Mr. Obama Travels to Hometown of Pastor Saeed Abedini
Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 10:39 AM

Following his State of the Union address last night, Mr. Obama will travel today to Boise, Idaho, for his first trip to Idaho as president. He will address what is expected to be a standing-room-only crowd at Boise State University’s Sports Complex at 2:45 p.m. Prior to his address, Mr. Obama will tour the University College of Engineering’s New Product Development laboratory, and is scheduled to spend an hour with the students. The students will show Mr. Obama some of the prototypes they have been working on. The University describes the laboratory as having helped “hundreds of Idaho inventors and entrepreneurs turn ideas into commercial products.” At the University, Mr. Obama presumably will highlight the innovative educational and entrepreneurial opportunities that he wishes to create for poor and middle-class Americans through nationwide tuition-free community colleges.

Abedini Testifying 3 15 13RGW 3548 480 300x295 Mr. Obama Travels to Hometown of Pastor Saeed AbediniBoise is also the home town of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence in Iran for his Christian faith. Over the years, Pastor Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, has pleaded with President Obama to meet with her. However, he has not even replied to her requests. Following the White House announcement that Mr. Obama would be visiting Boise, Mrs. Abedini wrote the following to Mr. Obama in pertinent part:

My heart leapt with hope when I heard that you would be visiting my hometown of Boise, Idaho. Since the Iranian government took my husband, Saeed Abedini, almost 3 years ago, I have been praying and wanting to meet with you. With each of my travels to Washington D.C., I hoped that I would get a call, or an invitation to see you and to speak with you. To have you look into my eyes and see the piercing pain that has been there since my husband’s imprisonment; to see my kids and to know that they have missed the warm embrace of their dad for nearly three years. . . . Serving as President of the United States, you have pledged to protect America – to protect our citizens. My husband loves this country. So much so, he became a U.S. citizen on March 11, 2010.  The following day he shared on Facebook these words: “Today is the first day I opened my eyes as an American. . . . I need to be an active citizen for my new country. Lord help me to do your will in my country America. Lord Bless America.” You speak about the need to protect religious freedom and human rights. Saeed is imprisoned merely because of his Christian faith. My husband has committed no crime – he chose to exercise his God-given right to choose his own faith. . . . Mr. President, my children and I respectfully request, as you come to our home town of Boise, Idaho, that you take a moment of your time to meet with us.

The Obama administration continues to release approximately $750 million in funds to Iran monthly as the United States, Europe, and Iran “negotiate” a nuclear weapons agreement. According to recently published U.S. Treasury reports, the United States and Europe have already released to the Islamic mullahs during these negotiations $7 billion through November 24, 2014, with an additional $4.9 billion forthcoming during the period November 25, 2014, to June 30, 2015. (I bet you didn’t hear that on Al Sharpton, Rachel Maddow, or Katie Couric’s “news” programs.) Further, as we are releasing funds to the Iranians, media reports indicate that Iran and Hezbollah plan forthcoming attacks on Israel. It would be good for Mr. Obama to meet with Mrs. Abedini and her two children. Sadly, I don’t think that this will happen. I guess that, as Mr. Obama stated last night, while some “pages” in our nation have turned, others will not be. But after having suffered years of fear and uncertainty, Mrs. Abedini and her children deserve to be heard by Mr. Obama. Please continue to pray for Pastor Abedini’s release from prison, for his wife, Naghmeh, and for their two beautiful children, and also please pray for the long-suffering people of Iran who live under the dictatorship of the mullahs that they will come to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mere Links 01.21.15
Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 10:00 AM

How Southern Baptists became pro-life
David Roach, Baptist Press

In 1979, Larry Lewis picked up a copy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and saw a full-page ad listing the Southern Baptist Convention among denominations that affirmed the right to abortion. “Right there beside the Unitarians and universalists was the Southern Baptist Convention,” Lewis, a St. Louis pastor who went on to become president of the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board), told Baptist Press. “… That bothered me a lot.”

Here’s why your state may be expanding religious freedom protections this year
Mark A. Kellner, Deseret News

The rush to enforce same-sex marriage across the country may trigger state legislative efforts to enact local versions of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Supporters say cultural changes make this necessary; opponents fear boycotts.

