The Common Good

Blog Posts By Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 6 days 21 hours ago
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, widely considered a rising star in the Republican Party and a possible 2016 presidential candidate, will be the commencement speaker at Liberty University on May 10.“Many believe [Jindal] could hold the highest office in the land someday,” Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a statement on Wednesday.In an interview, Falwell was hesitant to give his personal opinion of Jindal since the two men have never met. Instead, he deferred to Liberty’s law school dean, Mat Staver.“He’s a committed Christian,” Falwell said. “Mat Staver said he heard him speak and he sounded like a Baptist preacher.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 1 week 1 day ago
Could a series of “blood moon” events be connected to Jesus’ return? Some Christians think so.In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the moon slid into Earth’s shadow, casting a reddish hue on the moon. There are about two lunar eclipses per year, according to NASA, but what’s unusual this time around is that there will be four blood moons within 18 months — astronomers call that a tetrad — and all of them occur during Jewish holidays.A string of books have been published surrounding the event, with authors referring to a Bible passage that refers to the moon turning into blood. “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord,” Joel 2:31 says.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 2 weeks 23 hours ago
World Vision found itself testing the evangelical boundaries in March when it announced it would recognize employees’ same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, it reversed itself.At its core, the reversal raised a stark question: Can you be an evangelical and support same-sex marriage?Reverberations from the policy flip-flop continue to unfold. Last week, Jacquelline Fuller, director of corporate giving at Google, resigned from the international relief organization’s board. Faithful America, an online Christian community focused on social justice, had gathered 16,000 signatures calling for Fuller and John Park, another Google employee who sits on the World Vision board, to step down.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 2 weeks 3 days ago
Florida megachurch pastor Bob Coy has resigned from his 20,000-member Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale congregation over a “moral failing.”A statement on the church’s website reported the news: "On April 3, 2014, Bob Coy resigned as Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, effective immediately, after confessing to a moral failing in his life which disqualifies him from continuing his leadership role at the church he has led since its founding in 1985."A call to Coy on Sunday was not returned. But it appears extra-marital affairs may have been one reason.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 3 weeks 1 day ago
Days after discussing the U.S. Catholic bishops’ fight over contraception with President Obama, Pope Francis met Monday with members of the Green family, the Oklahoma billionaires whose company, Hobby Lobby, took their challenge to Obama’s contraception mandate to the Supreme Court last week.The pope met with Obama on Thursday for the first time, touching on some hot-button disputes between the White House and U.S. Catholic bishops.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 3 weeks 6 days ago
Nearly two years ago, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan T. Cathy caused a backlash when he said he supported marriage between a man and a woman. Gay groups announced boycotts, and Christian consumers rallied around the fast-food chain’s chicken sandwiches.In a recent interview, however, Cathy said that while he still holds the same position, he regrets “making the company a symbol in the marriage debate.”Similarly, when Phil Robertson was suspended from his popular reality TV show Duck Dynasty for making controversial comments about homosexuality to GQ magazine, gay groups cheered the decision as evangelical fans swamped the A&E network with complaints. Within a week, Robertson was reinstated.So it was much the same this week when the evangelical relief group World Vision announced that it would allow employees who are in same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, the $1 billion Christian organization reversed course, saying on Wednesday that it had made a mistake.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 3 weeks 6 days ago
In an attempt to create unity, World Vision managed to create a hornet’s nest around the issue of same-sex marriage. Its president Rich Stearns openly acknowledges the mistakes the relief organization made while flip-flopping on the issue.Earlier this week, the World Vision announced that it would allow employees to be in same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, the $1 billion Christian organization reversed course, saying on Wednesday that it had made a mistake. The backlash illustrated how evangelicals will continue to wrestle with a growing cultural acceptance of same-sex marriage.In an interview with RNS on Thursday, Stearns suggested that the number of sponsors lost was under but around 5,000. Those who sponsor a child pay $35 each month, so the loss could have tallied up to $2.1 million a year.Stearns also spoke with RNS on how the decision and its reversal has impacted the organization, the number of staff who have resigned and the regret he has had this week. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 4 weeks 18 hours ago
