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The Rushmore Report: Target Stock Takes Hit after Transgender Stance

Target has decided to open its restrooms and fitting rooms to anyone regardless of their biological sex. In response, the American Family Association launched an effort calling on Americans to boycott Target. The boycott effort has been very well received, with more than 1.2 million people pledging to boycott the store, and now some are noting that Target’s sales and stock have taken a huge hit in the past month.

A few months ago, the big box retailer announced that its guests and team members can use restrooms or fitting rooms that correspond to their gender identity. According to the Associated Press, Target became the first major retailer to publicly stand up for so-called transgender rights.

At the same time, they drew unwanted attention at a particularly sensitive time, potentially harming the Target brand and stock. The decision to weigh in so strongly on such a divisive issue has to be troubling for holders  of Target stock. Since the retailer’s announcement, TGT stock has dropped 6.5 percent.

About the Author

Jerry Cox is the founder and president of Family Council. He began Family Council in 1989 after a successful effort to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the use of public funds for abortions. He and his wife reside in Little Rock. They have four sons.

The Rushmore Report: Selena Gomez Goes Public with Her Faith

Pop star Selena Gomez took a break from her busy schedule to watch one of her favorite pastors, Judah Smith, preach a sermon that inspired her to quote the Apostle Paul. “Today, I watched a sermon from one of my favorites,” the young pop star wrote in her Instagram page. She capped off her pastor shout-out by sharing a Bible verse with her legion of fans. It’s found in Romans 7:15.

She quoted, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”

The 24-year-old didn’t explain why she chose that verse to go along with her post about the Los Angeles-based City Church pastor, but many of her fans said they were encouraged by her public display of faith.

“Wow, bless you for being a Christian in Hollywood, must be difficult,” one comment read. Others questioned whether or not she was talking about regret over her past relationship with Justin Bieber or her new boyfriend, The Weeknd, but she did not respond.

This was not the first time Gomez put her faith on public display. Last year she surprised fans at Hillsong Church’s Young & Free Revival Concert in Los Angeles when she sang an original worship song for the first time.

“I got to perform my first worship song I ever wrote. So grateful for His grace and understanding,” she posted.

In a world where it is politically correct to defend radical Islam and rebuke mainstream Christianity, it is refreshing to have a young star such as Selena Gomez share her love for Christ from the midst of a thoroughly secular pop culture.

Good job, Selena! May others be emboldened to follow your example!

The Rushmore Report: More than 100 Christian Leaders Oppose the Budget

More than 100 Christian leaders are voicing their opposition to President Trump’s “deep cuts” to foreign aid. Following the release of the president’s budget blueprint, dozens of faith leaders sent a letter to congressional leaders Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Chuck Schumer, urging them to reject the Trump administration’s unspecified cuts to foreign aid.

“Today, there are 65 million displaced people, the most since World War II, and 795 million people still go to bed hungry every night,” the letter said. “Matthew 25 tells us when we serve the least of these, we are serving the Lord. As people of faith, we cannot turn back on those in desperate need.”

“We are grateful,” it continued, “for America’s global development and diplomacy programs that have been instrumental in saving lives, safeguarding religious liberties, and keeping America safe and secure.”

In a statement accompanying the budget proposal, Trump called for “deep cuts to foreign aid” because the government needs to “prioritize the security and well-being of Americans, and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share.”

Despite the daily press briefing from the White House Thursday, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, was steadfast about the decision to cut foreign aid spending. In fact, when asked by a reporter if the White House is “worried that some of the most vulnerable people on earth will suffer” because of the cuts, the OMB director dug in his heels.

“The cuts should come as a surprise to no one who watched the campaign,” he said. “The president said, specifically, hundreds of times, you covered him, ‘I’m going to spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home,’ and that’s exactly what we’re doing with this budget.”

But many Christian leaders are not happy with the proposal.

The letter’s signatories include leaders such as Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York; Christian singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith; Dr. Ronnie Floyd, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention; the Rev. Johnnie Moore, humanitarian and author; and Rich Stearns, president of World Vision USA.

“America is blessed with fertile land, abundant natural resources, a strong economy and faithful citizens who value religious freedom,” they wrote. “But beyond our borders, many countries experience unparalleled suffering and loss of life due to extreme poverty, disease, natural disasters, and conflict.”