Bible colleges sue for right to issue degrees
John O’Connor, Associated Press

Bible colleges in Illinois have filed a federal lawsuit against state education regulators, seeking the unencumbered right to award degrees to students who complete their programs.

Is Scholasticism Making a Comeback?
Rev. James V. Schall, S.J. , Crisis Magazine

In the September 1987 issue of Modern Age, Frederick Wilhelmsen wrote a famous essay titled: “Great Books: Enemies of Wisdom?” In it, he recounted his own experience as a student at the University of Detroit.

Mere Links 01.20.15
Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 10:00 AM

Niger protesters torched 45 churches – police

At least 10 people have been killed and 45 churches set on fire since protests erupted in Niger over the French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, police say.

Proof The New York Times Only Censors Photos That Offend Violent Religious Sects
Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist

New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet has repeatedly claimed that the reason he’s not allowing any depictions of Muhammad to appear in the paper is because he’s highly attuned to religious sensibilities. It’s not because he’s terrified of Islamic radicals killing him or his staff. No really. That’s what he’s going with.

In Celebration Of Religious Liberty Day, ‘Je Suis American’
Kristina Arriaga, The Federalist

Religious liberty is often treated like the eccentric uncle of the human-rights family. It shouldn’t be. We need it now, perhaps, more than ever.

Illinois Abortion Clinics Inspected an Average of Once Every 9 Years
Evan Gahr, The Daily Signal

Forty percent of licensed clinics went between 14 and 17 years without inspections, according to the report. And only one of the federally funded Illinois Planned Parenthood clinics, which are not licensed, was ever inspected—in 1999.

Remembering the Victims of Abortion
Monday, January 19, 2015, 9:47 AM

Forty-two years ago, on January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, a 7-2 decision, that a right of privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. Under the U.S. Constitution, unborn children were not persons, and thus, had no right to “life.” The decision disallowed state and federal restrictions on abortion in the United States. The decision prompted a long national debate about whether abortion should be legal, and the role of religious and moral views in the political and social sphere. Since 1973, it is estimated that sixty million abortions have taken place in the United States.

Of course, the wounds from abortion are deep. Abortion kills the innocent baby, and wounds the mother and everyone else involved. One in three American men are implicated in the abortion decision. In a recent press release, the Family Research Council noted the following:

The emptiness resulting from the sheer loss of innocent human life is vast. A mother’s womb should be the safest place on earth for her unborn child, yet it is often the battleground between life and death. Abortion not only tears a child from her mother’s womb, but tears away at the intimate fabric of the family unit.

Let us pray, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for all of the victims of abortion:

Our loving Heavenly Father, Who makes all people in Your divine image. You teach us in Your Holy Word that Your glory is evident in the faces of Your little ones, whose angels continually look to You, have mercy upon us. As a nation, we have turned our backs upon You for we have not only tolerated, but permitted, violent acts that shed the innocent blood of 3,700 children each day. In this nation, whose blessing by You is so abundantly clear to all, we permit abortion to be legal in all fifty states, through all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason. We beg Your mercy upon us. As a nation, we have not considered little ones who are about to be born as worthy of life, but have rather discarded them as less than trash beneath our feet. Loving and Just Father, we plead for Your mercy upon us. Over the past 42 years, we have not held the lives of millions of unborn children as sacred to You, but rather, our nation has put them to death as a matter of convenience in order to pursue our selfish interests. For this bloodshed, we ought to be condemned and judged for their innocent blood is upon our hands. The innocent blood of the sixty million aborted unborn children has polluted the land, and our shores are drenched with the blood of the unborn. Our cities and towns, and our high places of government, drip red with the blood of the innocent. We beg You, Gracious Lord, to have mercy upon us. Because we who love You did not raise up an outcry against this monstrous sin, we too have become guilty through our silence and complacency. We, who are in Your Church, who are called by Your Holy Name, have loved our pleasure and our comforts far more than our neighbors, and much more than Your Holy Word. We know that we deserve Your righteous judgment, O Lord, for we are without excuse. Heavenly Father, we pray for those who advocate for abortion. Open their eyes that they may see that they are ending a life. We pray for those women, including some amongst us who follow You, who have had abortions. We pray for those of us who, as men, have encouraged women in crisis and the mothers of our unborn babies to have an abortion, or have paid for an abortion with our blood money. Father, we also pray that the day will soon come when innocent blood will be shed no more in our land, and that the halls of our government shall know righteousness, and that our courts shall be occupied by godly men and women. For we ask this with deep humility through the precious and holy Name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

