Join John Stonestreet for a daily dose of sanity—applying a Christian worldview to culture, politics, movies, and more. And be a part of God's work restoring all things.
Join John Stonestreet for a daily dose of sanity—applying a Christian worldview to culture, politics, movies, and more. And be a part of God's work restoring all things.
Genocide in China
The United Nations “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” went into effect in 1951. At the time, the Convention defined “genocide” as actions “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” This definition includes “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” and “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”
As in the case of any other activity deemed a crime, laws against genocide will not enforce themselves. People, or in this case nations, have to be willing to use the label “genocide” when necessary, and also to take action.
Tragically, since 1951, the international community is batting close to zero. Besides the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, there have been at least a dozen other campaigns of extermination that arguably met the Convention’s definition of genocide. With the possible exception of the horrific events in former Yugoslavia, no one did anything.
China, of course, has an atrocious human rights record. Given the lack of consequences the nation has faced time after time, it’s no surprise that the People’s Republic would flout the Convention and the international community. And they are.
Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang Province qualifies, in every way, as genocide. Writing in Newsweek, Israeli Human Rights Lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky didn’t hesitate to call the Communist Party’s actions “genocide,” pointing especially to the “forced sterilizations, abortions and intrusive birth prevention.” These actions alone meet the requirement for genocide and have led to “the population growth rates in the two largest Uyghur prefectures [to fall] by 84% between 2015 and 2018.”
But there’s more.
According to the State Department, “Over a million Uighurs have now been detained by China in camps, where they are starved, abused, tortured, electrocuted, raped and even killed.” Recent video footage showed “Uighurs, with heads shaven, being blindfolded, shackled and herded onto trains, headed for these camps.”
Ostrovsky, who lost family in the Holocaust, admits that he is “loath” to draw comparisons, but in this case, finds it “impossible not to draw such parallels in the face of overwhelming evidence of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing and genocide by China's Communist regime.”
Of course, it was equally impossible during the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, when the world did next to nothing other than some hand-wringing and expressing regret long after it was too late.
This time, however, there are signs it may be different, though not from the Uighurs’ fellow Muslims, whose conspicuous willingness to be bought by Beijing should embarrass them. Instead, resistance to China’s genocidal policies are coming from countries finally fed up with China’s bad actions. Even some not concerned with China’s terrible treatment of religious minorities or its crackdown on Hong Kong, have concluded that Beijing must be knocked down a peg or ten.
For example, Japan is paying Japanese firms to move production out of China for reasons part economic, part national security and, part desire to reign in Chinese ambitions. Another example is India who, after a recent border clash in the Himalayas, is courting companies to relocate production from China. Apple is in the process of moving 20 percent of its production to India from China. India has also banned Chinese apps, including the insanely popular Tik-Tok, something President Trump also threatened to do for national security reasons.
Though none of these moves is in direct response to Uighur persecution, it illustrates that countries don’t have to appease Beijing. Civilized nations have both the mean
Pastor or Parrot?
Pastoring is always a difficult job. I can’t think of another job, in fact, in which someone is hired to do one thing (typically, lead and disciple God’s people) but evaluated on a completely different thing (namely, growing the audience and the budget).
Pastoring during coronavirus seems even more unenviable. Zoom stock might be way up as the new preferred platform for corporations and schools, but there is no digital substitute for the sort of face-to-face work pastoring requires.
When to close down was a tough decision. When to reopen is even more difficult. If pastors choose to strictly adhere to state guidelines, they will upset people. If they ignore or relax those guidelines, they upset others. In almost every church I know of, pastors face a no-win proposition right now.
In addition to navigating a global pandemic, pastors must also deal with our already intense and only intensifying cultural firestorms. While we all must navigate the issues of race, sexuality & gender, criminal justice, political divisions, and other markers of our fallen human nature that dominate this cultural moment, pastors face expectations that many of us don’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this phrase on social media recently: “If your pastor doesn’t preach about X from the pulpit this Sunday, it’s time to find a new church.” Same phrase, but the X changes with the headlines.
Don’t get me wrong. As the true account of the human condition, the Bible has this quality of universal relevance. Pastors should make the connection between the timeless truths of Scripture and our particular context, both in their preaching and in their leading. There are times that to not address something from the pulpit is to be louder than addressing it, and churches that never address controversial issues risk giving their people the impression that the Bible is our own personal, private collection of encouragements rather than the personal, public and true account of the human condition.
At the same time, the loud demands placed today on pastors to not only hold but to articulate our approved opinions reveals more about us than about our pastors. After all, if we are confident our pastor is called by God and entrusted by Him to lead us into His Word and His will, that leaves little room for making demands on what he teaches.
Also, our loud demands that a pastor “talk about subject X,” almost always means “say specifically what I want him to say about subject X.” But that also means we’re not really looking for a pastor or a teacher anymore. We’re looking for a parrot.
