Friday, March 30, 2007

REPORT FROM SUDAN

I'm writing to you from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, the most expansive country in Africa and the world's geographically largest Muslim country.

Our delegation of five from the Institute on Religion and Public Policy is being treated exceedingly well. We are here by official invitation of the Sudanese government; they could not be more polite, gracious and accomodating hosts. This country demands to be re-examined in light of recent changes. Part of my purpose in joining this delegation is to see for myself what is happening here, rather than rely on old news and out-of-date perspectives.

We've had several high-level meetings and are scheduled to visit with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir Thursday. This will be after we tour the deeply troubled Darfur region Monday and Tuesday.

I was surpised to find many Christians serving in government here. Although an officially Islamic state, Christians fill important positions. A power-sharing agreement also mandates that certain seats go to Christian believers.

Please pray for us and especially that God will grant to me the right words at the right time. No restrictions have been placed on us--and today we spoke with our hosts about spiritual things. There are churches here and we will visit several this Sunday. I will bring back with me startling news--and an even more startling invitation to Christian leaders to come to this country soon! (Details to follow my return home.)

Thank you for praying and making this historic mission possible. More later . . .

Sunday, March 25, 2007

MOSES AND PHARAOH REDUX

I am scheduled to leave today for a 10-day mission to the Sudan and its western region of Darfur. As you may have seen in the news, things are quite delicate there after recent events brought further tension to the area. Please pray God's will be done in the scheduling of this mission. I amstanding by as I type for word on whether or not it is a go.

Most Americans have a difficult time understanding what is happening there. We hear words like genocide, ethnic cleansing and sanctions, but few really know what led to this tragic state of affairs and what solutions there are to it, if any at all.

Well, I’m among those who have been deeply troubled and confused. So, I was pleased to receive the invitation of Joseph Griebowski, president of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, to join both their board of directors and this delegation to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

As far as I know, I am the only Evangelical in both assignments. As a member of the board of the Evangelical Church Alliance and chairman of its Committee on Church and Society, I am looking forward to bringing an Evangelical perspective to talks with the top governmental officers in Khartoum, including President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Bashir is blamed by many for the slaughter of tens of thousands in the South and the brutal rape and maiming of many more. Not only so, but Bashir and his government are widely faulted for doing nothing to ensure the security and well-being of some 2.5 million displaced refugees who are terrorized by militia groups sympathetic to the Khartoum regime.

So far, criticism and sanctions from outside have done nothing to resolve what is probably the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world. So, when Mr. Griebowski and his organization were invited to meet with Bashir and his top leaders, he wisely accepted.

I liken this mission to Moses who was told to go directly to Pharaoh and deliver God’s message to the potentate. I don’t know if I’ll have that opportunity, but if I do, I will take it. With the U.N.’s absolute ineptitude, the unwillingness of other countries to intervene (including our own) and the uselessness of bureaucratic “process,” it seems time to try a whole different angle.

No doubt many will criticize the Institute and those of us who meet with the people many Darfur watchers blame for this modern-day holocaust. But the Word of the Lord is powerful, and the Rod of God omnipotent. I believe God is in this mission and my friend Joe and the Institute are right in seizing a unique moment.

After meeting with all the top-level Sudanese officials, we will tour the Darfur region and see it for ourselves. My wife, Cheryl, said she sees a life-changing experience for me on the horizon, not unlike the one I had 24 years ago when I toured the miserable inhabited garbage dumps outside Mexico City. That epiphany led me to make a 2000-mile fundraising and awareness trek from the border with Canada to just across the border with Mexico. The result was the launch of Operation Serve International. Though it’s been ten years since I’ve been directly involved in this fine ministry that I had the joy of founding, it remains a huge part of my heart and soul.

Cheryl also lists the more recent Christian Friendship Mission that came from my first encounters with another African nation, Morocco.
I don’t know what may come from the visit to Sudan and Darfur, but it will certainly be something. The Scriptures say in Proverbs 3:27-28, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
“Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.”
God will want us to do something for these suffering souls or He wouldn’t send us over there. We will make that offer to the Sudanese. It will be up to them whether or not to accept.
Please pray for our delegation. This will not be an easy nor comfortable assignment for any of us. I look forward to reporting to you what happens.

