Focus on the Family

Evangelicals: We Don't Have All the Answers

Jim Daly (left), Ted Trimpa (center), and Gabe Lyons. Image via Josh Barrett / Q / RNS

In the early 1990s, the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family raised the ire of LGBT groups by backing Colorado’s Amendment 2, a measure — ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court — that would have allowed local governments to discriminate against gays.

A quarter-century later, that episode was history as Focus President Jim Daly and gay activist Ted Trimpa sat down together to celebrate their friendship and more recent collaboration on sex trafficking laws at an evangelical conference in Denver called Q, which stands for questions.

Churches Shun Mental Illness; Offer Little Help to Sufferers, Families

“Talking About Mental Illness” graphic courtesy of LifeWay Christian Resources/RNS.

Protestant clergy rarely preach about mental illness to their congregations and only one quarter of congregations have a plan in place to assist members who have a mental health crisis, a new LifeWay Research survey found.

The findings, in a nation where one in four Americans have suffered with mental illness, demonstrate a need for greater communication, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the evangelical research firm, a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources, which is an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

When it comes to mental illness, researchers found:

  • 66 percent mention it rarely, once a year, or never
  • 26 percent speak about it several times a year
  • 4 percent mention it about once a month
  • 3 percent talk about it several times a month.

“When we look at what we know statistically — the prevalence of mental illness and the lack of preaching on the subject — I think that’s a disconnect,” said Stetzer.

May God Have Mercy on Fred Phelps

Amy Tracy is a writer for global mission at David C Cook in Colorado Springs. Photo courtesy of Amy Tracy. Via RNS.

A “fringe hatemonger” — that’s what I called Fred Phelps in a letter to the editor of The Washington Times in 1999. In response he announced in a news release that he was coming to Colorado Springs to protest the “… false prophet James Dobson and his fag-infested Focus on the Family scam.”

It felt almost “out of body” to pull into the Focus campus one morning and see people holding explicit neon signs telling me I was going to hell. I was a fairly new believer at the time, and managing media relations for Focus on the Family. With my salvation came the holy conviction to begin the difficult journey to battle against my own same-sex attractions. The chants, the signs, the venom — it all felt uncomfortably familiar. Christians were once again protesting me. I couldn’t get away from it.

It also challenged my immature understanding of theology. “What if Phelps is right?” I worried. I buried these thoughts for years — though truth be told, they’d surface at nearly every mention of his name.

Conservatives Promote House Bill to Protect Opponents of Gay Marriage

Congressman Raul Labrador. RNS Photo courtesy Congressman Raul Labrador’s official website

Conservatives are rallying around a House bill designed to protect religious people who advocate for traditional marriage — a belief, they say, that is held in increasing contempt.

But supporters of same-sex marriage say the bill actually protects the discriminators — individuals and nonprofits that would deny gay people benefits or services simply because they are married to a same-sex partner.

More than 60 House members — mostly (but not all) Republican — have signed on to the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which was introduced Sept. 19 by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who came to Congress in 2010 on a wave of support from the conservative Tea Party.

Bono: David Sang the Blues and Jesus Did Some Punk Rock

Photo courtesy RNS/Focus on the Family.
Bono exchanged Bible references in a recent radio interview. Photo courtesy RNS/Focus on the Family.

U2 frontman Bono exchanged Bible references and bantered about music, theology, and evangelicals’ role in AIDS activism in a recent radio interview with Focus on the Family President Jim Daly.

Growing up in Ireland with a Protestant mother and a Catholic father, Bono imitated C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, where Lewis argued that Jesus was a lunatic, liar or Lord.

“When people say ‘Good teacher,’ ‘Prophet,’ ‘Really nice guy,’ … this is not how Jesus thought of himself,” Bono said. “So, you’re left with a challenge in that, which is either Jesus was who he said he was or a complete and utter nut case.”

Crossing the Belief Divide

IT WAS AS if the poison of the rancorous 2012 campaign had seeped into our social groundwater, tainting family gatherings, Facebook feeds, church coffee hours, and workplace lunch rooms. In my lowest moments I pictured an election-result map rendered with myriad fractures, like windshield glass—a nation of particles and fragments, held together, barely, by begrudging surface tension.

How do those of good will find productive and respectful ways to talk about important civic and moral issues when a significant number of people view their fellow citizens as enemies?

Two recent books, by radically different authors, explore how to stay committed to your principles while reaching out and even finding common cause with those who live and believe differently.

ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God's Heart, is by Jim Daly, president since 2005 of Focus on the Family. Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious is by Chris Stedman, the assistant Humanist chaplain at Harvard University and an activist in atheist-interfaith engagement. Daly leads a conservative evangelical institution that has been a major player on the Right in the culture wars of the past three decades (including around what Focus would term the "homosexual lifestyle"). Stedman is a young gay atheist who was once attacked by thugs who shouted Bible verses as they tried to shove him and a friend in front of an oncoming train. And yet both men argue, from both pragmatic and ethical grounds, for actively and respectfully engaging those who hold different beliefs.

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Debate Reignites Over Religion at Air Force Academy

Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Academy
The chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Academy

The long-smoldering debate at the U.S. Air Force Academy over the role of religion in cadets' lives has reignited, just as a new class arrives on campus for basic training.

Accusations of improper proselytizing on the Colorado Springs, Colo., campus have been challenged by those who argue that AFA guidelines curtail religious expression.

The two sides recently clashed over a letter from 66 House Republicans urging Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to investigate the USAF’s growing “hostility toward religious freedom” under guidelines set last September by USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.

In response to allegations of proselytizing, Schwarz mandated that only chaplains could endorse religious programs.

Immigration: Unity, Morality and Common Sense

Jim Wallis
Jim Wallis

Tuesday was a big day.

Nearly 150 evangelical leaders signed onto an “Evangelical Statement of Immigration Reform.” Signers came from across the spectrum of evangelicalism including leading Hispanic evangelical organizations, to pastors such as Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, Joel Hunter, and Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family.

No, that isn’t a typo. Sojourners stood side by side with Focus on the Family to draw attention to the plight of millions who have been caught up in our broken immigration system. It was exciting to see such unity across the traditional political spectrum that rarely happens in Washington.

Make no mistake, there are still big gaps in theology and politics among those in this group. But Tuesday wasn’t about politics. Rather we focused on the things we agreed were fundamental moral issues and biblical imperatives. This coming together to help fix a broken immigration system on behalf of those who most suffer from it is just what politics needs and could begin to affect other issues, too.

Instead of ideology, we came together because of morality and common sense. And that’s what leaders are supposed to do.

Evangelical Leaders Announce Immigration Table Launch

Photo by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners
Evangelical leaders close in prayer at the Evangelical Immigration Table launch. Photo by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Church leaders today gathered in Washington, D.C., to announce the launch of the Evangelical Immigration Table – a broad coalition of organizations, churches and pastors from across the political and religious spectrum coming together to advance a cohesive immigration reform message.

The Immigration Table was launched at a press conference, with speakers including Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis, Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Association of Latino Evangelicals and Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, setting out a common set of principles reflecting the common ground that all members of the Table have found on the issue of immigration.

Read on to view photos from the press conference.

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