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Apr 26, 2015

How Religious 'Liberty' Has Been Used to Justify Racism, Sexism and Slavery Throughout History

Using religion to deny people rights is an old routine that harms both the church and the state.

There has been an enormous backlash from Indiana's decision to enact a law that would allow businesses to discriminate if they invoke religious liberty. Responding to a flurry of boycott threats, Republican Governor Mike Pence signed a “fix” to the bill he says would prevent it from being used to discriminate.

But for the religious right, the battle lines have been drawn. 2016 presidential contenders like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson and others have all rushed to defend Indiana's legislation, as a number of state legislatures continue to debate enacting similar measures. In Louisiana, one Republican lawmaker is introducing a narrower bill specifically taking aim at marriage, with the intent to allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex weddings and deny benefits to employees in same-sex marriages.

In all of these examples, religious belief is invoked to justify a right to discriminate. Proponents argue that constitutional protections for religious freedom are insufficient, and these new laws—aimed at granting businesses themselves exemptions from laws based on the invocation of religion—are necessary. It's no surprise that these laws are proliferating around the same time marriage equality is slowly becoming the law of the land in most of the country. However, cries of religious liberty and a religious-based right to discriminatory and harmful behavior are not new. For centuries, religion has been used and abused as a shield for harmful behavior, to justify everything from slavery to sexist violence to racism in the Jim Crow South.

Slavery's Religious Supporters

In today's history books, the righteous deeds of abolitionists—many of them devout Christians—are rightly documented, showing how the Gospel  was used to liberate millions of human beings who had been subjugated by slavery. However, while the abolitionists did use scripture to make their case, many of their pro-slavery opponents also invoked biblical traditions.

In 1852, the writer Josiah Priest published a book titled Bible Defence Of Slavery: And Origin, Fortunes, and History of the Negro Race. The publisher's preface points out the belief that “the institution of slavery received the sanction of the Almighty in the Patriarchal age; that it was incorporated into the only national constitution which ever emanated from God, that its legality was recognized, and its relative duties relegated by our Saviour, when upon earth."

Priest quotes liberally from scripture, citing numerous examples of enslavement being sanctified in the Bible. He writes, “If God appointed the race of Ham judicially to slavery, and it were a heinous sin to enslave one, or all the race, how then is the appointment of God to go into effect? …. God does never sanction sin, nor call for the commission of moral evil to forward any of his purposes; wherefre we come to the conclusion, that is is not sinful to enslave the negro race, providing it is done in a tender, fatherly and thoughtful manner.”

Priest's interpretations of the Bible were particularly popular in the American South, with the Southern Baptists championing religious justifications for enslavement. Prominent Baptist minister Richard Furman helped polarize southern white Baptists to support the institution of slavery; he wrote to the governor of South Carolina explaining that “the right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures”; he specifically cites the “Israelites [being] directed to purchase their bond-men and bond-maids of the Heathen nations; except they were of the Canaanites, for these were to be destroyed. And it is declared that the persons purchased were to be their 'bond-men forever;' and an 'inheritance for them and their children.'”

It was not until 1995's Southern Baptist Convention that the organization issued an apology for its former stance on slavery.

Weaponizing the Bible For Sexism

The Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention of 1848 was one of the major gatherings of the women's movement, and is considered to have been one of the turning points for suffragists in particular. In the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions the activists there compiled, they specifically included a provision condemning those who would use the Bible to suppress their rights: “Resolved, That woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.”

Clinging to verses in the Bible that gave unequal status to men and women, opponents of the suffragists justified their beliefs with religious teaching. “Who demand the ballot for woman? They are not the lovers of God, nor are they believers in Christ, as a class. There may be exceptions, but the majority prefer an infidel's cheer to the favor of God and the love of the Christian community. It is because of this tendency that the majority of those who contend for the ballot for woman cut loose from the legislation of Heaven, from the enjoyments of home, and drift to infidelity and ruin,” intoned Justin Fulton, a prominent reverend in 1869.

