The New York Times ran a profile on the 4th of July that caught my attention. The article highlighted a young woman, Sarah Jones, who works for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a progressive organization that champions secularism. The intriguing hook is that Ms. Jones is from a fundamentalist background in Bristol, VA and attended Cedarville University. What follows is Jones' abandonment of Christianity and conservatism for atheism and progressivism. Her story reveals struggles with depression and even sexual assault by one of her fellow students. It is a terribly sad story.
Some may wonder why this story ran in the Times, a newspaper that generally seems somewhat uninterested in matters of religion, at least in terms of individualized stories about people coming to faith. The Times has quite a bit of heft in terms of readership and platform. It is always noticeable how it handles that power. After all, people convert to Christianity every day. Why was Jones-someone leaving the faith-chosen as an example? Obviously, the tie-in was that Jones worked to combat against the pro-religious liberty alliance that surrounded the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga case.
On the other hand, the principles of serious journalism still undermine the worth of the story. My friend Tristyn Bloom at the Daily Caller pointed this out to me a couple days ago. The Times has seen it fit to cover someone who was raised to believe in a thing, then changed their mind about that thing, and now in turn works against that thing. When you think about it, this happens on both sides of the church wall and the political aisle all the time. Different crises and painful experiences encourage people to espouse Christianity and/or conservative principles or vice versa. Moreover, Jones claims a trustworthy perspective on religion and secularism because of her past struggles. As Ms. Bloom (alumna of Yale) wryly observed, "A lot of bad things happened to me at a largely atheist secular school, let me rattle them off as though that has bearing on atheism and secularity." more >>
In an effort to ensure a division among networks of Hispanic and Latin churches and organizations globally is not created, the newly merged group named NHCLC/Conela (National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Conela) recently responded to a disagreement coming from the World Evangelical Alliance about which association truly represents "evangelical Christians in Latin America and beyond."
"The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC)/Conela affirms and blesses every effort of unity in the Evangelical church," a joint statement from Mathew D. Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law and NHCLC/Conela's general counsel, and Ricardo Luna, executive director of NHCLC/Conela, released on Friday reads.
Last May, NHCLC, which represents "millions of Evangelicals and more than 40,000 churches in the U.S.," formally merged with Conela, a Latin America-based organization that "serves over 487,000 Latin churches across the world in a community of nearly 110 million believers as identified by the research center of PROLADES," according to the group, led by Hispanic evangelical leader the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez along with Luna. more >>
Pastor Creflo Dollar of World Changers International Church has joined the list of megchurches using satellite technology to spread the Gospel and expand their ministries globally, by planting a new congregation on Australia's Gold Coast, his ministry's first-ever international plant.
While the megachurch pastor already has a presence in Australia through his Creflo Dollar Ministries, the church is the premiere World Changers fellowship, or satellite church to launch in the Asia-Pacific country. Just two months after Dollar revealed his plans for the new congregation, World Changers Church International Gold Coast officially launched on Sunday, June 22.
Dollar does not minister at the church in person, but instead his sermons are streamed live from World Changers Church International's New York City campus during Gold Coast worship services. Live broadcasts or high-definition videos have been long employed by U.S. churches with multi-campuses in the United States and abroad as a means of unifying congregations. more >>
Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that two for profit corporations with sincerely held religious beliefs (Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties) do not have to provide a full range of contraceptives at no cost to their employees pursuant to the Affordable Care Act.1
As detailed by ABC News, "In a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito the court held that as applied to closely held corporations the Health and Human Services regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. "2
Upon hearing the news American Evangelicals broke out in a collective shout of "Hallelujah!" and took to praising God via social media; while in the streets of an otherwise secular society there was wailing and gnashing of teeth.3 more >>
Wesleyan and Anabaptist perfectionisms are the emerging dominant forms of Christian social witness in America, according to this fascinating piece in First Things by Dale Coulter of Regent University. He's certainly right about their pervasive influence but unduly optimistic about their plausibility and sustainability, much less desirability.
As a Methodist, I hope thoughtful Calvinists will provide a corrective dose of realism and sturdy doctrine to the social cul-de-sacs and Utopianism towards which both perfectionist traditions seem to spiral when untethered from church teaching about the limits of fallen humanity. It's not fair to fault Methodism exclusively for the excesses of the Social Gospel, whose key early proponent, Walter Rauschenbusch, was a liberal northern Baptist. It was fueled by German romanticism and New England, post-Congregationalist Unitarian transcendentalism. But Wesleyanism, once liberalized and unhinged from supernatural teachings about Christian cosmology, generously watered the roots of the Social Gospel movement and ultimately fully embraced it.
Methodism as a mass movement provided much of the activist machinery for Social Gospel energy if not much of the intellectual formation. This storyline is often repeated. Wesleyans are more comfortably doers than deep thinkers, Much of official Methodism, as it transitioned through its Prohibition crusade, easily abandoned traditional Methodism's affirmation of human nature's total depravity and complete need for transformation through the new birth. The new imperative, displacing evangelism and holiness, became earnest intent and constant activity for societal improvement. No human condition was beyond the reach of social and political reform. more >>
Pastors and churches have been banned from helping the thousands of illegal immigrant children housed in border detention facilities run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, clergy in Texas and Arizona tell me.
"Border Patrol told us pastors and churches are not allowed to visit," said Kyle Coffin, the pastor of CrossRoads Church in Tucson, Arizona. "It's pretty heartbreaking that they don't let anybody in there -- even credentialed pastors."
A public affairs officer for the Border Patrol confirmed that ministers and church groups have been banned from the Nogales Placement Center. more >>