The demands pastors face can range from mountains to molehills, but, in too many cases, they are treated the same. To bring up the most common elephant in the sanctuary today, everyone has strong feelings about masks. I do too. But being asked to wear a mask in church by pastors seeking to comply with civic authorities or protect the health of parishioners is not a matter of orthodoxy. This is not a sufficient cause of outrage or of making demands for our pastor’s compliance. And it’s certainly not worth leaving a church over.
Keep in mind that pastors are called to shepherd specific congregations. Though the big cultural issues are always relevant, each community and each congregation find themselves in a specific time and place (as Paul told the Athenians) with specific people and circumstances all orchestrated by God. For example, a church connected to an addiction recovery center, as is the home church of a colleague, will be made of people with specific needs and challenges that others may not have.
What is really at stake here is that we all need to foster a proper ecclesiology, (that’s a $.50 word for the doctrine of the church). When we view church like we do so much of 21st-century Western life, as consumers, we’ll see church
Ask BreakPoint: John Stonestreet and Shane Morris Answer Your Questions
In what will become a regular feature of the BreakPoint Podcast, John Stonestreet and Shane Morris answer your questions.
This week: What about SOGI laws, and what's the problem with Christians doing business with sinners? Besides praying and educating, how to Christians turn the tide of what seems to be a Marxist-inspired revolution in our country? How are we to pray for the sick and dying when asked to--what about "Thy will be done?"
To submit your questions to John and Shane for upcoming episodes, visit us on Facebook or contact us through BreakPoint.org.
Resources: “The Roots of Our Present Crisis,” a “Truth Love Together” video presentation by Os Guinness
“End of Life Care,” a Colson Center Short Course webinar with Ben Mitchell
“Dying Well in an Age of Denial,” by John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera, BreakPoint
Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, by Cornelius Plantinga, available in the Colson Center online bookstore
Knowing God, by J. I. Packer, available in the Colson Center online bookstore
Margaret Sanger and Cancelling Planned Parenthood
John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss the recent "cancelling" of Margaret Sanger by part of Planned Parenthood, the organization she founded. While many debate whether she was a racist herself, her involvement in the eugenics movement and the lethal legacy of Planned Parenthood in minority communities make such questions practically moot.
Also, John shares the story of his friend, the late Mike Adams. Mourning the fact that for far too many, Adams will only be known by a conveniently select number of tweets which his ideological opponents wish to share. What they won't see is how his students from across the socio-political spectrum loved and respected this man of courage and conviction.
Finally, Shane and John talk about the defiance of state law by John MacArthur's church in California, noting that while they may have questions about MacArthur's wording, they sympathize with the frustration of the arbitrary and inconsistent legal reactions to the COVID crisis by state and municipal governments.
If the Future Belongs to the Fertile, We Might Not Have One
A recent BBC headline claimed the world is facing a “jaw-dropping” global crash. Not an economic crash, mind you, but a crash in the birthrate. Citing a new study by University of Washington, the BBC article claims that “Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century.” In fact, twenty-three countries, including Spain, Portugal, Japan and South Korea, could see their populations cut in half by 2100.
The same study found that, between 1950 and 2017, the global fertility rate went from 4.7 children per women to 2.4 and is expected to drop below 1.7 children per woman by 2100. For reference, a fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman is required to maintain a stable population.
A few suggested explanations for the drop, according to the BBC article include, “more women in education and work,” and “greater access to contraception,” which leads “to women choosing to have fewer children.” Of course, the BBC was careful to offer the required nod to climate change, also suggesting that fewer people would result in lower carbon emissions and therefore help heal the planet.
In truth, however, the scenario is far from rosy.
"I think it's incredibly hard to think this through and recognize how big a thing this [population crash] is,” says University of Washington Professor Christopher Murray. “It's extraordinary, we'll have to reorganize societies."
In his book, What to Expect When No One Is Expecting, Weekly Standard digital editor Jonathan Last suggests that any country in which citizens aren’t having enough babies can look forward to long-term economic stagnation and social deterioration. After all, children are the economic engines of the future, both tomorrow’s labor force and tomorrow’s consumers.
Professor Murray described it this way to the BBC: “Who pays tax in a massively aged world? Who pays for healthcare for the elderly? Who looks after the elderly? Will people still be able to retire from work?”
And those are just the immediate concerns. As journalist Philip Longman explained years ago, declining populations and shrinking economies create a downwardly spiraling vicious circle: “As governments raise taxes on a dwindling working-age population to cover the growing burdens of supporting the elderly, young couples may conclude they are even less able to afford children…” Which in turn results in the kind of graying, despairing populations we see today in places like Japan and Europe, where some governments actually pay couples to get pregnant.
At the same time, the BBC notes, the population of sub-Saharan Africa will triple by the end of the century. Developed nations will be forced to open their borders and perhaps even compete for migrant workers. Given the human propensity for tribalism and racism, let’s just say this will could create significant “social pressures.”
