“Odds and Ends” are the letters covering some important topics that do not necessarily require a whole article.
PAIVI RASANEN – “CENSORSHIP WORSE THAN PRISON” IN FINLAND
“Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen has spoken about her dedication to free speech ahead of her criminal trial on 24 January. The former Minister of the Interior is being accused of engaging in “hate speech” for publicly voicing her deeply held beliefs on marriage and sexual ethics. Finland’s Prosecutor General has brought three criminal charges against Räsänen over the contents of a pamphlet Räsänen wrote on these topics in 2004, for engaging in a debate on a 2019 radio show and for a tweet containing a picture of Bible verses Räsänen directed at her church leadership. Bishop Juhana Pohjola faces trial alongside her for publishing a pamphlet for his congregation that Räsänen wrote on the topic over 17 years ago.
‘Now it is time to speak. Because the more we are silent, the narrower the space for freedom of speech and religion grows. If I’m convicted, I think that the worst consequence would not be the fine against me, or even the prison sentence, it would be the censorship,’ says Päivi Räsänen ahead of the trial.
‘I will continue to stand for what I believe and what I have written. And I will speak and write about these things, because they are a matter of conviction, not only an opinion. I trust that we still live in a democracy, and we have our constitution and international agreements that guarantee our freedom of speech and religion,’ continued the MP, former Minister of the Interior and grandmother facing trial for a tweet” (adfinternational.org).
This is a warning about where America is headed. Canada is already moving in that direction. Note: Finland’s Constitution still instructs the Lutheran Church to proclaim a Bible-based Christian faith.
WARNING FROM A LIFELONG DEMOCRAT
“A lifelong feminist and Democrat gave a stark warning to her party: Stop promoting the abolition of biological sex or lose votes.
“My party has been pushing this gender identity agenda in law and throughout the society, and it’s terrible for women and girls,” Kara Dansky, president of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign’s U.S. chapter, told Fox News.
She said the U.S. is in the middle of a national crisis over the meaning of the words sex and gender.
“The obliteration of the material reality of biological sex should scare everyone,” said Dansky, who discusses the issue in depth in her book ‘The Abolition of Sex: How the ‘Transgender’ Agenda Harms Women and Girls'” (foxnews.com).
BILL MAHER DEFENDS PARENTS
Comedian [and T.V. personality] Bill Maher defended parents who are against critical race theory on Wednesday, saying he doesn’t think anyone is against teaching about the history of racism in schools but not that it’s the “essence” of America.
“There’s something going on in the schools that never went on before,” Maher, the host of “Real Time” on HBO, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “Now I’m not in schools, I have no interaction with children whatsoever, but I do understand this issue because I read accounts from parents, from educators.”
He said when he was a student he learned a little about slavery and racism but it was cursory and he didn’t learn it “viscerally” so he thinks teaching an “honest history of racism” would be good, but “that’s different than teaching that racism is the essence of America.”
He said that’s what parents are against, “or involving children who are probably not old enough or sophisticated enough to understand this very complicated issue with a very complicated history.”
Maher argued that critical race theory denies the immense progress that has been made on social issues and said proponents of it were “virtue-signaling.”
He added that he gets criticism from the left and the right, which he sees as him doing something right. “I am for the first time now when I’m on the road playing to a politically mixed audience.”
He called himself an “old-school liberal” who would prefer a colorblind society rather than what he claimed was “wokeism” where people want to see race everywhere” (foxnews.com).
WHAT ARE MIRACLES?
“In his new book, A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles: Instruction and Inspiration for Living Supernaturally in Christ, renowned Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland makes a provocative claim. Ninety-five percent of what the average evangelical church accomplishes in a given year, suggests Moreland, could be explained even if God didn’t exist (Emphasis added).
In other words, too much of our sermons, programs, and worship could be explained away (and perhaps dismissed by outsiders) as due to skillful leadership, public speaking, and production quality. No work of God required.
While I would suggest that Christians should strive to see God at work anywhere, including in the mundane and ordinary, Moreland’s claim is provocative. His book, as we’ve come to expect from the professor at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology, is carefully reasoned and worthy of consideration. In it, Moreland explores what miracles are, investigates whether they are still happening today, and offers guidance to Christians for identifying and experiencing them” (breakpoint.org).
