A 2013 survey from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Photo

A 2013 survey from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Photo via RNS/Tanenbaum Center.

The American workplace, like the rest of U.S. society, is becoming more religiously diverse and that is raising concerns about employer accommodations for believers — and increasing the odds for uncomfortable moments around the water cooler.

Yet one potential flashpoint among workers does not involve new immigrant faiths but rather two indigenous communities: white evangelicals and unaffiliated Americans who constitute one of the fastest-growing segments of the population.

A major factor contributing to workplace conflict, according to a survey released on Friday, is that evangelicals — whose religious identity is tied to sharing their beliefs — are much more likely to talk about their faith at work than other religious and nonreligious groups.

Nadia Bolz-Weber 08-27-2013
Jesus healing the lepers, © Daniel W. Erlander, http://danerlander.com

Jesus healing the lepers, © Daniel W. Erlander, http://danerlander.com

I have to say, one of my very favorite things about Jesus is how he does whatever he wants to and could really give a hell about how other people feel about it. Yeah. I just find that endearing — especially when he irritates the nice religious people. That’s secretly my favorite.

In our Gospel text for today Jesus is teaching in the synagogue on a Sabbath when he sees a woman with a crippled back. He saw her, called her over and said “Woman you are set free from your ailment.” He reached out and touched her and she stood upright for the first time in 18 years and praised God — which seems like a win. Except for that then the leader of the synagogue throws a little tizzy about how that kind of thing should not be happening on the Sabbath. Further proof that super religious people can just be so helpful, can’t they?

Especially when they seem to value parameters over people – which should sound like a familiar story …

Stories of churches denying your call to ministry because you fall outside the parameters of which gender is allowed to be ordained and stories of churches denying you the Eucharist because you fall outside the parameters of what kind of sexual orientation is allowed to receive the means of grace and stories of churches denying you a place in community because you just weren’t sure if you believed in God and that falls outside the parameters of doctrinal purity – well, these kind of stories are sadly bordering on cliché around here. We hear them all the time.

Corrie Mitchell 08-13-2013
RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Participants celebrate the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling in Kansas City, Mo. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

A new voice is emerging in the evangelical community, and it’s turning away from the church’s vocal opposition to homosexuality in favor of a more tolerant attitude.

Researchers at Baylor University found that 24 percent of evangelicals were “ambivalent,” meaning they support civil unions or legal recognition of gay relationships, despite harboring a moral opposition to homosexuality.

“What you have is this increase in people coming out publicly and saying, ‘I don’t want to be a part of this anti-gay rights movement as an evangelical,’” said Lydia Bean, assistant professor of sociology at Baylor and co-author of the study.

The study, “How the Messy Middle Finds a Voice: Evangelicals and Structured Ambivalence towards Gays and Lesbians,” analyzed national data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey, conducted by Gallup.

Ed Stetzer 08-02-2013

New data shows that Protestant churches, including evangelicals, are increasingly involved in social action ministries.

Soong-Chan Rah 07-19-2013
Crosses gathered for mourning. Photo courtesy Konstantin Yolshin/shutterstock.co

Crosses gathered for mourning. Photo courtesy Konstantin Yolshin/shutterstock.com

This morning I began preparing for a trip to Canada. I pulled out my grey North Park University hoodie to pack for the colder nights. Last year, a few days after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, North Park sponsored a justice conference. I wore that hoodie during my talk.

In retrospect, it feels like an empty gesture — an attempt to empathize with an experience that I, as a Korean-American, could never fully understand. In light of the Zimmerman verdict, I’ve been stunned into silence. I’m reeling from a deep disappointment in the American justice system and maybe even more distraught by the response of many in the white evangelical community that wants to argue the minutia of the law rather than trying to understand our brothers and sisters who are expressing a deep sense of lament.

The tragedy of Trayvon Martin requires an ongoing lament, which may be why it has been so difficult for evangelicals to engage on this issue.

Janelle Tupper 07-10-2013

A cross stands in a meadow. Photo courtesy Pavelk/shutterstock.com

When you think of an evangelical Christian, do you think of a climate scientist who is passionately concerned about the impact of climate change?

After this week, you should.  

Over 200 top scientists who identify as evangelical Christians from across the country released a letter this week calling on Congress to act on the moral and scientific imperative to address climate change. The letter — framed in scripture — points to the call to care for the poor and steward God’s creation as key elements contributing to their concern.  

Betsy Shirley 07-01-2013

The Evangelicals You Don't Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

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.

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:

Christian Piatt 06-21-2013
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:

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.

Deborah Jian Lee 06-14-2013
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.

QR Blog Editor 06-13-2013

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.

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.

Christian Piatt 06-05-2013
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.

Mark Silk 06-03-2013

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.

QR Blog Editor 05-15-2013

Rand Paul has used the last few months to aggressively court evangelicals through a CBN special, a trip to Israel, and appearances with pastors. This is a shift to take Paul from a tea-party hero to a mainstream political player. Paul refers to himself as a "“libertarian Republican” to distant himself from his father's strong libertarian beliefs. The Washington Post reports:

As he openly considers a run for president in 2016, Paul’s rebranding effort is a test of his political skills as well as the state of the Republican Party. For the senator, the question is whether he can win over the establishment without upsetting his tea party base.

Read more here.

Stephen Mattson 04-22-2013
Tree hugger, Andrei S / Shutterstock.com

Tree hugger, Andrei S / Shutterstock.com

Unfortunately, Earth Day is rarely celebrated within mainstream Christianity beyond a Sunday sermon, and environmentalism is often frowned upon by evangelical leaders instead of championed. Here are the main reasons Christians have rejected caring for our environment.

Catherine Woodiwiss 04-19-2013
Evangelical Immigration Table leaders, Photo by Catherine Woodiwiss / Sojourners

Evangelical Immigration Table leaders, Photo by Catherine Woodiwiss / Sojourners

Hours after Senate Gang of Eight’s immigration bill dropped early Wednesday, evangelical leaders from across the country gathered at the Capitol to raise their voices for comprehensive immigration reform. 

In the last two years, evangelicals have been a growing voice in the debate over immigration reform, hoping their votes — traditionally a bastion of conservative politics but recently broadening their engagement to gun violence preventionpoverty, and climate change — hold clout on the Hill when it comes to immigration reform.

The Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical leaders from across the political spectrum, gathered hundreds of people from 25 states for a day of action on the Hill. At the morning press conference, the Table representatives did not explicitly endorse or critique the Senate’s new bill. Instead, leaders pledged to "come alongside" any bill that supported their unified set of principals, namely immigration reform that: protects the unity of the immediate family; respects the rule of law; guarantees national security borders; and establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify.

Jim Wallis 03-08-2013

A meeting today of faith leaders with the president on immigration reform opened and closed with prayer.

This was my prayer at the end:

Thank you Lord, for this circle of leaders around the table and how you have brought us together to help welcome the stranger in our midst — to fix this broken immigration system that breaks families and lives.

Thank you for the leadership of Barack Obama in making comprehensive immigration reform such a high priority in these critical months ahead. Guide and direct him to find a genuine bipartisan political path to accomplish something so important that has been needed for so long. We thank you for both the Republicans and Democrats who are coming together to make that possible.