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

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.  

Five New Christian Clichés to Avoid

Bless Your Heart. Photo by Jessie Pearl via Wylio.
Bless Your Heart. Photo by Jessie Pearl via Wylio.

I was pretty amazed by the popularity of the first lists of Christian clichés I created (linked at the bottom of this article). I think it was because so many Christians saw themselves somewhere in the list and others (maybe even some Christians!) have been on the receiving end of these clichés and resonated with my frustration in hearing them pretty much my entire life.

Since that initial series ran, I’ve been thinking about other things Christians often say that tend to do more harm than good. So here are a few more to add to the list.

Bless his/her heart: This usually follows one of two less-than-Christian kinds of statements. Either it’s said after some kind of thinly veiled insult or after a juicy bit of gossip about the person whose heart you want to be “blessed.” Examples include, “Did you hear Nancy’s husband got caught sleeping with his secretary? Bless her heart,” or, “He’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, bless his heart.”

If you’re from the South, you definitely know what I’m talking about.

White Working Class Voters Still Looking for a Candidate, Still Religious

The white working class, a potentially rich bloc of voters for Republicans or Democrats, hasn’t settled on Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama, a new study from the Public Religion Research Institute shows.

“These white working class voters are not particularly enamored of either candidate,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI’s research director. “In terms of their favorability, they’re both under 50 percent.” Forty-four percent look favorably upon Obama and 45 percent upon Romney.

Released seven weeks before the election, the August survey found Romney with a double-digit lead over Obama among the white working class, which preferred the GOP candidate 48 to 35 percent.

But Cox points out that the gap narrows to statistical insignificance among women voters in this group, and in the Midwest and West, home of several swing states. The upshot for Romney and Obama?

If they want to woo this group, which makes up 36 percent of the nation according to the study, the campaigns may want to consider other findings of the PRRI poll.

God Talk

T.M. Luhrmann

STANFORD UNIVERSITY anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann has managed to do what few other social scientists in academia dare do: explore how evangelical Christians relate with God.

In her latest book, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God (Knopf), Luhrmann analyzes how evangelicals come to personally know God through prayer, communal support, and even “dates” with God. As part of her field research, she spent 10 years attending worship services, small groups, and events at Vineyard churches in Chicago and California. Known for their trendy, seeker-friendly, tear-inducing services and intimate Bible studies, the Vineyard is home to millions of evangelicals in the U.S. and around the world.

Without pitting reason (too much) against faith, Luhrmann applies psychological and anthropological understanding to evangelical Christian belief. Not bad for an outsider looking in. Sojourners assistant editor Elaina Ramsey spoke with Luhrmann in June.

Elaina Ramsey: What motivated you to study how evangelicals experience God?
T.M. Luhrmann: I’ve always been curious about how God became real for people. I knew that good, kind, wise people had different understandings of what was real, and that always fascinated me. While I was doing another research project, I was talking to this beach girl who told me that if I wanted to understand the God of her church, I should have a cup of coffee with him. I thought that was amazing. I decided then that I was going to figure out how people were able to experience God so vividly, so intimately, so dialogically.

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Science, Faith, and An Ongoing Conversation

In a recent post here on God's Politics, Derek Flood suggested (as many have lately) that Christian communities need to start taking this whole "faith and science" thing seriously.

I posted some relatively snarky comment on my Facebook page about it (I apologize for the snark) suggesting that the authors of these recent posts about faith and science are ignoring about a century's worth of conversation and theology. Perhaps more.

Let me give you an example of what I mean in Harry Emerson Fosdick.***

As I said just yesterday, Fosdick was famous for lots of things, particularly the  sermon "Shall The Fundamentalists Win?" which he preached on May 21, 1922.

It was a call to arms of sorts within the church, encouraging tolerance and a willingness to engage the minds of believers and unbelievers alike in a time of incredible scientific discovery.

Evangelical Author Sees 'Mormonizing' of America

Stephen Mansfield, an evangelical author who has written widely about the faith of politicians, turns his attention to Mormons in his latest book, The Mormonizing of America.

He talked with Religion News Service about how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney — has progressed from persecution to prominence.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You’ve written “The Faith of George W. Bush” and The Faith of Barack Obama. Why did you write “The Mormonizing of America” instead of “The Faith of Mitt Romney”?

A: I thought that the story of Bush at the time was bigger than the story of evangelicals and the religious right at that time. I thought the story of Obama personally was bigger then the story of the religious left that he was sort of the champion of. But in this case I think that the story of the Mormon moment or this Mormon ascent is a bigger story than Mitt Romney. There’s something broader going on and he’s not so much the champion of the movement, maybe just at the vanguard of it....

Retelling the Story

North Park University might be the only evangelical college in the country with a school-sanctioned student group that includes the word “queer” in its name. Like many other evangelical schools, North Park has had unofficial clubs or informal meetings of students to talk about issues of sexuality, but two years ago a proposal was accepted by the student senate to make “Queers and Allies,” or Q&A, an official student club. The core leadership team is small, but events often attract between 35 and 75 students to hear various perspectives and discuss topics ranging from interpretations of scripture to “queer history” and understandings of gay identity.

There has been no public opposition to the club’s existence, says Rick Sindt, one of the group’s student founders and leaders. “The overall atmosphere is ambiguous,” Sindt says. “There are institutional policies in place that hinder faculty from being out or even vocal.” But still, he says, encouragement both on campus and from alumni has been “abundant.”

North Park upholds the teachings of its sponsoring denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, which prohibits the ordination of openly gay clergy and does not allow for its pastors to perform same-sex weddings, unions, or blessings. Still, Sindt, who is gay, is actively involved in campus ministries and the spiritual life of the college. He recently gave his testimony at a chapel service and traveled to India for a service and mission trip. While it has been hard for him to find a church home, he remains dedicated to his faith.

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Changes in Attitude

DURING STEVE SLAGG’S freshman year at Wheaton College in Illinois, a gay-rights advocacy group called Soulforce announced that it was embarking on a nationwide bus tour of conservative Christian colleges that had campus policies against homosexuality to facilitate some of the first open conversations about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Wheaton College was one of their stops.

“We were talking a lot on campus about Soulforce and what we were going to do about them,” remembers Slagg about the spring 2006 tour. “It felt like nobody was really aware of the fact that there were people in this community who were gay.”

So Slagg decided to come out. He started with friends and classmates, but he also spoke with campus groups, and he held a meeting on his dormitory floor. He was interviewed in the campus paper, The Record, under the headline “Gay at Wheaton,” and numerous classmates approached him for private coffeehouse conversations around campus.

The pressure and attention grew to be too much, and Slagg quickly receded into normal campus life.

But during Slagg’s senior year, after feeling as though the conversations around homosexuality on campus had not changed, he wrote an essay for a new campus literary journal, The Pub, about being gay at Wheaton. “We exist,” he declared. “The most harmful and pervasive lie I’ve encountered at Wheaton has been that homosexual students either don’t exist at Wheaton or aren’t worth considering. Outrageously enough, I believed this lie for most of my freshman year.”

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