For now, you can get more details in our article on the trip. Thank you for praying—and many, many thanks to those who gave financially to make the trip possible. We haven’t raised the full amount of $4000 yet, so if you’d like to plant some spiritual seed in the soil of Sudan, you can give a special gift at our website. We still have 24 hours to collect the balance of $1500. You can make your tax-deductible contribution here.I’ll be back to tell you how the Lord moved in hearts and minds!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

HEADING FOR HELL

Read on to the end for an explanation to the title of this post.

It’s been a very busy time around here—thank you to those who sustain us by your prayers! I must constantly remember Gideon because it seems our army at Faith and Action is so small to take on so much. But as the (now old) Gospel song says, “Little is much when God is in it!”

I was one of the first in the country to speak out in support of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace. I had met Gen. Pace some years ago when our Thursday morning breakfast group hosted him. He’s a good, God-fearing man and—needless to say—an excellent military leader. To pan him for saying what we all instinctively know—that homosexual conduct and adultery are immoral—is the height of absurdity.

I thought one of the greatest shames visited on this nation was the forcing of Gen. Pace to back down in a genuflection to the media idols in this country. (I must admire him for not actually apologizing!) He did what his bosses obviously ordered him to do. (I think Defense Secretary Robert Gates is one of the worst picks the President has ever made.) Nonetheless, the General did it with strength and panache. (You’ve heard me say that here in Washington, you must be—as Jesus said—wise as a serpent. I say, sometimes downright snaky!)

Well, the Pace brouhaha kept us consumed for a week as I put out statements, did endless interviews and held a news conference in front of the White House.

I’ve also had my own little stink-a-poo going on as the Washington area affiliate of “American Atheists” has come after me and our Ten Commandments display in front of the ministry house here on the Hill. They’re badgering the Government of the District of Columbia to try and force a review of the legal opinion that settled our right to display God’s Word. Keep in mind these atheists are the folks whose slogan is “Stabbing Religion in the Neck with a Screwdriver.”

Imagine what would happen to us if our slogan was “Stabbing Atheism in the Neck with a Chiseled Cross!” We’d be in front of a judge right now! (Relax Jeff and Jeff, our duty is to pray for you and to love you in Christ—and that doesn’t include stabbing you anywhere—except perhaps in your conscience!)

Speaking of stabbing—and to turn quite serious (and to explain the title of this post)—as you know for years now there’s been a terrible slaughter going on in Darfur, the southern region of the East African country of Sudan. In just a few days, I will leave for the Sudanese capital of Khartoum where I will join a delegation of U.S. religious leaders under the auspices of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy (IRPP). The IRPP was founded and is headed by my good friend Joseph Griebowski, who is not only a man of deep Christian faith but is also a genius. Joe’s organization was recently nominated for a Nobel Prize and deservedly so. (Incidentally, it was Joe who introduced me to Morocco and was the catalyst for our Christian Friendship Mission there.) In Sudan we will meet with President Bashir, virtually every top Sudanese official and religious leaders from Muslim, Christian and even Jewish communities—all in an effort to bring pressure on Sudan to allow a peace initiative to protect the 2.5 million displaced persons in the South.

Please pray for us. I’ve ministered in 37 countries of the world, including some at war, but this is the most difficult and challenging foreign mission I have ever undertaken. Even more so, please pray for the millions of victims of this terrible violence.

If you can, please listen (or now, watch) my weekly missionary field report, Faith and Action Live, for March 21. I report on the big change in reception for our annual Passover / Easter outreach among members of Congress. There’s an ominous turn-for-the-worse here. You need to know about it. God help us!

Over and out! - RS

Saturday, March 17, 2007

DOES HOMOSEXUALITY HAVE A CURE?

“For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (Romans 7:22-23 NKJV)

The Debate over homosexuality was reignited this week by the comments of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace and the blog musings of well-known Southern Baptist theologian Albert Mohler.

