Jasper Becomes Arkansas’
12th Pro-Life City
On March 17, the Jasper City Council adopted a resolution affirming that the community is Pro-Life. Jasper is located near the scenic Buffalo River, and it is the Newton County seat. The Newton County Quorum Court also passed its own Pro-Life Resolution earlier this month.
Last year the Arkansas Legislature enacted Act 392 of 2021 by Rep. Kendon Underwood (R/Cave Springs) and Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R/Branch). This law affirms that cities and counties can designate themselves as Pro-Life. Act 392 also says that Pro-Life Communities can install signs or banners announcing that they are Pro-Life. To date, 19 counties and 12 cities and towns have passed resolutions affirming that they are Pro-Life:
Benton, Washington, Crawford, Cleburne, Pope, Jackson, Saline, Faulkner, Perry, Sebastian, Lee, White, Prairie, Searcy, Carrol, Newton, Boone, Hot Spring and Madison counties have adopted Pro-Life resolutions — and so have the cities and towns of Marianna, Russellville, Springdale, LaGrange, Moro, Aubrey, Haynes, Marshall, Western Grove, Leslie and Tontitown.
Arkansas has passed some of the strongest pro-life laws of any state in the nation. In light of that, it makes sense that so many communities would vote to affirm that they are Pro-Life. (familycouncil.org)
2021’s Most Popular Worship Songs, Sermon Topics
“Build My Life,” Pat Barrett’s passionate proclamation of holiness and righteousness, was the top worship song of 2021, church technology company Faithlife said in its annual report on March 30.
Concurrently, sermons focused mostly on God, Jesus, love, power, faith and glory, while the top trending Bible passage was Eph. 3:14-21, exploring the “Appreciation of the Mystery” of God’s love.
Faithlife, makers of Logos Bible Software, based its report on data from more than 705,000 presentations and 2.7 million songs churches sang together using Faithlife Proclaim Church Presentation Software, and 91,000 sermons posted to Faithlife Sermons.
“The 2021 Faithlife data highlights how church leaders are meeting the needs of their congregants and community in another difficult year,” Faithlife CEO Vik Rajagopal said in releasing the data. “The trending preaching topics demonstrate that even as the world navigated the challenges of the COVID pandemic, churches delivered God’s truth about the hope found in Jesus.”
Joining “Build My Life,” the top 10 worship songs were, in descending rank: “Way Maker” by Sinach, which lost its 2020 top spot; “Great Are You Lord” by Sons & Daughters; “Goodness of God” by Bethel Music; “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman; “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin; “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong Worship; “This is Amazing Grace” by Phil Wickham; “Graves into Gardens” by Elevation Worship and Brandon Lake; and “In Christ Alone” by Adrienne Camp.
The top 20 songs include several hymns, with “How Great Thou Art” at 13, “Lord I Need You” at 14, “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” ranking 16 and “Cornerstone,” 17th on the list.
“The list highlights that hymns are still present in many churches,” Faithlife said in a press release, “even if they are sung alongside contemporary songs.”
While the top sermon topics were similar to top topics in 2020, Faithlife said several topics gained in popularity in 2021. These include eschatology/resurrection, which was six times more popular; grace, four times more popular, followed by family and children, creation/renewal, philosophy, revival, cults, compromise, persecution and hospitality.
Joining Eph. 3:14-21 as top trending passages are John 17:6-19, when Christ prays for His disciples; John 14:8-21, when Christ answers Philip’s request to show the disciples the Father; Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2:14-39, 40-47; and Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in II Tim. 2:1-13.
Of the 31,102 verses comprising the Bible, 94% of them — 29,321 — were referred to in at least one sermon uploaded to Faithlife Sermons in 2021, Faithlife said.
A free download of the full 2021 Year-End Song & Sermon Report is available at grow.faithlife.com. (baptistpress.com)
TSA to Allow Passengers To
Identify as Gender “X”
The Biden administration announced that airport security will now allow passengers to select their gender as “X,” regardless of the gender listed in their passports or other IDs, and Americans will be able to select their gender on their passports without supporting medical documentation.
Beginning this month, pre-check applicants “can select the gender they would like saved” in their records “simply by selecting ‘M’ or ‘F’ during the enrollment/renewal process,” the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement on Thursday, adding that existing enrollees can change their gender designation by calling a hotline.
“The gender selected does not need to match the gender on supporting documentation, such as birth certificate, passport or state-issued ID,” the TSA said. “Changing a gender association in TSA PreCheck will have no effect on a member’s expedited screening when arriving at the TSA checkpoint.”
The TSA said it is also working to include, by the end of this year, an “X” gender marker option on its application to ensure the pre-check program “accurately reflects traveler gender and keeps pace with identity documents that offer the “X” gender marker option.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also issued a statement, saying the TSA will work with airlines to promote the acceptance of the X gender marker and will revise the guidance for its officers to do away with gender considerations when validating documents. The DHS also said that Americans will be able to select an X gender designation on their passports, starting April 11, without supporting medical documentation.
