Archives For Politics

The BriefingIllinois House urged to reject taxpayer-funded abortions
SpeakOut Illinois, a coalition of pro-life and pro-family organizations across the state,  urged lawmakers in the Illinois House to reject legislation allowing taxpayer money to be used for abortions. House Bill 4013 lifts the current prohibition on state workers’ health insurance plans from paying for elective abortions, as well as the prohibition on using public money to pay for elective abortions for Medicaid patients. The piece of legislation could be called up for a vote as early as this week.

How many Christians are in the new Congress?
Pew’s Religion & Public Life found that 90.7% of the 115th Congress identify as Christian, a statistic that has changed little in over a half century of keeping record. “The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s,” noted Pew. Of the 91% Christian majority, 31.4% are Catholic, 13.5% are Baptist, 8.5% are Methodist, 6.5% are Anglican or Episcopal, and another 6.5% are Presbyterian.

Multi-faith network rescuing women from Isis
A secret underground network operating in Iraq and Syria has reportedly freed more than 3,000 Yazidi women held captive in sexual slavery by Isis. Kurdish and Christian civilians make up the group, along with other ethnic minorities and families of the victims, NGO Yazda has claimed. Rescues are carried out through word of mouth, driven by Yazidis who have escaped capture or whose loved ones are still being held in Isis territory.

Gay couple to pastor historic DC Baptist church
Calvary Baptist Church, a progressive Baptist landmark in the heart of downtown Washington, has named a gay couple as co-pastors. Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen were presented to the congregation during worship services Jan. 8 and will begin their new jobs on Feb. 26. The 150-year-old church severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012.

S. Baptists lead Congressional Prayer Caucus
Rep. Mark Walker, R.-N.C., will be the new House of Representatives co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, it was announced Jan. 9. Sen. James Lankford, R.-Okla., the other co-chairman of the prayer caucus, and former Rep. Randy Forbes, R.-Va., made the announcement. All three are members of Southern Baptist churches.

Sources: Illinois Family Institute, Christian Post, Independent, Religion News Service, Baptist Press

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

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

Election 2016For nearly a year, evangelicals, including many high profile leaders, have been debating who to support in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Many have even joined the the #NeverTrump moment. But that may be changing.

A new poll released by Pew Research Center shows four-fifths of white evangelicals say they have decided to vote for the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in the general election. According to Pew, 78% of white evangelicals now support the candidate. Just 17% support Hilary Clinton, the presumptive Democrat nominee, while 5% are undecided.

Support for Trump among white evangelicals is even higher than as it was for Republican Mitt Romney (71%) in 2012.

The New York Times quoted J. Tobin Grant, a professor of political science at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, on the difference. “Trump is not a true believer in any sense, both religiously and on the issues, but he’s speaking to them,” said Tobin. “He’s actively courting them, and that’s what the activists want. They want to have a seat at the table, and they felt they didn’t have that with Romney.”

White evangelical Protestant voters make up one-fifth of the the nation’s registered voters, with one-third stating they are or at least lean Republican. Evangelicals are rivaled by religious “nones,” voters who have no religious preference or are atheist, who also make up one-fifth of registered voters. More than a quarter of the nones say they are or lean Democrat.

Writing for Religion News Service, Mark Silk touted the “big news” from the Pew poll as “the disappearance of the God gap.” In 2012, “respondents who said they attended worship at least once a week preferred Romney to Obama by 15 points, 55% to 40%. This year, the margin is just four points: 49% for Trump to 45% for Clinton.”

Silk also noted, “In 2012, less frequent attending white evangelicals preferred Romney to Obama by 29 points (62-33). This year the margin for the Republican has doubled to 57 points (76-19) — almost the same as the margin among frequent attending white evangelicals.”

Pew found voters in general are not pleased with their choices for president – “42% of voters said it would be difficult to choose between Trump and Clinton because ‘neither one’ would make a good president.”

