WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - JANUARY 22, 2020
In this week's Intersect, read about:
Trump Fighting to Put Prayer Back in Schools: 'We Will Not Allow Faithful Americans to Be Bullied'
President Donald Trump unveiled new federal guidelines to protect the constitutional right to pray in public schools. The president previewed his idea earlier this month at the Evangelicals for Trump rally at the King Jesus International Ministry in Florida, saying he would take action to safeguard students' and teachers' First Amendment rights to pray in school. "We will not allow faithful Americans to be bullied by the hard Left," Trump said. The president told CBN News' David Brody at the White House Thursday, "Well, it is a cultural war. You have two sides. You have a side that believes so strongly in prayer and they're being restricted and it's getting worse and worse and I think we've made a big impact. And we're loosening up a lot and I want to loosen it up totally. But you do have things happening today that 10 or 15 years ago would have been unthinkable, what's happening." Now the US Department of Education is sending letters to officials in all 50 states to ensure students and teachers don't face discrimination for practicing their right of religious freedom. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos explained the new rules protect students' right to pray, but they also go beyond that to protect faith-based student groups and much more: "The Department's efforts will level the playing field between religious and non-religious organizations competing for federal grants, as well as protect First Amendment freedoms on campus and the religious liberty of faith-based institutions." read more
The full power of the President’s actions sent a message to every state and every school district in the country that America’s children can pray in their schools. Taking the action on National Religious Freedom Day, President Trump announced the updates to federal guidance on school prayer, which is required by federal law every two years but hasn’t been done since 2003. In addition to the new guidance on school prayer, nine federal agencies issued new proposed rules to ensure that the federal government does not discriminate against religious groups in the federal grant process. Rev. Johnnie Moore, National My Faith Votes Spokesperson said, “The White House isn’t saying whether one should pray or to whom or what they should pray to, they are simply making it clear that in the United States students have first amendment rights also, and our “separation of church and state” wasn’t intended to suppress a vibrant religious life in America but to facilitate it.” Our country was founded on the principle of religious consciousness. In 1620 the Pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution in England. In the 1630s more than 20,000 Puritans came for the same reason. Catholics came to America in 1632, Jews came from Portugal in 1654, Quakers came in 1680, persecuted Anabaptists came from German in 1683, and in 1685, 400,000 Protestants came from France and the list goes on. All of these religious groups came to America seeking the promise of religious freedom. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson said, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience.[O]ur rulers can have no authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted. It is inconsistent with the spirit of our laws and Constitution to force tender consciences.” Yet, in recent years our secular culture has sought to silence faith and prayer in the public square in the name of “separation of church and state.” One could argue, the results of prohibiting prayer in schools has been devastating to the next generation and our society as a whole. This is why President Trump’s action last week is important and should be celebrated by all Americans, especially people of faith.
Pray and thank God for this great victory for religious freedom in America. Pray for God to give you more boldness to pray in public. And pray for your children or grandchildren to do the same.
Do you pray every day? Consider checking out Intercessors for America. They compile important news and updates Christians can actively pray about for our nation.
260 Million Christians Were Affected by Extreme Levels of Persecution in 2019
Open Doors USA has released its annual World Watch list identifying the top 50 countries where it's most dangerous to follow Jesus Christ. North Korea takes the number one spot again for the 18th straight year as the worst place in the world for believers. In a majority of the top 50 countries, Islamic extremism plays a huge role in the levels of persecution. It certainly fueled the persecution among most of the other countries that round out the top 10: Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, and India. According to Open Doors, an average of eight Christians were killed for their faith every day last year. On top of that, 23 Christians were raped or sexually harassed in faith-related violence each day. And on any given week, a shocking 182 churches or church buildings were attacked and 276 Christian homes burned or destroyed. Open Doors says one in eight Christians worldwide live in places where they endure high levels of persecution for simply believing in Jesus Christ. read more
Christian persecution is increasing worldwide, up from 245 million affected last year. Last week President Trump signed phase one of a trade deal with China, a trading partner critical to America’s economic success, yet one of the world’s leaders in religious persecution. In this new Open Doors Report, China has risen from number 27 to 23 in this new report among countries with the highest levels of persecution against Christians. Dr. David Curry, President of Open Doors USA explained Communist China is now using extensive surveillance tools against Christians. He said, "China is building what I think is a blueprint, a road map of persecution for other regimes around the world. And they're doing it with surveillance with a social score that measures Christian behavior, attending church, taking your children to Sunday school, as a negative thing. And they're taking that social score and melding it with surveillance, not just on the street to protect citizens, but invasive surveillance inside the churches. And they're shutting down house churches that won't comply and others as well, arresting pastors that won't play along with their surveillance system.”
