Evangelical

COMMENTARY: A New Evangelical Engagement with Public Schools

 Photo courtesy Cardens Design/shutterstock.com.

An open bible with grass and a man walking towards a cross. Photo Courtesy Cardens Design/Shutterstock.com.

Why would evangelical Christians want anything to do with public schools? Judging from decades of culture war rhetoric, these are bastions of secular humanism where God and his fearers are unwelcome. School prayers — not allowed. Teaching creationism — verboten. Abstinence-only sex education — few to be found. Sharing the gospel openly — forget about it.

Little wonder, then, that many evangelicals withhold their support, and kids. And through their support of conservative politicians and policies, evangelicals have been, broadly speaking, part of a political dynamic that has shrunk support, financial and otherwise, for public schools.

But there is a serious problem with this flight from public education. Evangelicals are realizing there are real human beings in those left-behind schools who are struggling to teach and learn against difficult odds, and the future well-being of those kids and our communities depends on their success. Shouldn’t Christians with hearts full of love and compassion be helping them?

Left Behind: Families Struggle to Navigate Life After Suicide

Photo by Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune

Ken and Lyn McGuire with a dragonfly lamp in their Draper, Utah home. Photo by Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune

DRAPER, Utah — As young brothers, Kris, and Kourt McGuire often spent hours chasing the shimmering dragonflies that floated above a lush, green pasture behind their house.

One day, when their mom told them to come inside to clean their room, they silently obeyed — or so she thought. After a time, she went to check on the two youngest of her four sons. She found their bedroom alive with dragonflies, which they had tied with strings hung from the ceiling.

She smiled, and they all broke into laughter.

It’s one of Lyn McGuire’s favorite recollections of the two boys — a memory that predates the heartache of losing them both.

Kris died at age 8 in 1986, when a car hit him on the way to school. Kourt died about 10 years later, at age 17, killing himself amid depression and the still-stinging absence of his older brother.

How Abortion Became An Evangelical Issue

Evangelicals haven't always been part of the pro-life coalition. Prior to Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution supporting abortion in certain circumstances. After Roe allowed any abortion for any reason, evangelicals began to change their stance and with Catholics formed the pro-life coalition we know today. The Washington Post reports:

The reality of abortion on demand and exposure to the logic of the abortion rights movement led to a fundamental shift in the evangelical conscience. By 1976 the Southern Baptist Convention would declare every abortion to be a “decision to terminate the life of an innocent human being.” Similarly, the large evangelical movement would develop an overwhelming pro-life consensus, seeing abortion as a great moral evil and a threat to the dignity of all human life.

Something to Celebrate on Religious Freedom Day

RNS photo courtesy Wikimedia

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Matthew Harris Jouett. RNS photo courtesy Wikimedia

Today is Religious Freedom Day — a day to celebrate the adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom. Why celebrate it?

Celebrate because our government does not use our tax dollars to propagate religion, something Jefferson found “sinful and tyrannical.” This does not mean that you have a right to stop any government action that you happen to think violates your religious beliefs — a ridiculous claim repeated during last year’s battle over insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Russell Moore: Why adoption is a’pro-life’ policy for evangelicals

Recently Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, talked with Religion News Service about why more evangelicals should adopt.

Moore states:

At the level of the common good, this is something that all people should be concerned about. But it’s consistent for evangelical Christians to be pro-orphan. 

What most churches want, when they start to think about this issue, is a preprogrammed initiative, a set of instructions. I don’t think this issue works that way. It has to be organic. It has to be flexible. It has to create a culture within a congregation.

It will be congregational cultures that start to change with the inclusion of the families who are adopting and fostering and caring for orphans. I think that’s a long-term project over a generation, not something short-term.

Read more here.

Catholic Intensity Fades as Evangelical Devotion Surges

RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Parishioners hold hands while praying the “Our Father’ during Catholic mass. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

After November’s presidential vote, Catholics could cite ample evidence for their renewed political relevance while dispirited evangelicals were left wondering if they are destined to be yesterday’s election news. Yet their roles in American spiritual life may be reversed.

New research shows that Catholics now report the lowest proportion of "strongly affiliated" followers among major American religious traditions, while the data indicates that evangelicals are increasingly devout and committed to their faith.

