Elizabeth Elyce Fatoma’s middle name is a story worth knowing.
Her mother was driving herself to the hospital to deliver her but found she was going into labor in her car. Her 911 call was answered by dispatcher Elyce Rivera, who talked her through the delivery of a healthy baby girl. Fatoma then named her baby in honor of the operator. The two women met for the first time Tuesday on the Today show.
Carl Sandberg was right: “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.”
“LA Schools Hold LGBT Club For 4-Year-Olds”
Children are a “heritage from the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Psalm 127:3) of whom Jesus said, “To such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). I am grateful every day to be a father of two amazing sons and the grandfather of four perfect (at least in my opinion!) grandchildren.
That’s why these headlines grieve my heart today:
- “LA Schools Host LGBT Club for 4-Year-Olds“
- “School District of Philadelphia Allowing Students to Identify as ‘Non-Binary’ Without Parental Consent“
- “Billie Eilish Says She Started Watching Porn at Age 11: ‘It Really Destroyed My Brain‘”
We are living in a day when “tolerance” has been weaponized, and our children are its victims.
In The Intolerance of Tolerance, biblical scholar D. A. Carson identifies a “subtle” shift in the way our society defines tolerance. He writes: “This shift from ‘accepting the existence of different views’ to ‘acceptance of different views,’ from recognizing other people’s rights to have different beliefs or practices to accepting the differing views of other people, is subtle in form, but massive in substance.”
Sliding “from the old tolerance to the new”
Carson explains: “To accept that a different or opposing position exists and deserves the right to exist is one thing; to accept the position itself means that one is no longer opposing it. The new tolerance suggests that actually accepting another’s position means believing that position to be true, or at least as true as your own.”
With this result: “We move from allowing the free expression of contrary opinions to the acceptance of all opinions; we move from permitting the articulation of beliefs and claims with which we do not agree to asserting that all beliefs and claims are equally valid. Thus we slide from the old tolerance to the new.”
In the “old tolerance,” various religions were free to believe that their beliefs were uniquely true and to share them with others. In the “new tolerance,” no beliefs are more valid than others, and sharing them is imposing our views on others.
Carson notes that Voltaire exemplified the “old tolerance” with his famous maxim: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I would add that the “new tolerance” illogically counters: “I consider what you say to be intolerant, so I will not tolerate your saying it.”
Percentage of self-identified Christians falls 12 points
I am addressing this theme today in light of a story from the Pew Research Center that is dominating headlines: “About Three-in-Ten US Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated.” The subhead adds: “Self-identified Christians make up 63 percent of the US population in 2021, down from 75 percent a decade ago.”
The study also reports that fewer than half of US adults (45 percent) say they pray on a daily basis, down from 58 percent in 2007 and 55 percent in 2014. Roughly one-third of US adults (32 percent) now say they seldom or never pray, up from 18 percent in 2007.
This despite Harvard University research documenting that regular worship attendance corresponds to a 47 percent lower risk of divorce, 33 percent lower risk of mortality, and 29 percent lower risk of depression. Gallup is reporting that Americans’ mental health declined 9 percent from 2019 to 2020, with only one exception: those who attend religious services weekly, whose mental health improved 4 percent in that time. Another study showed that highly religious individuals and evangelicals in America suffered less distress last year than other groups.
Why would the tolerance of unbiblical morality and the intolerance of biblical morality be skyrocketing when the latter has such positive, proven outcomes? Why would more people than ever claim no religious affiliation when such affiliation brings such significant benefits?
“The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”
The answer is both simple and profound: Our secular society has exchanged Christ for Christianity. It has traded a personal, transformational, very real experience with the very real Jesus for a religion about him.
The Bible calls us to “know” Jesus (John 17:3); the Greek word means to know personally through experience. Paul testified, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8), a personal encounter that changed his life and changed history as a result (cf. Acts 9:1–31).
However, rather than knowing Christ in a concrete but deeply intimate way, many think the Christian faith is about rules and regulations, clergy and church buildings, doctrines and traditions. Such a religion was always destined to falter, because Christianity without the living Christ is a car without fuel, a laptop computer without batteries, an airplane without wings. As a house built on sand, it will always fall in the storm (Matthew 7:24–27).
Here’s my point today: If you and I want our culture to value biblical morality, we must demonstrate personally the liberating power of biblical morality through a transforming, daily encounter with the person of Jesus. If we want more people to identify as Christians, we must exhibit the real and living Christ in us. If we want more Americans to pray, we must show them what happens when we connect personally and powerfully with Christ in prayer.
I recently found this hymn and invite you to join me in praying its words as our daily commitment:
Lord God and Maker of all things,
Creation is upheld by you.
While all must change and know decay,
You are unchanging, always new.
You are man’s solace and his shield,
His Rock on which to build.
You are the spirit’s tranquil home,
In you alone is hope fulfilled.
To God the Father and God the Son
And Holy Spirit render praise:
Blest Trinity, from age to age
The strength of all our living days.
Who or what is your “strength” today?