You Might Have Missed This in the New York Times
Friday, January 16, 2015, 4:14 PM

Four courageous and strong adult children of homosexual parents have recently submitted briefs to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals opposing homosexual “marriages.” This appellate court is considering whether to uphold one man-one woman marriage laws in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The oral arguments will be heard today in New Orleans. The four have written that growing up as children in homosexual households was neither normal nor pleasant.

Katy Faust wrote that there are “two rights” that every child shares when they arrive in this world. “First, the right to live. Second, the right to have a relationship with his/her father and mother.” (It is a matter of judicial notice that human beings come into existence from relationships between a man and a woman.) Dawn Stefanowicz said that her homosexual father was so obsessed with having sexual relations that she recalled at least one occasion when she was in high school and brought home a male classmate, both her father and his male paramour propositioned the male student for sex. (A bit like Sodom and Gomorrah, no?) B. N. Klein said that her mother and her lesbian partner disdained all heterosexual families completely, and Ms. Klein stated in her brief that she did not have any clue about the daily interactions of a husband and wife until she left her lesbian home and went into foster care. Robert Oscar Lopez said that his two lesbian mothers tried to be conscientious about his upbringing, but he became so emotionally confused that, as a teen, he became a male prostitute, and had numerous homosexual and bisexual relationships into his adulthood.

Poignantly, in her brief to the appellate court, Ms. Stefanowicz said that her life was anything but normal. She wrote in pertinent part:

You end up never having a real home. Our home environments have unique and unstable characteristics due to the presence or absence of biological parents, legal parents or guardians, and different sex partners of parents. Your childhood is divided to please the adults. Many adults — even former sex partners of a parent — feel they can talk about “where you live, who you visit, what schools you attend, which doctors you see, what medical procedures you have, what faith/religion you practice.”

Ms. Stefanowicz said that she loved her father, who died of AIDS in 1991, but also observed that he was a deeply troubled man who sexually abused both her and her twin brother, and brought countless men into the home. She further explained, “I was exposed to overt sexual activities like sodomy, nudity, pornography, group sex, sadomasochism, and the ilk,” and then added that her father would also take her “cruising” to homosexual art galleries, nude beaches, and public parks. She also expressed that her femininity was not valued at home. She wrote, “Ultimately, I was seeking his love and acceptance. [But] I was not allowed to freely question him, bring up moral arguments or hurt his feelings, or I would face long-term repercussions.”

Ms. Klein wrote the following:

While I do not believe all gays would be de facto bad parents, I know that the gay community has never in my lifetime put children first as anything other than a piece of property, a past mistake or a political tool to be dressed up and taken out as part of a dog-and-pony show to impress the well-meaning.

Ms. Klein said that she could now write the truth because her mother and her lesbian partner were both dead, and could “never hurt me again.” Mr. Lopez astutely observed that he and other children of homosexuals and lesbians feel “pain,” but it was because there is a “missing biological parent,” and not because homosexuals lacked the legal status of “marriage.” He commented that his childhood exposure to radical Roman Catholic liberation theology and talk about “the beauty of homosexual relationships” led him into years of sexual experimentation, including male prostitution. However, he further stated that it was a reunion with a long-estranged father that led to his escape from the “toxic” homosexual life. Ms. Faust differed from the other three in that she had no specific criticism of her mother and her lesbian partner, but still is urging the appellate court to uphold traditional marriage.