The religious-based bigotry against women was so intense that Elizabeth Cady Stanton actually wrote The Woman's Bible to directly challenge religious oppression of women. The book's critique of using religion to justify discrimination against women was considered so controversial it not only was denounced by sexists, but also by the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which saw the book as a mistake for the movement.

Jim Crow's Holy Defenders

Other than the Christian right's modern-day campaign against gay rights, the most recent use of scripture and religious liberty to justify discrimination was the 20th-century defense of Jim Crow. ThinkProgress's Ian Milhiser notes that Democratic Senator Theodore Bilbo used his religious faith to justify preventing integration of the races.

“[P]urity of race is a gift of God.... And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed,” wrote Bilbo in the book Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization.

Segregationist governor George Wallace invoked God 27 times in his famous speech that came to be known as “segregation now, segregation forever.” Georgia governor Allen Candler said that “God made them negroes and we cannot by education make them white folks”; following the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that mandated desgregation of schools, Senator Harry Byrd took to the floor and quoted Genesis and Leviticus to justify continued segregation of the races.

Harming Church and State

None of this is to argue that religious values can't inspire individuals to do good. Towering figures such as the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa improved the lives of millions and used scripture to liberate people, not oppress them. But a cursory review of the history shows that invoking religious preference to justify discrimination and oppression is a common tool. That's why although the Constitution guarantees your right to practice your religion as you see fit, it also prevents the government from using it to deny people rights. The current debates over religious liberty are hardly new, they are simply new cover for using religion to deny people rights, an old routine that harms both the church and the state. –Source: AlterNet

How The U.S. Compares With The Rest Of The World On Religious Restrictions

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids laws establishing religion or impeding the free exercise of religion. But that doesn’t mean governments in the U.S. – whether federal, state or local – do not place any restrictions on religious activity.

Indeed, according to a recent Pew Research Center study – the sixth annual report in a series – the U.S. has moderate levels of both restrictions on religion and social hostilities toward religious groups, ranking somewhere in the middle range of the nearly 200 countries analyzed in the report.


For instance, the U.S. has more extensive restrictions and social hostilities than its northern neighbor, Canada, as well as many other countries in the Americas, according to the 2013 data. But it has a lower level of government restrictions than Mexico as well as some countries in Western Europe, including Italy and Germany.

At the same time, government restrictions on religion in the U.S. are nowhere near as extensive as those of countries such as China, Iran and Burma. Likewise, the U.S. has much lower levels of social hostilities to religion than countries like India, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Many government restrictions in the United States that were taken into account in our analysis originated with state or local governments and were later reversed by courts or by federal agencies.

For example, there were a number of U.S. cases involving local governments denying permission to a religious group to build or expand a house of worship on the basis of land use or zoning laws, only to have those decisions later reversed. In one case, a town in Southern California refused permission to an Islamic center to build a new mosque on its property. A judge later declared the action a violation of federal law. Nevertheless, Pew Research still counts this as an instance of a religious restriction because the decision was implemented before being overturned.

In another more recent incident, a Muslim inmate in a state prison in Arkansas had been prohibited by prison authorities from growing a short beard in accordance with his religious beliefs. But after subsequent litigation, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that federal law guaranteed the inmate the right to grow his beard.

The other measure used by our study involved religion-related hostilities perpetrated by individuals and groups in society. One particular example gained wide attention in the U.S. in 2013 – the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon carried out by two brothers who reportedly were motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs. The bombings killed three people and injured more than 200.

Many other social hostilities involving religion in the U.S. are anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim acts. For example, the Anti-Defamation League reported hundreds of instances of anti-Semitic harassment in the country in 2013. And the FBI reported that, of the 1,163 religiously motivated hate crimes reported in 2013, 14% targeted Muslims. –Source: Pew Research

Awesome Threes

Incredible, imagine getting some of the "threes" to cooperate and "pose" for the pictures.

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~ Photographer Unknown/Contributed by Mary ~

5 Ways to Use Religious Freedom Laws for Good Rather Than Evil

The rash of “religious freedom” laws popping up around the country may have been designed as an underhanded excuse to permit discrimination against homosexuals, but they’re generally unspecific enough to allow for a variety of interpretations. With that in mind, if progressives can’t beat ‘em, why not join ‘em?

