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Well, 2018 is in the rear-view mirror, but the issues and challenges it brought are still very much with us.
Especially for Christians who are serious about understanding and engaging the culture, here are four issues that merit special attention.
The first is the ongoing and intensifying conflict between LGBT rights and religious freedom, especially here in the U. S. Even as I write this, U.S. Senator Mike Lee is holding up the re-nomination of Chai Feldblum to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Lee's reason is simple: Feldblum has been crystal clear that, in her mind, there's not a single scenario where religious freedom should prevail over LGBT rights.
Even if Feldblum's nomination fails, Jack Phillips still faces new charges of discrimination by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and rumor has it that Nancy Pelosi may push forward the Equality Act in the House this year. And that's just the beginning.
In fact, 2019 might be the year Christians ought to get serious about developing that "theology of getting fired." That is, it's time for us to decide when losing our jobs and livelihoods for refusing to go along with the new sexual orthodoxy is exactly what Jesus expects of us.
And as challenging as things are at home, the story abroad is orders of magnitude worse. This is the second trend to watch for in 2019. China has declared war on both its Christian and Muslim populations. As of this writing, it's not clear when, if ever, Asia Bibi will be allowed to leave Pakistan, even as Islamist radicals continue to hunt her and her family down. And thousands of Nigerian Christians have been slaughtered by Muslim herdsmen.
These are just a few examples why 2018, like 2017 and 2016 before it, is the worst year on record for religious persecution around the world.
Another area of culture that bears close watching, and needs a lot of clarity and prayer, has to do with bioethics. The recent news out of China about a researcher using CRISPR gene-editing to genetically modify embryos prior to implantation has raised alarms, although, as I recently told you, no one should be surprised. Human beings find the temptation to "play god" irresistible.
And we're currently on a new chapter in the onward march of our "Culture of Death." I'm talking about physician-assisted suicide, which is now legal in seven states and the District of Columbia. Currently, there's a campaign to add Maine to that list.
Fourth and finally, and because of all of these other things already mentioned, we'll face the challenge of needing to clarify where our loyalties ultimately lie, especially when it comes to politics. Of course, on many issues, Christians align much better with one side than with the other.
Even so, Christians do not ultimately belong to the right or the left. The beginning of a New Year is a great time to clarify in our minds that ultimately we belong to a "Who" not a "what."
Look, 2019 will be challenging. But like those who've gone before us, we have to face the culture with clarity, courage, and compassion.