It was observed long ago by Tolstoy in his novel, Anna Karenina, that each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Of course, Tolstoy was speaking about heterosexual families. I was blessed to have grown up in a loving family with a loving and kind mother and father. Both encouraged me to become a follower of the Lord Jesus at an early age, and to grow in my relationship with Him. I cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak, confusion, and pain of growing up in a home with persons in homosexual or lesbian relationships, let alone those with repeated promiscuity. In your prayers, please remember the oral arguments today at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the subsequent deliberations by the justices, and please also pray for the children of those who grow up in homosexual and lesbian households. Jesus warns us in Matthew 18:6, that “whoso shall cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to fall, it were better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” That is, sadly, true for heterosexual parents, but truer for “parents” in homosexual and lesbian relationships as those are inherently sinful and abnormal relationships. There, I said it.

Mere Links 01.16.15
Friday, January 16, 2015, 10:00 AM

9 Things You Should Know About Boko Haram
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

What you should know about the the militant group waging a campaign of terror and attempting to establish an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria.

Pope: Fundamentalist terrorism result of ‘deviant religion’
Nicole Winfield, AP

Pope Francis on Monday denounced the religious fundamentalism that inspired the Paris massacres and ongoing Mideast conflicts, saying the attackers were enslaved by “deviant forms of religion” that used God as a mere ideological pretext to perpetuate mass killings.

Sunday morning still segregated, study shows
Bob Smietana, Baptist Press

Sunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours in American life, with more than 8 in 10 congregations made up of one predominant racial group, a LifeWay Research study shows.

Charlie Hebdo, Intolerance, and the Problem of Double Standards
Kim R. Holmes, Public Discourse

The terrible massacre in Paris could be a “teachable” moment on the meaning of tolerance, but it will require soul searching by America’s cultural leftists.

Mere Links 01.15.15
Thursday, January 15, 2015, 10:00 AM

How the Supreme Court Reacted to This Town Allowing Politicians Bigger Signs Than Churches
Hans von Spakovsky, The Daily Signal

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, a challenge by a church to a town ordinance regulating signs.

In China, a church-state showdown of biblical proportions
Robert Marquand, Christian Science Monitor

Christianity is booming in China, propelling it toward becoming the world’s largest Christian nation. But as religion grows, it spurs a government crackdown.

A Little About Hebrews 12:2
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

After his long panegyric on the heroes of faith, the author of the Epistle makes reference to Jesus as “the leader and perfecter of faith” (12:2). This expression requires closer inspection, in order to understand Jesus’ relationship to faith.

Why ‘Ordinary Time’ is Most Extraordinary for God’s Work
Jim Tonkowich, Juicy Ecumenism

Christmas is over and as a friend likes to say, “Ain’t nothin’ as over as Christmas.”

The Most Viewed Online Articles from Touchstone, 2014
Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 3:13 PM

ts 2014 covers The Most Viewed Online Articles from Touchstone, 2014

The Gospel Truth Of Jesus
What Happens to Apologetics If We Add “Legend” to the Trilemma “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord”? by Tom Gilson


The Rights of Aphrodite
W. E. Knickerbocker on C. S. Lewis & the New State Paganism

Stand Firm
Or End Up on the Wrong Side of Eschatology
by Anthony Esolen

Thou Shalt Now Covet
Robert Hart on Spiritual Evolution & the Myth of Equal Rights

Lemuel’s Manhood
by S. M. Hutchens

Food for Thought
Rachel Lu on Growing Vegetables as a Primer in Moral Philosophy

Worthy of Life
Gregory K. Laughlin on the Wrong Choices Given to Parents of Disabled Children

The School of Athens by Raphael
Mary Elizabeth Podles on Christian Art

The New Martyrs
Witnesses to the Conversion of a Culture
by James Hitchcock

Heaven, Hell & Christ On Ice
What I Encountered During a Geological Expedition in Greenland
by Allan Carlson

Mere Links 01.14.15
Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 10:00 AM

Should We Leave Our Children Inheritances?
Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspectives Ministries

“A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22). As a result, many Christians defend and justify leaving vast sums of wealth to their children and grandchildren. I think in order to understand the principle behind this verse, we need to compare what an inheritance meant in biblical times, versus what an inheritance means in this culture today.

Supreme Court hears religious speech case
The Becket Fund

Arizona town’s ordinance allows signs for big politicians, but not small churches.

