State of the Culture: Revivals and bathroom wars

By Jonathon Van Maren

Christianity across the West may be dwindling, but it seems to be growing stronger in the places one would least expect. From Christianity Today:

Despite the daily news of the persecution of Christians around the world by Islamist groups, there is another, lesser-known story of growing numbers of Muslims around the world who are turning to Christ as Lord.

Missionary David Garrison’s book, A Wind in the House of Islam, charts this phenomenon, which he says demonstrates that “we are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history”.

The book is the result of two and a half years of research and involved travelling more than 250,000 miles to conduct interviews with more than 1,000 people around the Muslim world. In the study, a ‘movement’ of believers is defined as a group of more than 1,000 baptised believers or 100 new churches within a Muslim community. In total he found 69 movements that had started in the first 12 years of the 21st century, in comparison with virtually no voluntary movements of converts to Christianity in the first 12 centuries of Islam.

Joel Rosenberg’s fascinating book Inside the Revival examines this phenomenon as well. It’s extraordinary to consider that in many of these places, the cost of becoming a Christian is an extremely high one, as well.

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Communist China, in spite of attempting to squelch Christianity for years, is also becoming home to sky-rocketing numbers of Christians. From The Telegraph:

It is said to be China’s biggest church and on Easter Sunday thousands of worshippers will flock to this Asian mega-temple to pledge their allegiance – not to the Communist Party, but to the Cross.

The 5,000-capacity Liushi church, which boasts more than twice as many seats as Westminster Abbey and a 206ft crucifix that can be seen for miles around, opened last year with one theologian declaring it a “miracle that such a small town was able to build such a grand church”.

The £8 million building is also one of the most visible symbols of Communist China’s breakneck conversion as it evolves into one of the largest Christian congregations on earth…

Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an atheist country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied.

Christian congregations in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 signalled the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world’s number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule.

“It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”

While formerly-Christian countries like Britain and others across the West are losing faith in waves of apostasy, Muslim countries and Communist China are becoming more Christian. A sobering realization.

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Finally, a columnist with the guts to say the words out loud. From Matthew Schmitz over at the Washington Post:

It is time to ban pornography.

Nothing can shock us except this suggestion. We find it perfectly acceptable that smut, no matter how bestial or misogynistic, should be widely available. We even think it a moral imperative, a dictate of freedom. It does not trouble us that children can view acts of rape, real or simulated, with a click of a mouse, but if someone proposes that we prevent them from doing so, dirty old Uncle Sam begins to shudder. Respected citizens stand up to object. Gallant young civil libertarians come riding into town, ready to defend the imperiled modesty of Lady Liberty.

“Ban” strikes us as a nasty word, conjuring up memories of McCarthyism, the Spanish Inquisition and the third-grade teacher who washed your mouth out with soap. We tell ourselves that bans are never really effective, that it is too hard to distinguish between what should be banned and what shouldn’t. Above all, we know that bans are blunt instruments, and believe that we are too sophisticated to employ such crude tools…

We are not averse to banning something when we think it is really wrong. We are happy to “ban” murder, rape and even certain types of speech (try yelling “Fire!” in a theater). We do not hesitate over the fact that there will be marginal cases, or that the banned activity will not magically be brought to an end. Our tolerant reaction to pornography stems less from a principled commitment to free speech than from a belief that porn isn’t so bad after all. Shouldn’t we be “sex-positive”? Who doesn’t need a little release?

This casual attitude would be impossible if we cared as much about misogyny as we say we do. Gail Dines, a feminist scholar who has succeeded Andrea Dworkin as the leading voice against pornography, has found that “the most popular acts depicted in internet porn include vaginal, oral and anal penetration by three or more men at the same time; double anal; double vaginal; a female gagging from having a penis thrust into her throat; and ejaculation in a woman’s face, eyes and mouth.” This is not sex-positivity; it is hatred of women. According to one survey, boys are inducted into this ritualized hatred at an average age of 11.

Exactly. Suggest that we should ban or restrict porn, and you set libertarians and liberals howling in indignation and running for their virus-ridden laptops and secret porn stashes. Yet a brief examination of the raw sewage the Internet is pumping straight into the brains of pre-adolescent and adolescent children should be what actually shocks and angers us. No liberty, as always, is allowed to interfere with sexual liberty.

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Speaking of which, consider this truly mind-boggling story from Breitbart:

A transgender school teacher has been given a payout of $60,000 after complaining of being harassed by colleagues for over a year who allegedly “misgendered” her, despite an official investigation stating otherwise.

Leo Soell, who works as a fifth grade teacher at Gresham-Barlow school in Oregon, submitted a complaint to Oregon district officials that she had been “harassed” by colleagues after coming out as transgender last September.

In the complaint, she claimed that her co-workers continually called her “she,” “lady,” and “Miss Soell,” while other staff had conspired to stop her using a gender neutral bathroom, despite the school hosting an hour long training session on transgender issues.

Officials have refused to release the investigation’s findings publicly but have confirmed that they did not find any evidence of wrongdoing.