Joan Cheever is currently showing her home state of Texas another clever way that religious freedom laws can be utilized. Despite local ordinances that forbid her from feeding local homeless people, she’s continued to be charitable in this way anyway. When San Antonio police fined her $2,000, she argued that the police were trying to infringe on her right to feed needy people, which her religious faith compels her to do.

It’s an amazing argument and one that Texas might be forced to agree with given existing laws. Let’s use Cheever’s brilliant idea (which we’ll call #1) as an inspiration and combat four other progressive issues with the help of these religious freedom laws.

2. Assisting Undocumented Immigrants

Normally, helping a non-citizen sneak across the United States border, providing him with housing or hiring him for a job could potentially get you charged with a felony. However, the religious freedom law just might give you a solid option to ignore existing immigration laws and help undocumented individuals looking for a better life. Look no further than Leviticus 19:33-34 for biblical support: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.” Surely, having compassion for immigrants is the Christian thing to do.

3. Smoking Marijuana

The “legalize it” movement might want to switch its mantra to “worship it” in order to access recreational pot. By making smoking marijuana a ritual within your chosen religion, the state should have trouble objecting to this relatively harmless practice.

Sound too farfetched? Shockingly, it’s already a go in Indiana. The secretary of state quickly approved a petition from the First Church of Cannabis Inc. to grow hemp on its premises. Though marijuana is not legal even medically in the state, Indiana might have to take the issue to court if it wants to stop church-goers from smoking pot thanks to the religious freedom laws.

4. Preventing Overfishing

Since the Bible famously calls shellfish an abomination, that sounds like a decent justification for vegans and animal lovers to start blocking piers and freeing lobsters from traps. If God doesn’t want people eating these creatures, could you really blame a pious person from trying to prevent this from occurring?

Even people who like to eat fish can get in on this fight. Especially while overfishing threatens the oceans’ populations, it’d probably be best to keep them off of our dinner plates for the time being. By backing off and giving fish a chance to regrow their numbers, we’ll be helping to guarantee that seafood remains a dietary staple for the world for years to come.

5. Take a Stand Against Climate Change

Is belief in man made climate change really a religion? Actually, as the New Republic points out, members of the Republican Party have tried to make that comparison. Since attacking the actual science is a losing game, several famous conservatives have labeled climate change an issue of “faith.” Even if environmentalists don’t normally consider their activism a form of religion, those in “religious freedom” states might want to accept the label. If a state’s lax pollution policies were to, say, infringe on an environmentalist’s religious beliefs, there could be a legal battle there that results in at least some concessions.

Admittedly, it’s a little absurd to use “religious freedom” as an excuse to ignore existing laws. Still, even if the goal is to get these laws off the books altogether, showing that two can play this game is a good tactic to make homophobes back off.  Until that time comes, what’s the harm in using the law’s loopholes to push some progressive agendas of our own? -Source: Care2

FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics Show The “War On Christianity” Doesn’t Exist

We keep hearing there’s this war on Christianity.  It turns out, surprise, there isn’t:

    The right wing insists that there’s a war on Christianity. FBI hate crimes statistics tell a very different story, however. Far from being the victims of religiously motivated attacks, hate crimes against protestants are almost non-existent, while crimes against Jews, Muslims and people of other faiths occur much more frequently, with more violent consequences.

    According to the most recent FBI hate crimes statistics (2013), most hate crimes in the United States are not religiously motivated. Almost half of all hate crimes committed in the US are racially motivated. Out of those, more than 66 percent were directed at black people. Another 11 plus percent of hate crimes are motivated by an ethnic bias, such as a bias toward Arab Americans or toward Hispanic citizens. Altogether, attacks against minorities constitute more than 77 percent of all hate crimes in the US.

    …

    Anti-gay violence is the second most commonly occurring type of hate crime in the United States. Contrary to the right wing narrative that Christians are under attack by the gays, the list of violent crimes committed against the LGBT community speaks for itself. Where are the incidents of gays attacking Christians? They do not exist.