Christian relief organization World Vision has reversed its decision after announcing this week that it will no longer define marriage as between a man and a woman in its employee conduct manual.The earlier decision was a groundbreaking change for the Christian institution that came with heavy criticism from evangelicals. After its initial announcement, the Assemblies of God had urged its members to consider dropping support.Ryan Reed tweeted on Wednesday (March 26), “My wife works for WV. In today’s staff meeting Stearns announced that so far 2000 kids dropped.”World Vision’s child sponsorships are $35 a month, which means the organization could have lost at least $840,000 in revenue over the longterm.About $567 million of World Vision’s $1 billion budget comes from private contributions, according to the 2012 annual report, according to Christianity Today.“We’ve listened,” World Vision president Stearns told reporter, to supporters who were concerned about the conduct change in policy. “We believe we made a mistake. We’re asking them to forgive and understand our poor judgement in the original decision.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 4 weeks 2 days ago
Christian relief organization World Vision has announced that it will no longer define marriage as between a man and a woman in its employee conduct manual, a groundbreaking change for an evangelical institution and a signal that gay marriage continues to affect religious organizations.The organization’s U.S. branch will recognize same-sex marriage as being within the norms of “abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage” as part of its employee conduct code.“I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue,” said World Vision’s U.S. President Rich Stearns in a letter to employees .World Vision is the second-largest organization listed with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, behind Salvation Army. It also ranks among America’s top 10 charities, with revenue around $1 billion.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 4 weeks 2 days ago
The Noah epic releasing in theaters this Friday promises to be controversial, with director Darren Aronofsky calling it “the least biblical biblical film ever made.” As the story of Noah remains near and dear to people of many faith traditions, the film has already unleashed a flood of criticism.But Aronofsky says every part of the story fits the biblical narrative. He said the story of Noah illustrates a long tension between wickedness and forgiveness. ”All of it’s a test,” he said. “We were trying to dramatize the decision God must have made when he decided to destroy all of humanity.”In an interview, Aronofsky described where he got the idea for the film, how he plans to respond to critics, and why he focuses the film on themes of justice vs. mercy. 
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 5 weeks 2 days ago
Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll has written a letter to his congregation to explain recent controversies, including the marketing campaign intended to place the book, Real Marriage, on The New York Times best-seller list.Driscoll has been an influential pastor within Reformed evangelical circles for several years, helping to found a church planting network called Acts 29. His own Mars Hill Church attracts some 14,000 people at 15 locations in five states each Sunday.In recent months, however, reports have emerged that Driscoll plagiarized some of the material in his books. And earlier this month, World magazine reported that Driscoll hired a firm to buy copies of the book he penned with his wife, Grace, so that it would top the best-seller lists.In a letter posted on Reddit on Saturday, Driscoll apologized for using the marketing strategy.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 6 weeks 6 days ago
Atheists are challenging plans to include a 17-foot, cross-shaped beam that became a famous symbol of Ground Zero after 9/11 in a display at the national memorial museum that is scheduled to open this spring.In arguments before the the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, American Atheists’ lawyer Edwin Kagin said the cross should go back to St. Peter’s Catholic Church, where it spent some time on display, not in a museum built with a mix of public and private funds.Last year, a lower court rejected a lawsuit filed in 2011 by the New Jersey-based American Atheists that said the cross was an unconstitutional establishment of religion.In his appeal, Kagin said his organization is seeking a similar object to be displayed at the museum, something like a plaque that would say “atheists died here, too.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 7 weeks 1 day ago
American evangelicals are denouncing a new Uganda law that criminalizes homosexuality, reiterating a position that many have held for years but which has nonetheless drawn scrutiny and skepticism from critics.Since 2009, several American pastors and leaders have condemned legislation in Uganda that in its initial version imposed the death penalty for some offenders. Under the revised law signed recently by President Yoweri Museveni, the death penalty was removed and replaced with life in prison in some cases.Now, American evangelicals who insist they never supported either version of the law nonetheless find themselves playing defense, saying their statements against homosexuality at home are being twisted as an endorsement of harsh penalties against gays and lesbians abroad.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 7 weeks 2 days ago
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from a family seeking asylum in the United States because home schooling is not allowed in their native Germany.The case involves Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, Christians who believe German schools would have a bad influence on their six children. The family’s case became a rallying point for many American Christians.As is their custom, the justices on the high court declined to give a reason for not hearing the case.Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association that represents the family, said the group would pursue legislation in Congress to allow the family to stay. But the Romeikes will likely face deportation.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 7 weeks 5 days ago