The faith leaders claim the foreign aid dollars, accounting for about 1 percent of the federal budget, have helped build “peaceful, productive societies that do not turn to violence or terrorism.”

In a separate statement, Stearns expressed his organization’s insistence on not cutting the United States’ foreign aid investments. While World Vision “appreciates that the president wishes to run a fiscally responsible government,” Stearns said, cutting foreign aid “seems penny wise and pound foolish.”

“World Vision urges Congress to reject these broad and short-sighted cuts and to work with the international community on a foreign assistance budget that includes smart, strategic and effective investments,” he said.

About the Author

Tre Goins-Phillips is an assistant editor and staff writer for The Blaze. He is a Virginia native and graduate of Liberty University.

The Rushmore Report: A Christian Response to the Refugee Crisis

It was a matter of time before popular megachurch pastors started to weigh in on the ongoing refugee debate in America. Andy Stanley has entered the fray with last Sunday’s message – “The (Not So) United States of America.” Referring to the refugee crisis as “the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time,” he made the case for – and against – letting in more refugees.

Before we speak to the issues, let’s put the numbers in perspective. The outcry from the left redefines hypocrisy. While blasting President Trump’s plan to limit the refugee flow from designated countries, they forget the record of the past five years. How many Syrian refugees did the Obama administration admit to the United States? In the five years of 2011 to 2016, they admitted a total of just 1,883, or 377 per year.

Now for the argument.

The argument for increasing refugee flow is simple. As a nation of immigrants, as caring and compassionate people, we should do all we can to rescue the victims of religious persecution who face living conditions unimaginable to the average American. As believers, we are to care “for the least of these” as we love others with our collective heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Stanley bragged that his church has been “caring for refugees before caring about refugees was cool.” They have ministered to refugees for years. His church has raised over $1 million to address the problem and bless refugees. How can any nation that purports to be Christian on any level ignore this humanitarian crisis? How can we keep these people – loved by God just as much as any American – out of our country while claiming to love them as God loves us?

But it’s not that easy. Stanley rightly proclaimed, “Compassion and generosity inform our legal system, but we must not allow them to undermined our legal system.” He continued, “We are not a nation of compassion. We are a nation of laws.” Stanley then cited data that confirms that 40 refugees, fully vetted, have become radicalized since entering America. They present a danger to our nation.

Here’s the summation. In modern culture, many issues have clear, black-and-white Christian responses. The refugee crisis is not one of those issues. What is indisputable is our responsibility to love everyone – regardless of their nationality. What is disputable is how this is to be carried out in a nation that was founded on Christian-Judeo principles.

The current refugee crisis has no easy answers. Universal agreement on a Christian response is neither likely nor necessary. What is necessary is that whatever our response may be – it must be informed by sound judgement and loving compassion.

The Rushmore Report: Why the NFL May Never Give Texas Another Super Bowl

By all accounts, Houston did an amazing job hosting the 51st Super Bowl. To date, four Super Bowls have been played in Texas. Houston has hosted three (1974, 2004, 2017) and Dallas one (2011). With new, state-of-the-art stadiums, both cities are on the short list for future games. Yet, the NFL has announced that Texas is in jeopardy of never hosting another Super Bowl.

The National Football League has warned the state of Texas that if it passes a transgender bathroom law similar to the one passed in North Carolina last year, it would likely affect their chances of hosting future Super Bowls.

The league has spoken out against a bill currently being considered in the Texas legislature that would require people to use state-owned bathrooms, showers, and changing areas consistent with their biological sex. The Texas “bathroom bill” would prevent municipal and county governments from enacting local ordinances that require businesses and places of public accommodation to allow transgender individuals to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The bill was introduced in January by Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is actively pushing the legislation, and at least 15 Republican lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors.

“The NFL embraces inclusiveness,” said spokesman Brian McCarthy in an email to the Houston Chronicle last week. “We want all fans to feel welcomed at our events and NFL policies prohibit discrimination  based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard.”