According to Philip Schwadel, a sociologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in the 1970s there was only a five-point difference between how strongly Catholics and evangelicals felt about their religion.

By 2010, he said, that “intensity gap” had grown to around 20 points, with some 56 percent of evangelicals describing themselves as “strongly affiliated” with their religion compared with 35 percent of Catholics. Even mainline Protestants reported a higher level of religious intensity than Catholics, at 39 percent.

The New Evangelical Agenda

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

People pray during the Democratic National Convention. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The day after the election, Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler said, “I think this was an evangelical disaster.” 

Not really. But it was a disaster for the religious right, which had again tied its faith to the partisan political agenda of the Republican Party — which did lose the election. But Nov. 6 was an even deeper disaster for the religious right’s leaders, because they will no longer be able to control or easily co-opt the meaning of the term “evangelical.” 

During this election, much of the media continued to use the word as a political term — as a key constituency of the Republican conservative base. But what the media really means when they use term “evangelical” is “conservative white evangelical.” All other kinds of evangelicals are just never counted.

Just as the 2012 electoral results finally revealed the demographic transformation of America — which has been occurring for quite some time — it also dramatically demonstrated how the meaning of the word “evangelical” is being transformed. 

Evangelical can no longer be accurately used to mean “white evangelical.” 

Immigration Reform Has 'New Opening,' Says Evangelical Leader

Christian Post reports:

An evangelical leader in the Southern Baptist Convention has stated that there is a "new opening" for immigration reform at the federal level since last week's election.

Dr. Barrett Duke, vice president for Public Policy and Research at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, told The Christian Post about this on Tuesday in an interview. "I think that there has been a new opening come in Congress at this point for a solution to the immigration dilemma that we've been speaking to now for years," said Duke

"There's definitely movement on both sides of the aisle. It's going to take both sides of the aisle to reach a solution that can be passed and we have a unique moment right now to achieve this goal."

Read more here.

‘Mormon Moment’ Ends with a Loss — But Romney’s Religion Still Won

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Mitt Romney concedes defeat to President Barack Obama Nov. 7, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — Mormons in Utah and across the nation were thrilled by the prospect that one of their own might occupy the highest office in the land.

That won’t happen now. But Mitt Romney came closer than any other Latter-day Saint since that once-beleaguered brand of Christianity burst onto the American scene in 1830.

"For many Latter-day Saints, it was a surprise that a Mormon candidate was able to make it as far as Mitt," said Stuart Reid, a Mormon and a Republican state senator from Ogden, Utah. "He’s done more than any single person in recent church history to share with the general public what a Mormon is, putting up a very positive image about Mormons and creating interest in our faith that was unprecedented."

Despite the defeat for Romney, Mormonism came out a winner, said Philip Barlow, chair of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University.

"It developed a thicker skin in the eyes of the world," Barlow said, "and the world could see that a Mormon who runs for office isn’t, by definition, a nut case."

Overall, most observers say, the Romney candidacy was a net positive for his Utah-based faith.

After Winning Free Campus, Grand Canyon University Says 'No Thanks'

Five weeks after accepting a free, 217-acre campus in western Massachusetts, a for-profit Christian university has walked away from the gift.

Grand Canyon University of Phoenix, Ariz. faced millions in unanticipated costs as it moved to open its first East Coast campus in Northfield, Mass., according to GCU President Brian Mueller. So rather than complete a property transfer from the billionaire Green family of Oklahoma, GCU decided to dissolve the deal.    

"We were willing to make a $150 million investment, but we really had trouble with the city of Northfield," Mueller said. "Northfield was concerned that growing the campus to 5,000 students would alter the basic culture and the basic feel of the area."    

The surprise development marks the second time in less than a year that plans to give away the free, newly renovated campus have collapsed.    

The Greens, who bought the property in 2009 with plans to give it to a Christian institution, initially offered it to the C.S. Lewis Foundation to launch a C.S. Lewis College on the site. But fundraising efforts for the college fell short last year. In January, the Greens began soliciting new proposals, and in September named GCU the recipient. 

The other finalist to receive the campus was the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, which later withdrew.  

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