Pray for Christians around the world today. Remember Hebrews 13:3, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
Voice of the Martyrs has released a 2020 Global Prayer Guide to help us pray for our brothers and sisters around the globe. Check out the interactive map and learn how to pray for your persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ today.
Most Evangelicals Say Churches Should Discuss Politics, Pew Shows
Most evangelicals and members of historically black Protestant churches say congregations should discuss social and political issues, although every other major religious group in the U.S. wants their religious leaders to keep quiet on politics, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The poll of 6,364 U.S. adults asked if churches and other houses of worship should “keep out of political matters” or “express their views on day-to-day social and political questions.” Although 63 percent of all U.S. adults say churches should stay out of political matters, evangelicals disagree, and by a 55-43 percent margin say churches should express their views on social and political questions. Members of historically black congregations also chose the “express their views” option by a margin of 54-43 percent. Members of other religious groups, though, say churches and houses of worship should keep out of political matters. This includes 63 percent of mainline Protestants, 62 percent of Catholics and 69 percent of Jewish adults. read more
While protestant churches believe their pastor should discuss social and political issues, 76 percent of all U.S. adults oppose churches endorsing candidates. It’s interesting to note that most churchgoers don’t know if their pastor is a Republican or a Democrat. Nearly half, 45 percent, said they are “unsure” of their clergy’s partisan leanings. While 27 percent said their clergy are a mix of both parties. This should be an encouraging study for Christians. It’s hopeful to find that people want their clergy to discuss social and political issues. Clergy do not need to endorse a candidate or a political party, but they do need to stand boldly for the Word of God in our ever-changing culture. Ephesians 6:14 says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” It’s God’s principles and truth that can bring healing and hope to our communities and our country.
Pray for your church today. Pray for your pastor and church leadership. Pray for your pastor to be bold with God’s truth and how it applies to the difficult issues in our culture. Pray that your pastor would help your congregation to understand Hebrews 4:12, that the Word of God is active and alive and has truth for our culture and generation today.
One of the ways our pastors and churches can help encourage congregants to bring God’s truth into the public square is by voting. Churches don’t need to be political, they simply must be biblical. By reminding the congregation of the opportunity to be involved in civics and vote - they provide churchgoers with a practical way to bring the values of our faith forward to help others in our nation. Learn more about Our Church Votes, our newly released resource for pastors and church leaders here.
Trump Legal Team Plays Offense as Impeachment Trial Begins with Bitter Dispute Over Rules
White House lawyers went on the offense Tuesday in the opening of the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, railing against Rep. Adam Schiff in personal terms and accusing Democrats of trying to overturn the will of the American people. The president's lawyers framed the impeachment trial as a political vendetta to oust Trump and said House Democrats have "no case." "It's a partisan impeachment they've delivered to your doorstep in an election year," White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said. “Some of you should be in Iowa,” Cipollone added as Democratic White House hopefuls Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren sat stone-faced. “Instead we're here and they're not ready to go. It's outrageous." Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, took the lead in arguing the case for Democrats and spent his opening remarks before the Senate making the case on the procedure to allow new witnesses and documents into the trial – as is customary in past impeachment trials, he said. “Right now...most Americans do not believe there will be a fair trial,” Schiff said, adding that Americans believe Trump will be acquitted not because of innocence but because of a partisan vote. "Let's prove them wrong," he said. read more
Dr. Jim Denison provides a very important faith perspective on the impeachment proceedings. He wrote regarding the impeachment, “We can discuss this issue as long as we wish, but few seem open to changing their minds about President Trump. However, the way Christians discuss this divisive issue can change how people see our Lord.” Dr. Denison encourages us as believers to remember three biblical principles. First, focus on eternity. He writes, “remember that your relationships will endure when it is over. And every person you know will spend eternity either with God in heaven or separated from him in hell.” He continues, “Helping people follow Jesus is our eternal calling and highest privilege.” Second, speak the truth in love. Denison writes, “We should hold our beliefs strongly and defend them courageously, but we should do so ‘with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15).” Third, build bridges with those with whom you disagree. “Jesus befriended Samaritans (John 4) and Gentiles (Matthew 15:21-28). He called a tax collector by name and went to his house (Luke 19:5). And he called his followers to do the same (Acts 10:15, 34-35). We encourage you to read Dr. Denison’s full article. Our nation is in a season of extreme division, and as believers, we have an opportunity to be a strong voice for love and truth amid political chaos.
Please pray daily for our nation during this time and pray specifically for our elected leaders in the Senate to have God’s wisdom and discernment while the trial proceeds (Psalm 2:10-11).
If you haven’t already, download the My Faith Votes Prayer Guide for the Impeachment Process. We need you and people of faith across the country on their knees praying for our nation.
My Faith Votes—is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square.