McCarthy added, “If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law in Texas, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”

Patrick’s office has offered a quick response, saying that the bill in no way forces NFL stadiums to keep transgender individuals out of the bathrooms they want to use and he asserted that the state is dedicated to “making sure that every Texan is welcomed.”

The Texas bill comes after former Houston mayor Annise Parker led an effort to pass a transgender bathroom ordinance that forced places of public accommodation to allow transgender individuals to use bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers consistent with their gender identity.

The HERO ordinance, opposed by a coalition of 400 Houston area churches that stood in disapproval of the ordinance, caused public uproar.

The ordinance was later struck down after enough signatures were obtained to force a referendum vote. By a large margin, Houston residents voted against the ordinance on November, 2015.

“We proved that these ordinances create unequal rights for a tiny few who are broken and hurting, and that, instead of pointing them toward hope and healing, trample on the safety, privacy, and freedom of our women and children,” said Willie Davis, a member of the Houston Area Pastor’s Council.

About the Author

Samuel Smith is a writer for the Christian Post, based in Washington, D.C. He covers cultural and religious issues from an intentionally Christian worldview.

The Rushmore Report: Steve Harvey Slammed for Meeting with Trump

Last week, Steve Harvey met with Donald Trump to discuss inner city problems across America. He then made a simple statement, offering his support for any initiatives that might help the plight of the poor. And for that he has been slammed by liberals. And now, Harvey has responded with a statement that is sure to anger some of his biggest fans.

During his first radio show after meeting with Trump, Harvey said on Monday that he was “hurt” by the backlash he received for meeting with the next president. The host of Family Feud, along with his own television and radio show, met with Trump on Friday in Trump Tower. Harvey said Trump put him in touch with his appointee for HUD Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, to discuss housing issues in the inner cities.

“A lot of y’all hurt me,” the star said. “I didn’t expect the backlash to be so fierce. I also understand if I’m going to keep getting stabbed at, at least while you’re stabbing me, you should understand my intent. I’m from the hood. I’ve been putting in the work for years. I care about these inner cities because that’s where I’m from.”

Among those critical of Harvey’s visit to Trump Tower was fellow comedian DL Hughley.

“Donald Trump takes pictures with black people. You know why you have a comedian, a rapper, and a football player out to talk about the concerns of the community? Because that’s the positions you’re used to seeing us in,” Hughley said. “You’d rather have black people be football players, comedians, and rappers than the president. You would rather see us run the ball than run the country.”

Despite outside criticism, it appears Harvey considered Friday’s meeting productive.

“When I walked away, I felt there might be a real chance for some positive to come out of what many feel is doom and gloom,” Harvey said on Monday.

About the Author

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. He can be followed on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook.

The Rushmore Report: The Problem with Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs

Sometimes I learn a lot from conversations I was never intended to hear. This happened once as I was stopping by my local community bookstore. It’s a small, quiet store, so it was impossible to not eavesdrop as I heard a young man tell his friend how much he hated Christmas. To be honest, the more he talked, the more I understood his point. What he hated was not Christmas itself. What he hated was the music.

This guy started by lampooning one pop singer’s Christmas album, and I found myself smiling in agreement on how awful it is. But then he went on to say that he hated Christmas music across the board. That’s when I started to feel as though I might be in the presence of the Grinch. But then this man explained why he found the music so bad. It wasn’t just that it was cloying. It’s that it was boring.

“Christmas is boring because there’s no narrative tension,” he said. “It’s like reading a book with no conflict.”

Now he had my attention.

I’m sure this man had thought this for a long time, but maybe he felt freer to say it because we were only hours out from hearing the horrifying news of a massacre of innocent children in Connecticut. For him, the tranquil lyrics of our Christmas songs couldn’t encompass such terror. I think he has a point.

Some of the blame is on our sentimentalized Christmas of the American civil religion. Simeon the prophet never wished anyone a “holly-jolly Christmas” or envisioned anything about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But what about our songs, the songs of the church? We ought to make sure that what we sing measures up with the, as this fellow would put it, “narrative tension” of the Christmas story.

