Evangelicals

Superman: Jesus Figure or ‘Anti-Christ?'

Photo courtesy RNS/ Warner Bros. Pictures.

Henry Cavill as Superman in Warner Bros Pictures “Man of Steel." Photo courtesy RNS/Warner Bros. Pictures.

Superman has always had a bit of a messiah complex, born as a modern-day Moses in the imagination of two Jewish guys during the Depression and over the years developing and amplifying his Christlike characteristics.

So it made sense that Warner Bros. Pictures spared no effort in using the Jesus connection to attract the increasingly important Christian audience to see the latest film in the Superman franchise, Man of Steel.

The studio hired a leading faith-based marketing agency, Grace Hill Media, to hold special screenings for pastors, and it developed an extensive website of Christian-themed resources — including specially-edited trailers for use in churches and Man of Steel sermon notes.

4 Things Religious Conservatives Might Do After High Court Rulings:

Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

Couple celebrates outside Supreme Court. Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

The twin Supreme Court rulings on Wednesday that further opened the door for gay marriage in the U.S. were not entirely unexpected, and the condemnations from religious conservatives angry at the verdicts were certainly no surprise either.

So the real question is what gay marriage opponents will do now.

Here are four possible scenarios that took shape in the wake of Wednesday’s developments:

Exodus International’s Alan Chambers: Bending History’s Arc

Alan Chambers, photo via alanchambers.org

Alan Chambers, photo via alanchambers.org

For more than a generation, the gay conversion organization known as Exodus International has been one of the most prominent Christian symbols of LGBT intolerance. They have practiced what is commonly called “reparative therapy” to supposedly remove the urges of same-sex attraction from those who seek to become straight. I have personally written at great length about the damage done by such religiously fueled zealotry, but never in my lifetime did I anticipate that the leader of this infamous anti-gay organization would concede as much to the public in the form of a confession.

What’s more, at their 38th annual convention, Exodus International’s director, Alan Chambers, announced plans to close the organization and cease its mission for good. You can read Mr. Chambers’ full of apology HERE, as well as the formal closure announcement HERE.

I’m not prone to emotional hyperbole, but I read these announcements and confessions with a nearly overwhelming admixture of shock, disbelief, compassion, and hope.  I also try not to fill my blog posts with too much content from other sources, but this is one of those occasions when the original source material should be seen without adaptation. Following are several excerpts for Mr. Chambers’ open apology to the public, along with my thoughts:

Study Says Gays Find Most U.S. Faiths Unfriendly

Photo courtesy RNS.

Ross Murray – Director of Religion, Faith & Values at GLAAD. Photo courtesy RNS.

Gay Americans are much less religious than the general U.S. population, and about 3-in-10 of them say they have felt unwelcome in a house of worship, a new study shows.

The Pew Research Center’s study, released Thursday, details how gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans view many of the country’s prominent faiths: in a word, unfriendly.

The vast majority said Islam (84 percent); the Mormon church (83 percent); the Roman Catholic Church (79 percent); and evangelical churches (73 percent) were unfriendly. Jews and nonevangelical Protestants drew a more mixed reaction, with more than 40 percent considering them either unfriendly or neutral about gays and lesbians.

Immigration Advocate Jenny Yang Overcomes Reluctance to Speak Up

Photo Courtesy RNS.

Jenny Yang, 33, is one of the leading voices behind the Evangelical Immigration Table. Photo Courtesy RNS.

On a recent Sunday morning, Jenny Yang stood beside a giant wooden cross and made a case for immigration reform to members of an evangelical church.

“As Americans, we have a responsibility when the laws are not working for the common good to change them,” she intoned from the pulpit.

The talk was part of a broader, cross-country effort to persuade evangelicals to back the bipartisan immigration bill that’s working its way through Congress.

4 Reasons Why Republicans are Rekindling Evangelical Outreach

Republican's recently hired its former South Carolina chairman to lead engagement with evangelicals, even though 79 percent of evangelicals voted for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. The Washington Post lists four reasons why the GOP is continuning to reach out to evangelicals.

1. They need to - A lot of the faith community did not vote in the last election. This hurt the Republican party because 65 percent of evangelical voters identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party in 2008.

2. Mending fences - Republicans will have to communicate to the religious community a bit differently as the culture changes around hot button issues like same sex marriage and immigration.

3. New alliances - Republicans must unite economic conservatives, pro-defense hawks, anti-Washington libertarians and religious (mostly evangelical) conservatives to win elections.

4. Competition from Democrats - Democrats have put more effort into their faith outreach in the last two elections.

Read more here.

Do Republicans Have an Evangelical Problem?

Chad Connelly, the new outreach director to evangelicals and religious groups for the RNC. Photo courtesy RNS.

The vast majority of evangelicals have voted with the GOP in recent elections. In fact, despite some qualms about his Mormon faith, 79 percent of evangelicals voted for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, the same percentage that voted for President George W. Bush in 2004.

So why would the party hire its former South Carolina chairman to lead engagement to a group that for a generation or more has been the reliable anchor of the party faithful? Here are four reasons.

Stop Telling Me What Is Anti-Christian

Starbucks cup, by EgoAnt / Flickr.com

Starbucks cup, by EgoAnt / Flickr.com

Anyone who listens to our Homebrewed Christianity CultureCast knows that we love Game of Thrones. The writing is complex and dramatic, and the characters are fascinating. What’s more, after the recent “Red Wedding” episode, we’re all too aware that no character, no matter how important or beloved, is safe.

The series, set in a fictitious medieval Europe, is also dark, exploitive, highly sexualized at times, and one has to stretch to glean any moral redemption from the episodes. As such, there’s a debate swirling online about whether Christians can or should watch such a show. Where’s the Gospel? How can we justify all the sex and bloodshed? Do we watch with the (possibly deluded) hope that things will incline toward virtue, even though the series creator has suggested no such intention?

Or should we just turn it off?

Now, there’s a constituency of evangelicals and Tea Partiers who claim that, since the coffee super-chain Starbucks supports same-sex partner benefits, drinking their coffee (and therefore inadvertently supporting gay rights, I suppose) is anti-Christian. So sorry, followers of Jesus, but that favorite frappuccino you look forward to every afternoon is off the menu. If you don’t want to make Jesus cry, at least.

Polls on 'Religious Influence' Say More About The Media Than Religion

A cross near RFK's grave. Many perceived religion to be in decline in the 1960s. Photo via John Kropewnicki/shutterstock.com

For over half a century, Gallup has been asking Americans whether they think the influence of religion is increasing or decreasing in the U.S., posing the intriguing question of what the results actually signify.

For starters, it’s worth bearing in mind that Western civilization is grounded in the belief that once upon a time, God was in his heaven and people went to church regularly. So at any given time, more Americans are likely to think the influence of religion is in decline than the other way around.

That said, what accounts for the rather striking ups and downs in the chart? In its latest release, Gallup emphasizes that these do not reflect changes in personal religiosity — and I’m inclined to agree, up to a point. Here’s the story I’d tell about the people’s perception of religion’s influence.

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