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How Christians should respond to the presidential debate

Credit: Mark Ralston via ApThe candidates began and ended last night's presidential debate without shaking hands. The ninety minutes in between were filled with argument, name-calling, and vitriol. Donald Trump refused to say if he will accept the vote if he loses, a statement that is leading this morning's news. Hillary Clinton called him a "puppet" of Russia, while he called her a "nasty woman."

In eighteen days I will vote in my eleventh presidential election over four decades. I have never seen a campaign season as bitter as this one has been. Nor have I seen Christians as divided over an election as we seem to be today.

I receive emails regularly from believers who liken Donald Trump to Winston Churchill and characterize him as the war leader we need today. I also receive emails from believers who are convinced that no Christian could vote for Mr. Trump. Many evangelicals are convinced that electing Hillary Clinton would end America as we know it. Others believe that she would advance our status as leader of the free world.

Here's what I know for sure: on November 9 the election will be over, but our witness—for good or for bad—will endure.

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Do you wish a giant meteor would destroy the Earth?

Meteor strikes EarthNearly one in four young Americans would rather have a giant meteor destroy the Earth than see Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the White House. In addition, 26 percent of millennials would prefer a random lottery over the two candidates.

It's been a tough week leading up to tonight's final presidential debate.

The local Republican headquarters in Hillsborough, North Carolina made national headlines when a firebomb was thrown through its front window last Sunday. Later that day, comedian Amy Schumer was performing in Tampa, Florida when she began slamming Donald Trump. Some two hundred people walked out. Yesterday a terrible caricatured statue of Hillary Clinton was displayed in lower Manhattan, causing a furor on social media.

For many, the election can't get here soon enough. According to the American Psychological Association, more than half of America's adults say the election has been a large or significant source of stress for them.

So-called "Election Stress Disorder" is just part of the larger picture. Nearly three out of four adults report feeling stressed about money at least some of the time. Eighty percent of workplace accidents and doctor visits are attributed to stress.

Stress contributes to headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. It is a linked to some cancers and costs American industry more than $300 billion each year.

How should we respond?

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How should churches deal with gay members? 4 facts

Credit: PexelsHow should churches who affirm biblical truth regarding homosexuality handle gay members?

Yesterday I addressed the controversy generated by Watermark Church's decision to discipline a gay member of its congregation. The continuing debate fostered by this issue shows that it is not limited to one church or to the issue of homosexuality. While I cannot explore this complicated subject fully in a single article, I would like to offer this overview.

One: Church discipline is unpopular.

When the Watermark decision became public, the response was immediate and strongly negative. I heard people ask, "Who do they think they are? What right do they have to judge others?" Such questions are symptomatic of a culture that has defined truth as personal and subjective. Tolerance is the overriding value of our day. As a result, any attempts to hold others accountable for biblical morality will be met with derision.

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Is free speech worth the cost?

Credit: PexelsIs free speech worth the cost? It has long been considered one of the fundamental rights on which our country was founded and a liberty to be prized above most others. According to a new report by PEN America, however, there is a growing sentiment among young people that, despite its lofty stature in our culture, free speech often functions simply as an idealized excuse to be cruel. The disconnect between the most ardent defenders of that freedom and the young people described in the study appears to come down to a difference in priorities. Those who prize free speech are often wary of any limitations on the exercise of that right while young people often place an increasing importance on the protection of individuals from damaging or judgmental statements.

Taken to the extreme, both views seem to favor a distorted understanding of what free speech was meant to be, yet those extremes are often where the debate takes place. As with many issues in our culture, the middle ground has largely disappeared from the conversation. PEN America is hoping to bring it back, though, by fostering dialogue with those on both sides of the divide.

That dialogue is further complicated, however, by the nebulous terms with which supporters of each extreme often describe what they want. For example, as Jennifer Schuessler of the New York Times reports, the PEN study comes on the heels of a recent Gallup poll from earlier this year that found "college students were overwhelmingly in favor of free expression on campus in general but also significantly in favor of some restrictions on 'intentionally offensive' speech."

While those restrictions sound reasonable, it is all but impossible to find a definition of "intentionally offensive" speech about which everyone can agree. That inability to find a common understanding of where the line exists between speech that is offensive and that which should be permitted has led to the recent problems over anti-Semitic comments at UCLA and appropriate Halloween costumes at Yale University, to name two of the more prominent examples.

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Dallas church criticized for disciplining gay member

Credit: Maura Teague via FlickrOn October 9, 2015, a member of Watermark Church in Dallas received a letter responding to his homosexual lifestyle. The letter noted that the church had worked with the man over several years to help him repent of such relationships.

However, the man's decision to continue in a homosexual relationship caused the church to remove him from its membership and to treat him "as we would anyone who is living out of fellowship with God." The congregation is praying "that repentance comes quickly and that you do not continue choosing a path of destruction and one that leads you away from the authority and care of the church."

On the one-year anniversary of receiving the letter, the man described his anger on Facebook: "You are tarnishing the name of God to Christians and non-Christians alike; you should be ashamed of yourselves! Do not forget, Jesus was a [sic] angry with people just like you who said certain groups of people were not worthy to be followers of Him."