The first Christmas carol, after all, was a war hymn. Mary of Nazareth sings of God’s defeat of his enemies, about how in Christ he had demonstrated his power and “has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:52). There are some villains in mind there. Simeon’s song, likewise, speaks of the “fall and rising of many in Israel” and of a sword that would pierce the heart of Mary herself. Even the “light of the Gentiles” he speaks about is in the context of warfare. After all, the light, the Bible tells us, overcomes the darkness (John 1:5), and frees us from the grip of the devil (2 Corinthians 4).

Far too often, though, our corporate worship ignores this spiritual warfare. Our worship songs are typically celebrative, in both lyrical content and musical expression. In the last generation, a mournful song about crucifixion was pepped up with a jingly-sounding chorus, “It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day!” Even those ubiquitous contemporary worship songs that come straight out of the Psalms tend to focus on psalms of ascent or psalms of joyful exuberance, not psalms of lament.

By not speaking where the Bible speaks, to the full range of human emotion – including loneliness, guilt, desolation, anger, fear, desperation – we only leave our people there, wondering why they just can’t be “Christian” enough to smile or why they, like Charlie Brown, still feel unhappy when they stand to sing “Joy to the World.”

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In the kingdom, we receive comfort in a very different way than we’re taught to in American culture. We receive comfort not from faking cheerfulness or trying to drown out the throbbing of our souls with holly jolly sentimentality. We are comforted when we see our sin, our brokenness, our desperate circumstances, and we grieve and cry out for deliverance.

In a time when we seem to learn of a new tragedy each day, the unbearable lightness of Christmas seems absurd to the watching world. But, even in the best of times, we all know that we live in a groaning universe, a world of divorce courts and cancer cells and concentration camps. Just as we sing with joy about the coming of the Promised One, we ought also to sing with groaning that he is not back yet (Romans 8:23), sometimes with groanings too deep for lyrics.

We have a rich and complicated and often appropriately dark Christmas hymnody. We can sing of blessings flowing “far as the curse is found,” of the one who came to “free us all from Satan’s power.” Let’s sing that, every now and then, where we can be overheard.

About the Author

Russell Moore is the President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and is a prolific writer and author of several books.

The Rushmore Report: Is the Religious Right – Wrong?

Christian conservatives, or the “Religious Right,” have become the very people they so ardently warned against, according to the president of the public policy wing of the Southern Baptist Convention. In front of a crowd of 400 guests at the Union League Club on 37th Street in New York City Monday, First Things held their annual Erasmus Lecture, and Russell Moore addressed the question: “Can the Religious Right Be Saved?”

Moore’s answer was both yes and no. Some things are worth preserving, while other vestiges cannot die quickly enough.

“I’m an heir of Bible Belt America and also in many ways a survivor of Bible Belt America,” Moore said, noting that he grew up memorizing Scriptures in spelling bee type drills, enmeshed in the ecosystem of evangelical Christianity.

In a speech lasting an hour, Moore noted that during his teenage years he witnessed the rank hypocrisy among fellow believers, their indifferences to or even complicity in racial injustices, the buffoonish words of Christian leaders and the utter hollowness of cultural Christianity, particularly regarding politics. These Bible Belt churches, which delivered “Christian voter guides” instructing the faithful on the supposed biblical position on the line-item veto, precipitated the recognition that there had to be more to following Christ than this.

Moore, who has been consistently outspoken in his opposition to Donald Trump, further noted that he recognizes the hard decisions people have before them in this particular election, which many characterize as a “lesser of two evils” choice. But in exchange for political influence, he contended, some are forgetting an essential gospel question: What does it mean to be saved?

“The Religious Right turns out to be the people the Religious Right warned us about,” he continued.

The younger generation of evangelicals simply will not stand for this, Moore said. Contrary to the media narratives about millennial Christians liberalizing, Moore insists that younger evangelicals instead intend to prioritize the furtherance of the gospel, not right wing politics.

“There are no 22-year-old John Hagees,” Moore acknowledged, but there are plenty of young solidly orthodox evangelical church planters committed to the culture, and sound expository preaching of the Bible.

From Moore’s standpoint, to be effective in this culture, this rising generation of faithful Christians have to forge collaborative issue-by-issue coalitions when speaking to politics, dispense with alarmist eschatology and prosperity gospel hucksterism, and create robust, disciplined conscience-shaping church communities.