But I keep hearing that the gaystapo will stop at nothing to imprison Christians in concentration camps, and Christians would never lie with Jesus watching and all.

And here’s what the religiously motivated hate crimes look like:

    …about 17.4 percent of all hate crimes are religiously motivated.

    Attacks against Jewish citizens are the most common religiously motivated attacks. Hate crimes against people of the Jewish faith constitute about 60 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes in the US. Anti-Semitism is promoted and disseminated by right wing extremist groups such as the American Nazi Party, the KKK, the Christian Identity church, and a growing number of leadersin the mainstream conservative Christian community. Anti-Semitism is pushed by right wing conspiracy theorists, who claim a link between the ‘secret society of the Illuminati’ and the Jews. There are conspiracy theories about everything from the Jews and abortion to the Jews and Hollywood, ideas which are peddled by the likes of Alex Jones and Glen Beck. Many of these same groups spread the misinformation about minorities and members of the LGBT community, as well.

    The second group that is attacked most often because of their faith includes people who practice the Islamic faith. 13 percent of all religiously motivated attacks are committed against Islamic citizens. That number is 5 times higher today than it was before 9/11.

But…I heard it was the Muslims taking over in America and that it was them perpetrating violence against Christians.  You’re saying it’s the other way around, that when religiously motivated violence takes place in America it’s almost always Christians on the violent side?  It’s like a strange new world where Fox News doesn’t tell the truth.

One would think this would be received as good news by Christians – there’s no war against them!  They’re not persecuted!  But the Fox News crowd seems to be so in love with the notion of being persecuted (while ignoring pretty much every group that really is persecuted), they’ll continue to dig for any reason (or non reason) to keep on making that claim. –Source: Patheos

With All I AM … Hillsong

White Christian America in Decline: Why Young People Are Sick of Conservative Religion

White Christians are now a minority in 19 states.

There’s been a lot of media attention recently to the changing demographics of the United States, where, at current rates, people who identify as “white” are expected to become a minority by the year 2050. But in many ways, the shift in national demographics has been accelerated beyond even that. New data from the American Values Atlas shows that while white people continue to be the majority in all but 4 states in the country, white Christians are the minority in a whopping 19 states. And, nationwide, Americans who identify as Protestant are now in the minority for the first time ever, clocking in at a mere 47 percent of Americans and falling.

The most obvious reason for this change is growing racial diversity. Most Americans still identify as Christian, but “Christian” is a group that is less white and less Protestant than it has been at any time in history. The massive growth in Hispanic Catholics, in particular, has been a major factor in this shift in the ethnic and religious identity of this country. White Catholics used to outnumber Hispanic Catholics 3 to 1 in the 2000s, but now it’s only by a 2 to 1 margin.

But another major reason religious diversity is outpacing the growth of racial/ethnic diversity is largely due to the explosive growth in non-belief among Americans. One in five Americans now identifies as religiously unaffiliated. In 13 states, the “nones” are the largest religious group. Non-religious people now equal Catholics in number, and their proportion is likely to grow dramatically, as young people are by far the most non-religious group in the country. This isn’t some kind of side effect of their youth, either. As Adam Lee has noted, the millennial generation is becoming less religious as they age.

These changes explain the modern political landscape as well as any economic indicator. While not all white Christians are conservative, these changing numbers definitely suggest that conservative Christians are rapidly losing their grip on power. And while some non-white Christians are conservative, their numbers are not making up for what the Christian right is losing. And whether conservative leaders are aware of the exact numbers or not, it’s clear that they sense that change is in the air. Just by speaking to young people, turning on your TV, or reading the Internet, you can sense the way the country is lurching away from conservative Christian values and towards a more liberal, secular outlook. And conservative Christians aren’t taking these changes well at all.

To look at the Christian right now is to see a people who know they are losing power and are desperately trying to reassert dominance before it’s lost altogether. The most obvious example of this is the frenzy of anti-abortion activity in recent years. Anti-choice forces have controlled the Republican Party since the late '70s, but only in the past few years have they concentrated so singlemindedly on trying to destroy legal abortion in wide swaths of the country. In 2011 alone, states passed nearly three times as many abortion restrictions as they had in any previous year.

