Tuesday, October 6, 2015

5 Things That Are AWESOME About America Right Now

(We face real challenges, but we have an incredibly special country)


1. We live in one of the most stunningly  beautiful countries ever. We're talking Purple Mountain Majesty and Amber Waves of Grain, here. (Photo by, Daniel Weinand)

2. America becomes a land of permanent refuge and opportunity to over 1,000,000 new immigrants each year. Seriously--how inspiring is that? Many of us can trace our own story back to immigrants who came from all over the earth. It's so awesome to see that legacy continue today. (Photo by Sue Waters)

3. We are a nation of explorers, artists, and innovators. The liberty and freedom of our society has empowered individuals to make some of the most meaningful discoveries and advancements in the history of mankind. 

4. An ever-increasing majority of young Americans are pro-life. We can be the generation that ends the injustice of abortion in our lifetime. 

5. We lead the world in free, peaceful, elections where we choose who represents us and makes our laws. In the grand scheme of history, a "government of the people, by the people, for the people" is a rare and beautiful treasure.

Go here to learn more about Generation Joshua and how you can help keep America great.

Daniel Heffington lives in Northern Virginia and leads GenJ's Communications team. In his spare time, he leads worship, drinks coffee, and writes music.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

It's Time to Make a Difference. Together.

The following article was written by Peter Baergen, the recipient of the 2014 Generation Joshua Future of America Leadership Award. 

So, you’ve been to iGovern. Maybe you’ve participated in a Student Action Team. perhaps you’ve taken one of Generation Joshua’s online courses, or been a member of a GenJ club. If any (or all!) of these are the case, you’ve experienced some of the best training that middle school and high school students can receive in the world of politics. Through Generation Joshua, you have had the opportunity to experience government from the inside, to put conservative principles in action, and to learn the ins and outs of political activism. Not only do you get to hear about the foundations of our country and learn how to walk (if you're wondering what I mean, you need to sign up to go on an SAT with Jeremiah Lorrig), but you get to hear it from the best -- caring, committed, and courageous leaders who have been doing and studying these things for years..

iGovern 2015 Presidential/VP Candidates
At iGovern, perhaps you dived into the world of campaigns, fundraising, and FEC regulations. Maybe you found the study of legislative process and parliamentary procedure to be fascinating. Those in the International Summit experienced first-hand the ever-changing nature of foreign affairs and the challenge of working with other nations and competing interests. Or, for a select few, the intricacies of the Oval Office and presidential cabinet may have caught your fancy. No matter what part of iGovern you enjoyed the most, the fact of the matter is that if you walked away from iGovern without learning anything, you accomplished a feat that I dare say no human being has accomplished before -- campers, counselors, and staff included.

On a Student Action Team, once you made the choice to sign up, there weren't necessarily many choices left... you learned about grassroots campaigning and get-out-the-vote operations. And you learned a lot about it. You saw very quickly (either because you knew it already, or figured it out the hard way) that teamwork is key to an efficient campaign operation. Perhaps we can even draw some comparisons between your van team and a campaign... your van driver, the campaign manager, made things happen, while depending on how your van worked, your navigator might very well take on the title of strategist. Further back in the van, you probably had one or two (maybe more!) people really interested and knowledgeable in politics, while others were great at communicating with people, whether in the van or at a door. All in all, you probably packed up for the trip home knowing a lot more about grassroots campaigning than you did when you were putting those GenJ t-shirts in your suitcase before you came.

So by now we've pretty well established that your experiences with Generation Joshua have taught you some valuable lessons, whether they be campaign-related, more focused on the legislative process, or anything in between. So here's my challenge to you... Take what you have learned and use it.

Don't let the training you have received go to waste. Find a candidate that you agree with and can get excited about, and offer to help with their campaign. Become involved in your local county Republican party. Keep an eye on your state legislature, and write your legislators when an important vote is coming up. Volunteer for a legislative advocacy group, such as the Parental Rights Organization or the Convention of States Project. If you prefer communications-type roles -- maybe social media? -- you could offer to help your local Right to Life group set up a Facebook page or Twitter account. The possibilities are nearly endless.

