In the News: Abortion on the Supreme Court Docket, Russell Moore leaves the ERLC, God Bless the USA Bible, and updated CDC Guidance.

Modern-Cloister-NEW

In this episode of the Modern Cloister, we discuss some news from May, including the Supreme Court deciding to hear a Mississippi abortion law; Russell Moore steps down as president of the Ethics and Religious Life Commission; the upcoming ‘God Bless the USA’ Bible; and the updated CDC guidance on masks and gatherings (like church). 

It will be about a year before we hear anything else about the abortion case. It could be a more in the right direction, but I remain skeptical (I’ve written before about Trump and the Supreme Court). It has been a wild six or so years with Evangelicals in the news for politics. We (or at least 81%, though less in 2020) abandoned our morals (we went from most likely to say character matters in 2012, to least likely in 2016) and often the reason told was, ‘for the judges’. So, not is the chance, I suppose, to see if it was worth it. It is important to remember that this case would not ban abortion in America (nor would overturning Roe), which is one reason I’ve written that Evangelicals shouldn’t be single issue voters. I’m tired of writing about politics, and even more tired of talking about it. Hopefully, In the News next month won’t have any, though that seems unlikely. 

After we published, news also came out that roughly 15% of Americans believe in QAnon; though it looks like some, including 538, have issues with the polling. However, apparently, even asking different ways, at different times, surveys still finds support to be around this level (and up to 20%). Supporters are disproportionately Evangelical whites and Hispanics. Meaning it is a huge part of our church. So, while major denominations and famous pastors are obsessed with ‘wokeness’ and rooting out CRT (while denying the Trinity, as I’ve written about before), a huge proportion of our people in our pews believe things such as a global pedofile ring is in control of the media/Washington or that Biden is a body double. Meanwhile, 60% of people can’t tell you the Great Commission, and only 9% of people can name the 10 Commandments (a staggering 14% can name only 1). The disconnect is so great that the current hero for the SBC is an atheist, while Russell Moore no longer works for them (if you are curious as to why we brought up the SBC again). 

Also, and I can’t seem to find too many good sources on this, but we mentioned Zondervan was part of the Bless the USA Bible. It appears the content is published elsewhere, Zondervan was only involved as they are the copyright holder to the NIV. It appears that they have pulled their licensing and will not be involved. I’ll try to update as more comes out. I applaud them for their decision, but they still allowed the NIV in the ‘Patriot’s’ Bible, which similarly doesn’t have any commentary or notes, but a few articles interspersed throughout, that have incorrect historical notes about American from an amatuer ‘historian’ (looking at his bio, he has neither pastoral or history training from any accredited institutions.) Also, you can read a good article from the perspective a non-American, that I mentioned during the Pod.

Interview with Hannah Nation Modern Cloister

In this episode, we sit down with Hannah Nation, co-editor of Faith in the Wilderness: Words of Exhortation from the Chinese Church (released April 2022), to discuss both the book and the state of the Chinese house church.  ** About the book  For many Western Christians, the experience of persecution is remote. For Chinese Christians, on the other hand, suffering is a regular aspect of the Christian life. With a history of faithfulness under persecution and a rich theology of suffering, the Chinese house church movement has much to contribute theologically to the global church. In Faith in the Wilderness, editors Hannah Nation and Simon Liu pull back the curtain on the pastoral heart and eschatological hope behind the house church’s remarkable faithfulness. These sermonic letters from Chinese leaders, some written under pseudonyms to protect the authors’ identities, will awaken readers to the reality of the gospel—the ground of our hope—in the midst of darkness. Readers will be convicted, encouraged, and edified by the testimony of these fellow believers. Learn more about the book.  About Hannah Nation  Hannah currently serves as the Managing Director of the Center for House Church Theology and as Content Director for China Partnership. She is a graduate of Covenant College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is also the co-editor of XXX. Hannah is a frequent writer and speaker on both contemporary Chinese gospel movements and the history of women in the church, both academically and popularly. She has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, Plough, byFaith, and Mere Orthodoxy, among other various platforms. Learn more at HannahNation.com. 
  1. Interview with Hannah Nation
  2. Soli Deo Gloria (God’s Glory Alone)
  3. Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
  4. Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
  5. Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