General Pace said to the Chicago Tribune he personally believes homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral. Dr. Mohler wrote:

“Christians must be very careful not to claim that science can never prove a biological basis for sexual orientation. We can and must insist that no scientific finding can change the basic sinfulness of all homosexual behavior. The general trend of the research points to at least some biological factors behind sexual attraction, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This does not alter God's moral verdict on homosexual sin (or heterosexual sin, for that matter), but it does hold some promise that a deeper knowledge of homosexuality and its cause will allow for more effective ministries to those who struggle with this particular pattern of temptation. If such knowledge should ever be discovered, we should embrace it and use it for the greater good of humanity and for the greater glory of God.”

He went on to recommend that should a chemical “cure” be found for homosexual orientation, Christians should embrace it.

Wow! Talk about the perfect storm. The President’s top uniformed military advisor and a well-known Baptist seminary president in the same week!

I responded to the General’s pronouncement in two statements and during a news conference in front of the White House.
(See http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/553152465.html, http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/240692485.html,
http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/725042500.html.) I responded to Dr. Mohler in an interview with the Washington Post’s Lynne Duke, who asked me specifically if I agreed with his proposition (that there may be a biological cause for homosexuality) and his hypothetical cure, the application of a hormone patch to a pregnant mom’s abdomen.

My conversation with Ms. Duke lasted about 30 minutes. My guess is if she uses anything I said in her article, it will be one or two lines long. That’s always my frustration with the media, friendly or otherwise. They play to the average American’s attention span, which isn’t very long.
Doubtless, whatever is printed will cause trouble for me from one side of the argument or the other, as did a previous interview I granted with the Post a year ago. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/14/AR2005061401531.html.) Back then, reporter Alan Cooperman took great license with what I said and constructed a non-reality—that is the appearance of a partnership between me and pro-homosexual advocates.

So, let me revisit the whole matter again. It is of paramount moral importance. Here are my positions on all these questions, namely:

Do I believe, as Dr. Mohler apparently does, that we may soon discover a biological contributor to same-sex sexual attractions?

Would such a discovery change my opinion of the moral nature of homosexuality?

Do I endorse Dr. Mohler’s hypothetical use of a medical treatment to “fix” a pre-born child’s sexual orientation?

I will begin by going back to last year—in fact, almost two years ago—when I started reading through the research material on investigations into animal and human same-sex sexual behavior. That led me to correspond with one of the top genetic scientists in the world. (He will remain nameless to protect his job.) Believe me, if I can ever disclose who he is, you will see just how qualified he is to opine on this. One of his peers told me, “If you want to know more about genetics than he knows, you need to go to God.”

It happens this revered scientist is also a born-again, Evangelical Christian. He told me it will be only a few years before a gene affecting sexual orientation is identified. Now, before anyone goes apoplectic, he also said this gene will only pre-dispose the carrier toward certain sexual behavior, it will not pre-determine that behavior. My scientist contact explained that sexuality is extremely complex and depends on many factors.

As a result of this information (and much more that I read) and now Dr. Mohler’s commentary on sheep studies, I am convinced that IN SOME PEOPLE, biological factors such as genes, hormones or other anatomical and bio-chemical contributors COULD play important roles in making THESE PEOPLE vulnerable to homosexual SIN.

Note my use of the word SIN. The Bible is quite clear, the Christian church has consistently taught, and virtually every major religion holds that sexual activity between persons of the same sex is WRONG; it is contrary to God’s moral law for human beings and to nature. In my book, Ten Words That Will Change A Nation, on the Ten Commandments (revised and updated version due out soon), I point out homosexual sex is a form of adultery—a behavior explicitly prohibited, whether homosexual or heterosexual in nature. (See Exodus 20:14.)

My answer then to the first question is a cautionary, yes; cautionary because it is still largely hypothetical. The evidence points there (as Dr. Mohler notes), but it is not yet concrete.