Bill Gothard, an Illinois-based advocate for home schooling and conservative dress and who warned against rock music and debt, has been placed on administrative leave after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at his ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles was once a popular gathering spot for thousands of Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting. Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute conferences were also popular among devotees of the Quiverfull movement, who promote large families and eschew birth control.He’s also rubbed shoulders with Republican luminaries. He and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee were photographed at a campaign lunch together; former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke at one of Gothard’s conferences; and Sarah Palin, when she was a small town mayor in Alaska, attended his International Association of Character Cities conferences and declared Wasilla among Gothard’s “Cities of Character.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 8 weeks 1 day ago
After firing an independent watchdog group to investigate allegations of sexual abuse on campus, Bob Jones University has rehired the same group, one month before the findings from a 13-month review were scheduled to be released.The university had contracted with Lynchburg, Va.-based GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) in November 2012 but suspended the contract on Jan. 27. The university met with GRACE officials Feb. 18-19 to discuss the review.“GRACE satisfactorily addressed the University’s concerns and Bob Jones University is confident the review can be completed in a timely and professional manner,”  the university said in a press release. 
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 8 weeks 3 days ago
Gay rights are colliding with religious rights in states like Arizona and Kansas as the national debate over gay marriage morphs into a fight over the dividing line between religious liberty and anti-gay discrimination.More broadly, the fight mirrors the national debate on whether the religious rights of business owners also extend to their for-profit companies. Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether companies like Hobby Lobby must provide contraceptive services that their owners consider immoral.The Arizona bill, which is headed to Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk for her signature, would allow people who object to same-sex marriage to use their religious beliefs as a defense in a discrimination lawsuit.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 8 weeks 6 days ago
As a musician barely scraping by, Gio Andollo looks to trash bins as a way of life.On a recent outing, he carefully untied bags outside a supermarket next to Columbia University. He likes this market because it uses clear plastic bags, making it easier to spot bread, fruits, vegetables, and other treasures.“We can use our instincts about these things and usually they’re OK,” he said. “You can always clean it well and cook it. You can make sure you’ll at least survive.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 9 weeks 2 days ago
Christian leaders, including megachurch pastor Rick Warren, plan to rent every screen in numerous multiplex theaters across 10 cities for the premiere of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s upcoming Jesus film Son of God, on Feb. 27.The unusual move reflects the confidence Christian leaders have in Burnett and Downey’s work in the wake of The Bible, a hit miniseries on the History channel.The Son of God, an adaption from The Bible series, opens in theaters nationwide Feb. 28.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 10 weeks 19 hours ago
If past conferences such as Women of Faith drew thousands of evangelical women to indoor stadiums for devotional Bible study, a new generation of evangelical women is looking outward and concerned with issues such as social justice.The IF:Gathering in Austin earlier this month was one of those conferences. At the Austin Music Hall, about 1,200  women were greeted by farm tables decorated with candles and cabbage- and lavender-filled centerpieces. The free coffee came from Westrock Coffee, an organization committed to safe working conditions in Rwanda. But the wholesome, back-to-nature ambiance was just the start.The women participating, including more than 44,000 online, sponsored 600 children through Food for the Hungry. Speakers included sex trafficking victim advocates Christine Caine and Bianca Olthoff, humanitarian photographer Esther Havens, and Annie Lobert, founder of Hookers for Jesus, a ministry for prostitutes that attempts to end sex trafficking.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 10 weeks 5 days ago
Bob Jones University has fired an independent firm hired to investigate sex abuse reports just one month before the group planned to release its 13-month review findings.The university had contracted with Lynchburg, Va.-based GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) in November 2012.“Over the last several months, we grew concerned about how GRACE was pursuing our objectives, and on Jan. 27, 2014, BJU terminated its contract with GRACE,” the university said in a press release. “It is BJU’s intention to resolve its differences with GRACE, and we are disappointed a resolution could not be reached before our differences were made public.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 10 weeks 6 days ago