Black Protestant voters overwhelmingly say they support Clinton – 89% to 8% for Trump. Just four percent say they are undecided. Hispanic Catholics support Clinton (77%) over Trump (16%).

The survey also measured voter motivation. Pew discovered “the desire to defeat Clinton was the prime reason evangelicals supported Trump. Of the 78% of white evangelicals who said they would vote for Trump, 45% said their decision was ‘mainly a vote against Clinton,’ while only 30% said it was ‘mainly a vote for Trump.’”

In addition, the survey found nearly half (46%) of white evangelical voters believe it it is now more difficult to be a Christian in the United States. This compares to just 18% of Catholics who believe it is now more difficult to be a Catholic in today’s society.

The survey also comes on the heels of Trump’s meeting last month with nearly 1,000 evangelicals, including many Southern Baptists. At least eight Southern Baptists now serve on Trump’s evangelical advisory panel.

The Republican National Convention takes place next week, July 18- 21, in Cleveland, Ohio. The Democrat National Convention follows July 25–28 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

– Lisa Sergent

The BriefingTrump: ‘Moore Is Truly a Terrible Representative of Evangelicals’
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump lashed out at ERLC President Russell Moore with a tweet May 9. The tweet comes after Moore told “Face the Nation”that “the Donald Trump phenomenon” is an “embrace of the very kind of moral and cultural decadence that conservatives have been saying for a long time is the problem.” He also noted some conservatives “now are not willing to say anything when we have this sort of reality television moral sewage coming through all over our culture.”

Evangelicals feel abandoned by GOP
Some conservatives whose voting decisions are guided by their Christian faith find themselves dismayed and adrift now that Trump has wrested control of the Republican Party. Even progressive Christians — evangelicals and Catholics, among others — who don’t necessarily vote Republican are alarmed that Trump is attracting many voters who call themselves religious.

Justice Dept., NC sue over bathroom law
The Justice Department and North Carolina filed dueling lawsuits May 9 over the state’s controversial “bathroom” law, with the Obama administration answering an early-morning lawsuit filed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory with legal action of its own.

51 Illinois families sue over transgender bathroom policy
A group of 51 families whose children attend a Palatine, IL high school filed a federal lawsuit attempting to reverse a policy that allows a transgender student to use girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-specific facilities. They are challenging a policy at District 211 that was mandated by the U.S. Department of Education to accommodate the transgender student, who was born male but identifies as a female.

111 Methodist clergy come out as LGBT
Dozens of United Methodist clergy members came out as lesbian, gay or bisexual on May 9, defying their church’s ban on “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” serving in ministry and essentially daring their supervisors to discipline them.

Bono wants Christian music to get honest
When U2 musician Bono reads Psalms he sees the full range of human emotions: anger, irritation, sadness, bliss. Bono, who has become more outspoken about his Christian faith in recent years, is advocating Christian music return to the raw and honest emotion of the Psalms.

Sources: Christian Post, Baptist Press, Washington Post, Fox News, Daily Signal, CNN, Huffington Post

Disliking their options, some evangelicals consider withdrawing from presidential politics this time around.

USA symbols mapWith eight months to go until the presidential election, a World magazine survey finds 8 in 10 evangelical leaders say they would vote for an outside third-party candidate as president over Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump has been victorious in several southern states where voters identified heavily as evangelical, sparking a debate over the meaning of the word “evangelical.”

This tension has not been unnoticed by the media. A recent Yahoo Politics article declared, “Donald Trump’s candidacy has sparked a civil war inside American Christianity.” In an essay for the New York Times, Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, asked, “Have evangelicals who support Trump lost their values?” In the article he decries Trump’s past behaviors and urges Christians to vote according to biblical moral values.

World’s March survey of 103 evangelical leaders and influencers showed more than 50% said they would, on principle, “vote for a third-party candidate who had no chance to win.” The survey also found 76% would vote for Sen. Ted Cruz as president if he secured the Republican nomination. In the eight prior surveys, their choice had been Sen. Marco Rubio who has since ended his campaign.

