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Marx’s view of history powerfully shaped how we think about time and power, but it’s not the Bible’s view.

It’s been a heck of a month for conspiracy theories. My social media feeds have been inundated by warnings about impending COVID lockdowns and mandates, wild claims about 9/11, supposed revelations of alien corpses, and, after Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman (D) debuted a new mustache, a fresh round of speculation that he uses a body double to conceal ongoing health struggles.

Each outlandish story contributes to a broader ethos of conspiracism: a cynical and fearful mindset which frames everything around the assumption that the world is beset by a grand, secret evil and only a few know what’s “really” going on.

Neither conspiracist thinking nor belief in discrete conspiracy theories are anything new. But the social acceptability of such belief does seem to have grown in recent years. Some credit is due to the internet, of course, but I think there’s a much more fundamental source: human search for meaning within our place in history.

We’re living in a time when religion is in decline, social bonds are weakening, and the humanities are devalued. This leaves us with a dwindling canon of stories—shared histories, parables, myths, and folktales—that bind us together and inform a common moral vision. To cope, we’re retreating into ever-narrower interest groups, becoming more suspicious of one another, and searching for stories to make sense of evil, uncertainty, and suffering.

Conspiracism offers just such a story. Regardless of concrete evidence, conspiracy theories can cut through our sense of unease and ambiguity with a grandiose, black-and-white narrative. They flatter true believers that they’re in on a secret and can change the world.

In ...

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Her new memoir brings her voice into the story of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye." It also brings in an entirely different gospel.

I read Boy Meets Girl decades ago as an adolescent alongside thousands of other church kids in America. It was the much-anticipated follow-up to Joshua Harris’s now-infamous book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. As a very young adult, Harris had told us all how to date (or rather, how to court) in a pure way, so that we could all make it to our wedding night as virgins.

Boy Meets Girl was going to tell us how this had all worked out for Josh on a personal level. It also introduced us to Shannon, who I pictured as Josh’s leading lady. Turns out, however, she was more like his backstage help. As Shannon Harris makes clear in her recent book The Woman They Wanted: Shattering the Illusion of the Good Christian Wife, she longed to fulfill her dream of being a singer and actor, but was instead tasked with passing out cake to the cast.

I naively read Boy Meets Girl as a love story. I thought of Joshua and Shannon Harris as an example for all of us kids out there trying to date the “right” way. The book felt like a kind of promise that, if I followed the same rules, I, too, might find my future spouse and live happily ever after.

Decades later, holding Harris’s memoir , I can practically feel the weight of her untold stories in my hands. In it, she finally inserts her own voice into the narrative, giving us an entirely different perspective on the marriage, their ministry, and how being the pastor’s wife of a famous evangelical leader left her “starving” with “nothing left to give.”

Handling ‘heavy bricks’

What turned Harris from being a new, excited Christian into feeling like she had been handed “heavy bricks” by the local church? Those who knew Harris before ...

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We live in a world haunted by sin and suffering. But it’s also one that points us to a glory beyond imagining.

This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

I rarely frequent the app formerly known as Twitter for long enough to be angered by anything, but I was last week.

A friend of mine posted a prayer request for her son, hospitalized for schizophrenia, with which he’s been grappling a long time. Most of the responses were what one would expect—expressions of love and concern.

One, though, was from a Christian man telling my friend that she could solve this problem quite easily: by taking away “secular” TV and music and video games. That response would be repulsive enough, but then I went and looked at some of this person’s other posts.

One of them, from sometime past, warned people about thinking about matters such as the Holocaust. He cited a famous Christian musician who went to Auschwitz and lost his faith in Christ. It’s better to think instead, this man recommended, about things that are lovely and pure.

Even Job’s friends had better counsel. Yes, many people have lost their faith—or never come to it—because they could not reconcile a good God with the atrocities and suffering they see in the world. Think of Dostoevsky’s chilling arguments from the mouth of Ivan Karamazov, for instance. The sort of willed ignorance to grave evil is hardly, though, a Christian response to such questions.