Facing criticism that he does not give religious freedom enough attention, President Obama devoted most of his National Prayer Breakfast address to the issue, naming people imprisoned for their beliefs and calling out specific nations.“We believe that each of us is ‘wonderfully made’ in the image of God,” Obama said. “We therefore believe in the inherent dignity of every human being — dignity that no earthly power can take away. And central to that dignity is freedom of religion.”Promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy, Obama said. He said he is looking to fill the religious freedom ambassador position, one that Suzan Johnson Cook left last fall.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 11 weeks 2 days ago
Sunday’s Super Bowl was dubbed by some as the “pot bowl,” as the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks hail from the two states where fans can soon get marijuana as easily as they can get pizza. As public opinion has shifted in support of legalized marijuana, religious leaders are wrestling over competing interests, including high prison rates and legislating morality.According to a 2013 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, 58 percent of white mainline Protestants and 54 percent of black Protestants favor legalizing the use of marijuana. On the other side, nearly seven-in-10 (69 percent) white evangelical Protestants oppose it. Catholics appear to be the most divided Christian group, with 48 percent favoring legalization and 50 percent opposing it. Opinions on how states should handle those who possess or sell marijuana varies among Christian leaders.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 12 weeks 22 hours ago
President Obama touched on several hot button issues as he addressed the economy, immigration, and gun violence in his State of the Union on Tuesday.Responding for the GOP, House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., hinted at a term that has faded from Republican rhetoric in recent years: compassionate conservatism. Compassionate conservatism is a the idea that the government should use traditionally conservative strategies to improve the general welfare of society.“We believe in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started,” she said. ”That is what we stand for – for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 13 weeks 23 hours ago
Conservative Protestants in red states aren’t the only ones seeing high divorce rates — so are their neighbors, according to a new study.Researchers found that simply living in an area with a large concentration of conservative Protestants increases the chances of divorce, even for those who are not themselves conservative Protestants.According to researchers who took into account race, income, and other factors, marriage and fertility trends that are common among conservative Protestants — younger marriage, more kids, less higher education — affect all people in areas most populated by conservative Protestants, no matter their personal religious affiliation.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 14 weeks 1 day ago
Tony Campolo, a progressive evangelical leader who counseled President Bill Clinton through the Monica Lewinsky scandal,  announced that the organization he founded nearly 40 years ago will close on June 30.Campolo, 78, plans to retire with the closure of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, but he will continue to write and speak, with nearly 200 engagements scheduled for 2014. He said his health is fine and he wants to write one more book on how Christianity fits with the social sciences.By June, Campolo said he anticipates there will be about $300,000 left to distribute to the off-shoot ministries started by the larger EAPE.  The 22 ministries that were started under EAPE now operate independently and will continue, including Red Letter Christians, where Campolo plans to spend most of his time.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 16 weeks 2 days ago
As evolution remains a contentious issue for many public schools, a new survey suggests that views on the question are driven by Americans’ religious affiliation more than their level of education.Overall, six in 10 Americans say that humans have evolved over time, while one-third reject the idea of human evolution, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center. The one-third of Americans who reject human evolution has remained mostly unchanged since a 2009 Pew survey.About one in four American adults say that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”While education matters, the new analysis suggests that religion appears to have more influence than level of education on evolution. The 21-point difference between college graduates and high school graduates who believe in evolution, for example, is less stark than the 49-point difference between mainline Protestants and evangelicals.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 16 weeks 3 days ago
The year 2013 ushered in a number of data milestones in American public opinion. Here is a sampling reported by the Pew Research Center.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 16 weeks 6 days ago
Portraits may seem like a staple in every home, but for many families, a professional photo is beyond reach.Each year, the nonprofit Help-Portrait pulls together professional photographers to spend one Saturday taking free portraits of people who normally can’t afford it.Help-Portrait founder Jeremy Cowart is a celebrity photographer who has shot famous names such as Taylor Swift, Tim Tebow and the Kardashians and has been published in publications such as Rolling Stone, People magazine and The New York Times.Like a number of Christians driven by their faith to set up humanitarian nonprofits, Cowart is motivated to do good.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 20 weeks 2 days ago
