Faith-based Veeps

ib2newseditor —  July 29, 2016 — Leave a comment

Presidential nominees choose running mates with more evangelical appeal

Pence and KaineHeading into the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, one unanswered question was how—and if—Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would seek to galvanize the support of evangelical voters. Both candidates’ picks for vice president, made immediately before their parties’ conventions, could be seen as a way to reach out to Christian voters who have felt under-represented this campaign season.

Trump named Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, as his running mate. Taking the stage in Cleveland, Pence declared, “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” He peppered his acceptance speech with phrases familiar to Christians: “I have faith that God can still heal our land” and “Pray daily for a wise and discerning heart.”
The governor, who grew up Catholic, gave his life to Jesus Christ as a college student in 1978, he told CBN News in 2010. He and his wife, Karen, attend College Park Church in Indianapolis, and Pence describes himself as an “evangelical Catholic.”

Pence came under fire last year when he signed the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. Critics claimed the bill discriminated against the LGBT community, while supporters claimed it protected the rights of religious believers to practice their faith. Corporations, major sporting events, and individuals threatened to boycott the state. A few days later, Pence signed an amendment to the bill which also protected sexual orientation and gender identity rights, causing some conservatives to question his commitment to religious freedom.

At the Republican National Convention, in what some saw as an appeal to evangelicals, Trump pledged he and Pence would do away with the Johnson Amendment, which became part of the U.S. tax code in 1954. Then-Senator Lyndon Johnson proposed the measure, which restricts tax-exempt religious organizations, including churches, from endorsing or opposing political candidates under penalty of losing their tax-exempt status.

The Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton, also introduced her running mate prior to her party’s national convention. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine has attended St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Richmond for nearly 30 years, and also has done mission work in Honduras. The former Virginia governor sings in the choir at his predominately African-American church.

Kaine has used biblical terminology to express his displeasure at the Senate’s recent failure to pass stricter gun laws. He told 60 Minutes, “The chamber was ringed with the family members from Sandy Hook, with Virginia Tech family members sitting with them and helping them. There’s a phrase in the letter to the Hebrews that talks about being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. We were surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, but we couldn’t do the right thing.”

Kaine’s stance on abortion could be troubling to Christian voters. He told CNN in July that his view on abortion is traditionally Catholic, meaning pro-life, “but I am very strongly supportive that women should make these decisions and government shouldn’t intrude. I’m a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade and women being able to make these decisions. In government, we have enough things to worry about. We don’t need to make people’s reproductive decisions for them.”

Uneasy alliances
With just four months until the general election, a new Pew poll shows Trump has a commanding lead among white evangelicals, 78% of whom say they will vote for him, compared to 17% who support Clinton.

Black Protestant voters overwhelmingly say they support Clinton—89%, compared to 8% for Trump. Hispanic Catholics also support Clinton (77%) over Trump (16%).
Pew found voters in general are not pleased with their choices for president: 42% said it would be difficult to choose between the candidates because neither one would make a good president.

Voter motivation is also a key issue in the 2016 election, Pew found. Of the 78% of white evangelicals who support Trump, 45% said their decision was “mainly a vote against Clinton,” compared to 30% who said it was “mainly a vote for Trump.”

The survey comes after Trump’s meeting in June with nearly 1,000 evangelicals, including many Southern Baptists. At least eight Southern Baptists now serve on his evangelical advisory panel.

– Lisa Sergent

South Loop of Chicago

South Loop of Chicago.

My wife, Cindy, and I have moved to a new home in a mid-rise building in Chicago’s South Loop. Relocating from the Uptown neighborhood where we lived the past two years, this feels like a new mission field. We’re approaching the community as missionaries.

Our seven-year old Australian Shepherd, Yabbo, has proven an effective missionary in his own right. He provides the opportunity to initiate conversations easily. In keeping with the breed, Yabbo is well mannered, charming, and appreciates attention. With Yabbo’s help, Cindy and I have begun to meet the wide variety of people in our mission field and to engage them in conversation. We’re learning what is important to them, how they think, and who they are.