If this posture were just the ramblings of some random person online, I wouldn’t have given it much thought. But the sentiment expressed on that account—albeit crudely and rudely expressed—is one that many people unwittingly take: If I just remain very still and don’t think about what’s lurking out there, it will go away.

A few ...

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The Christian family says their status has been revoked without warning.

A Christian family who fled Germany to be able to homeschool their seven children say they now face deportation, 15 years after arriving in the United States and fighting for asylum.

The Romeikes celebrated what their supporters called “an incredible victory that can only be credited to our Almighty God” in 2014, when they were allowed to remain in the US after years of court appeals. Their lawyer said the decision meant the family could “stay without worries in the future.”

Yet earlier this month, Tennessee residents Uwe and Hannelore Romeike said they learned their deferred action status had been revoked during a check-in with immigration officials. They said their family was directed to obtain German passports and to prepare to self-deport by October 11, with no prior warning or explanation for the change.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), an evangelical group that backed the Romeikes when they came to the US, has launched a campaign asking the government to reinstate their deferred action status.

Their four oldest children are now adults, and two have married Americans. The Romeikes continue to homeschool their three youngest, including two daughters born in the US.

“Deportation to Germany will fracture these families, while exposing the Romeikes to renewed persecution in Germany, where homeschooling is still illegal in almost every case,” said HSLDA.

In Bissingen, located outside of Stuttgart, Germany, the Romeikes decided to educate their children at home because they opposed public school curricula (including “sex education, evolution, and fairy tales”) on religious grounds.

Homeschooling is not legal in the country, though enforcement on the ban can vary by ...

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From Istanbul to Marrakesh, disaster relief can help Muslim-background believers legitimize their faith. But first, say Turks, the church must be united.

Help for Morocco is coming from Turkey. While humble in scope, the biggest impact may be on the church.

First Hope Association (FHA), a Turkish Christian disaster relief agency that provided aid after the massive earthquake that struck southeast Turkey in February, was granted permission to assist in Morocco after its own devastating quake. A four-person team arrived in Marrakesh last week.

Consistent with its Turkish policy, FHA serves all victims without discrimination, in cooperation with the local church. Connecting with a house church network in southern Morocco, the Turkish believers have distributed $30,000 worth of clothes, blankets, and hygiene kits in four mountain villages not yet reached by other aid.

“Our country has gone through the same hardships and difficulties, so we came to help and support,” said Demokan Kileci, FHA board chairman. “This is an amazing opportunity for God’s church here to show his compassion and love.”

In many ways, the parallels are striking.

Morocco and Turkey are both Muslim-majority nations, and they both have small Protestant communities that largely emerged from an Islamic background. The churches in both nations suffered in their respective earthquakes but also rallied support to aid in overall relief. And while enduring varying degrees of ostracism, the believers’ solidarity with fellow citizens has begun to win each a slowly increasing level of social respect.

“Their expression of love was immediate, without any thought of self,” said Tim Ligon, pastor of Marrakesh International Protestant Church, of the local believers he has partnered with in relief. “They counted no cost but responded with everything they had.”

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Still, fewer persecuted Christians have been able to flee to the US.

Fewer Christians fleeing persecution in their native countries have found a safe harbor in the United States in the past half decade, according to a new report from a pair of Christian nonprofits, which cites the effects of the pandemic and the dismantling of US refugee resettlement programs during the Trump administration.

The report, titled “Closed Doors,” found the number of Christians coming to the US from countries named on a prominent persecution watchlist dropped from 32,248 in 2016 to 9,528 in 2022—a decline of 70 percent.

The number of Christian refugees from Myanmar dropped from 7,634 in 2016 to 587 in 2022, while the number of Christian refugees from Iran dropped from 2,086 in 2016 to 112 in 2022. Christian refugees from Eritrea dropped from 1,639 in 2016 to 252 in 2022, while refugees from Iraq dropped from 1,524 to 93 during the same timeframe.

