Archives For Election

The BriefingStates debate religious liberty protections
Within the last 24 months, state legislators have introduced almost 100 (and counting) “targeted laws”—legislation designed to give legal cover to business owners, religious schools, and ministries that affirm the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.

US to decide if Christians face genocide from ISIS
For two years, ISIS has been terrorizing Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. March 17 Secretary of State John Kerry will have to tell Congress whether the United States will officially label ISIS’ actions a “genocide.”

ERLC, IMB urge prayer for refugees March 15
The March 15 focus of the campaign — #PrayForRefugees — comes on the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle Eastern country. The ERLC and its partners are calling for churches, small groups, Christian organizations, families and individuals to pray for the more than 13.5 million Syrians who need humanitarian assistance as a result of the conflict.

Voters don’t care about candidates’ generosity
Americans contributed $358 billion to charity in 2014, according to Giving USA. How much did each current presidential candidate contribute to that record-setting sum? The candidates, for the most part, are not telling, and pollsters, the media, and voters are not asking.

Workplaces get chaplains
A number of companies have hired spiritual leaders to serve on their staffs. Though slightly less trendy than nap rooms and yoga classes, workplace chaplaincies are another attempt to make workers more productive by catering to their “whole” selves.

Sources: WORLD Magazine, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, The Atlantic, World Magazine

Where evangelicals stand now

Lisa Misner —  February 11, 2016

candidates

After Iowa and N.H., will faith-based voters coalesce?

No one really expected New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary to serve as a predictor of evangelical voting patterns, since only 9% of the state’s voters call themselves “evangelical.” But after strong support from the Christian right in Iowa, Texas Senator Ted Cruz’ dropped to third place in the Republican presidential race raising questions whether Cruz regain his footing among Christians.

I Voted ButtonAccording to a Washington Post article from the morning after the New Hampshire primary, Cruz, and perhaps other evangelical-friendly candidates, need not worry. While Gallup polling found New Hampshire to be the least religious state in the country, upcoming Super Tuesday states in the heavily evangelical South are predicted to tip the balance.

Before Illinois votes on March 15, the question of the “evangelical bloc” may have been decided. On Super Tuesday March 1, six of the 11 states holding primaries have large numbers of evangelical voters. Before that is the February 20 South Carolina primary, and more primaries take place March 5, 8, and 15 in heavily Christian or evangelical states including Kansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and North Carolina.

As these primaries approach, are evangelical voters pitching their lot with frontrunner Donald Trump, sticking with other frontrunners Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, or have they found a new candidate in Ohio governor John Kasich, who finished second in New Hampshire? Kasich has written about his faith in a book called Every Other Monday, describing his 20-year participation in a men’s Bible study group.

Florida senator Marco Rubio, who evangelicals helped to a third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, stumbled in the New Hampshire primary and finished fifth behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Faith isn’t the only apparent gap in this election cycle. Analysts point to an education gap in supporters of Trump and the other Republican candidates. Among people with only high school degrees, Trump leads Cruz 46 % to 13%; while among people with higher degrees, the gap closes to only 13 points.

In a poll of Protestant pastors conducted in January, LifeWay Christian Research found considerable disparity in the support for Trump. Only 5% of self-identified Republican pastors support the real estate mogul.

“One of the most surprising findings of our survey was the poor showing of Donald Trump (among pastors)”, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “When it comes to Mr. Trump, there seems to be a huge gap between the pulpit and the pew.”

As of the time of that survey, four-in-ten Republicans and three-in-ten Democrats were still undecided about which candidate they would support. LifeWay found that older pastors (those over 64) are more likely to be undecided (54%) than those 18 to 44 (44%). Older pastors were more likely to favor Trump (8% percent), while Cruz performed well with pastors 45 to 54 (21%).

Among U.S. pastors of all denominations, LifeWay found 54% identified as Republican while 46% were Democrats.

Democrats are not making much appeal on the basis of overt faith-based values. Religion News Services describes frontrunner Hillary Clinton as a “social-justice-focused Methodist,” and Senator Bernie Sanders as culturally Jewish and “unabashedly irreligious.” Clinton’s thumping by Sanders in New Hampshire is likely to be balanced by support from a more diverse electorate elsewhere, including Black Protestants in the South.

