Archives For Culture

Trends and news about secular culture

Supreme Court will hear funeral home case
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will consider whether the country’s job discrimination laws apply to sexual orientation and gender identity. One case they’ll hear concerns a Michigan funeral home sued after firing a transgender employee.

Easter marked by mourning in Sri Lanka
Almost 300 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a series of suicide bombings in Sri Lankan churches and hotels. While no group has yet taken responsibility for the attacks, officials were warned churches could be targeted by a radical Islamist group, Christianity Today reported.

The nation of 21 million people is on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List, which profiles the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians.

Sovereign Grace responds to renewed calls for investigation
A network of churches headquartered in Louisville, Ky., said last week that an outside investigation into whether church leaders covered up sexual abuse would represent a “theological capitulation” that “would ultimately dishonor Christ and harm the cause of the gospel.”

Sovereign Grace Louisville, one of 72 churches in the evangelical network, was referenced by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear in a February report in which he called on the SBC Executive Committee to consider whether 10 churches had dealt appropriately with allegations of sexual abuse. The bylaws workgroup of the Executive Committee later reported that the Sovereign Grace matter merited further inquiry.

Two Southern Baptist seminary presidents have apologized for their support of C.J. Mahaney, former president of the network and current lead pastor of Sovereign Grace Lousiville.

Church membership down nationwide
Half of American adults are members of a church, according to new data from Gallup. The percentage is 20 points lower than it was 20 years ago, and mirrors the trend toward non-affiliation with a religion. Twenty years ago, 8% of Americans said they had no religion, Gallup reported, but the current share is 19%.

Annual study details Americans’ relationship with the Bible
More U.S. adults are engaged with the Word of God, but fewer are Bible-centered, according to Barna’s 2019 State of the Bible survey. While 59% believe the message of the Bible has transformed their lives, 35% of adults report never using it.

Sources: USA Today, The Christian Post, Christianity Today (2), Open Doors USA, Gallup, Barna

‘We’re here to help’
Across the country, local churches and national ministries ministered to furloughed federal workers during the recent 35-day government shutdown. “We’re here to help,” said Don Williams, who with his Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief team served three meals a day to federal workers.

President Donald Trump and Congress reached a deal last week that will keep the government open until Feb. 15. During the record-breaking shutdown, Christians found ways to help, donating gifts cards, setting up makeshift food pantries, and helping furloughed workers pay their bills.

Former White House staffer criticizes Trump advisers
A former White House communications staffer asserts in a new book that President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisers didn’t push the president to offer asylum to persecuted Christians. Trump adviser Johnnie Moore disputed the claims in Cliff Sims’ book “Team of Vipers,” telling The Christian Post he had “personally witnessed on many occasions the exact opposite of what this author alleges.”

Illinois Baptist named to 2019 SBC Committee on Resolutions
IBSA President Adron Robinson will serve on the Committee on Resolutions for the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention this summer in Birmingham. Robinson and his fellow committee members will consider resolutions submitted prior to the meeting, and also may propose their own.

Pro-life advocates dismayed by Pritzker’s executive order
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order Jan. 22 to enforce a law directing state employee health insurance plans to include abortion services. The move disappointed pro-life advocates wary of how the new governor might seek to expand abortion rights in the state.

Moore: Christians can speak dignity into a dehumanizing culture
“God does not ignore what happens to the cries of the poor and the vulnerable and marginalized and the unborn and the elderly and the stranger,” Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore preached at the annual Evangelicals for Life conference Jan. 17. The two-day meeting, held prior to the March for Life on the National Mall, gathered Christians for discussions on the sanctity of life, including abortion, adoption, refugees, and criminal justice reform.

What’s trending in 2019

Lisa Misner —  January 16, 2019

Key issues in culture

IB Media Team Report

Gaining ground on old divides
The last few years have seen an increase in the number of public conversations Baptists are having about race. Sparked in large part by shootings of unarmed black men by law enforcement, churches have been confronted by an urgent question: How does the Bible call us to respond, both in the short-term and going forward?

In 2018, several state conventions answered by adopting resolutions on racial harmony. Missouri Baptists denounced the 1857 Dred Scott decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which determined a freed slave was not an American citizen. In Charleston, S.C., South Carolina Baptists held one session of their annual meeting in the African-American church where nine people were killed by a self-proclaimed white supremacist in 2015. The meeting’s theme, “Building Bridges,” spoke to the convention’s commitment to healing racial divides.

In Illinois, IBSA President Adron Robinson urged Baptists in the state to overcome “growing pains” and feelings of superiority that can result in division. “Salvation has never been about race,” he preached, “but it’s always been about grace.”

