How a Proposed Muslim Cemetery Became a Battleground for America’s Soul

REUTERS / Mike Stone / RNS

A brown and parched corn field in Farmersville, Texas, on July 12, 2011. Photo courtesy REUTERS / Mike Stone / RNS

The first speaker I heard complained to Imam Khalil Abdur-Rashid, the Islamic Association of Collin County representative, about what she understood to be the tenets of his faith.

“It’s not your custom to bury caskets,” she said, referring to the prevalent and erroneous belief that Muslims, who sometimes bury their dead without coffins, may poison the drinking water. The potential pollution of the water was repeated over and over.

For Some Churches, Food Trucks Are a Vehicle for Serving the Poor

Arlington Heights UMC / RNS

Arlington Heights United Methodist Church’s Five and Two Food Truck served breakfast tacos to Komen Race for the Cure participants in April 2015, co-sponsored by Kroger. Photo via Arlington Heights UMC / RNS

Faith-based food trucks are building momentum across the country. In St. Paul, Minn., Lutheran pastor Margaret Kelly’s church is actually a food truck, providing free food and prayers to homeless and impoverished members of the community.

Back in Texas, the Chow Train in San Antonio has been making national headlines for fearlessly serving homeless residents despite a $2,000 fine in April for serving food from the back of a private vehicle.

Joel Osteen Heckled During Church Service, Six Arrested

Lakewood Church / RNS

Joel Osteen preaches at Lakewood church. Photo via Lakewood Church / RNS

Six people were arrested at Lakewood Church June 28 after heckling Pastor Joel Osteen while he was preaching, according to Houston Police.

The individuals are from Wells, Texas, and are associated with The Church of Wells.

Casey Eaglin was at Sunday’s 11 a.m. service and just a few seats away from one of the protesters.

“He jumped up with his Bible and started screaming ‘Shame on you Joel, shame on you Joel’ and Joel kind of just repeated Scripture and they just escorted them out,” said Eaglin.

McKinney Police Chief: Officer's Actions at Pool Party 'Indefensible'

Via McKinney PD Facebook page.

McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley at a June 7 news conference. Via McKinney PD Facebook page.

McKinney, Texas police officer Eric Casebolt — whose recorded response to a disturbance call at a community pool party on Friday went viral, sparking national outrage about the force used against black teens — resigned from the police force on Tuesday. Police Chief Greg Conley said Tuesday evening that Casebolt was “out of control” and his actions were “indefensible.”

“He came into the call out of control and as the video shows was out of control during the incident,” Conley said, adding, “I had 12 officers on scene and 11 of them performed according to their training. They did an excellent job.”

Read Conley’s full statement.

From local ABC News affiliate WFAA in Dallas:

The 10-year veteran of the McKinney Police Department was placed on administrative leave Sunday after a 7-minute video of the incident at a Craig Ranch community pool gained traction on the Internet. That clip has now been viewed almost 9.5 million times.

The footage shows Cpl. Casebolt, who is white, aggressively responding to the disturbance call, using profane language with black teenagers, unholstering his service weapon and pointing it toward the unarmed teens, and restraining a 15-year-old girl in a swimsuit by forcing her to the ground and placing his knee on her back.

View the original video of the incident below.

Read more.

Police Officer Placed on Administrative Leave After Pulling Gun on Unarmed Teenagers at a Pool

Screenshot via Youtube

Screenshot via Youtube

After a video of white police officers arresting black teenagers with excessive force went viral over the weekend, the police department in McKinney, Texas, has opened a formal investigation into the incident, placing one officer on administrative leave.

The officers were responding to residents who complained about unwelcome teenagers causing a disturbance at a private community pool in the affluent Craig Ranch subdivision of McKinney, Texas.

In the video, Police Corporal Eric Casebolt is seen pushing a bikini-clad 14-year-old girl to the ground, before jamming her face down and sitting on top of her. When two boys jump up to confront the officer, he pulls out his firearm and points it at the teens.

Reimagining the Bible Belt

IF YOU'RE A Christian who cares about social justice, you can’t afford to ignore Texas.

In his book Rough Country, Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow puts it bluntly: “Texas is America’s most powerful Bible-Belt state.” Texas has the second largest population in the country, home to more than 26 million people. In 2014, Texans led six out of 21 congressional committees. And more than half of Texans attend church at least twice monthly.

No other state has more evangelical Christians than Texas. Many national Christian media companies, parachurch ministries, and influential megachurches are based in Texas. That’s why Texas is called the Buckle of the Bible Belt: It’s the most populous, wealthy, and politically powerful part of the country where evangelical churchgoing is still a dominant force.

But what if we reimagine the Bible Belt? In 2005, Texas officially became a “majority-minority” state, where traditional minority racial or ethnic groups represent more than half of the population. A majority of Texans under 40 in the pews are people of color. This creates an opportunity: Demographic change could lead to cultural change. What if we cast a new vision for faith in Texas public life that puts working families and people of color at the center?

But demographic change will not translate automatically into cultural change. The dominant historical Bible Belt narrative has influenced and shaped the identities of all Texas Christians, including in the African-American and Latino faith communities.

Read the Full Article

July 2015
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Texas Takes Defiant Stance as Gay Marriage Decision Looms

Texas flag. Photo via argus / Shutterstock.com

Texas flag. Photo via argus / Shutterstock.com

The U.S. Supreme Court is now weighing arguments in the same-sex marriage case it heard on April 28 that could lead to a landmark decision requiring all states to acknowledge the unions.

But don’t count Texas out without a fight.

State lawmakers are considering at least five bills designed to block same-sex marriages, which are currently illegal in the state, and some state leaders say they’ll battle to bar the unions regardless of any Supreme Court decision.

How Fear and Ignorance Keep Working

Image via Suzanne Tucker/shutterstock.com

Image via Suzanne Tucker/shutterstock.com

How does this kind of mentality take hold of a state of nearly 30 million, at least to the point that the governor himself would take official action?

One word: fear. Actually two words: fear and ignorance.

Though it comes off as cartoonish and ridiculous to the typical onlooker, fear and ignorance are, in fact, powerful tools. And using fear based on a broadly shared perception — regardless of actual evidence — is something all too familiar to modern-day Christianity in the United States as well. And the reason it hangs around like heartburn after a double bean burrito is because it works.

Here’s how.

Whose Group Sponsored Provocative Mohammad Cartoon Contest?

Photo via Mike Stone / Reuters / RNS

Political blogger Pamela Geller. Photo via Mike Stone / Reuters / RNS

Pamela Geller is good at getting attention.

She’s a celebrity blogger and fiery activist who founded the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which describes itself as a human rights organization that defends freedom of speech by speaking out against global jihad and Islamic supremacists. She runs a sister organization called Stop Islamization of America.

The groups are known for controversial activism against Islam.

Borders Have Been Crossed

Photo via Humannet / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Humannet / Shutterstock.com

Borders have been crossed, eyes have been opened, and deeper relationships have been formed. All has been made possible — in the most surprising ways — by the active presence of the Spirit. The crossing of relational borders and the forging of new relationships continues to be enabled by the movement of the Spirit. 

The only task of the people is to be open enough to perceive and respond to its prompting.