“Simply put, it’s a bizarre election season,” Stetzer said.

– IB Staff with additional reporting from Baptist Press and RNS

Evangelicals coalesce around Cruz in Iowa
The BriefingEvangelical voters in Iowa helped propel Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to victory over business mogul Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses Monday night, as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., finished a strong third, officially breaking into the top ranks of a crowded field for the GOP nomination for president.


Cruz, Clinton and ‘Undecided/ preferred by pastors
Ted Cruz is the favorite presidential candidate of Protestant pastors who lean Republican. Hillary Clinton leads among Democratic pastors. And Donald Trump is near the back of the pack. But “Undecided” is by far the most popular choice of America’s pastors according to a new telephone survey of senior pastors from LifeWay Research.


Illinois lawmakers fight for student privacy
State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) introduced the bi-partisan Pupil Physical Privacy Act (HB 4474), which if passed would require school boards to designate each student restroom, changing room, or overnight facility accessible by multiple students simultaneously. The bill defines “sex” as the physical condition of being male or female, as determined by an individual’s chromosomes and identified at birth by that individual’s anatomy.


Americans view sports gambling as moral, but illegal
Less than a week before the Super Bowl, a new study from LifeWay Research shows widespread belief that sports gambling is morally acceptable. Nearly two-thirds of Americans disagree that it’s morally wrong to bet on sports. Yet 49% think sports betting shouldn’t be legalized nationwide, while 40% say it should be. 11% of Americans aren’t sure.


Prison task force mirrors SBC resolution
The recommendations of the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, a bipartisan congressional task force on reducing the federal prison population, have drawn praise from some evangelicals and parallel at several points the recommendations of a 2013 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on “America’s growing prison population.”

Sources: Facts & Trends, Illinois Family Institute, LifeWay Research, WORLD Magazine

Split ticket

Evangelicals are divided going into the presidential primaries, and few candidates are courting them.

If there is a nexus of evangelical politics so far in the 2016 presidential election, it may be the platform at the Liberty University arena in Lynchburg, Virginia. The conservative Baptist school founded by Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell has hosted Democrat Bernie Sanders, Republicans Ben Carson and Ted Cruz (who announced his candidacy there), and most recently Donald Trump.

“Evangelicals love me!” Trump declared. “I’m big with evangelicals.”

With those words Trump reminded Christian and conservative voters of what didn’t seem possible a year ago: Polling shows the New York businessman and former reality TV star is the candidate more evangelicals favor than any other. Perhaps it’s because few candidates are overtly courting “the evangelical vote.” And while Trump and Cruz are leaders among likely evangelical voters, the bloc is split.

Evangelicals’ influence was still a factor in the presidential election four years ago, when pundits wondered whether they’d get behind a Mormon, Mitt Romney, and whether he would miss their support if they didn’t.

With faith seeming to be less at issue in this campaign cycle, some surmise the waning evangelical influence wondered about in 2012 is a reality in 2016. “You cannot, if you’re a Republican [candidate] ignore the evangelical bloc, because it’s such a large percentage of the Republican voting electorate,” Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told the Illinois Baptist.

But, “I think that our issues as a share of the electorate have tragically become less influential,” he added. For example, when President George W. Bush won the Republican nomination and then ree

The Trump factor

FOX News released a poll Jan. 9 that showed Cruz (33%) leading Trump (26%) among voters who call themselves “very” conservative. But among evangelical Christians, the poll showed Trump at 28% over Cruz’s 26%.

Another poll released Jan. 12 by The New York Times and CBS showed evangelicals supporting Trump by 42% over Ted Cruz at 25%.

The New York Times reported Jan. 18 it had interviewed “dozens of evangelical voters in 16 states” about their support for Trump. According to the Times, the voters called him “a decent man who simply wanted to get things done.”

They also believed “that his heart was in the right place, that his intentions for the country were pure, that he alone was capable of delivering to a troubled country salvation in the here and now.”

But Trump’s stump stop in Lynchburg raised more questions than it answered. Trump told the audience Christianity is under attack and as president he would defend it. “You look at the different places, and Christianity, it’s under siege. We’re going to protect Christianity. If you look at what’s going on throughout the world—you look at Syria, where if you’re Christian, they’re chopping off heads.” That drew cheers. But when Trump quoted Liberty’s theme verse, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” from 2 Corinthians 3:17, he said “Two Corinthians” rather than “Second Corinthians” and drew chuckles from the student-audience and guffaws on social media.