None of this is a reaction to any changes in people’s sexual behavior or reproductive choices. It’s not like there was a spike in abortions causing this panic. In fact, the abortion rate has been declining. And despite continuing media panic over adolescent sexuality, the fact is that teenagers are waiting longer to have sex, on average, than in the past. Despite this, not only are you seeing a dramatic increase in attacks on legal abortion, the Christian right has expanded its attacks to contraception access, suggesting that something has worked them into a panic they believe can only be resolved by trying to reassert their religious and sexual values.

That something isn’t changes in sexual behavior, but it’s reasonable to believe it’s because of changes in sexual values. People might not be having more sex, but they are feeling less guilty about the sex they are having. Since Gallup first started polling people in 2001 on moral views, acceptance of consensual sex between adults has skyrocketed. In a decade’s time, acceptance of premarital sex swelled from 53% to 66% of Americans and acceptance of gay Americans grew from a mere 38% to a majority of Americans. Even polyamory has become more acceptable for Americans, rising from being accepted by 5% of Americans to 14%.

The fact that these changes in attitude are rising alongside the growth of irreligiosity is not a coincidence. More perhaps even than the 1960s, Americans are in a period of questioning rigid sexual and religious mores, and concluding, in increasing numbers, that they are not down with guilt-tripping people for victimless behavior and demanding conformity for its own sake. Some of them--now a whopping 22% of Americans!--are leaving religion entirely. Some are continuing in their faith but choosing to interpret their values differently than Christian conservatives would like.

And so we see Christian conservatives cracking down in a desperate bid to regain control. They claim that they’re being oppressed by increasing tolerance for religious diversity. They have latched onto, with some success, the claim that “religious freedom” requires giving Christians the right to oppress others. The Republican Party is in complete thrall to the religious right, to the point where giving the Christian right one go-nowhere symbolic bill instead of another one created a major political crisis.

The irony is that this panic-based overreach is just making the situation worse for the Christian right. One of the biggest reasons the secularization trend has accelerated in recent years is that young people see the victim complex and the sex policing of the Christian right and it’s turning them off. And they’re not just rejecting conservative Christianity but the entire idea of organized religion altogether. In other words, the past few years have created a self-perpetuating cycle: Christian conservatives, in a panic over changing demographics, start cracking down. In reaction, more people give up on religion. That causes the Christian right to panic more and crack down more. In the end, Christian conservatives are going to hasten their own demise by trying to save themselves. Not that any of us should be crying for them. –Source: AlterNet

The New Christian Left Is Twisting the Gospel: Here's How

Peek behind the curtain of some "progressive" or "hip" evangelical churches, past the savvy technology and secular music, and you will find more than just a contemporary worship service. You'll find faith leaders encouraging young evangelicals to trade in their Christian convictions for a gospel filled with compromise. They're slowly attempting to give evangelicalism an "update"—and the change is not for the good.

It's painful for me to admit, but we can no longer rest carefree in our evangelical identity—because it is changing. No doubt you have seen the headlines declaring that evangelicalism is doomed because evangelical kids are leaving the faith. It is no secret that there is an expanding gulf between traditional Christian teachings and contemporary moral values. But the sad truth is that the ideological gulf between America's evangelical grown-ups and their kids, aka the "Millennials," seems to be widening too.

Somehow the blame for this chasm is being heaped on traditional churches. They are accused of having too many rules as well as being homophobic and bigoted. Yes, we've heard those false claims from popular culture in its desperate attempt to keep Christianity imprisoned within the sanctuary walls. But now popular culture is being aided by Christ-professing bedfellows whose message to "coexist," "tolerate" and "keep out of it" is more marketable to the rising generation of evangelicals.