Trump and the Supreme Court

Two years ago, during the lead-up to the election, I wrote two articles, one just some general thoughts on the election, and then a follow-up about why we shouldn’t be single issue voters. The follow up was necessary, as I was attacked but fellow Evangelicals for not supporting Trump. Mostly, I was accused of supporting abortion (I don’t). That is also a refrain I heard often during the election, ‘well, he’s a terrible person, but…something, something, Supreme Court.’ Of course, but Supreme Court, they meant abortion. I laid out all my reasons not to think this way in that post, so please check it out. I welcome any feedback or thoughts. I received a few after posting that, including a bizarre interaction with a former Sunday School teacher and mentor, before cut of all contact with us (after accusing us of being Godless).

So, I bring this up now as the confirmation hearings continue for Brett Kavanaugh (unrelated fun fact, his name means follower of Kevin). This is Trump’s second appointee; and he will be appointed, despite the Kabuki Theater of the hearings, he already has the votes and this just a time for politicians to grand stand. I guess it’s all worth it now, right? We’ll overturn Roe?

Maybe. Maybe not –

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she would not vote for a nominee who threatens Roe. She said that in a meeting with Kavanaugh, he referred to Roe as “settled law.”

Feinstein specifically asked Kavanaugh about that Wednesday.

“Senator, I said that it’s settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court, entitled the respect under principles ‘stare decisis,’ ” referring to the legal principle of not overturning precedents. “And one of the important things to keep in mind about Roe v. Wade is that it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years.”

One of two things are going on here. First, he is an unprincipled liar who want stand up for what he believes and when he gets on the court, he will vote to overturn Roe, once challenged. I have to assume this is alright with most Evangelicals, as 81% voted for Trump. Second, he actually believes what he is saying. I actually lean towards the latter, and still believe, as I did two years ago, that Roe will be not be overturned. It’s also important to remember, Roe did no legalize abortion – it made it illegal for state to ban abortion. Were it overturned, the issue would be relegated to the states, many of which will keep it legal.

Of course, you could be cynical and say that Trump doesn’t care at all about Roe, but rather likes Kavanaugh due to his devotion to presidential power. However, if we turn over Roe, would it be worth it? It is a serious question, considering the damage supporting him has done to what little reputation we may have had. The hyprocsy with our reaction to him paying off a porn actress and a playboy model for affairs he had with them, as compared to the reaction many of his supporters had during the Clinton issues in the 90’s. That is one reason why this quote from the now famous Op-Ed stuck out to me –

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Again, all this would be fine, I suppose, if he wasn’t considered the ‘Christian candidate’ or if Evangelicals hadn’t voted for him in record numbers. It is fine to vote for Trump, nothing wrong with it at all. If you are rich, or think Mexicans or Muslims are the greatest threat to the country, or you are a nationalist, then Trump was a great choice (the best, believe me). However, none of the makes him the ‘Christian’ choice and I think that distinct will bother me to no end, for as long as I live. I don’t believe that is the main reason for our support for him. I think the main reason is fear.

I’m not the only one either. Michael Horton recently wrote the same thing. Read anything from John Fea ( or check out my review of his book).  In a strange irony, we as conservatives are looking for power in the government now more than ever, we look there for a sense of right, or protection, to expand and enforce our will/influence. So, here we are, about to have another Justice. Maybe I’m wrong, and Roe will be challenged next year and overturned. What if is isn’t? What will we say then?

 

Excursus 6/8/18

Reading
Probably the biggest news this week came from the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Jack Phillip, a Colorado baker who refused to make a specialty cake for a gay couple’s wedding. This is an interesting case with a unique ruling, and I’m not sure what to think about all of it. There is a lot going on here, but a few points from the beginning: he apparently didn’t refuse to sell them any cakes, he refused to make a cake specifically for their wedding (or, really for their reception that was held a little over a year later), and offered them names of other bakers who would make them a cake. So, part of the argument his attorneys made was free expression based on cake decorating being an art (what a time to be alive). I wonder if the fact that he didn’t refuse any service to the couple, just the decorating, and that they insisted he be their baker, not any of the others, factored into the Court’s decision.