How do you get kids to read one of the world’s oldest books? Ask Sally Lloyd-Jones, whose The Jesus Storybook Bible recently passed the critical mark of one million copies sold.The British ex-pat and now proud New Yorker has never married or had children of her own, yet aims to retell the Bible to something that comes alive for young people.One of her editors told her once that there are two types of children’s books authors: the ones who are around children, and the ones who are children inside.“It kind of freed me, because I think I know I’m that second one,” she said. “And I can still write from that place, because my childhood is so vivid.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 21 weeks 2 days ago
A federal judge has ruled that an Internal Revenue Service exemption that allows clergy to shield a portion of their salary from federal income taxes is unconstitutional.The clergy housing exemption applies to an estimated 44,000 ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, and others. If the ruling stands, some clergy members could experience an estimated 5 to 10 percent cut in take-home pay.The suit was filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation on grounds that the housing allowance violates the separation of church and state and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The group’s founders have said that if tax-exempt religious groups are allowed a housing subsidy, other tax-exempt groups, such as FFRF, should get one, too.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 23 weeks 6 days ago
The president of Southern Baptist retailer LifeWay Christian Resources has apologized for publishing Vacation Bible School material nearly 10 years ago that “used racial stereotypes that offended many in the Asian American community.”Thom Rainer, who became president and CEO in 2006, said Wednesday in a video message at the Mosaix conference in Long Beach, Calif., that the “Rickshaw Rally” curriculum is “still a point of hurt for some.”“I am sincerely sorry stereotypes were used in our materials, and I apologize for the pain they caused,” Rainer said.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 24 weeks 20 hours ago
A group of leading evangelicals is expressing concern over the recent dismissal of the American Bible Society‘s new president after just six months on the job.At nearly 200 years old with headquarters in Manhattan, ABS is a nonprofit that aims to provide tools to people to read the Bible. In 2012, it reported nearly $500 million in assets, receiving nearly $40 million in donations.Doug Birdsall became president and CEO of ABS in March after leading a global gathering of evangelicals for the Lausanne Movement’s Cape Town 2010 meeting. Weeks before his Nov. 8 inauguration ceremony at ABS, he was dismissed by the board, which cited significant differences in how to achieve the organization’s goals.“Obviously it was a deep blow,” Birdsall said on Wednesday. “It’s a bit of a mystery.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 24 weeks 2 days ago
The ubiquitous praise song “Shout to the Lord” can be found in many churches across the U.S. on any given Sunday. What fewer people realize is that it comes from a church in the outskirts of Sydney, with a Hillsong brand that is spreading across the globe.Hillsong Church has combined Christian rock, charismatic energy, and Australian accents to create a winning combination in major cities across the globe. On Sunday at their main campus just outside of Sydney, children and adults swarmed a petting zoo for children and coffee stations outside the glass entrance as volunteers gave out balloons celebrating the 30th anniversary of one of the most globally influential churches.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 26 weeks 20 hours ago
Studios and filmmakers are rediscovering a classic text as source material for upcoming mainstream films: the Bible.Nearly 10 years after the blockbuster success of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which earned $611.9 million worldwide, studios are looking to the Good Book for good material.Alongside the string of upcoming Bible-related films, producers from the History channel’s “The Bible” miniseries just announced that the series’ film adaptation “Son of God” will be released in theaters nationwide in February with 20th Century Fox.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 27 weeks 1 hour ago
A campaign to arrest an African warlord generated awareness in more ways than the effort’s co-founder Jason Russell could have ever imagined.The “Kony 2012″ campaign captured widespread attention for its push to arrest Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which abducts and forces children to become soldiers. For a grass-roots video project that suddenly went viral, it was a phenomenal success.Two weeks after the group Invisible Children released the video last year, Russell, the group’s co-founder, was detained and hospitalized for erratic behavior after he was found running naked and cursing the devil in the streets of San Diego.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 27 weeks 3 days ago
Asian-American Christians are voicing concerns over how they’re depicted by white evangelicals, most recently at a conference hosted by Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California.Saddleback recently hosted a conference by Exponential, a church-planting group, and a video last Tuesday left some Asian-Americans offended.It’s the second dust-up in as many months involving Asian-Americans and Warren, who spoke at the Exponential conference. Last month he received backlash from Asian-American Christians after he posted a Facebook photo depicting the Red Guard during China’s Cultural Revolution. “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day,” the caption read on Sept. 23.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 27 weeks 5 days ago