Washington Post religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey later pointed out “Two Corinthians” is a common British pronunciation and Trump’s mother is of Scottish origin. Trump describes himself as Presbyterian, but not as born again.

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump if he regrets past remarks he made about his faith—that he has never asked God for forgiveness—and whether he believes those remarks hurt his chances with Christian voters.

Trump replied he has no regrets.

“I have a very great relationship with God, and I have a very great relationship with evangelicals, and I think that’s why I’m doing so well with Iowa,” Trump said.

“This would be hilarious if it weren’t so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” ERLC President Russell Moore tweeted during Trump’s presentation. Moore later talked to CNN’s Erin Burnett about his sharp response to the candidate’s speech.

“I think the problem was this is someone who as recently as yesterday has said that he has nothing to seek forgiveness for,” Moore said, noting Trump’s marital history, involvement in the gambling industry, and use of racially charged language.

Last September, Moore wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times that asked, “Have evangelicals who support Trump lost their values?” Perhaps the question now, a few months later, is exactly which evangelicals are supporting him?

“I would say that Ted Cruz is leading in the ‘Jerry Falwell’ wing, Marco Rubio is leading the ‘Billy Graham’ wing and Trump is leading the ‘Jimmy Swagger’ wing,” Moore told Roll Call for an article which asked, “Can Marco Rubio appeal to evangelicals?”

The article went on to explain the comments:
‘…meaning that Cruz has largely followed the classic Moral Majority model that was the face of the conservative movement—he has received endorsements from figures such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson—while Trump ‘tends to work most closely with the prosperity wing of Pentecostalism’ which tends to believe that God would financially reward believers.”

“I personally question the so-called fanfare that Trump has among evangelicals. I sense, instead, that Donald Trump’s main appeal is to a segment of the population that is burnt out and feels disenfranchised by an American culture and economy that has seemingly passed them by,” said Moore’s colleague Andrew Walker.

Walker called Trump’s appearance, and his apparent support by Jerry Falwell Jr., who has succeeded his late father, “embarassing.”

“It sets the maturing of Christian politics back and it alienates greatly younger evangelicals who are searching for a political identity as Christians, but know that what we saw at Liberty is not acceptable for them.”

Who will get their vote?

“You see definitely different strategies with candidates right now, and how they are lining up and trying to get the evangelical constituency,” Walker said.

For example, he noted, Cruz, a Southern Baptist, is reaching out to traditionalists who would have a “take back America for God” mentality, whereas Rubio, a Roman Catholic, “speaks the evangelical language as well as anyone, but he’s not doing it in a Christian America template.” His “common good Christianity” sees it less as recovering Christian America, and more as bringing Christian values into the public square, in order to shape the public square for righteousness’ sake, Walker said.

That mentality may fare better with younger evangelicals who are cynical about moral majority politics, he said. While no less political than their elders, “they’re trying to do Christian politics less through the vein of ‘let’s take back America for God,’ and more as ‘let’s bring our Christian values into the public square for the sake of the common good.’”

Democrats, meanwhile, are making no overt approaches to evangelicals in Iowa, where there is a substantial bloc, or in New Hampshire, where there is almost none. Other than his Liberty University appearance, where Sanders, who is Jewish, was received politely if not warmly, Democrats have kept quiet on religion.

Hillary Clinton, a United Methodist, commented when she was First Lady that she had Bible verse cards in her purse. Her most recent comment on faith was visual rather than verbal: On Face the Nation last week, Clinton wore a necklace with a cross that also appeared to have symbols of other religions. The strategy for Democrats, and many Republicans as well, is to keep it ecumenical, or better yet, keep it quiet on religion.

A Christian’s responsibility

“One of the things that is really important for Christians to realize is that we are both citizens of God’s Kingdom and our country,” Mark Quintanilla, history professor at Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, Missouri, told the Illinois Baptist. “In our political views we need to be searching for what God would have us to do.”

In Southern Baptist life, some leaders have spoken clearly about particular candidates. Others are saying simply, pray about it and do your duty.