HEIDI BAKER – MISSIONARY LEADER IN MOZAMBIQUE – PROPHETIC WORD
“This past September at the Supernatural Life Conference in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, Apostle Hiedi Baker said that while she was in Tennessee recently, the Lord gave her a two-part prophetic word for the body of Christ.
“I was groaning, and I realized I was groaning for America,” Baker says. “I started seeing it, and it was showing me His glory. But He was also showing me suffering like you’ve never seen. I said to the Lord, ‘they don’t want to hear it, they don’t want to see it.’ And he said to me, ‘Are you to going tell them, who are you? You said you would go anywhere and say anything.
“I said, ‘Lord, I’m so, so sorry, I will go if you ask me. I lay my life before you.’ I was seeing shaking, but I saw His glory. All I can say is that you had better fix your eyes on Jesus. This is not a time to play games. There is darkness covering the earth, huge darkness, but the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Hold on and stay in your lane. Remove the judgment you have on the body of Christ. If you have judgment, you are going to be missing a piece you need to move in these days” (charismanews.com).
RELIGIOUS AMERICANS LESS LIKELY TO DIVORCE
“According to the U.S. Census, the average American couple gets married around the age of 30. Many young adults believe that forming unions closer to that age reduces their risk of divorce, and, indeed, there is research consistent with that belief. But we also have evidence suggesting that religious Americans are less likely to divorce, even as they are more likely to marry younger than 30.
This paradoxical pattern raises two questions worth exploring: Is the way religious Americans form their marriages different than the way their more secular peers do? And do religious unions formed by 20-somethings face different divorce odds than those formed by secular Americans in the same age group?
The answer to that last question is complicated by the role of cohabitation in contemporary family formation. Today, more than 70 percent of marriages are preceded by cohabitation . . . . Increased cohabitation is both a cause and a consequence of the rise in the average age of first marriage. But what most young adults do not know is that cohabiting before marriage, especially with someone other than your future spouse, is also associated with an increased risk of divorce, as a recent Stanford study reports.
One reason that religious marriages in America may be more stable is that they reduce young adults’ odds of cohabiting prior to marriage, even though they increase their likelihood of marrying at a relatively young age” (christianitytoday.com).
PEW RESEARCH CENTER – CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA
“Although Christians continue to make up a majority of the U.S. population, the share of people affiliated with an organized religious group continues to drop, according to a new Pew Research Center study.
Self-identifying Christians make up 63% of the adult population, a number that was 12 points higher (75%) in 2011 and 6 percentage points higher (69%) just five years ago.
About 30% of those surveyed in 2021 identified themselves as “nones,” meaning atheists, agnostics or having no particular religious affiliation.
The Protestant share of the population (40%) has declined 4 percentage points over the last five years and dropped 10 points in 10 years, the poll showed. Sixty percent of Protestants said they are “born-again or evangelical Christian,” including 58% of white Protestants and 66% of Black Protestants.
Catholicism has held steady at about 21% of the population, while 6% of adults identify with non-Christian faiths, including Jewish (1%), Muslim (1%), Buddhist (1%), Hindu (1% ), and other faiths (2%).
Fewer than half of the adults surveyed (45%) said they pray every day, although 79% of born-again/evangelical Protestants said they pray daily, including 76% of White evangelicals and 81% of Black evangelicals.
About one-third of U.S. adults (32%) said they seldom or never pray.
About 31% of those polled said they attend religious services at least once or twice a month, including 25% who say they attend at least once a week.
Pew said that while it is more difficult to measure long-term trends regarding the share of U.S. adults who say religion is an important part of their lives, “the available data indicates that Americans are growing less religious by this measure, too.”
The data shows 41% of U.S. adults think religion is “very important” in their lives, 4 points lower than in 2020″ (ministrywatch.com).
COMMENT FROM READER
Lastly, I would like to share a comment from Australia on a previous Langstaff Letter, addressing the reliability of the news.
“On newspapers, I learned long ago not to trust them, or the media in general. Many years ago there were massive bush fires in Tasmania, near Hobart. Many homes and lives were lost. Then I read a report copied from a British newspaper, which said that the Royal Navy had sent a submarine (!) to help evacuate the entire population of Tasmania. All 400,000 (at that time) of them! No wonder Britannia rules the waves, when she possesses such gigantic submarines! If a British newspaper with full and easy access to Tasmania could get it so wrong, what hope is there of accurate news when access is difficult?”
The world is in turmoil, but God is still in control. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus!