WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - JULY 8, 2020
In this week's Intersect, read about:
Outrage After California Bans Singing in Churches Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Faith leaders are speaking out after California Gov. Newsom banned singing and chanting in houses of worship last week due to a surge in coronavirus cases following weeks of protests. “Places of worship must, therefore, discontinue singing and chanting activities and limit indoor attendance to 25 percent of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower,” the new guidelines read as state health officials recommend churches have members sing online from their homes. Center for Disease Control and Prevention officials point to singing as a proven way to spread a virus as the Golden State recorded more than 11,700 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, the highest single-day count of any state. With over 271,000 confirmed cases and at least 6,366 deaths, California now has the second-highest number of cases behind New York. Sean Feucht, a Bethel Music worship leader and pastor in Northern California, called the order an "unprecedented attack" on the freedom of worship and said he is defying the Democrat governor's ban. "For the last several weeks, tens of thousands of people have been gathering outdoors in cities all across California and they have been screaming and chanting and protesting, and all the while state officials are encouraging them as they do this," Feucht said. "And then now, as the church wants to gather just like we've been doing for thousands of years to simply worship God, they bring the hammer down against us," he added. "It's just, can you see the hypocrisy and how insane this is? ... It really is time that we take a stand and that we fight back." read more
My Faith Votes’ influencer, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who also serves as the President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, stated, “I publicly commended the governor of California for his initial response to this pandemic. As a member of the national COVID-19 recovery commission, I affirm the CDC recommendations. However, I believe Newsom’s order regarding singing is completely discriminatory. How can you permit, not for one day, but for many days, tens of thousands to march in protest without wearing masks and then demand that 100 worshipers refrain from singing?” Unfortunately, it’s not only California where religious freedom is under tremendous attack. The Colorado State attorney general sent a cease and desist letter to the Andrew Wommack Ministry for holding a Bible Conference for their Charis Bible College. The state says the ministry is violating the governor’s order of limiting gatherings to no more than 175 people. Yet, the Governor permits mass protests with no social distancing or health precautions. Liberty Counsel is taking up this critical religious freedom case. You can read more about it here. Founding Father John Adams once said, “You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.” Scripture is clear that we are not to forsake gathering together (Hebrews 10:24-25). And 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock, has powerful words every Christian must remember today: “Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us.”
Pray for the religious leaders in California that they would have courage to serve and worship the Lord and stand for the First Amendment rights of churches.
We recently spoke with Pastor Jack Hibbs, Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills located in Southern California. Pastor Hibbs opened his church on Pentecost Sunday in California, despite Governor Newsom’s order. The church has remained open since then and continues to include singing in their services. We encourage you to watch My Faith Votes interview with Pastor Jack Hibbs, and watch his powerful Independence Day sermon from this past weekend.
Massachusetts City Officially Recognizes Partnerships of Three or More Spouses
A Massachusetts city known for its progressive politics has made history by reportedly becoming the first municipality in America to recognize domestic partnerships involving multiple spouses. According to officials, Somerville, a city of about 80,000, has roughly two dozen polyamorous households. The new law, signed by Mayor Joseph Curtatone, allows them to collectively purchase a home together, as well as share health benefits. "People have been living in families that include more than two adults forever," said J.T. Scott, a city councilor who supported the change. "Here in Somerville, families sometimes look like one man and one woman, but sometimes it looks like two people everyone on the block thinks are sisters because they've lived together forever, or sometimes it's an aunt and an uncle, or an aunt and two uncles, raising two kids." Besides the ability to receive health benefits, many of the justifications for the move offered by officials mirror arguments used during gay marriage debates. "This is simply allowing that change, allowing people to say, ‘This is my partner and this is my other partner,'" Scott said. "It has a legal bearing, so when one of them is sick, they can both go to the hospital." read more
We knew this was coming ever since the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. Instead of viewing marriage as an objective institution with specific definitions and boundaries, the Court’s ruling essentially made it a label that can be applied to various sexual relationships. Logically, if two men can be considered married, why not two men and a woman? Why not one man and three women? What has happened in Massachusetts shows that we absolutely must be involved in our local governments. As Christians who know that God’s design for marriage benefits everyone, we must commit to standing up for Biblical principles in our communities. We can do this by making ourselves aware of the actions taking place on our city councils, and by voting for godly candidates in local elections. Also, we should be open to being one of those godly candidates ourselves! We cannot only stand for marriage in our cities, however. As our society grows more confused about reality, our fellow believers, especially our youth, face increasing pressure to conform to the culture’s beliefs. We have an enormous responsibility to teach the truth about marriage to our fellow believers, especially our youth. This year’s annual Gallup Poll showed that a record number of people believe polygamy is morally acceptable. Romans 1:21-22 says that as people reject God, their thinking becomes futile and they champion foolish things while professing to be wise. We also have a great opportunity to demonstrate what a godly marriage looks like to a world that celebrates immorality. We can only do that by centering ourselves, and our families, on Christ.
Pray that Christian families and churches will be proactive in teaching God’s truth about marriage and refuting the lies of the culture. Colossians 2:8-10.
One of the best marriage resources that I’ve had the privilege of participating in with my husband is called Re-Engage. Marriages in any condition can benefit, whether you are struggling to get along, your marriage is broken, or you simply want to grow closer together as a couple. Re-Engage examines God’s design for marriage and applies principles from the Bible to guide couples towards growth in their relationship with each other. Find out if there is an opportunity to attend near you here.