The outgoing president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Tommy Kelly, has endorsed Cruz. The ERLC has critiqued Trump among others, while some of their staff have tweeted favorably about Rubio. Saddleback Community Church pastor Rick Warren has served on Rubio’s advisory committee, but has declined to endorse him.

President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Franklin Graham is traveling to the capitals of all 50 states this year. His “Decision America Tour” urges Christians to vote and to elect candidates who “stand for biblical principles and biblical truth,” Graham told NBC.

Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, outlined the importance of Christian citizenship and participation in the election process in a recent Baptist Press article, citing Romans 13:3-7. “We know that God’s purpose through government is to aid the good and punish the evil…Assuming that the government fulfills its purpose, one reason for obeying our laws would be the fear of punishment. However, for Christians there is a more worthy motive, namely to be good citizens as part of being a positive Christian witness in society.”

Page said he is “aware that we are in the midst of one of the most interesting election cycles in our history. There is deep division in our country as to what needs to happen in the days ahead.” He urged Christians to be involved in the election process. “To relegate that responsibility to nonbelievers is irresponsible at best.”

Quintanilla cautioned Christians, “When we nominate or elect a candidate we must scrutinize which of them lives up to our Christian ideals. As nice as it is to vote our pocketbooks, I’m not sure that this should be our direction.” Analyzing comments from evangelicals in social media, he said, “It is concerning, the views people have and the lack of concern about our higher calling.

“We need to scrutinize the candidates and their views,” Quintanilla said. “As ambassadors of Christ, we are to be mindful that we are a reflection of God’s Kingdom.

– Illinois Baptist team report by Meredith Flynn, Lisa Sergent, and Eric Reed.

COMMENTARY | Ed Stetzer

Editor’s note: This column first appeared at BPNews.net.

The presidential election is over, and I am sure many, like the little girl who cried “no more Bronco Bamma or Mitt Romney,” are breathing a sigh of relief that the season of contention and the barrage of political ads are over for now. Still, we are left to move on as we begin a second term for the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, and it is time for us to consider what that means from this point forward.

Once the election was “called,” I prayed for the president again. I asked God to guide him and give him wisdom as I will continue to do for the next four years.

I don’t endorse specific candidates publicly. I also gave both campaigns the opportunity to answer questions on my blog so that we could be well informed as we went into the voting booths. However, it is no secret that the candidate who was supported by 57 percent of Protestant pastors did not prevail. Furthermore, it is no secret that most evangelicals did not support President Obama. So, there is a lot of disappointment among many Christians.

It is appropriate, then, for us to ask the question, “What now?” Well, here are some observations and suggestions:

1. We must face the reality that we may be on the losing side of the culture war.

For decades, the “religious right” has focused its energies on winning the day through political means. But this year, voters in more than one state appear to have clearly passed referenda supporting gay marriage. This marks the first time for any state to legalize same-sex marriage by the expressed will of the people rather than through court rulings or legislation. While this certainly does not mean we should stop legal or political efforts completely, it does mean that we should begin thinking about what it looks like to be the church in a “post-culture war” era. We need to be prepared to defend the protection of religious liberty as we move into the future.

2. The fight for the unborn continues.

This year one of the major political parties, at their national convention, actually celebrated and cheered the right to abortion. This is a shift from the posture in years past, when at the very least it was seen as something that we hoped to keep to a minimum. In fact, that same party actually removed the language from their platform that referred to keeping abortions “safe, legal, and rare.” Rod Snyder, of Young Democrats of America, said in our interview that President Obama does believe that we should work to reduce the number of abortions, but still, this development in the party that has secured the highest office in the land is cause for grave concern and even grief. We need to continue to fight for life through education, advocacy, ministering to women and promoting orphan care in our churches. President Obama, I am ready to partner with you on the part where we start reducing abortions.

3. The “Mormon Moment” is not something to be dismissed and forgotten just because the election is over.

In recent days, much discussion has centered around how we should view Mormonism. I have made the case that while it does qualify as a cult in the theological sense, I do not think that we should use that language in general. Many people jumped to the conclusion that I was saying this for political reasons in order to elect Governor Romney. However, this has been my position for some time, and it continues to be my position after the votes have been counted. This election has brought Mormonism to the forefront of people’s minds, and we should not forget our responsibility to reach out to our friends and neighbors for Christ. Just because the conversations die down doesn’t mean that the mission goes away.