The debate continues over the disconnect between evangelical leaders and some people in the pews. D. C. Innes, King’s College professor and World magazine contributor, told the Deseret News evangelicals support Trump because they believe they’ve lost the culture wars. “Evangelicals, for example, became politically engaged to preserve their way of life and they don’t feel they’ve gotten their support’s worth from politicians. Abortion, gay marriage—they’ve lost on every front,” said Innes. “The support for Trump is an act of desperation: Protect us. We’re not free to be Christians anymore, so you’ve got my vote.”

Turning to Trump, who is decidely not evangelical, is one option. At the other end of the spectrum is The Benedict Option. In 500 AD, after the fall of the Roman empire, Benedict moved to the city of Rome to continue his education. Disgusted by the decadence there, he left the city and withdrew from society. Benedict became a monk and started several monasteries, leading to the Catholic order that bears his name.

Rod Dreher, writing for the American Conservative, calls this “a communal withdrawal from the mainstream, for the sake of sheltering one’s faith and family from corrosive modernity and cultivating a more traditional way of life.”

A less severe option calls on Christians not to withdraw, but to focus on their churches as “counter-cultural communities of disciples who covenant to walk together for the sake of worship, catechesis, witness, and service.”

Nathan Finn of Union University says this movement (called the Paleo-Baptist Option because it draws from Baptist history) is necessary because “all Christians need to learn from each other, sharpen one another, and spur each other on to love and good deeds. We need each other as our respective traditions seek to follow Christ and bear witness to his kingship in a culture that is increasingly hostile to all forms of orthodox, full-throated, publicly engaged Christianity.”

Of course, considering either outright withdrawal from politics or shoring up “the Christian resistance against what the empire represents,” possibly by way of supporting a third-party run, is all conjecture at this point. With Super Tuesday behind us, and until both parties choose their nominees for the general election, believing evangelicals can only watch and pray for better options.

Editor’s note: After an often tearful year, the Christian’s counterattack is hope.  The enemy may use the events of last year to strike chords of fear, but in reporting them, we offer notes of hope for 2016. God is in control of this world, and whatever happens, this history being made before our eyes will turn people toward him. He is our hope.
This is our certainty as we anticipate the new year, our hope.

Torch-squareBy Lisa Sergent | When did we become the enemy?

In just a handful of years, we have come to understand what it means to be in the minority and to have our rights challenged. The Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states may serve as the line in the sand. Crossing that line happened quickly—not that Christians have moved, but the culture moved sharply to the left, putting followers of Christ on the defensive. Over half of all Americans approved of same-sex marriage, and the divide is even greater among younger people.

And so it was that in 2015 religious liberty really became an issue. Same-sex marriage may have been the flashpoint, but now the First Amendment rights of believers, pastors, and churches are on everyone’s minds. As never before, churches are asking legal, constitutional questions: Are we still protected? If so, how long will it last?

The growing divide between Christians and majority public opinion has led to increased concerns about religious freedom. In 2012, Barna Research found 33% of Americans believed “religious freedom in the U.S. has grown worse in the past 10 years.” In just three years that number grew to 41%. Among evangelicals that number is 77%, up from 60% in 2012.

Complicated response: A 17th-century Baptist stance that the government should stay out of all religious issues is a more tenable position in the 21st century than the “God and country” approach of the Moral Majority years, when evangelicals’ morals were in the majority. Today, Baptist leaders are having to advocate from a different posture.

When Kentucky court clerk Kim Davis was arrested in September for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, not all Christians agreed with her refusal based on her faith.

Fellow Kentuckian Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, framed the larger issue: “What this story reveals beyond the headlines is that the moral revolution on marriage and human sexuality will leave nothing as it was before… A legion of Christians struggle to be faithful in their own situations, responsibilities, and callings, and our churches will struggle to find a new relationship with an increasingly hostile government and society.”