Among our new neighbors are a 60-something couple who moved in a week after we did from a nearby condo. They waited two years for the right place in this building to hit the market. We’ve met a cautious 60-something mother and her hard-charging adult daughter who live together. One woman is single-again in her 40s and has an energetic, vocal small dog. Another couple, in their early 30s, has daughters who are ages three years and four months.

“Who are the people in the neighborhood?” Engage them in conversations. Common ground becomes an opening for the gospel.

If the condo association permits us, we’ll host monthly Sunday brunches as a means of getting to know our neighbors and develop relationships with them. Our objective is to bless our neighbors. We believe, deeply, that the place we live should be better because Jesus-followers are here. We seek to add value to their lives.

The relationships we develop will provide conduits for the gospel and opportunities for disciple making. We’re confident that some will hear the gospel for the first time. Others may have heard the gospel, but have never understood how it applies to their daily lives.
Our hope is that a new community of believers—a church—will emerge from the new believers and those who seek to grow in Christ-likeness.

Regardless of whether we’ve lived in the same place for decades or just moved some place new, we all have the opportunity to listen and learn. Ask as they do on Sesame Street, “Who are the people in the neighborhood?” Engage them in conversations. Common ground becomes an opening for the gospel. And we can begin to make disciples while going about our daily lives.

Dennis Conner is IBSA’s Church Planting Director for the Northeast Region.

The BriefingIslamist behead priest during mass in France
An 86-year-old priest was butchered while two nuns and two parishioners were held by assailants who raided the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen in Normandy during morning mass at 9 a.m. The clergyman, named as Jacques Hamel, is believed to have been beheaded during the attack while another hostage, said to be a nun, is fighting for life in hospital.

Chicago YMCA supports transgender bathroom, locker rooms
A recent incident caused the YMCA of Metro Chicago to craft guidelines for accommodating transgender members and guests, allowing them access to restrooms and changing areas that match their gender identity. They cover all programs and services, from gym and pool facilities to summer camps and various classes. The guidelines will apply to the YMCA’s 140,000 members at its 21 Chicagoland centers, but not some smaller, independent YMCA’s in the Chicago area.

How the push for gay rights is reshaping religious liberty
Proponents of full and equal rights for gay men and lesbians are pushing to expand the marriage equality they won at the high court into broader, society-wide freedoms. Religious conservatives are pushing back, worried that traditional religious values and protections they see as integral to the nation’s identity are being attacked as never before. Both sides feel they are victims. Both sides feel under threat.

Clinton VP pick church going Catholic
The day after appearing alongside Hillary Clinton as her running mate for the first time, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine was in his Richmond Catholic church Sunday to seek prayers and also sang the Communion hymn. Kaine spoke to journalists after the service about his involvement in the mostly black church.

20 safest cities in Illinois — 2016
Whether you live in one the state’s rural or urban communities, you can feel good knowing that, overall, crime is on the decline in Illinois. In fact, the most recent FBI Crime Report states that incidents of violent crime and property crime each decreased by nearly 10% from 2013 to 2014. Comparing the latest Illinois crime data to information for the year 2000, we found that reported violent crimes dropped by an impressive 42% and property crimes fell by approximately the same amount.

Sources: Daily Mail, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Christian Post, Baptist Press, SafeWise

Bald Cypress horizontal

The sheltering bald cypress tree.

My parents have a large bald cypress tree in their front yard. Its branches extend to the street and over the house. The bird feeder under the tree is popular place for robins, sparrows, cardinals, blue birds, and many others. Rabbits and squirrels come around eat the seed that falls from the feeder.

Stepping away from my everyday life, I recently went back home to northeast Missouri and spent a few days with my parents where the room I sleep in is next to the tree. Early in the morning I would awaken to the sounds of the birds singing happily as they gathered under the tree for their morning meal.