On the second question, about the moral nature of homosexual behavior, my answer is an unequivocal, no. Such a discovery of a biological contributor to same-sex attractions does not change the nature of homosexual behavior from immoral (or sinful) to moral (or righteous.) The Bible clearly condemns sexual intercourse of any kind between persons of the same sex. (See Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27.) In both these cases, however, the proscription is on the actual behavior—the acts. Temptation, while it is rooted in our sinful nature, is not immoral or sinful in and of itself. But neither is it normative or Godly:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he himself tempt anyone. But each is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15 NKJV)

My point here is that some persons will be especially vulnerable to certain sinful desires or temptations, while others will not. According to St. Paul’s instruction in Romans 7, as I quoted at the beginning of this post, there is no doubt there is a physical dimension to sin and temptation. It may be hormonal, it may be genetic, it may be some other bio-chemical or even anatomical anomaly, but it expresses itself physiologically. That shouldn’t surprise us. But this biological factor might explain why some people have persistent temptations no matter how much prayer, discipline, counseling or spiritual experiences they may have. As one great Christian leader has said, “Once a homosexual, always a homosexual.” (I know some will refute this and will convincingly testify to an actual change in sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. I don't doubt that. But in many, temptations toward the same sex persist in spite of subsequently happy heterosexual lives, marriages and sexual experiences.)

On the last question about a possible future “cure,” I am much more cautionary. Again, I believe we will discover in the near future that sexuality is one of the most complex aspects of human nature. There will never be a quick, easy, strictly physical “cure” for sexual disorders and dysfunctions, hetero or homo. I’m convinced we will learn that spiritual, psychological, relational, experiential and environmental factors all combine with biological factors to produce certain human sexual proclivities and predilections—as is no doubt true of ALL human behaviors. Ultimately, of course, such dysfunctions are linked to the Fall and our resulting sinful state and consequent alienation from God the Creator. The cure for that underlying cause has already appeared. As we sing in Toplady's great Hymn:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee, Let the water and the blood from Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.

I think we need to be extremely careful and prayerful about any attempt to physically change a nascent child. This comes dangerously close to violating the sanctity of human life. There is the question of the science itself, its long-term affects, its unintended and unpredictable consequences. And there is the question of INTENT. And here lies the rub: In the end it is intent that matters most. If our intent is to help a child develop normally and to enjoy a life designed by God for his or her happiness in service to the Lord and to His moral will--and there is a reasonable and demonstrable possibility of doing so with limited risk, then we should pursue it. On the other hand, if the intent is to experiment on a child, manipulate him or her, or change them in some way simply for our enjoyment, that is immoral and must be rejected.

None of this is simple, but then mankind is the crown of God’s creation, made in His image, and is therefore enormously complex by design.

I don’t know a lot about this right now, but what I do know is we must prayerfully have this conversation NOW so we are not caught off guard in the near future, ill-prepared and unable to give critically important spiritual, biblical and moral insight into whatever discoveries are made, and whatever proposals or actions follow.

Let’s all keep praying, reading and talking; talking, reading and praying.

Thanks to Dr. Mohler for keeping the conversation moving forward!

Monday, March 05, 2007

ATHEIST ACTIVIST EXPLAINS MEANINGLESS REMARK

ATHEIST ACTIVIST EXPLAINS MEANINGLESS REMARK

Before I write anything else, I want to give the atheist activist I referred to in my last post a chance to clarify his statement to me regarding the recent Supreme Court case on President Bush’s Faith Based Initiative programs.

I mentioned to you that I ran into this man last week as he returned from staging a protest against public funding of faith-based programs in front of the US Supreme Court. I also noted that when I asked him how he felt the case would go, he conceded it would likely be a winner for our side. In response to my report, the same activist wrote me a blistering E-mail saying, among other things, “When you approached me on the street, I had just come from our demonstration on the steps of SCOTUS(Supreme Court of the United States). I was not privy to the proceedings inside and I certainly was not expressing a legal opinion. My one-liner was nothing more than humorous, self-effacing cordiality. It doesn't seem possible the (sic) it could have been mistaken for anything beyond that.”

