in our two apologetics courses, about half of whom are active. We have nine courses graded by other workers with a large number of lessons being graded by this team every month. We provide students who enroll with the lessons and answer sheets to fill out and return to us in postpaid return envelopes. They take one course at a time, and the nine studies we offer are broken down into four areas:

1) Basic Courses – Bible lessons in simple language written especially for people who need a beginner course. Most of our prisoners start with this course.
2) A Special Needs Course for those who need help with substance abuse.
3) Four general courses dealing with Christianity as taught in the Bible.
4) Two Advanced Courses with in-depth biblical studies.

Students who need out of state visits or specialized help with substance abuse are referred to “Christians Against Substance Abuse” (CASA). Buck Griffith and Don Umphrey have built a program that has helped thousands of men and women pick up the pieces and live productive Christian lives. We have been able to help several men get college degrees. Several prisons have a class in progress using DVDs of our video series taught by an inmate who has studied our materials. For more information, or to enroll, contact us for a “Request Form.” All of the courses and programs in our prison ministry are free.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Entrapped for His Faith

Entrapped for His FaithWe have previously mentioned Christian business owners who have been sued for refusing to do something that violated their Christian faith. One of the individuals we mentioned before is Jack Phillips who owns a business called “Masterpiece Cakeshop” in Colorado. Because some people didn’t respect his religious beliefs, they set up a plan so he would be entrapped for his faith.

The big issue here is whether a business owner has the right to refuse goods or services that violates that owners religious convictions. That battle is going on in the courts in various cases. When Mr. Phillps declined to design a cake for a same-sex wedding, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission prosecuted him, and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Phillips won against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the Supreme Court. Then someone set up a plan for Phillips to be entrapped for his faith. An attorney called Masterpiece Cakeshop and requested a cake that would be blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate a gender transition. Mr. Phillips believes that God created us male and female and that humans have no right to change the way God created us. He declined to make the cake. The attorney then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and the Colorado government began to prosecute Mr. Phillips again.

It turns out that the attorney was not celebrating a gender transition. The request was an attempt to set Mr. Phillips up to be entrapped for his faith and dragged into court again. The question is whether individual freedom still exists in the United States. Can a person freely follow their faith and allow it to influence what they do professionally?

The information on this case comes from a legal organization called Alliance Defending Freedom in their August 2019, bulletin. More and more, Christians are being attacked for their faith both in the physical world and in the legal world. Thankfully the attacks cannot be made in the spiritual world in which we function.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Is It Worth the Price?

Is It Worth the Price? Yes, Timothy is worth it.
Every Wednesday morning I take my son Tim, who is 57 years old, out for breakfast. Tim is mentally challenged, blind, and has a mild form of muscular dystrophy. He also has cerebral palsy and schizophrenia. All of this has left him wheelchair-bound and with trembles that affect his ability to hold a cup to drink. Various government programs for the disabled have supported Tim since he became of school age. Some people have told me they resent their tax money being used to prolong my son’s suffering. I regularly receive brochures from pro-euthanasia groups promoting legislation that would terminate those who have “a low quality of life.” That brings up the question, “Is it worth the price?”

I suspect that we could reduce the massive amount of government deficit spending if we euthanized everyone in a mental hospital or care facility. We could expand that to include any prisoner who will always be incarcerated. We could also add anyone who is in a vegetative state due to brain injuries or congenital problems caused by disease, injury, stroke, or inadequate care. From an atheistic standpoint, the euthanizing of all of these individuals makes sense. Putting human life on the same level as animal life would allow involuntary euthanasia. The champion of this kind of thinking is Australian Dr. Peter Singer. He is the Ira W. Decamp Professor of bioethics at Princeton University. He is also the Australian Laureate Professor of Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne.

From a Christian standpoint, these proposals are repugnant. To be clear, we are not talking about allowing a dying person to refuse a life support machine with no hope of ever being free of the machine. Christians do not view a human as “just another animal.” The Christian view is that ALL humans are created in the image of God. That means they have a spiritual makeup which is unique to humans. Christians reject the view that a human, a dog, and a pig are of equal value.

But is it worth the price of caring for those whom Singer and others would eliminate? There are a large number of objections to the views of the euthanasia advocates. Here are a few:

1) The handicapped historically have made significant contributions to all disciples of human activity. Would those who promote involuntary euthanasia suggest that Stephen Hawking’s life should have been terminated when he could no longer function without help? How many great musical composers have had major handicaps? Many times a handicap has led to a unique talent that blesses the lives of others.

2) How do you determine a “low quality of life”? My son has many things that bring him joy. He enjoys food and knows about the different foods of various cultures. He gets great pleasure from hearing about various religious beliefs. He enjoys music and loves to feel different textures. He does not agonize over his blindness or complain about not being able to play sports. He looks forward to my daily phone calls and loves eating out. From his perspective, his quality of life is very good.

3) Ignoring the spiritual dimension of life means not understanding what brings joy to many people. Galatians 5:19-25 describes the physical “works of the flesh,” and the “fruit of the Spirit.” The physical things are animal responses that involve the physical body. Verse 22 lists the fruits of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..” My son has all of those. Not only does he have them, but he brings them into the lives of others.

The bottom line is, what kind of a world do we want to live in and leave to our children and grandchildren? Should it be a world that teaches survival of the fittest and the annihilation anyone that some person or group of people decides are not fit? Or should it be a world of love and gentleness and caring that treats every human with dignity and respect? It seems to me that the answer to this question is obvious. Is it worth the price? You bet it is! More on this tomorrow.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Abortion and Infanticide in Virginia

Abortion and Infanticide in Virginia
Newborn Baby Girl with Club Foot

There seems to be confusion between abortion and infanticide in Virginia today. State Delegate Kathy Tran introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature that would permit abortion through the moment of birth, even when the mother shows signs of being in labor. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said this about a baby born with significant physical problems: “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines abortion as “the expulsion of a fetus before it is viable.” It is obvious that in Virginia – and also New York – at least, it is now legal to kill a viable fetus. That is not abortion – it is infanticide. Matthew 2:16-18 tells of Herod practicing infanticide to try to avoid the political consequences of the King of the Jews surviving. In ancient Rome, unwanted babies were simply thrown into the street to die. In some nations today, male babies are preferred, and the females are eliminated.

In America, babies are now viewed by many as commodities, and only the best are fit to survive. The unfit – those with physical problems or perhaps the wrong physical features – can be destroyed. Abortion and infanticide are the tools to accomplish that. Science has sequenced and analyzed the human genome and developed techniques to modify the genome. That means we are close to being able to design a child with the features we want. Then we can discard any child that has the “wrong” features.

Christians believe that what defines a human is not their appearance or a set of physical characteristics. The Bible defines humans as beings created in the image of God. No, we don’t look like God physically because God is not a physical being. If God had a physical body, and we were all in created in God’s physical image, we would be identical. God is a spirit, and we are in God’s spiritual image. That means all humans have value, no matter what our physical body is like.

Some of the world’s greatest thinkers, artists, musicians, and political leaders were people who had physical problems. Before America today is the question, “What do we believe about the worth of a human being?” Do we want to create the super race of physical beings manufactured by human intelligence and designed to be the most fit of all life on Earth? Or do we believe that every human has value and worth? If we want the super race, then abortion and infanticide are the methods by which we can achieve that goal.

Let’s understand it is not only abortion that we are endorsing, it is the killing of infants. If every human has value, then let us work to eliminate the causes of physical problems. Let us focus on life in all of its variety and value, realizing that every human being bears the image of God. That image allows all of us to express beauty in an amazing variety of ways.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Susan B. Anthony List