The biggest factor seemed to be that the court found inconsistencies from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, from the article –

Kennedy noted that the commission had ruled the opposite way in three cases brought against bakers in which the business owners refused to bake cakes containing messages that demeaned gay people or same-sex marriage.

Also that Phillips himself faced discrimination from the Commission, noting –

The Commissioner called baker Jack Phillip’s faith “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use.”  He compared Phillip’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” to slavery and the Holocaust.  As a result, Justice Kennedy argued in his majority opinion: “the Court cannot avoid the conclusion that these statements cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.”

It seems the court looked at the results of the commission as discriminatory (or handled very poorly/illegally), that he didn’t refuse all services, and that decorating the cake falls under ‘expression as an artists’.

To me, the most important thing is the Court recognizing the inconsistencies. The commission was fine with a few other cases who refused to make a cake when they weren’t Christians. There have also been a case of a Muslim baker refusing service (entirely) to a gay couple, that hasn’t (not to sound too Foxnewsish) been covered much in the news. Personally, I wonder if there is a case to be made for extra protections for extremely minority religions like Islam, however I doubt there are any legit legal ones. However, there seems to be the bigger issue of what level of non-service is allowed? An incident last year where a coffee shop owner who was gay kicked a pro-life group out because they were Christians (I’m not linking anything because the only articles I found were rightwing sites or far-left site that celebrated the incident); it is unclear whether the group was causing a disturbance. When you compare that to the Starbucks case recently, it would seem you can’t even kick someone out for not being a paid customer.

While I fully support churches and and pastors from not preforming ceremonies for certain people, purveyors of other goods and services make me nervous. Maybe it is because I’m from the South, and the concept of ‘no X allowed’ whether X is Muslim, gay, or Christian, just really hits me the wrong way. I do see the slippery slop argument on both sides. Can you ban gay people from your restaurant, can you force a Muslim to draw a picture of Muhammad? It is a strange, delicate balancing act and I wish people would recognize the nuance in their discussions instead of just attacking each other as seems to be the go to in these cases.

That was longer than I anticipated so, on to other things I’ve been reading or listening to.

In the ‘not understanding the Bible, but a huge fan of Christian Nationalism’ category this week we have Franklin Graham holding rallies, with this brilliant quote –
“Progressive? That’s just another word for godless,” Graham told a group of supporters, according to the Times.

Word

Rethink Now has a list of the Seven Books Every Christian should read. I’ve only read on (Mere Christianity) and really only plan on reading two others on the list, I hadn’t even heard of some of them. Thoughts?

I finished reading Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, so look for the review next week.
I also started reading The Stand a few days ago, and while I’m over 300 pages in, that just means I still have almost 800 to go.

Finally, have you ever looked at a clock (especially an analog) and it seems like the at which you looked last longer than the other movements? That is because your mind didn’t register what you saw at first, then interpolated it back as the time you first registered in a phenomena known as Chronostasis. Not really related to anything, but interesting nonetheless.

Podcasts
Whitehorse Inn has some thoughts on Finding Jesus in the Psalms. I didn’t start reading the Psalms until about a year, year and half ago. They are incredible, especially for understanding emotions for yourself and your expression to God. It is also a massive book, the longest in the Bible. Psalm 119 itself is longer than James, but somehow in many churches (baptist and non-denom) we miss them almost entirely.

The Gospel Coalition has a talk from Don Carson, What is an Evangelical. Among others, he points out the sociological, political, and linguistic issues with the word. It will be interesting to see what Christians (at least American Protestants) call themselves in the next generation, or the following one, especially after the damage Trump has done, but also due to the word expanding to mean so much, that it basically no long means anything.