The seasoned Christian soldiers are noticing these distortions of the gospel. But for young evangelicals, the spiritual haze is harder to wade through. Desperate for acceptance in a fallen world, many young evangelicals (and some older ones) choose not to take Christ out of the chapel, and so they are unwittingly killing the church's public witness. In this uphill cultural battle, mired by scare tactics and fear, three types of evangelical Christians are emerging:

Couch-potato Christians: These Christians adapt to the culture by staying silent on the tough culture-and-faith discussions. Typically this group will downplay God's absolute truths by promoting the illusion that neutrality was Jesus' preferred method of evangelism.

Cafeteria-style Christians: This group picks and chooses which Scripture passages to live by, opting for the ones that best seem to jive with culture. Typically they focus solely on the "nice" parts of the gospel while simultaneously and intentionally minimizing sin, hell, repentance and transformation.

Convictional Christians: In the face of the culture's harsh admonitions, these evangelicals refuse to be silent. Mimicking Jesus, they compassionately talk about love and grace while also sharing with their neighbors the need to recognize and turn from sin.

I know about these three types of Christians because at one time or another I have fallen into each of these three categories. My parents will tell you that even though I was raised in church, I morphed into a full-fledged feminist, told my parents they were ignorant for not endorsing homosexuality and bought into the distorted social justice rhetoric that confuses caring for the poor with advancing socialist or big government systems and demonizing the United States for its free market system.

I'm not ashamed to share my story because my experiences and those of my fellow bold evangelicals are a testimony of God's awesome, transforming power. Being countercultural for Christ isn't easy. What does the Great Commission say? Jesus commanded us to go, "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20).

Where Did We Go Wrong?

I see so many parents scratching their heads trying to figure out where they went wrong with young evangelicals. Following the instructions of Proverbs 22:6—"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it"—many evangelical parents took their children to church and prayed with them every night before bed. Yet the values those children now hold dear do not reflect the traditional teachings of Jesus.

To be perfectly clear, I want to let you know upfront that this isn't a parenting how-to guide that, if followed, will lead your loved ones to salvation. Instead, what I can offer you is a glimpse into the world of a twenty-something who sees thousands of young evangelicals being spiritually and emotionally targeted on Christian university campuses, in college ministries and at churches nationwide by a growing liberal movement cloaked in Christianity.

Research tells us that evangelicals are drifting further away from the orthodox truths their parents and grandparents held dear.

Our churches have rarely—if ever—faced the exodus we are seeing today. This will have a direct effect on the spiritual and moral values that will shape the nation in the coming years. That is why it is urgent that concerned Christians start acting now before the situation gets worse.

The Collision of Faith and Culture

Faith and culture will continue to collide in America. The culture wars, the growth of family, the success of missions, the prosperity of our great nation—the future rests on millennial evangelicals' worldview. And that is cause for concern, because something has gone wrong with young evangelicals' theology.

The millennial generation's susceptibility to "feel-good" doctrine is playing a big part in America's moral decline. Millennials' religious practices depend largely on how the actions make us and others feel, whether the activities are biblical or not. For example, we only attend churches that leave us feeling good about our lifestyle choices, even if those choices conflict with God's clear commandments. We dismiss old hymns that focus on God's transforming salvation, love and mercy and opt for "Jesus is your boyfriend" songs. Or we contribute to nonprofits that exploit and misuse terms such as justice, oppressed and inequality because tweaking the language makes us feel more neutral, less confrontational.

Popular liberal evangelical writers and preachers tell young evangelicals that if they accept abortion and same-sex marriage, then the media, academia and Hollywood will finally accept Christians. Out of fear of being falsely dubbed "intolerant" or "uncompassionate," many young Christians are buying into theological falsehoods. Instead of standing up as a voice for the innocent unborn or marriage as God intended, Millennials are forgoing the authority of Scripture and embracing a couch potato, cafeteria-style Christianity all in the name of tolerance.

This contemporary mindset is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian whose Christian convictions put him at odds with the Nazis and cost him his life, called "cheap grace." In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote: "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

Right now cheap grace theology is proliferating around evangelical Bible colleges, seminaries and Christian ministries.

Christian Doctrine Hijacked

It is not that millennial evangelicals were not taken to church by their parents. It is that their training has been hijacked by ineffective and sometimes intentionally distorted doctrine.