Especially in the Southern Baptist Convention, conversations around race tend to land on leadership. Are SBC committees and trustee boards truly representative of the entire SBC family, when recent estimates show about one-fifth of SBC churches have non-Anglo majority memberships?

SBC leadership made an effort last year to increase minority representation on boards and committees. Another key area to watch in 2019: the filling of presidential vacancies at four Southern Baptist entities.

Debate raises larger questions
At face value, “social justice” doesn’t read like a particularly controversial term. It can ruffle feathers in church life, though, especially when connected to a social gospel that downplays repentance.

After the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission convened an April conference commemorating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., some Baptists expressed their opposition to social justice causes they said could water down the gospel. After that, well-known non-Southern Baptist John MacArthur and other leaders released a statement expressing concern “that values borrowed from secular culture are currently undermining Scripture in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality.”

Baptist reaction to the statement was mixed. With race and gender poised to remain key areas of challenge for the forseeable future, the opportunity for churches is to dive deep into a difficult question: How do we stay biblically faithful and still engage our community, and the larger culture?

Faith in peril
Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world, according to watchdog group Open Doors. On average, 255 are killed every month, 160 are imprisoned, 104 are abducted, and 66 churches are attacked.

In 2018, more Christians were displaced by violence in Nigeria. In China, the government intensified its crackdown on churches. American awareness of persecution was heightened by the murder of John Allen Chau, a young missionary killed while trying to share the gospel on North Sentinel Island.

Chau’s death sparked a variety of responses among Christians regarding evangelism and appropriate missiology. While his approach was debated, his commitment to take the gospel to a difficult place served as a reminder of the call to pierce darkness with the light of Christ.

In letters before their arrests in early December, Chinese church leaders Li Yingqiang and Wang Yi encouraged their church to remember the words of Paul and rejoice in the midst of persecution, and not to count it strange. The letters also assured the church that “civil disobedience” is acceptable in order to “never stop testifying to the world about Christ.”

Their words, and Chau’s example, challenge American Christians to pray for the persecuted and to take a new look at their own calling in Christ.

Gallup poll finds low expectations for global peace
70% of Americans expect 2019 to be “a troubled year with much international discord,” according to Gallup data collected in December. Hopes are higher for economic prosperity and employment, but the nation’s political system received a gloomy forecast from many respondents. 89% predicted a year of conflict, while only 11% foresaw a year of cooperation.

Bible app gets 1 million subscriptions on New Year’s Day
The YouVersion Bible app’s Bible-reading plans got more than one million new subscriptions to start the new year, The Christian Post reported. The app offers more than 13,000 reading plans, including some offered in 1,000 languages other than English.

Greear launches evangelism emphasis with local associations
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear will work with local associations of Southern Baptist churches to implement a focus on personal evangelism in 2019. “Who’s Your One?” is an initiative to encourage every Southern Baptist to share the gospel with one person this year. Greear will introduce the emphasis to his own local association—Yates Baptist Association—at a Jan. 31 simulcast available to associations across the country. More information is forthcoming at sbcassociations.org.

Third gender option legal in New York City, California
The nation’s most populous city and state now allow people to choose a “third gender,” often designated by X on legal documents. New York City and California join Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington State, and Washington, D.C., as places that allow a non-binary gender option for people who believe they are neither male nor female.

Passion attenders raise money for deaf Bible translations
Young people at this year’s Passion conference gave $450,000 toward translating New Testament stories in sign languages used in 16 countries. The Deaf Bible Society reports only 2% of deaf people around the world have been introduced to the gospel, and that there is no Bible translation for at least 95% of more than 400 unique sign languages used globally.

Puerto Rico Convention’s annual meeting highlights new churches
Southern Baptists in Puerto Rico celebrated nine new churches gained in the year since Hurricane Maria at their annual meeting in November. The meeting of the Convención de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur de Puerto Rico (Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico) was the first since 2016. Last year, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath cut church attendance in Puerto Rico by one-third, Baptist Press reported.

With the new churches, there are now about 80 Southern Baptist congregations in Puerto Rico. Illinois Baptists will work with church planters in the U.S. territory through two mission trips planned for 2019.

SBC President issues Lottie Moon challenge
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear pledged to perform a stunt if the 2018 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions reaches $170 million. So far, suggestions on social media include wearing a mullet at the 2019 SBC annual meeting, or arm wrestling newly elected International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood.

At Liberty University, First Lady addresses opioid crisis
First Lady Melania Trump spoke at Liberty University in Virginia Nov. 28 about the country’s opioid crisis. “I know college is a time to build your independence, experience things on your own terms and make decisions on your own behalf,” Trump told students at the Baptist university. “I am here to remind you that some of those decisions, though they may seem minor at the time, could negatively impact you for the rest of your lives.”