Does Religion Really Have a “Smart-People Problem”?
Fr. Robert Barron, Catholic World Report

Philosophy, so marked today by nihilism and postmodern relativism, is passing through a particularly corrupt period.

Maybe China Can’t Reverse Its Child Limit
The American Interest

The Chinese government is finding it harder to reverse the lasting effects of the one-child policy than it thought. Faced with the prospect of an aging population supported by too few young people, China decided in 2013 that it would allow couples to apply to have a second child.

President el-Sisi of Egypt Makes an Epochal Speech in Cairo
Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 9:12 AM

On these pages earlier this week, I wrote about the surprise visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, to wish the congregants a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This was the first time that an Egyptian president came to honor a Coptic Christmas Eve Holy Liturgy. Also present that evening was the Egyptian Coptic Pope Tawandros II. In response to my blog, a dear friend, who is a devout Christian believer from Egypt, wrote the following to me in pertinent part, “[President el-Sisi] is a very powerful man. I’m sure the Lord put him in the right place in such time as this. May the Lord be with him and protect him from the evil people.” In his remarks at the Cathedral, he called upon all Egyptians to put aside their religious differences in building their nation. The congregation was enthusiastic at the visit from President el-Sisi.

One week prior to his Christmas Eve appearance, President el-Sisi spoke to a conference organized by the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments (“Awqaf”) at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Al-Azhar University is more than one thousand years old, and is considered to be the center of scholarly Islam. In his remarks, President el-Sisi called upon the Awqaf, which oversees the approximately 200,000 Egyptian mosques, and Al-Azhar, the highest Sunni authority in Egypt, to do more to combat extremist ideology and to promote a moderate understanding of Islam. In addressing the gathering of imams and Islamic scholars, President el-Sisi called for a “religious revolution” in which Moslem clerics take the lead in rethinking the direction of Islam in recent decades. In pertinent part, he said the following:

I am referring here to the religious clerics. … It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing, and destruction for the rest of the world. Is it possible that 1.6 billion Moslems should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants — that is 7 billion — so that they themselves may live? Impossible! That thinking — I am not saying “religion,” but “thinking” — that corpus of texts and ideas that we have made sacred over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It is antagonizing the entire world! All this that I am telling you, you cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective. I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move … because this umma is being torn. It is being destroyed. It is being lost — and it is being lost by our own hands.

During his speech, President el-Sisi called on Al-Azhar Islamic scholars to lead the process of revitalizing Islamic discourse in Egypt and to confront extremist ideology and incitement to violence, an implicit reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian government and most other observers hold responsible for the terrorist attacks in the country following the revolution that led to the ouster of Islamist Moslem Brotherhood puppet Mohamed Morsi.

Jonah Goldberg, writing in USA Today regarding President el-Sisi’s talk to the Islamic scholars, wrote the following:

Words are cheap, particularly in a region where the currency is measured in blood. . . . Is el-Sisi the “Muslim Martin Luther” people have been waiting for? Almost surely not. . . . [M]aybe we’re just in uncharted territory? Who knows? What is clear, however, is that this is a big deal. El-Sisi is doing exactly what Westerners have been crying out for since at least Sept. 11, 2001, if not before that. And yet his speech has been almost entirely ignored by the mainstream new media. . . . [T]here’s been silence from The New York Times, Washington Post, the news networks and other major outlets.

That is quite a pity for the silence from the major media outlets. But, of course, it doesn’t play into their worldview that the United States and Israel are the root cause of Islamist violence. However, I am glad that regular readers of Mere Comments can learn about President el-Sisi’s epochal speech in Cairo. George Will, the mostly conservative commentator and columnist, recently said the following, “El-Sisi occupies an office once occupied by Anwar Sadat, who was murdered by Islamic extremists for his opening to Israel. This [speech] was an act of tremendous bravery by el-Sisi, and if the Nobel Peace Prize committee is looking for someone who plausibly deserves it, they could start there.” Indeed. As my Egyptian friend wrote to me, “I’m sure the Lord put him in the right place in such time as this. May the Lord be with him and protect him from the evil people.” Amen.

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