As online worship becomes more common in some churches, leaders within the United Methodist Church are debating whether the denomination should condone online Communion.About 30 denominational leaders met last week after Central United Methodist Church in Concord, N.C., announced plans to launch an online campus that potentially would offer online Communion. Some nondenominational churches already offer online Communion, according to United Methodist News Service, but leaders urged the denomination’s bishops to call for a moratorium on the practice and do further study of online ministries.The majority of the leaders agreed with the statement that Communion “entails the actual tactile sharing of bread and wine in a service that involves people corporeally together in the same place.” Not everyone, however, agreed that congregants must be in the same place.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 28 weeks 23 hours ago
Author Malcolm Gladwell may not be known for writing on religion. His New York Times best-selling books “The Tipping Point,” “Outliers,” “Blink” and “What the Dog Saw” deal with the unexpected twists in social science research. But his newest book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” also includes underlying faith-related themes, and not just in the title.Gladwell said that while researching the book, he began rediscovering his own faith after having drifted away. Here, he speaks with RNS about his Mennonite family, how Jesus perfectly illustrates the point in his new book and how Gladwell’s return to faith changed the way he wrote the book. 
Posted by Kevin Eckstrom, Cathy Lynn Grossman, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, David Gibson, Adelle M. Banks, Katherine Burgess 28 weeks 1 day ago
As the government shutdown enters its second week, some religious groups are starting to feel the pinch, and they’re also finding ways to reach out.More than 90 Catholic, evangelical, and Protestant leaders have signed a statement rebuking “pro-life” lawmakers for the shutdown, saying they are “appalled that elected officials are pursuing an extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families” who won’t receive government benefits.Starting Wednesday, evangelical, Catholic, and mainline Protestant leaders will hold a daily “Faithful Filibuster” on Capitol Hill with Bible verses on the poor “to remind Congress that its dysfunction hurts struggling families and low-income people.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 29 weeks 6 days ago
The Christian mission field “is a magnet” for sex abusers, Boz Tchividjian, a Liberty University law professor who investigates abuse said Thursday to a room of journalists.While comparing evangelicals to Catholics on abuse response, ”I think we are worse,” he said at the Religion Newswriters Association conference. But it’s harder to track.“Protestants can be very arrogant when pointing to Catholics,”  said Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham and executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), which has investigated sex abuse allegations.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 30 weeks 2 days ago
A California Christian university has asked a professor who was once its chair of theology and philosophy to leave after he came out as transgender.Heather Clements taught theology at Azusa Pacific University for 15 years, but this past year, he began referring to himself as H. Adam Ackley. “This year has been a transition from being a mentally ill woman to being a sane, transgendered man,” he said.Ackley, who is in his third year of a five-year contract at a school that does not use the tenure system, said university policies seem to be silent about transgender issues, except that “Humans were created as gendered beings.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 30 weeks 3 days ago
Federal officials have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the government mandate that private companies offer employees birth control coverage despite the business owner’s moral objections, with the company at the center of the suit owned by billionaire evangelical Christians.Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit has been one of the most high profile of 60-some cases involving the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate. The arts and crafts chain was founded by David Green, whom Forbes called “the biblical billionaire backing the evangelical movement.”In June, the Obama administration issued final rules for the mandate that requires most employers to provide contraception at no cost. While there are exemptions for religious groups and affiliated institutions, there are no carve-outs for private businesses with religious owners.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 31 weeks 5 days ago
Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against apartheid in South Africa, continues to speak around the globe on justice and peace. Butler University and neighboring Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis announced Thursday that they would name a center for the 81-year-old icon.Just before the announcement of the new center, Tutu spoke with Religion News Service about faith and justice, Israel and Palestine and Pope Francis’ recent selfie and lifestyle choices. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 33 weeks 4 hours ago
As the Obama administration considers a strike in response to recent chemical attacks, the head of a global evangelical group said Wednesday that Christians in the Middle East oppose military intervention in Syria.“There is major consensus amongst the Christian leaders in this region that any military intervention would have a detrimental effect … on Christians in Syria,” wrote Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general/CEO of World Evangelical Alliance, in a letter to the State Department, the White House and the United Nation’s Security Council.