Writing at the Gospel Coalition, Philip Jenkins describes yet another vicious circle that entwines a civilization dealing with an increase in secularization and a decline in fertility. Increased fertility is often associated with traditional religious beliefs, but as more believers accept secular ideas about sex, family, and the purpose of life, their connection to religious institutions weakens. Shrinking religious institutions, in turn, leads to increased secularization.
Babies have this unique ability to make adults care about the future, and even think beyond their own lifetimes. Babies incline people to save, invest, sacrifice and, most importantly, defer gratification. Even when it comes to the environment, the best reason to steward the planet is so our children and grandchildren can enjoy its fruits and grandeur.
Christians should always encourage those government policies that make it easier for couples to “choose life,” but we a
Anti-Semitism, the Oldest Hatred
Last week in Germany, vandals desecrated dozens of graves in the oldest Jewish Cemetery in Europe. Some of the stones vandalized date back to the 11th century.
Years ago, one of my colleagues visited Babi Yar, a ravine just outside the city center of Kiev in the Ukraine. There, in late September 1941, Nazi soldiers marched 34-thousand Jewish men, women, and children, before shooting them and burying in the dirt. On the day my colleague visited, someone had spray-painted a swastika on the memorial at the entrance to the ravine.
Right now, as our nation has a hard but necessary conversation about racism, reckoning especially with the often unjust and hateful treatment of African Americans, the Church must reaffirm that ethnic partiality of any kind is antithetical to the Gospel, which begins by recognizing all humans as made in the image of God. And, if we are to be consistent in upholding human dignity, we must say (unfortunately, again) that anti-Semitism is, still, a very real and growing evil.
Though it often doesn’t receive the attention or the unanimous condemnation that other forms of racism do, the Anti-Defamation League reported 21-hundred incidents of assault, vandalism, violence or harassment against Jewish people in America in 2019. That’s the highest number reported since they started keeping track in 1979.
Less than two years ago, an American neo-Nazi committed the bloodiest attack on Jewish people in our country’s history, when he stormed Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue and opened fire, killing eleven people and wounding six. Less than a year later, another gunman charged a synagogue just north of San Diego on the last day of Passover, killing one woman and wounding three others.
And, since the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis, we’ve seen anti-Semitism hit a strange new cultural stride. Global pandemics, it seems, inspire conspiracy theories, and wherever there are conspiracy theories, there’s anti-Semitism. I can’t begin to explain it, but it’s true.
Earlier this month, Louis Farrakhan, the disgraced leader of a dangerous political group calling itself the Nation of Islam, called Jewish people Satan and accused Bill Gates of plotting world domination through a Coronavirus vaccine.
Though many would dismiss Farrakhan as crazy, he enjoys support by more than a few in the mainstream. Shortly after Farrakhan’s crazy speech, NFL star DeSean Jackson posted a video of it, offering his support of Farrakhan’s delusional claims. National leaders of the Women’s March Movement and other celebrities with sizeable platforms have also openly supported Farrakhan, and they’re not alone.
Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, for example, openly advocate for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, Movement, an international effort to boycott products made by Israeli companies in an open effort to hurt Israel’s economy. The BDS movement is founded on the principle that Israel, as a nation, has no right to exist.
Like any form of racism, I find anti-Semitism baffling. What I mean is that racism is arbitrary and irrational, but a hatred that’s persisted for this long and to this degree has supernatural roots. Biblically, it makes sense the Enemy would despise the Jewish people. God chose the nation of Israel through which Jesus would come and bring redemption to all nations. After targeting the Jews for centuries before Christ, the enemy has even been successful, at times, in turning the hearts of Christians against the Jews.
As long as the Jewish people endure, so will hatred of them. If our surrounding culture is going to turn a blind eye to it, or even openly support it, somehow without fear of cultural cancellation, the Church must lead in condemning it. After all, in this moment of racial reckoning, to pretend anti-Semitism isn’t a pressing and curr
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18000 Christian Refugees
The problem is that the reason we stopped immigration was due to Muslim immigration. Until we can vet the immigrants we have stopped immigration of all religions to prevent terrorists from being brought in.
I start every day with you!
I have listened to a BreakPoint for years on the radio, and downloaded the podcast several months ago, and would listen to it from time to time. After the George Floyd incident and following upheaval, I decided to read the book "So you want to talk about race…" by Ijeoma Oluo to get some BLM perspective, and maybe get an idea of what to do personally where black lives are concerned. Well, I learned that I am white privileged, white supremist, and racist, and there is nothing I can do about it except feel shame for what and who I am. So, that was a perspective from a queer, atheist, BLM advocate.
Needing a Christian perspective, I turned to Breakpoint. Now I have a much more hopeful perspective in not only where black lives are concerned, but what my response needs to be as a Christian. Since then, I have made you a part of my morning podcast routine. Thank you so much for your contribution and the many guests that you include in your podcast – – I love it! God bless you!
Great, succinct coverage of hot topics
I’m always impressed by how succinctly this podcast covers hot topics and breaking news of interest to Christians. Always worth the listen.