On March 31, the Biden administration said: “Far too many transgender Americans still face systemic barriers, discrimination and acts of violence. Today, the administration once again condemns the proliferation of dangerous anti-transgender legislative attacks that have been introduced and passed in state legislatures around the country.”
Last October, the Biden administration announced the first-ever U.S. passport for citizens who identify as nonbinary or intersex by using the “X” gender marker instead of “M” for male or “F” for female. (christianpost.com)
NCAA Warned to “Stay in Their Lane” after Swim Controversy
Representative Mary Miller (R/Ill.) and other members of Congress threw the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) a life preserver yesterday, writing the embattled organization’s president a letter with a stern warning, “if the NCAA is unwilling to protect women, Congress will be forced to take immediate action.” The NCAA is drowning in a pool of its own making after allowing a male swimmer to outrace all the females in the women’s 500-yard freestyle championship race. Congress is offering the NCAA a chance to do the right thing voluntarily.
The basis of the letter’s complaint concerns Title IX, a section of federal law which “prohibits federally funded educational institutions from discriminating against students or employees based on sex.” One application of Title IX is that “any university that receives federal funding must ensure equal treatment of the sexes in all areas, including athletics.” By allowing males to dominate female athletic competitions, Miller argued, the NCAA has perpetrated “an attack on women and girls’ athletic opportunities, which was the whole purpose of Title IX.”
Miller said this “grave injustice” is “wildly unpopular among Americans… these are deliberate attacks on the American way of life.” The present cultural battle sloshes beyond sports into the very definitions of “man” and “woman.”
As an anecdote, Miller told a story about a mother who “has two children in Maryland’s schools.” The mother was upset because the elementary schools were “trying to tell the boy that he wants to be a girl and the girl that she wants to be a boy.” It sounds like a cruel April Fools’ joke, but the villains subjecting young children to this sexual confusion are deadly serious.
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” said Jesus in Matt. 19:4, quoting from Genesis 1. Scripture clearly teaches that there are two and only two sexes, unchangeable, created by God, the giver of all good things. “If you do away with God, you’re just swimming in an abyss of bad ideas,” Miller said. That’s our culture’s problem, Miller asserted. “We kicked God out of everything (or we tried to; we obviously can’t kick Him out).”
The secular culture is flinging itself headlong into contradictions about the human body. It respects the physical differences between men and women by creating separate athletic leagues to allow them to compete fairly. But then it violates its own distinctions by accepting anyone’s self-identity. Or, at least, one part of the culture is starving itself of reality.
There’s another side to this debate, which is pushing back hard. Over 20 lawmakers also introduced a resolution in Congress to recognize Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant as the real winner, because she was the first woman to finish the race.
State legislatures are running up the score for women’s sports. Bills to protect women’s sports have exploded, with 99 bills introduced in 2021 and 37 bills already introduced this year in 20 states. Eighteen state legislatures have passed women’s sports bills, including in Utah, where the Republican legislature overrode the governor’s veto. Most governors have chosen to sign these bills with broad support, most recently in Oklahoma and Arizona. We’re far from the finish line, but national momentum is on the side of those fighting to preserve women’s sports. (Family Research Council, frc.org)
Finnish MP Wins On All Charges
A Finnish court has upheld the right to free speech by dismissing all charges against Finnish Parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola. In a unanimous ruling, the Helsinki District Court concluded that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.” The prosecution was ordered to pay more than 60,000 euros in legal costs and has seven days to appeal the ruling.
The former Minister of the Interior had been charged with “hate speech” for sharing her faith-based views on marriage and sexual ethics in a 2019 tweet, a 2019 radio debate and a 2004 pamphlet. Pohjola faced charges for publishing Räsänen’s pamphlet for his congregation over 17 years ago. Their case has garnered global media attention this year, as human rights experts voiced concern over the threat this case posed to free speech in Finland.
The high-profile trial received significant attention, particularly after the prosecution attacked core Christian teachings and cross-examined the bishop and Räsänen on their theology in court. The prosecutor began the first day of the trial by arguing that the case was not about beliefs or the Bible. She then proceeded to quote Old Testament Bible verses and criticize the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin.” In their closing statement, the prosecution alleged that the use of the word “sin” can be “harmful” and called for heavy fines in the event of a guilty verdict.
Räsänen’s defense, supported by the legal advocacy organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, argued that finding Räsänen guilty would significantly damage free speech in Finland. What Räsänen said, they argued, was an expression of Christian teaching. The court recognized that while some may object to Räsänen’s statements, “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.” The court concluded there was no such justification.
On both days of the trial, crowds gathered outside the Helsinki courthouse to express their support for the politician and the bishop. In Hungary, over 3,000 people gathered in front of the Finnish Embassy in Budapest to demonstrate against the charges before the closing arguments were heard.
Räsänen has served as a Finnish Member of Parliament since 1995. From 2004-2015 she was chair of the Christian Democrats and from 2011-2015 she was the Minister of the Interior. During this time, she held responsibility for church affairs in Finland. (adfmedia.org)