“A Christianity without a clear gospel is just moralism; but a Christianity also without visible churches is backward looking and seething with rage with what has been lost,” Moore said.

“The important question is whether the Religious Right will have for them that Word above all earthly powers which no thanks to them abideth. The important question is whether a people defined by religion have for the world, good news,” he concluded.

About the Author

Brandon Showalter is a writer for the Christian Post. Committed to bringing the relevancy of the gospel to his generation, Brandon is also a contributor to the new Evangelical channel. For more information, go to brandonshowalter.com.

The Rushmore Report: Shocking New Polls on the Death Penalty

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear the first of two death penalty cases in this year’s term, the share of Americans who support the death penalty for people convicted of murder is now at its lowest point in more than four decades. Only about half of Americans (49 percent) now favor the death penalty, while 42 percent oppose it. Support has dropped seven points since March 2015, from 56 percent.

Public support for capital punishment peaked in the mid-1990s, when eight in ten favored the death penalty and only 16 percent stood in opposition. Current opposition stands at its highest level since 1972.

Pew Research has found that Republicans favor the death penalty by 72 percent. Only 34 percent of Democrats agree. Two decades ago, when majorities of both parties favored the death penalty, the partisan gap was only 16 percentage points (87 percent vs. 71 percent). Meanwhile, independents are split on the issue, 45-44 percent.

While Pew Research doesn’t suggest reasons for the shift, they do give more demographic details. The death penalty finds more support among men than women, whites than minorities, and older citizens than younger ones. The less educated you are, the more likely you are to favor the death penalty.

Interestingly, white evangelicals, self-described as “pro-life,” are the most ardent supporters of the death penalty (69-26 percent). White mainline Protestants are in support, but to a lesser degree (60-31 percent). Catholics are evenly split on the issue, and the irreligious are strongly against it.

The strongest reason given by supporters in another poll was that the death penalty is “morally justified,” while opponents claim there is too much risk of putting an innocent person to death, and they point to evidence that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime.

About the Author

Baxter Oliphant is a young scholar from Princeton University. He blogs on current events and serves as a writer for Pew Research.

The Rushmore Report: PayPal Pulls 400 Jobs from NC over Bathroom Law, Keeps Doing Business with Gay-Killing Regimes

PayPal deserves the “hypocrite of the year award.” The online payment giant has pulled 400 jobs from North Carolina because of their bill that refuses men access to women’s restrooms, while continuing to do business with foreign countries that kill or imprison homosexuals. And they call that “tolerance.”

PayPal has decided to not open a global operations center in Charlotte after Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill that overturned a city ordinance that would have legally forced private businesses to give biological males access to girls’ restrooms, showers, and locker rooms.

Since the bill was signed, more than 130 businesses have threatened the state with economic sanctions over the legislation. Franklin Graham, famed North Carolinian evangelist, said, “PayPal gets the hypocrite of the year award!” Graham’s beef is that PayPal operates in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Yemen. Under the influence of Islamic Shari’a law, all three nations have laws on the books that punish homosexuality with the death penalty, as reported by The Washington Post.

PayPal also operates a global call center in Malaysia, although its penal code prescribes up to 20 years in prison for homosexual activity. The company has a history of taking punitive measures against those who hold traditional moral values. In 2011, PayPal launched an investigation of pro-family organizations after the LGBT group All Out accused them of “hate.”

Meanwhile, the new center will not go forward in Charlotte. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, has encouraged the company to move the Charlotte center to his state. West Virginia House of Delegates Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, made a similar pitch for his decidedly less progressive state.

But North Carolina officials are not intimidated. “If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, then it was worth it,” said Lt. Governor Dan Forest. “North Carolina will never put a price tag on the value of our children. They are precious and priceless.”

“If a corporation wanting to do business in North Carolina does not see the worth of our children in the same light, then I wish them well as they do business somewhere else,” he continued.

That view is winning the Lt. Governor the praise of one of his state’s most famous residents. “I’m very proud of Lt. Governor Dan Forest,” said Rev. Graham, who splits time between Charlotte and Boone.

About the Author

Ben Johnson is a writer and columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He writes on current events and maintains a national footprint on the political issues that are driving the dialogue of modern America.