4. We must remain respectful and law-abiding citizens, regardless of this outcome.

We exercised a tremendous right, perhaps the greatest privilege that we have as Americans. Over 200 years ago, a group of very brave men stood up against “taxation without representation” and fought to develop a nation in which its citizens could have a voice. We only need to look at pictures in recent years of brave men and women in countries like Iraq dipping their fingers into purple ink and showing their happiness and pride over the right to cast their vote. We have that privilege. We exercised it this year. We will exercise it again. Regardless of the outcome, that is a great privilege and shouldn’t be taken for granted. We now need to go back to our homes, our schools and our places of work and be respectful and gracious to others who have also used their voice.

5. When our King returns, He won’t be riding a donkey or elephant.

For those of us who believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, nothing has changed. The Gospel is still real, and we still serve a God who has declared victory over sin and death. Anything that we do through political means is not to hold back the darkness lest it will overtake us. Rather, the charge to the church is to advance a Kingdom that has already prevailed. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, our King is still sitting on His throne.

So let’s all slow down, take a deep breath and do the same thing we did yesterday — preach the Gospel, love people and engage in God’s mission.

Ed Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research. Amy Sullivan of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary contributed to this article.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

As Americans (at least, those who didn’t vote early) head to the polls, here’s a sampling of the latest politics news and commentary:

CNN’s Belief Blog looks at the faith of both presidential candidates – how they’ve been shaped by their beliefs, and how their faith has been shaped by the campaign. President Barack Obama’s spiritual advisors say his time as president has “significantly deepened his faith,” according to CNN, while former Governor Mitt Romney has faced questions about his Mormon faith for his entire political career. Click on the links to read both stories, or go to religion.blogs.cnn.com.

Southern Seminary President Al Mohler shares specific ways to pray for the country and its future president today.

Christianity Today calls 2012 “the year of the personal endorsement,” citing numerous evangelical leaders who have spoken publicly in favor of a particular candidate. Billy Graham, Richard Land, and more than 1,500 pastors voiced their preferences this year, even as a Pew Forum survey found two-thirds of Americans believe church leaders should not endorse candidates. Read the full story.

Amidst the politics, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy continues to cause big trouble on the East Coast. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers are among those working to help meet basic needs for thousands of people displaced by the storm. As of Friday, November 2, more than 450 volunteers from nine Baptist state conventions were working in at least six states affected by the storm, including a chainsaw team of Illinois Baptists serving in New Jersey. Read the latest on the relief effort at BPNews.net.

COMMENTARY | Stephen Nyberg

Today, we find ourselves in a great conflict to determine whether this nation shall continue to be “One Nation Under God” or, as President Ronald Reagan so aptly said, “If we ever stop being one nation under God, we will be a nation gone under.”

God has given us the privilege of determining the direction of our country by exercising our right to vote. But in the 2006 non-presidential election, 20 million evangelical Christians did not vote even though they were registered, according to voter records from Tufts University. And 10 million evangelicals weren’t even registered to vote.

The numbers didn’t change in 2010, and just two years prior to that, the presidential election was decided by 10 million votes!

Our Creator has blessed us with this precious way of life called America. And the Bible teaches that we are to be good stewards of our gifts.

God birthed this great nation as surely as He wrote the Bible. He used faithful, godly men who came of age during “The Great Awakening” to implant the ideas and create the documents to form a government and a freedom that would cause His Gospel to flourish. And it has, at least until recently.

John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and author of “The Federalist Papers” said, “We have as our duty and privilege in this Christian Nation, to prefer and select Christians as our leaders.”

In his “History of the United States,” Noah Webster (of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) expounded on Jay’s words:

“The preservation of [our] government depends on the faithful discharge of this Duty; if the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizen will be violated or disregarded.”

We must prayerfully consider each candidate – local, state and national – and the record of each, to determine whether their actions and decisions are consistent with the teachings of Holy Scripture, for these people will determine our future culture. It is our Christian duty to choose for leaders those who will make policies that will invite God’s blessing, as opposed to His judgment.

Make sure you’re registered to vote in the presidential election Nov. 6. And vote for those who support God’s commandments and Jesus teachings.

Your turn: In five words or less, describe how you feel about voting in this fall’s election.