For me, this meant stepping out of my comfort zone and, with another GenJer, organizing three student get-out-the-vote efforts (not through GenJ, but still patterned after the Student Action Teams) in two states for the 2014 US Senate primaries. For some of my friends, it has meant interning for a conservative state legislator. A couple Virginia GenJers got together with young activists in the area and started a community discussion group. Others have become campaign managers and staffers, or gone on to work for groups like Americans for Prosperity.

That all sounds great and grand... but maybe you're thinking that these things are too big, too grand.
"Yeah, iGovern was great, but campaign manager? That's a little too far." Well, my friend Zachary has started writing letters to the editor and submitting them to local newspapers. It may seem small ("Who even reads the newspaper anymore?"), but in reality, it's a great way to spread your message to people who will often be very encouraged by a young person who cares enough to get involved. In Minnesota, my friend Sarah helped with a voter registration drive run by her GenJ club at the county fair. Maybe you're able to keep your family and friends informed about legislation going through Congress or your state legislature, like Celtin was able to do in New York. All these things seem small, but they make a real difference. And when you take thousands of GenJers, each making a seemingly small difference in their sphere of influence... suddenly, together, we're making a big difference.

So, be a part of that big difference. Take what you've learned and get involved. Write a letter, ask your neighbor if they're registered to vote, or call your state legislators asking them to support or oppose a bill moving through the legislature.

And hey, I'm sure there will be some GenJers running for office who will need campaign staff in the future... so make sure you don't let those door-knocking skills get rusty!

By Peter Baergen (18)
Generation Joshua member
The views expressed in this post are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Generation Joshua. Photo Credit: Mamie Carlstrom 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Firestorm in Indiana: The History of RFRA

President Clinton Signs RFRA
You may have noticed that there has been a large firestorm over Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday. Indiana’s law is based off the federal Religious Freedom Protection Act. To understand the whole issue, we need to look at the history of the federal law, and then see why states have begun enacting their own laws.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) was introduced by then Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) and had 170 cosponsors in the House of Representatives (including 121 Democratic cosponsors). It was introduced to ensure that no government could substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless it furthers a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. This was known as the Compelling Interest Test, and had been set by the Supreme Court in cases such as Sherbert v. Verner and Wisconsin v. Yoder. However, in 1990, the Supreme Court ruled in Employment Division v. Smith that the Compelling Interest Test did not apply to “neutral laws of general applicability.” RFRA was introduced to restore the Compelling Interest Test whenever government would substantially burden a person’s exercise of Religion.

The House of Representatives passed RFRA unanimously, and the vote was nearly unanimous in the Senate. It was signed by President Clinton on November 16, 1993. The law was supported by both conservative and liberal groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Evangelicals among others.

The law originally applied to all levels of government, including state and local government. However, in City of Boerne v. Flores, the Supreme Court ruled that the RFRA could not apply to states, but that it still applied to the federal government.

After the Boerne ruling, many states passed their own version of RFRA. Including Indiana’s new law, there are currently 21 states with a version of the RFRA. In fact, when President Obama was in the Illinois State Senate, he voted for Illinois’ RFRA.

So, if there has been so much bipartisan support for both the federal law and state versions, why is there so much outrage towards Indiana’s law? The outrage seems to stem mainly from the current political debate over same-sex marriage and a fear that the law will lead to discrimination against homosexuals. However, there is nothing in the RFRA that mentions same-sex marriage or opens the door to discrimination.

The timing of the passage and signing of the RFRA does not change the language of the law. The language is still substantially the same as the federal RFRA as well as the other state versions of the law. The only difference between Indiana’s law and any of the other laws is that Indiana’s law includes a broader definition of who is protected by the law. This broader definition was written to be consistent with the application of the federal RFRA in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

In conclusion, Indiana’s RFRA is not opening the door to discrimination any more than the federal RFRA or state versions already has. The law is simply ensuring the residents in Indiana have the same protections of their religious liberty as residents of Illinois and 19 other states currently have. The federal RFRA and state versions have been crucial to protecting the religious liberty of many religious minorities. For more on how the RFRA has helped, check out this blog post at The Federalist.

