Archives For Culture

Trends and news about secular culture

Mandrell to be voted on June 28 as next president of Southern Baptist publisher
Ben Mandrell, a native of Tampico, Ill., preached an emotional message at his Colorado church June 23–two days after his nomination to lead LifeWay Christian Resources was announced. Mandrell, 42, is a native of Tampico, Ill.

“All through Scripture, we learn that God is a calling God,” Mandrell (pictured above with his family) said in his sermon. “He dials our number and we have to answer. We have to take his calls.” When considering the decision to leave his church and relocate his family to Nashville, Mandrell said he had “a wrestling match with God like I have never experienced before.”

High court keeps cross
A memorial to World War I soldiers can stay standing in Bladensburg, Md., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 20. The American Humanist Association asked that the cross be removed in 2012, sparking a legal battle that has bounced around the courts since then.

>Related: Christian Post writer Curtis Schube says the Supreme Court’s reasoning behind its ruling won’t necessarily protect other religious monuments.

How one ‘heartbeat bill’ sparked a national trend
The series of abortion restrictions passed in several states this year is the result of a years-long push based on a fetal heartbeat bill authored in Ohio years ago, according to analysis by USA Today. The paper’s analysis of so-called “copycat” legislation—when a bill is copied and modified for its new context—found the Ohio bill was proposed 26 times until similar legislation passed in multiple states this year.

Refugee crisis grows as U.S. welcomes fewer people
A record number of people were displaced around the world last year, while the U.S. continued to receive far fewer refugees from “countries of concern” identified by the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.

Americans critical of current state of political debate
People in the U.S. overwhelmingly say public discourse in the country has become more negative and less respectful over the past several years. And 78% say elected officials using heated or aggressive language to talk about certain people or groups makes violence against those groups more likely.

Sources: Baptist Press, Storyline Fellowship, Christian Post, USA Today, Christianity Today, Pew Research

Pending: Illinois law to allow abortions through all nine months of pregnancy
Several Southern states and Missouri became the latest to approve anti-abortion measures, with an ultimate goal of challenging Roe v. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Illinois lawmakers stepped up their efforts to move forward on a bill that would expand abortion in the state.

In Washington, Baptist missions leader addresses refugee crisis
International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood met with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) May 16 about the plight of refugees around the world and increased religious persecution. “Our intent is to keep a dialogue open with influencers who can help ensure the safety of our global workers sharing hope,” Chitwood told Baptist Press, “and to discuss any way we can offer support to those people seeking hope and peace around the world.”

‘Equality Act’ would eliminate religious freedom protections
The U.S. House of Representatives approved on May 17 the Equality Act, which would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the classifications protected in federal civil rights law. The legislation, which faces opposition in the Republican-majority Senate, would also eliminate use of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as a possible protection in cases covered by the measure, Baptist Press reported.

Taiwanese Christians lament new marriage law
Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage May 16, even after 67% of voters said no to same-sex unions in a nationwide referendum last year. Of the 28 countries in the world that allow gay marriage, Pew Forum reports, 18 are in Western Europe.

Long-running PBS kids’ show celebrates same-sex wedding
When Arthur the aardvark’s teacher got married in the PBS show’s 22nd season premiere May 13, the biggest news wasn’t that the teacher, a rat, married an aardvark, but that Mr. Ratburn married a chocolate shop owner named Patrick. That a children’s show tackled a topic like gay marriage isn’t surprising, BreakPoint writer G. Shane Morris noted, but the cultural milieu also doesn’t let Christian parents off the hook. “…Though my tax dollars may be funding public indoctrination and the defilement of childhood entertainment,” Morris wrote, “my real investment is in teaching my sons and daughter the truth.”

Within 24 hours of its airing, more than 13,000 people had signed an online petition protesting the episode.

The Christian Post, Illinois Baptist, Baptist Press (3), WORLD

Disaster Relief teams respond in Iowa, Nebraska
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders are working with a critical timeframe in the Midwest, where flooding has damaged homes and displaced residents. With tornado season looming and warmer temperatures on the way, responding to more than 1,400 requests for help is urgent, said Sam Porter, national director for SBDR at the North American Mission Board.

Illinois teams are currently serving in Glenwood, Iowa, and are scheduled to be there through May. For more information, go to IBSA.org/DR.

Prolific Warren Wiersbe remembered for writing gift
“I’m not an athlete, I’m not a mechanic,” said writer and pastor Warren Wiersbe. “I can’t do so many of the things that successful men can do. But I can read and study and think and teach. This is a beautiful, wonderful gift from God.”

Wiersbe authored more than 150 books, including the “Be” commentaries, a 50-volume series on the Old and New Testaments. Wiersbe died May 2 at the age of 89.

Fellow leaders mourn Rachel Held Evans
Progressive Christian writer and speaker Rachel Held Evans died May 4 after a brief illness. She was 37. Christian leaders from across the theological spectrum grieved for Evans’ husband and young children, and lauded her unique style, despite disagreements they may have had.

Church membership down, anxiety up nationwide
Gallup reported last month that 50% of Americans are church members, a decline of 20 percentage points since 1999. Another study from the researcher reports Americans were more stressed, worried, and angry in 2018 than at most other times in the last decade.

Floyd calls church to unity on National Day of Prayer
“…Government cannot fix us. Politics cannot heal us. But loving one another can change the world,” said Southern Baptist leader Ronnie Floyd on the National Day of Prayer observance in the U.S. Capitol. Floyd, National Day of Prayer Task Force chairman and president-election of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, said, “A divided church cannot call a divided nation to unity. Love is the better way.”

-Baptist Press (2), Christianity Today, ChristianPost.com, Gallup.com

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.