Buddy the squirrel

Buddy eats a piece of bread.

Later in the morning, I’d take time to relax on the front porch and watch not only the birds, but the rabbits and squirrels that would come to the tree. My mother regularly feeds them, and has even named the regulars. There’s Buddy, a squirrel who was very thin and appeared to have some kind of back injury when he first came to the tree, but has been fattened up with Sunbeam bread and now bears little trace of his injury. He’s been joined by Big Nose Kate (Doc Holiday’s girlfriend in Tombstone), Spot (named for the white spot on his chest), Roddy (the Rodent), and a few other squirrels. My family jokes that Buddy has invited his friends and family to come eat at the “best restaurant in town.”

My mother calls the tree a “happy place.” And it is. Sitting there, watching these small creatures take refuge under the shelter of the tree as they enjoy the available provisions, reminded me to slow down and take time to marvel at God’s creation. I could not help but bring to mind Matthew 6:25-26, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” How much I could learn from these little creatures.

Watching them as they moved about without a care in the world caused me to think how complicated I have a habit of making things, and about the lesson the little birds and squirrels were teaching me.

One day, a storm came through town in the early morning hours and several limbs were blown from trees blocking roads and causing power outages. But the bald cypress remained strong and provided shelter in its branches. When the storm had passed, everyone was back under the tree’s sheltering shade. Oh, how God is so much more to us than that tree!

As David wrote long ago in Psalm 91:1-2, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!’” The entire chapter is a reminder of the peace and security only God provides.

The tree is my mother’s thinking place, a respite from the stress of life. It was the same for me in my time there. A place to slow down and delight in God’s goodness.

– LMS

Sepia Bible and flagHouse Speaker Paul Ryan introduced the Republican nominee for vice president, Mike Pence, as a “man of faith” at the party’s national convention July 20. When the Indiana Governor took the stage he declared, “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”

Pence peppered his acceptance speech with phrases familiar to Christians: “I have faith that God can still heal our land” and “Pray daily for a wise and discerning heart.”

Is Pence the man evangelicals have been looking for this election cycle?

In 1994, Pence told the Indianapolis Business Journal, “I made a commitment to Christ. I’m a born-again, evangelical Catholic.” While that may sound odd to Baptist ears, it’s not as rare as some may think.

When Republican candidate for president Donald Trump announced his selection of Pence as his running mate, Trump pledged he and Pence would do away with the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment became part of the U.S. tax code in 1954 when then Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson, later president, successfully restricted tax-exempt religious organizations including churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates under penalty of losing their tax-exempt status.

It’s said Johnson’s fervor for the amendment came from is desire to silence pastors in his state who were opposing his re-election bid. Many believe the amendment is a violation of citizens’ First Amendment rights

In his speech, Trump said he “could not have won this nomination” without the support of evangelical voters. He called them “unbelievable.”

Referring to the Johnson amendment, he stated, “You are just absolutely shunned if you’re evangelical, if you want to talk religion, you lose your tax-exempt status.We put into the platform, we’re going to get rid of that horrible Johnson amendment. And we’re going to let evangelicals, we’re going to let Christians and Jews and people of religion talk without being afraid to talk.”

After sharing about amendment’s history, Trump stated, “We’re [he and Pence] going to undo it, so that religious leaders in this country, and those unbelievable people, and not because they backed me in such large numbers, but so that religion can again have a voice, because religion’s voice has been taken away. And we’re going to change that. OK? All right.”

Delegates to the Republican National Convention approved a platform, which some are calling the party’s most conservative ever, that includes this promise.

Will evangelicals who oppose Trump get on board because of this promise or the Pence addition to the ticket? Some are saying not so fast.