However, despite the verdict, the school decided to recompense Soell $60,000 on grounds of emotional damages, and district officials have confirmed they will introduce gender-neutral bathrooms in all local schools as a result.

Speaking after her settlement, Soell said,”I actually feel safe now. There will always be people who push the boundaries, but I’m not worried about them anymore because I know that my district supports me.”

You read that right. A teacher was actually paid actual money because she was upset that her colleagues “harassed” her by correctly identifying her gender. It is beginning to seem that parody is taking its place next to irony in the trash can of things we no longer understand.

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The transgender wars have less funny consequences, too. From Breitbart:

Oregon women seeking shelter from homelessness or abusive men are being forced to share sleeping and bathroom facilities with men who “self-identify” as a woman. State anti-discrimination laws in that state require these women’s shelters to take in men who “self-identify” as a woman, a sheltered woman reported.

Malka Davis was trying to find shelter, like many other women, from living on the streets after running out of options, she wrote in an opinion piece in The Oregonian. While returning to the shelter one day, Davis noticed several of her female shelter companions in distress. She said one woman had “left the shelter in terror.”

Why? The shelter admitted a man to the facility who “self-identified” as a woman. The realization of a man in their midst brought shock and fear to the female residents of the shelter.

This illustrates the transgender “bathroom issue” is not about bathrooms at all. These aggressive policies are much broader in their scope and intent. In many cases, like theTarget transgender policy or the Fort Worth school district situation effecting bathrooms and locker rooms, the policies go to areas where women are changing clothes or showering. The policies usually include the “self-identify as a woman” phrase meaning the man does not actually have to be transgender, but can simply make the claim that they “self-identify” as a woman on that particular day.

It is an irony that transgender activism has now effectively killed feminism. On a sliding scale of sainted victims, women are now a lower rung than the LGBTQ-alphabet-soup crowd. So trans people get safe spaces, which is to say they get access to whatever spaces they want. Women, even vulnerable, victimized women who might actually need safe spaces, do not get them because their cause is not currently as trendy as the gender bender movement.

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This is so much the case, in fact, that many are already saying that if women and girls are uncomfortable with the proximity of male genitalia in their bathrooms, they’ll just have to get over their transphobia. From The Daily Wire:

Last week, the major North Carolina media outlet published an editorial in support of President Obama’s transgender edict compelling all public schools to segregate their bathrooms and locker-rooms by subjectively claimed “gender identity” rather than biology, threatening noncompliance with possible lawsuits and revoked funding.

Their defense of the nonsensical, far-overreaching order was asinine: Girls will just have to overcome “discomfort” of “male genitalia” in their bathrooms and locker-rooms. In typical fashion, their argument was also steeped in hyperbolic and utterly disconnected language about actual civil rights. You see, girls seeing penises in their bathrooms and locker-rooms, and getting used to it, is exactly like desegregation. 

“This is what the Obama administration nudged the rest of the country toward Friday,” said the editorial. “Yes, the thought of male genitalia in girls’ locker rooms — and vice versa — might be distressing to some. But the battle for equality has always been in part about overcoming discomfort — with blacks sharing facilities, with gays sharing marriage — then realizing it was not nearly so awful as some people imagined.”

Yeah. Suck it up, princess.

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While we’re busy redefining things, let’s not forget we redefined “art” a long time ago. This hilarious from The Guardian had me howling:

The feeling of slight dissatisfaction that can come with visiting a modern art gallery is a universal one, best articulated as “I could have done that”.

A pair of US teenagers have beaten artists at their own game, pulling off a successful prank at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art earlier this week.

While Kevin Nguyen, 16, and TJ Khayatan, 17, were impressed with much of the art on display on their visit on Saturday, they questioned the artistic merits of some exhibits.

Could they do better?

Khayatan put Nguyen’s glasses on the floor below an official-looking piece of paper to see how it would be received by gallery-goers.

The work seemed to hit a chord with the public, striking in its simplicity, yet – probably – a challenging commentary on the limits of individual perception.

Khayatan told BuzzFeed News that people gathered around the exhibit to view it and take photographs. He, in turn, took photographs of them admiring his work and later posted them to Twitter, where they went viral.

Nguyen shared images, too, noting the awkwardness of having to retrieve his glasses before they moved on in the museum.

With a lot of abstract and modern art, most of the talent goes into coming up with a title that could actually be considered profound.

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For all those people who constantly say people need to live together before they get married to “try it out,” read this from the New York Post:

Living with someone before committing to him or her seems like a good idea. Yet a 2013 survey by Penn State psychologist Catherine Cohan, which tracked more than 100 studies on cohabitation spanning 25 years, found that couples who shacked up before getting engaged or married were more likely to dissolve their marriages, reporting lower levels of marital satisfaction and commitment.

“It’s the inertia hypothesis,” explains Johnson. “You didn’t set out to get married, it’s just that one thing led to another.”

A lot of other statistical evidence records the same thing: Couples who live together before marriage are more likely to get divorced.

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