Archives For Politics

New rules protect abortion mandate objectors
Christian organizations are celebrating what they deem a win for religious liberty after the Trump administration released new rules Oct. 6 that allow institutions and corporations not to include abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health insurance plans.

A 2011 “contraceptive mandate” included in the Affordable Care Act had been the subject of legal challenges from more than 90 religious nonprofits, including GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and four Baptist universities, Baptist Press reported.

House approves late-term abortion ban
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 237-189 last week in favor of the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibits abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, is based on evidence that a child is able to experience pain in the womb after 20 weeks.

The House previously passed a pain-capable bill in 2015, but it was voted down in the Senate.

Princeton U. ministry drops “evangelical” from name
“There’s a growing recognition that the term evangelical is increasingly either confusing, or unknown, or misunderstood to students,” said Princeton Christian Fellowship’s Bill Boyce. That’s why the 80-year-old ministry at the Ivy League institution has changed its name, reports Christianity Today.

Higher education: College offers ‘marijuana degree’
Northern Michigan University’s four-year degree in medicinal plant chemistry combines chemistry, biology, and business classes—and could gain even more traction if a petition drive succeeds at getting full legalization of marijuana on Michigan’s ballot next fall.

Survey: Suicide still taboo topic in church
The majority of churches say they’re equipped to help someone threatening to take his or her own life, but a new study from LifeWay Research found only 4% of people who have lost a close friend or family member to suicide said church leaders were aware of their loved one’s struggle.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, USA Today, LifeWay

White common daisy flower isolatedAs warm weather descended on San Francisco that year, so did the hippies, as many as 100,000 of them. The Haight-Ashbury District became ground zero for a festival that lasted for weeks: young people with flowers in their tresses singing and dancing and cavorting in public spaces, doing a little protesting of the Vietnam War, and smoking a lot of what their mothers wouldn’t approve.

They called it the ‘summer of love.’

Ironically, that summer in 1967 was also marked by fear and terror and rioting, as large sections of Detroit went up in flames just as Watts in Los Angeles had two years earlier. In Detroit, the violence that started after police raided an unlicensed bar ended with 2,000 buildings destroyed, more than 7,000 people arrested, over 1,000 injured, and 43 deaths. Free love on the West Coast, and unrestrained hate in the Midwest.

Here, 50 years later, we have witnessed another season of dichotomy, a tense summer of issues—and people—in conflict. The political tensions and threats of nuclear attack were topped by violent marches in Charlottesville that killed one young woman and revealed the breadth of a racial rift in America that few imagined existed.

As is 1967, the summer of 2017 was on some fronts a summer of hate. But from our vantage point, we can say, too, it was a summer of love.

There were stories in our pages that attested that: mission trips around the world where the love of Christ was shared. In downstate Cairo and Brazil and many other places, people received Christ as Savior. We saw children learn about Jesus at IBSA camps and Vacation Bible Schools everywhere.

And to cap it all, the eclipse. Carbondale was epicenter this time as millions from Oregon to South Carolina looked upward, many seeming to search for something beyond themselves. A famed Chicago weatherman wept on air for the beauty of nature. More important, Baptists in southern Illinois shared Christ, and lost people came to faith.

When they look back on the summer of 2017 to give it a name, no one will look at the protests and nuclear threats and political martial arts and call it ‘the summer of love.’ But seeing the totality of our Christian outreach this season, and the genuine outpouring from God’s heart, maybe we will.

-Eric Reed

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