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Did Russia kill the sale of Yahoo?

Credit: Niall Carson via AP

Yahoo's fall from grace over the past several years has been well documented, and it led to Verizon agreeing to buy the former industry leader for $4.8 billion earlier this year. While that is still a remarkable sum given Yahoo's recent struggles, it's more than $41 billion less than Microsoft offered in February of 2008. According to recent reports, however, it looks like Russia may have poked a few holes in the Internet giant's golden parachute.

As The Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima and Brian Fung report, Verizon is re-evaluating the deal in light of a recent security breach in which information from roughly five hundred million Yahoo user accounts was stolen. The breach was discovered back in August and Yahoo has since concluded that "state-sponsored" hackers were responsible, with the FBI believing that it was the work of the Russian government. While the Russians have not taken credit for the hack, and likely never will, it's in keeping with a recent trend where the foreign power is thought to have breached "the networks of government agencies, defense contractors, media organizations, think tanks and political parties in the United States and Europe."

While that breach in security is troubling for Yahoo, the threat it poses to their deal with Verizon is, perhaps, of more immediate concern. As Verizon General Counsel Craig Silliman said of the breach, "We're looking to Yahoo to demonstrate to us the full impact they believe it's not." If Verizon concludes that the breach has altered the value of Yahoo in a material way, then they can either call off the deal or ask for further concessions. Claire Atkinson of the New York Post suggested recently that those concessions could approach $1 billion, though Verizon chief executive Lowell McAdam called such rumors "total speculation."

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Why Bob Dylan is a Nobel prize-winning prophet

AP Photo/Chris PizzelloBob Dylan received the Nobel Prize in Literature yesterday. One of his most famous songs was recorded in 1964. It ends: "The line it is drawn the curse it is cast / The slow one now will later be fast / As the present now will later be past / The order is rapidly fadin' / And the first one now will later be last / For the times they are a-changin'!"

Dylan is more right today than ever.

The Wall Street Journal reports that just one in five millennials has ever tried a Big Mac. To win them back, McDonald's has created digital media hubs in Singapore, London, and Illinois.

According to The Washington Post, TV ratings for NFL games are down 11 percent from last season. One significant factor is the number of people watching games on digital platforms that do not contribute to television ratings. For more, see Ryan Denison's Why the NFL is losing viewers.

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Why the NFL is losing viewers

Credit: astrosystem via FotoliaThe NFL is still far and away the most popular sport in America. Its weekly viewership averages more viewers than last year's World Series and bested the Emmys by roughly 5.4 million sets of eyes. However, the 16.7 million people who tune in each week is down about eleven percent from last season, and that's made some around the league—and even more among the various TV stations that pay the NFL a collective seven billion dollars annually—a bit concerned.

Unfortunately for the league and its broadcasters, there doesn't appear to be an easy fix. As Neal Pilson, the former CBS executive and the founder of Pilson Communications, told The Washington Post's Mark Maske, "We don't really know, I can't give you a specific reason why the NFL's ratings are down . . . You have to look at five, six, seven things to figure it out. It's a confluence of multiple negative factors."

Among those factors are the litany of choices viewers have whenever they turn on their televisions, the election coverage and debates that have garnered an increasing amount of attention, and the lack of great draws, be it because of the retirement of stars like Peyton Manning or down years for the teams in some of the country's biggest markets. And while some of those factors will abate over time—the World Series and the election will both end well before the football season does—it's unclear how the NFL's prospects will look going forward.

The league will get its money, and it remains the most popular draw for American sports fans. NFL and TV executives don't have to worry about that changing any time soon. But whether the early results from this year are the start of a new trend or just a blip on the budget reports is unclear, and it's likely to stay that way for a while longer. There are simply too many factors at work for a clear and easy answer.

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The latest Cover Girl is a boy

Credit: PexelsMeet the newest face of CoverGirl magazine: James Charles, a high school senior from Bethlehem, NY. He lives with his parents and does make-up for friends in his spare time. In the last year, he has amassed nearly 600,000 followers on his Instagram account and more than 80,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel. According to The New York Times, Charles "posts tutorials for creating fake freckles or layering chunky glitter around the eyes." (I assure you, I've never typed those words before.)

The Times asked Charles what he thinks about where America is on gay rights and gender identity. His response: "The place we're in is phenomenal compared to where we were a few years ago. We've made so many amazing progressions with gay rights, gender inclusivity and self-expression. But I think we still have so, so much longer to go. A lot of people still don't support or understand it."

I understand the sexual revolution of our day. That's why I don't support it.

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What America doesn't understand about Tim Tebow

Credit: Rick Scuteri via APTim Tebow is making headlines yet again. He was signing autographs on Tuesday after playing in a minor league baseball game when he saw a fan having what appeared to be a seizure. Tebow talked and prayed with him until paramedics arrived, then promised to check on him later. "God bless you, buddy," he said. As Tebow headed for the team bus, fans saluted him. "That was class," one said.

ESPN has more on the story this morning, quoting Tebow's explanation for his actions: "People are what's important. And an opportunity to help someone is more important than anything that I could have possibly done on a baseball diamond that day."

Why is America so fascinated with Tim Tebow?

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