Chau assisted by American evangelicals, officials say
New details have emerged in the death of John Allen Chau, the missionary who died last month while trying to share the gospel with people on North Sentinel island in the Bay of Bengal. The Christian Post reports Indian police now say they believe two American evangelicals helped Chau reach the island, where he is believed to have been shot to death by arrows Nov. 17.

Majority of Protestant churchgoers don’t drink, but the number who do is rising
LifeWay Research found 41% of Protestant churchgoers drink alcohol, up from 39% in 2007. And while the vast majority say the Bible teaches against drunkenness, more than half also say Scripture indicates all beverages, including alcohol, can be consumed without sin.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, LifeWay Research

‘Social justice’ statement crystallizes simmering debate
Baptists and other Christians took to Twitter and other online forums last week to debate a statement signed by theologian John MacArthur and other evangelical leaders on the potential dangers of social justice. In the statement, the signers, which now number in the thousands, affirm that “lectures on social issues” in the church and “activism aimed at reshaping the wider culture” “tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel.”

Southern Baptists have been among the evangelicals talking about the statement. And while he didn’t use the terminology, New Orleans Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley seemed to touch on similar concerns in his convocation sermon on “Baptist Blues.”

White House meetings with evangelicals are illegal, group says
Religion News Service reports that watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State is demanding President Donald Trump stop meeting with evangelical advisors. The group alleges the meetings are in conflict with a 1972 law that governs federal advisory committees.

Related: Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear was among 100 evangelicals in attendance at a White Hosue dinner Aug. 27. Greear has spoken publicly about his desire to see the SBC distance itself from partisan politics, a commitment he reiterated on Twitter.

Kavanaugh completes hearings, awaits vote
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was the subject of often raucous hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, and now will face a full vote he’s expected to win—but barely. Senate Republicans hold a 51-49 advantage.

“Careful consideration of potential justices for our nation’s highest court is understandable and even commendable,”  Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore told Baptist Press. “But the hysteria around the confirmation hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week is a sign of a dysfunctional political climate.”

Anne Graham Lotz asks for prayers in cancer battle
Bible teacher Anne Graham Lotz announced Sept. 4 she has breast cancer and will have surgery later this month to treat the illness. The daughter of late evangelist Billy Graham referenced Psalm 46:1 in announcing the diagnosis. “God has been…and is…my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in this trouble. Therefore, I will not fear.”

McCain services filled with Scripture
Memorial services for Sen. John McCain, who died Aug. 25 after a battle with brain cancer, included 10 readings from the Old and New Testaments. See the list at Christianity Today.

The Christian Post, Baptist Press, Religion News Service, Christianity Today

 

Former missionary charged with sexual assault
Mark Aderholt, a former International Mission Board missionary and associate executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, was arrested July 3 on charges of sexual assault of a child under 17. The charges stem from alleged incidents in 1997, when Aderholt was a student at Southwestern Seminary. He later served as an IMB missionary in Europe, and since 2017, with the South Carolina Convention. He resigned his post there in June.

Gary Hollingsworth, executive director-treasurer of the convention, said July 10, “Our hearts are grieved, but we are trusting the authorities.” Aderholt’s arrest comes amid investigations of assault charges against other Southern Baptist and Christian leaders, leading Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler in May to label this season the SBC’s “horrifying #MeToo moment.”

Supreme Court in the spotlight after Kavanaugh nomination
The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court encouraged many Christians and conservatives, but the pick is troubling for black Christians, writes Wheaton College’s John C. Richards. “The truth is that many Black Christians aren’t so much looking for a more conservative court as they are looking for a more fair and neutral court—devoid of political influence.”

Should Kavanaugh be confirmed, a conservative Supreme Court could reconsider the implications of 1973’s Roe v. Wade, which lifted state restrictions on abortion. Abortion rights group Center for Reproductive Rights reported which 22 states are likely to ban abortion, should Roe be overturned by the Court.

New research: Americans and the Bible
About half of all Americans count themselves as “Bible users” who engage with Scripture at least three to four times a year, according to the 2018 State of the Bible survey by Barna and the American Bible Society. A larger percentage, researchers found, are curious about what the Bible says.

Most Christians invite their friends to church
Almost two-thirds of churchgoers have invited someone to church in the last six months, according to new data by LifeWay Research. But 17% say they don’t know anyone to invite.

Sources: Baptist Press, Baptist Courier, AlbertMohler.com, Christianity Today, Christian Post, Barna Research, LifeWay Research