I attempted to respond to him, but his E-mail address was rejected twice. So, hoping you’re still reading Rick, here’s what I tried to send to you:

Hi Rick! Thanks for taking time to read my blog and respond. I plan to reflect on your comments in my next posting, but I need to get something straight: Did you or did you not give me your honest opinion in that remark? If it was not honest, but simply a cordiality to placate me, should I say that? I took you to be a straight-forward guy who would give me your true opinion.

I also respect you as a savvy player in this consequential high-stakes game. You guys are sharp, determined, articulate, shrewd and committed to your cause. You know what you’re after and you’re (to quote Hillary) “in it to win!” I don’t know about you, but I see this as a struggle for the very soul of our American—and even broader human civilization. That’s no small thing. Let’s not be na├»ve. This is bigger than the Civil War and even more bloody—if you consider every human life to be as valuable as another.

So, pardon me for making more of your conciliatory statement than you wanted me to, but I am neither your apologist nor your publicist. If you mean to be sure to be taken in a certain way, only say so and I will respect that. I will now report your taking umbrage at my interpretation of your comment, but I must wonder if you’re being honest with yourself. Again, if you didn’t mean what you said, just say so.

Incidentally, I’m grateful to God that we’re now doing battle with you guys and not the old guard who spit on us, punched, scratched and kicked us. (Back in ’92, they even urinated on us!) For your civility, I say thank you. While we will always have very sharp disagreements and different interpretations of one another, we can—and I am determined to—remain civil.

Thank you again for sharing your feelings with me. Be assured of my constant prayers for you.

Respectfully,

Rob Schenck

That being said, let me say I still believe what I heard in Rick’s words, his tone of voice and our eye contact, was a concession. But, he can speak for himself and is invited to do so by posting at this blog.

Speaking of speaking, last week I attended CPAC—the Conservative Political Action Conference. These are the hard-core conservative activists and (according to even the liberal Washington Post) a very important constituency within the Republican Party. That’s why leading presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Sam Brownback and Rudy Giuliani appeared there. I had a great time spending most of the hours with our colleagues and friends, Pat Mahoney and Jay Sekulow, among others--including Sean Hannity. (Jay was busy talking up Mitt Romney, whom he is supporting.)

I have said all along that Sam Brownback is—and remains—the gold standard on our three key principles of the Sanctity of Life, the Sanctity of Marriage and the Family and the Public Acknowledgement of God. But, I must also say the most impressive campaign organization at the conference was Mitt Romney’s—and that extends nationally. Perhaps that’s why Romney won First Place in the straw poll (mock election) held during the event. The pro-abort, anti-family values, not-much-on-religion Giuliani came in Second (Egad!) and Sam, the champion of all that is good, came in Third. It’s clear if moral conservatives are looking for someone with a capacity to win, Mitt comes out on top.

On the other side, it appears Hillary is staging a no-holds-barred campaign against formidable challenger Barack Obama. You probably saw on the news both attended recent Civil Rights commemorations in Selma, Alabama. Pat Mahoney and I visited there not long ago and marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the one made so infamous by the brutal attacks against marchers on "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965. I was only seven years old, but I can remember the television coverage of that awful event. I believe it contributed to my formation as an activist. The odd thing is neither Barack Obama nor his family experienced any of that. He was born to a highly educated white mother and African father. He was raised by white grandparents in Hawaii and later graduated from Harvard where he served in the prestigious post of editor to the Law Review. I must wonder if the senior leaders of the civil rights movement have any attitudes about that.

In any case, the big feature of this campaign stop for both the Clinton and Obama camps was the unseemly quoting of Scripture and singing of hymns as jousting weapons. This competition for the prize of “most religious” is degrading to the candidates and to the rich history of the black church. Any charges by the Democrats that Republicans politicize faith (and too many of them do) is nullified by their own Elmer Gantryism on the campaign trail.

While I'm in a critical mood (a constructive one, I hope), let me say in summary that I'm very concerned our conservative movement maintains a Christian conscience. I'm deeply troubled by signs it's slipping. Without a Christian conscience there will be no morally qualitative difference between liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican. I, for one, am not interested in investing in a morally banckrupt movement.

This is all I have time for now, be back later . . .