Pence was under fire last year when he signed the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. Critics claimed the bill discriminated against the LGBT community, while supporters claimed it protected the rights of religious believers to practice their faith. Corporations, major sporting events, and individuals threatened to boycott the state. A few days later, Pence signed an amendment to the bill which also protected sexual orientation and gender identity rights. Some viewed Pence’s actions as a betrayal and questioned his commitment to religious freedom.

A recent Pew survey showed the majority of white evangelicals now support Trump because they dislike presumptive Democrat nominee for president Hillary Clinton.  Whether Pence will win over the #NeverTrump evangelicals who say they will leave the checkbox for president blank or write in a name won’t truly be known until November.

The BriefingChanging genders isn’t morally wrong, Americans say
Most Americans see nothing morally wrong with gender change, a new study shows. Six in 10 Americans don’t think it’s wrong for people to identify with a gender different from their birth sex, according to the LifeWay Research survey. And more than half don’t think it’s wrong to switch genders by taking hormones or having surgery.

Floyd’s open letter to Democrat and Republican leaders
Ronnie Floyd, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, penned an open letter to the Democrat and Republican parties about issues concerning evangelical voters. In the letter Floyd writes, “Tell the American public what you truly believe about the things that matter to us. As leaders in our nation, in your formulation of your respective platforms, please leave your conventions with a clear message about your stance on the subjects we care about.”

VP candidate is an evangelical Catholic
Presumptive Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence describes himself as a “pretty ordinary Christian” and as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” But he also once said, “I made a commitment to Christ. I’m a born-again, evangelical Catholic.” That’s not a combination you hear every day.

Russia’s new restrictions on sharing the gospel
Russian president Vladimir Putin approved a package of anti-terrorism laws that usher in tighter restrictions on missionary activity and evangelism. The amendments, including laws against sharing faith in homes, online, or anywhere but recognized church buildings, go into effect July 20.

Looking for God at Ark Encounter, Christian entertainment destinations
Ark Encounter is a $100 million, 510-foot-long re-creation of Noah’s Ark, built by a Christian ministry with the help of state tax incentives and the sale of $62 million in junk bonds. Critics say the business model behind it and other Christian-themed destinations may require a new level of financial faith.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, Religion News Service, Christianity Today, Washington Post

We all matter to God

As Americans we look forward to summer with excitement and nostalgia for summers’ past. For many, the summer of 2016 will be one they’ll most likely want to forget.

So far we’ve seen multiple terrorist attacks overseas and even in our own country, with the killing of 49 Americans in Orlando, FL in June. In the most recent attack in Nice, France, at least three Americans, including a father and son, were among the 84 people killed.

Our own country is also being torn apart from within by racial strife. The killings of two black men, one in Baton Rouge, LA, the other near Minneapolis, MN, by police. In seeming retaliation, five police officers were assassinated in Dallas, TX, followed just more than a week later, by the assassinations of three officers in Baton Rouge.

One of the Baton Rouge officers slain was Montrell Jackson, a 32-year-old who had been married only a few years and recently become a father. Jackson was also black.

The Washington Post reported his sister, Joycelyn Jackson, learned of her younger brother’s death while sitting in a Sunday worship service at her church. According to the Post, “She understands the anger behind the movement Black Lives Matter but that ‘God gives nobody the right to kill and take another person’s life…It’s coming to the point where no lives matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or whatever.’”

Jackson is expressing what many feel. As a society we argue over the semantics of whose lives matter, while the killing continues. It should hardly be a surprise that life has so little value in a culture where more than 56 million infants have been aborted since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that tightened abortion clinic standards. The ruling, which made access to abortion clinics in that state and others with similar laws even easier, was celebrated by many Americans.

As summer temperatures heat up, so are tensions. A spirit of evil and chaos seems to have taken hold. But we need not despair, God is with us and he is merciful and just.

Joycelyn Jackson knows this and so should we.  When the Post asked Jackson what she would say to her brother’s killer or anyone considering violence, she replied, “If I could say anything to anyone, it is to get their lives right with God. Hell is a horrible, horrible place to be.”

– LMS