Posted by Yonat Shimron, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, David Gibson, Lauren Markoe 33 weeks 6 days ago
As the Obama administration readies for a probable military strike against Syria, Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria in light of the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Would the “Just War” doctrine justify U.S. military action, and what is America’s moral responsibility? Here are their responses, which have been edited for clarity.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 34 weeks 20 hours ago
Christian conservatives who think Satan is using communism and Islam to bring down America can add a new “adversary” to the list: the Emergent Church movement.A portion of the upcoming Values Voter Summit in Washington will stray from its usual focus on politics and consider the Emergent Church as one of three “channels the adversary is using to bring America down.” Art Ally, president of The Timothy Plan, a Florida-based mutual fund company devoted to “biblically responsible investing,” will lead the breakout session.“Why would Satan use Communism? It’s a godless form of government,” said Ally. “Why would Satan use Islam? Same reason. It’s not a religion. It’s a movement to dominate the world under the guise of religion. The Emergent Church plays right into that by weakening further our church community.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 36 weeks 3 hours ago
A commission of religious leaders has called for clarity in churches’ ability to endorse candidates and issues from the pulpit without fear of losing their tax-exempt status.In a report sent Wednesday to Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has spent years investigating the finances of high-profile televangelists, the commission called the regulation of speech of religious organizations “disturbing and chilling.”“The IRS guidelines are very vague, so ministers and nonprofit leaders are afraid of the [appropriate] line,” said Michael Batts, the independent commission’s chairman. “We think it can be fixed without creating a monster of unintended consequences.”The Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations grew out of Grassley’s probe of ministry finances and makes recommendations for greater transparency and reform. It is overseen by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which was founded in 1979 as a watchdog on ethical and financial wrongdoing.In Wednesday’s report, the commission recommended that members of the clergy should be able to say “whatever they believe is appropriate” from the pulpit without fear of IRS reprisal. Since 1954, IRS regulations allow clergy to speak out on issues but they must refrain from endorsing specific candidates.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 36 weeks 19 hours ago
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Wednesday elected the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton as the denomination’s first female presiding bishop. Eaton received 600 votes against incumbent Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who received 287.Eaton, the current ELCA bishop of Cleveland, is married to the Rev. Conrad Selnick, an Episcopal priest. Like Hanson, she is considered a moderate who supported the denomination’s decision to allow partnered gay clergy while allowing room for churches to disagree, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.A native of Cleveland, she received a master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School.“We are a church that is overwhelmingly European in a culture that is increasingly pluralistic,” Eaton told the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh shortly after the election.“We need to welcome the gifts of those who come from different places, that is a conversation we need to have as a church.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 36 weeks 1 day ago
Christian ethicist Jean Bethke Elshtain, a scholar who shaped national conversations on war and peace from her perch at the University of Chicago, died Sunday at age 72.She had two heart attacks in 2012 and, according to the school, she had another “cardiac incident” earlier this summer that led to her death.The widely admired political philosopher regularly wrote and lectured on ethics, politics, and religion. She defended American military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan using “just war theory,” a position that suggests there are times when it is necessary and perhaps right to go to war.When a hundred scholars and ethicists signed a petition that read, “As Christian ethicists, we share a common moral presumption against a preemptive war on Iraq by the United States,” Elshtain argued the opposite, publishing the book Just War Against Terror in 2003.