In the aftermath of this presidential election, I can’t help but see striking similarities between what happened inside the religious cult of my childhood and what played out for us, in the political cult of personality.
Here was the larger-than-life leader drawing followers to himself, despite the facts of his poor character, lack of experience, and even despite the fact that media, pundits, and pollsters claimed he wouldn’t — couldn’t — win.
As Southern Baptists prepare to interview Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 4, a group of mostly younger pastors is challenging the methods used by the old religious right and urging a broader agenda and more qualified support for the Republican Party.
“There’s a whole generation of guys coming up saying we’re tired of being the lapdogs of the GOP and, worse than that, being tossed away like a Kleenex after the election is over,” said Ryan Abernathy, 40, teaching pastor at West Metro Community Church in Yukon, Okla.
“I know a ton of people saying we should no longer be blindly giving our allegiance to one political party.”
Over the past year, I have seen a tremendous amount of reformation and renewal taking place in the American Christian community around the topic of LGBTQ acceptance and equality. Like with many other justice issues in the past, entire new movements are calling God’s people forward, deeper into realizing the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. And though there is still a lot of work left to do, the changes I have seen over the past year have been nothing short of inspiring.
Two years ago, the conversation around LGBTQ equality in evangelical circles was limited to a few “liberal” organizations, which were viewed by evangelicals as marginally Christian. But in 2014 we have seen literally dozens of evangelical leaders and organizations appear on the scene, taking momentous leaps forward as they advocate for their LGBTQ brothers and sisters around the world.
By God’s grace, I have been able to witness much of this transformation first hand. Last fall, I began writing about LGBTQ equality on my blog Revangelical. Soon after, a few posts turned into a clear calling from God to be a voice of reformation on this issue from within evangelical Christianity. I felt compelled to speak up with all of my fellow LGBTQ brothers and sisters who have faced so much discrimination and oppression at the hands of those who call themselves “people of Good News.”
Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler wrote a piece last week defending the death penalty. In his 1,200-word argument for why Christians should support the death penalty, he does not mention Jesus a single time.
Digging deeper, as you read the official pro-death penalty statement of the Southern Baptists, there is not a single reference to Jesus or the Gospels.
There are plenty of other problems with the scriptural maneuvering used to justify the contemporary practice of the death penalty with a few verses from the Bible, in the same way that a few verses were misused to justify slavery. For starters the biblical death penalty was required not just for murderers, but also for folks that committed adultery, disrespected their parents, collected too much interest, had premarital sex, and disobeyed the Sabbath. But I want to stick with the nagging problem of Jesus, the greatest obstacle for pro-death penalty Christians.
In a recent Barna Poll, fewer than 5 percent of Americans think Jesus would support capital punishment, and fewer than a quarter of young Christians support it. Nonetheless some Christians find ways to sidestep Jesus, the lens through which all of us who claim to be Christians should interpret the Bible and the world around us.
After this week’s botched execution in Oklahoma, Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argued why Christians should support the death penalty at CNN.com. Grounding his argument in Genesis 9:6, where Noah is told that anyone guilty of intentional murder should be put to death, Mohler says, “The one who intentionally takes life by murder forfeits the right to his own life.”
In my experience, most Christian pro-death penalty advocates make similar arguments, rooting themselves in Old Testament teaching. On occasion, they bolster their thinking with a somewhat cryptic reference to the government’s ability to “bear the sword” to “bring punishment on the wrongdoer” by the Apostle Paul. Rarely, will anyone cite Jesus’ teachings.
Mohler is a capable theologian and a thinker I respect. And I have many intelligent friends who support the death penalty. Yet, I think it is problematic for Christians to root their support of capital punishment in the Jewish Scriptures.
Southern Baptists overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to stand with churches and families that drop ties with the Boy Scouts of America over its decision to allow openly gay Scouts, and urged the BSA to remove leaders who supported the change in policy.
Members of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, gathered on the final day of their annual meeting in Houston, also acknowledged the right of churches to remain in Scouting, urging them to “seek to impact as many boys as possible with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
While expected, the Baptists’ resolution stopped far short of calling for an all-out boycott, as they did in 1997 with the Walt Disney Co. to combat what they saw as the company’s gay-friendly policies. That boycott was ended in 2005.
When Southern Baptists gather for their annual meeting this June, they will not be asked to create a new official name after top leaders decided it was not worth pursuing.
Instead they will be asked to approve a recommendation that Baptists end the name change discussion but have the option of using the unofficial moniker "Great Commission Baptists."
The recommendation was adopted Feb. 21 by the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee after a task force deemed a name change impractical.
As the Southern Baptist Convention recently weighed changing its name, denominational leaders were bombarded with suggestions. Hundreds of them.
Most suggestions avoided the word "Southern" but one hinted at the denomination's regional flavor: Baptist Ultimate Bible Believing Alliance, or BUBBA.
In the end, leaders recommended the unofficial moniker "Great Commission Baptists."
Here's a sampling of some of the more intriguing rejected names...
Both Colson and Land are such diehard fans that they can -- and did, during conversations with Boorstein -- quote lines from Allen's movies.
Can you imagine Land, with his low Texas drawl, reciting Allen's famous monologue from Annie Hall?:
"The other important joke for me is one that's usually attributed to Groucho Marx but I think it appears originally in Freud's Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious - and it goes like this. I'm paraphrasing. I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member. That's the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women."
Yeah, me neither.
An autographed photo of Jimmy Carter sits on our piano. A friend of ours wrote to Carter and told him that he was one of our sons' favorite presidents, and would he please send them a signed photograph. When Keith gave our sons the Carter picture last Christmas, my 8-year-old actually teared up.