The liberals attacking Indiana’s new law are using unfounded fear-mongering to whip up opposition to the law. However, the simple truth is that the RFRA is an important protection for religious liberty.

Post by Glenn Bertsch

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Most Powerful Lesson

As director of Generation Joshua, I work with thousands of teens across the nation. At one of our events, a student tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we could talk. Ten minutes of trivialities passed before he worked up his courage to tell me what was really on his mind.

“I hate you. You’re a hypocrite. You say you love me, but no one really loves me.”

The GenJ staff and I confused him, he said. He assumed all Christians were hypocrites. His parents were Christians, and he thought he knew what that meant. But my team and I also said we were Christians—and we were different from what he expected. To him, our Christianity and his parents’ Christianity were worlds apart.

We talked for almost six hours. As I listened, I saw a familiar pattern repeat itself.

This young man had come to believe that his whole world was governed by rigid rules. If he broke those rules, he would face the consequences. The rules were clear and the consequences were consistent, but that was all there was. His entire understanding of his relationship with his parents, as well as his relationship with God, had been reduced to a series of if-then statements.

As a result, the young man believed that everything in life, including his parents’ love, was dependent on his own actions. During our conversation he could not think of a single example of unconditional love that had been shown to him in his life. I have no doubt that he had received such unconditional love; my point is that he was unable to recognize it.

I have seen this example repeated again and again as I work with teens across America. There was the boy who told us how he used to cut himself because it gave him one small part of his life where he felt he could determine the consequences. There was the girl who abandoned her faith because all she had experienced was judgment, and the boy who felt that attempting suicide was the only way to get empathy. And there was the young man who killed himself because he believed that no one, not even his parents, loved him.

Again and again I meet broken young men and women who are drowning under a tidal wave of crushing rules and expectations, just as they are finishing high school and trying to enter adulthood. The result is often manifested in severe depression, self-destructive behavior (such as cutting), involvement in witchcraft, or suicidal thoughts.

I don’t think these extreme situations happen because of strict parenting. Having clearly defined, consistently applied rules in the home is not the problem. The problem is when relationships are contingent on the rules.

In responding to student crises over my past seven years at Generation Joshua, I’ve seen a common theme. In most of these cases, the students do not believe that their parents love them, or else they are convinced that their parents’ love is conditional. When I get the opportunity to talk to their parents, it is usually clear that they deeply love their children. But they have not included regular, tangible demonstrations of unconditional love in their parenting. The love is there—but the children never get the chance to see it.

We pour our energy into raising our children, conscientiously trying to discipline and educate them so they can have responsible, rewarding lives. We push ourselves to make sure we teach our children that actions have consequences, and that lesson is crucial. But sometimes I think we don’t make an equal effort to demonstrate unconditional love to our children. I find it ironic that, as a person whose life has been changed by Jesus Christ’s extreme act of unsolicited love and unexpected grace, I still find it so hard to always show that same love to my own children.

Sometimes when I recognize that I should be showing more grace and love to my children, I also find myself concerned that doing so will undermine my attempts to teach discipline. This is the wrong way of thinking, and often stems from an unclear definition of grace. In The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer defines grace as “the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.” I simplify that to say that grace in parenting is the idea of unmerited favor toward my children.

Grace is the natural outworking of unconditional love. If we love our children, we should be looking for opportunities to show them grace. I should not be so obsessed with making sure my children recognize the consequences of sin that I neglect to show them the amazing power of grace and unconditional love. Teaching consequences without ever showing grace will crush the joy, and often the faith, out of our children.

Look for moments when you can show grace and love in your children’s lives, then take those opportunities and explain them. God’s unconditional love may be the most powerful lesson our children learn from us.

For the young man I spoke with that day, experiencing unconditional love resulted in a new faith in God. That change led to a restoration of relationship with his parents as well. For him, love was the most important lesson he needed. 

Joel Grewe is the director of HSLDA’s
Generation Joshua. He and his wife, Christie, have three young sons.