As constant and pervasive as the attacks on Christianity are at public universities, it is important to remember that Millennials' worldviews do not start taking shape after they move out of their parents' houses. Their understanding of Jesus' teachings and cultural convictions begin to form while they are still at home and under the influence of their local church.

What I hope and pray evangelical parents and leaders come to realize is that the church has been too trusting. In our jam-packed lifestyles, parents have treated Sunday school as they do softball or ballet class—drop off the kids for an hour then pick them up and hope they learned something. Early on in my Sunday school teaching days, my co-teacher and I followed the curriculum pretty narrowly, the exception being that my co-teacher had an outstanding knowledge of biblical history that he imparted to the kids.

We taught all about Jesus' birth, resurrection and saving grace. Thinking the fluffy kids ministry curriculum covered all of the necessary bases, I felt confident these kids had a firm grasp on their Christian worldview. Boy, was I wrong!

One day my co-teacher and I decided to play "True or False." We casually went down a list of worldview questions with our class, sure that our little evangelicals would nail every question correctly.

No. 1: Jesus is God. "True." Great job.
No. 2: Jesus sinned. "False." Bingo!
No. 3: Jesus is one of many ways to heaven. "True." What?

Shocked is the only way to describe how I felt. Hadn't they been listening to us? When I asked who taught them that, one girl said, "Coexist." Yes, these young evangelicals had been listening to their Sunday school teachers and their parents, but they had also been listening to their public school teachers, TV celebrities and rock stars.

Youth ministers, volunteer leaders and pastors also have to start preparing these kids to deal with the very real hostility that faces young evangelicals.

If we never talk about abortion in church, how can we expect the rising evangelical girl to calmly explain the option of adoption to her frightened best friend who just admitted she is pregnant?

What will surprise you is how much young evangelicals actually crave honest discussions about abortion, sexuality, sexual exploitation, feminism and radical Islam. My friend and Evangelical Action adviser Richmond Trotter has two non-negotiable topics when addressing youth: creation and life. Having volunteered in church youth ministry since 1996, Richmond is not afraid to have serious discussions about what Scripture says about abortion, evolution and homosexuality. Make no mistake: The trend away from biblical truth is not concentrated in the hipster city limits. It is unfolding in the crevices of America's plains, hills, mountains and swamplands. All across this nation, "old-fashioned" conservative evangelicalism is being traded in for a bright and shiny, mediocre Christianity.

If America's evangelicals disengage from the public square and fail to engage the rising generation of Christian leaders, then we risk losing our public voice, then our religious liberty, then liberty altogether.

What Happened to the Religious Right?

The last several decades witnessed tremendous evangelical influence in the United States. Leaders such as Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Paige and Dorothy Patterson, James Dobson, and James and Betty Robison made a bold impact on America's families, churches and government. Now that those few leaders are aging or retiring, or have died, there are very few traditional evangelical leaders left holding the torch and even fewer candidates to whom they can pass it.

But religious convictions in America are not on the verge of disappearance just yet. There is still hope. In the book God Is Alive and Well: The Future of Religion in America, Gallup Inc. Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport ensures: "Christianity will prevail in the U.S. America will remain very much a Christian nation in the decades ahead, albeit less so than in the past because of an increase in Americans who don't have a religious identity."

Heed the Warning Signs

Evangelicals and culture warriors in the U.S. do not have to look far to discover what happens when Christian denominations give up on their traditional convictions and teachings. All we have to do is look at the dwindling memberships of mainline Protestant denominations.

In order to safeguard the trajectory of young evangelicals, we must uphold the authoritative Word of God. It is imperative that those in a position to influence Millennials have transparent and honest discussions about the culture wars evangelical youth are already engaging. Otherwise they will be silent and accepting in the face of persecution and false doctrine.

The importance of arming the next generation of evangelicals cannot be overstated. If we continue to follow the example of mainline Protestants, evangelicalism will have a gloomy future. We must offer sorely needed leadership, but before we can do that, we need to know exactly whom and what we are up against. –Prophecy News Watch