All four countries are among the 50 nations on the annual World Watch List published by Open Doors, an international Christian charity that tracks persecution. The new report was written by Open Doors and World Relief, an evangelical charity that resettles refugees.

“The tragic reality is that many areas of the world simply aren’t safe for Christians, and Christians fleeing persecution need a safe haven in the United States,” according to the report.

The decline in Christian refugees comes at a time when the persecution against Christians is on the rise, said Ryan Brown, CEO of Open Doors.

According to the Watch List released earlier this year, some 360 million Christians face what Open Doors calls “high levels of discrimination and persecution.” That’s up from 260 million reported in a 2020 edition of the “Closed ...

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A former NASA R&D director contemplates how faith in God has shaped lunar explorations.

Before my retirement in 2021, I traveled regularly to speak at Christian conferences in America and East Asia. These preaching engagements often occurred during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is a popular time for Chinese churches—whether in the US or in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, and the Philippines—to hold special events. While I deeply enjoyed fellowshipping with these brothers and sisters in Christ, a part of me missed my family, especially when I found myself gazing at the beautiful full moon in the sky.

My fascination with the moon began in my youth. As a 14-year-old in Taiwan, I watched footage of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon on a neighbor’s black-and-white TV. In that awe-inspiring moment, a secret dream to work at NASA was birthed within me, even though it seemed impossible at the time.

In 1987, God fulfilled my dream of working at NASA, where I eventually became a research and development (R&D) lab director. I’ve long regarded humanity’s explorations of the moon not only as a scientific endeavor, but also as an exercise in trusting God, who has a remarkable way of weaving together our dreams and his plans for us into a tapestry more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Over the moon

During the Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, as it is known in the West, the moon is at its roundest and brightest, the autumn air is cool and dry, and Chinese families enjoy a time of reunion. The event, which falls on September 29 this year, occurs on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar.

Many Chinese Christians observe the festival as a cultural celebration, resonating with its themes of familial bonding and gratitude. This emphasis is reminiscent of US and Canadian Thanksgiving ...

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Pandemic challenges and battles, especially the loss of presence, inflicted deep and lasting wounds on pastoral leaders.

Shepherding a congregation is intensely intimate work. Pandemic restrictions didn’t merely prevent pastors from seeing people face-to-face; in many cases they disrupted both ministry and ministers. In particular, the rush to stream worship services online revealed that many congregants associate church with preaching rather than pastoring.

This shook the gospel calling of many pastors and eventually left not just ministers but also members wrestling with an empty feeling, a gnawing pain, after the live feed ended. Jesus speaks of the sheep knowing his voice and of knowing the sheep, a process that takes time and presence. That intensely intimate work happens in many ways: hugs and handshakes, Communion and counseling.

In reflecting on the vulnerable, sometimes passionate, stories of pain, three themes emerged: (1) personal pain, (2) pain specifically caused by others in the church (what one person called “friendly fire”) and (3) the pain of the loss of presence.

Based on Chapter 1 of the report, in this episode host Aaron Hill (Editor of ChurchSalary) sits down with two researchers from the Arbor Research Group, Jon Swanson and Hope Zeller, to talk about the common experience of pain and loss suffered by pastors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Featuring an in-depth interview with Brian Spahr, former pastor and hospital chaplain, about his experience during the pandemic.

Hosted by Aaron Hill, Editor of ChurchSalary

"COVID and the Church" is produced in conjunction with the Arbor Research Group and funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., through a grant from the Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders (ECFPL) initiative.

Executive produced by Aaron Hill, Terry Linhart, and Matt Stevens

Director for CT Media ...

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Many of our assumptions about the pandemic’s impact on American churches are incorrect or incomplete. What actually happened? And why talk about this now?

The COVID-19 pandemic officially ended on May 11th, 2023. While it lasted only three years, the pandemic impacted almost every institution in America. Research studies have examined the impact of COVID-19 on economics, housing, and secular employment.

But how did COVID-19 impact the American church?