87 Percent of Christians Believe America has been Blessed by God, Barna Shows
Christians in America are more likely than the general population to see the United States as a blessed nation and a world leader, although majorities in both categories affirm such a belief, according to a new Barna survey. Christians also are more likely to say the U.S. is a Christian nation and was “chosen by God.” The data from the survey of 2,889 U.S. adults was posted on Barna’s website Wednesday and is part of a new study undertaken with the Racial Justice and Unity Center and others. “While the Fourth of July offers a time for the U.S. to celebrate the Declaration of Independence, it also provides space for us to look back on our country’s history – the good and the bad – to sharpen the lens with which we envision its future,” Barna said in the release. According to the poll, 80 percent of practicing Christians but 58 percent of U.S. adults agree with the statement that “historically, the United States has been a Christian country.” Fifty-one percent of practicing Christians strongly agree with the statement, while 29 percent “somewhat” agree. Barna defines “practicing Christians” as self-identified Christians “who have attended a worship service within the past month and agree strongly that their faith is very important in their life.” Meanwhile, 87 percent of practicing Christians but 52 percent of U.S. adults agree that “historically, the United States has been blessed by God.” (Sixty-four percent of practicing Christians strongly agree.) read more
Proverbs 9:10 states that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Our founding fathers built this nation on Judeo-Christian principles because they wisely feared the Lord. This distinguished the American Revolution from the French Revolution, which had no moral grounding except in the arbitrary rules of human wisdom. Their revolution inevitably did not result in the blessings of freedom, but in anarchy, and eventually tyranny under Napoleon Bonaparte. However, if we want to continue to enjoy the blessings of liberty, we cannot forget that true liberty is only founded in God. In 1863, as our nation was reeling from the staggering effects of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln called for a day of prayer and fasting, which we could apply to our current situation: “We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!” As we vote, contact our elected officials, sign petitions, and stand for truth, let us not forget that “unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) These important works must always be accompanied by humble prayer.
America has been a blessing to the whole world in many ways, most importantly in preserving the freedom of Christians to preach the gospel and send missionaries to other countries. Pray that for the sake of the gospel, God would have mercy on our country.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 commands us to pray for our government officials so that we would be free to live out our faith and share the gospel. To assist you in this, we have created a Prayer Guide which we encourage you to download, use, and share.
China Begins Repressive Crackdown On Hong Kong, Removes Books From Libraries That Promote Democracy
Numerous books have been pulled from the shelves of libraries in Hong Kong after the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) new Hong Kong security law went into effect last week. “Books written by prominent Hong Kong democracy activists have started to disappear from the city’s libraries, online records show, days after Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on the finance hub,” Voice of America reported. “Among the authors whose titles are no longer available are Joshua Wong, one of the city’s most prominent young activists, and Tanya Chan, a well-known pro-democracy lawmaker.” Experts and activists say that the removal of the books increases concerns that the Chinese Communist Party will use the new law to censor political statements that dissent from the oppressive political party, which has been responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of its own citizens since its inception. The new security law “criminalizes four categories of crimes, including secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “In contrast to mainland China, Hong Kong historically has had robust protections on free speech, and the city has been a haven for publishers and journalists. However, episodes such as the disappearance of several booksellers who sold titles in Hong Kong critical of China’s leaders have heightened anxieties that China is trying to import its style of social control into the city.” read more
This is very concerning for religious freedom, as many Hong Kong churches were supportive of the protestors. This control of speech will undoubtedly extend to them, and likely attempt to prevent certain Christian teaching that the authorities consider to be dangerous to national security. Those protesting in Hong Kong show an interesting demographic. Nearly 60 percent are 29 or younger and nearly 74 percent have received at least some tertiary education. In mainland China, the government is not allowing churches to open unless they sing the national anthem and praise the government. One church member described his church’s opening, “The church finally reopened after five months...but instead of singing hymns to praise God, the government required us to raise the national flag and sing the national anthem.” And this is only in the government-approved churches. The illegal house churches are not allowed to meet at all, because they refuse to let the integrity of Christian teaching be tainted by Communist Party propaganda. On the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), 53 countries, including North Korea and Venezuela, approved the new Hong Kong National Security Law, while only 27 countries condemned it. In response to the law, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “With the ink barely dry on the draconian National Security Law, HK authorities are now removing books from libraries, banning political slogans, and requiring censorship in schools. The U.S. condemns these Orwellian assaults on the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people.” Americans should take a lesson from this and strive to protect free speech here as well. An alarming video released by Campus Reform last year shows that a considerable number of college students don’t believe in free speech for views they deem hateful or offensive. This type of thinking can easily lead to censorship in the name of tolerance or security, instead of simply letting good ideas fight bad ones.
Hong Kong, and particularly the churches, need our prayers right now. Please pray that Christians will be “wise and serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16) as they navigate obedience to God in an increasingly oppressive government.
The youngest Americans — millennials and Generation Z — are set to exercise their political muscle in 2020, making up 37% of the electorate. Their worldview will impact how they vote and how our nation moves forward. If you’re looking for a way to encourage young adults to be prepared to stand for faith in our culture, consider Summit Virtual. Summit Virtual is a live, interactive, on-line program developed by our friends, and new My Faith Votes partner, Summit Ministries. This five-day, online program equips young adults ages 16-to-25 to embrace God’s truth and champion a biblical worldview, something that’s so critical for today’s youth living in a post-Christian culture.
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.