To answer this question, Church Salary (a ministry of Christianity Today) partnered with the Arbor Research Group (with the help of a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment) to conduct a year-long study of over a thousand pastors and church leaders from across the country. During the course of our research in 2022, we encountered thousands of hurting and wounded pastors and lay leaders who desperately needed to share their distinct stories—some tinged with hope, some filled with heartbreak and pain.

This podcast, COVID and the Church, will explore the results of this landmark study published online in a 111-page report. Read the full report, for free, by visiting

In this first episode, host Aaron Hill (editor of ChurchSalary) sits down with two of the key architects of this study from the Arbor Research Group, Terry Linhart and Jon Swanson, to unpack what actually happened to the church during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why talk about this now? And what nine themes or common experiences did every single pastor and congregation in the US navigate during the pandemic?

Hosted by Aaron Hill, editor of ChurchSalary

"COVID and the Church" is produced in conjunction with the Arbor Research Group and funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., through a grant from the Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders (ECFPL) initiative.

Executive produced by Aaron Hill, Terry Linhart, and Matt Stevens

Director for ...

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How did COVID-19 impact the American church?

What caused some churches to thrive, while others struggled? Why did some pastors quit or resign, when so many stayed? What can we learn from pandemic that will prepare us for the uncertain future? We all have assumptions and ideas about what happened. But are they correct? What really happened and why?

To answer these questions, ChurchSalary, a ministry of Christianity Today, partnered with the Arbor Research Group to conduct a year-long study of over a 1,000 pastors and church leaders from across the country. This podcast, COVID and the Church, will explore the results of this landmark study published in a 111-page report.

Explore the 9 common experiences that every pastor and congregation in America navigated during the pandemic—from pain and loss, to fluctuations in giving and attendance, to political polarization, leadership crises, the relentless pressure to rapidly adapt simply in order to survive.

Every episode we will discuss and apply the findings from this study with the help of a team of experts from the Arbor Research Group. And we’ll take a moment to listen to actual stories of how COVID impacted pastors and churches from across the country.

Full series launches on September 25th. Download a free copy of the full report today at

Hosted by Aaron Hill, Editor of ChurchSalary

COVID and the Church is produced in conjunction with the Arbor Research Group and funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., through a grant from the Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders (or ECFPL) initiative.

Executive produced by Aaron Hill, Terry Linhart, and Matt Stevens

Director for CT Media is Matt Stevens

Audio Engineering, Editor, and Composer is Tyler Bradford Wright

Artwork by Ryan Johnson

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New research shows disagreement over COVID-19 policies drove changes in attendance, but “a lot of it is a mystery.”

After a few hard pandemic years, Paul Seay is happy to see more people coming to the two Methodist churches he pastors in Abingdon, Virginia.

Still, he can’t help but wonder, What happened to the people who never returned?

“Some had been very involved—and they’re just gone,” said Seay, who leads Charles Wesley United Methodist Church, a historically Black congregation, and Abingdon United Methodist Church, a large red brick church down the road.

At a low point, Charles Wesley had about six people in attendance. Things didn’t get quite that dire at Abingdon UMC, which had about 180 before the pandemic. But it also really struggled with the impact of COVID-19.

They weren’t alone. According to a new study on the impact of COVID-19 on the American church from ChurchSalary, a sister publication of Christianity Today, more than one in three churches saw attendance decline between 2020 and 2022. And while many, like Seay’s congregations, have seen growth since the darkest days, they still seem to be missing people.

“It was not uncommon in discussions with pastors,” the researchers found, “to hear stories of ‘a third’ or ‘half’ or ‘20%’ of a congregation not coming back once the doors reopened.”

Charles Wesley now has about 20 people on a good Sunday, and Abingdon UMC has grown to around 200. But Seay still notices the people who aren’t in the pews anymore.

“The pandemic,” he told CT, “really zapped the congregation.”

There doesn’t seem to be a single clear explanation for this. The survey of 1,164 Protestant pastors, followed by 17 focus groups and nine in-person case studies, found varied and ...

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