My Piece Today at Religion News Service: “Trump’s evangelicals bewail a ‘civil war’ while still profiting from the last one”

Trump Jeffress

Here is a taste:

But Jeffress also seemed to forget another important point about American civic life in his civil war comment. The United States, after all, had a real Civil War, in which over 600,000 lives were lost.

Did the country heal after this war?

The United States still exists, implying that some healing certainly took place. But the war also left us with some open wounds. The war brought an end to slavery, but it did not bring an end to the racism upon which slavery was built.

These wounds are still open and Jeffress’ own First Baptist Dallas, with its long history of segregation, has contributed to keeping them open. His congregation was built upon a Civil War fracture that has not yet healed. Under his leadership, it has failed to confront its long-standing commitment to racial injustice in any meaningful way.

We don’t need to fear a new civil war. Instead, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address, we still need to bind the wounds of the old one. The impeachment and removal of Trump will be a step toward the ongoing work Lincoln called us to do.

Read the entire piece here.

Big News on the Religion Journalism Front

In case you haven’t heard:

BOSTON (April 24, 2019) – The Conversation US, Religion News Service (RNS), The
Religion News Foundation (RNF) and The Associated Press (AP) are creating a global religion journalism initiative to grow and strengthen religion, ethics and spirituality news reporting in the United States and around the world, funded by an 18-month, $4.9 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. It is one of the largest investments in religion journalism in decades.

The funds will allow the establishment of a joint global religion news desk aimed at providing balanced, nuanced coverage of major world religions, with an emphasis on explaining religious practices and principles behind current events and cultural movements. Each organization retains editorial control of its respective content, which will be labeled and distributed by AP.

“Thanks to the Lilly Endowment, The Conversation can now expand the coverage we give to ethics and religion, which is one of our eight areas of editorial focus,” said Bruce Wilson, chief innovation and development officer of The Conversation. “Through this collaboration with the AP, RNF and RNS, The Conversation can bring our fresh insights to an even wider range of audiences across the country and globally.”

The Conversation US, an independent, nonprofit publisher of explanatory journalism and analysis sourced from academic experts, will work with scholars to provide readable content about religion, spirituality and ethics for the general public. The Conversation’s content is shared for free through a Creative Commons license – and through AP – with a wide and diverse network of hundreds of republishers in the U.S. and beyond.

Staffed by journalists from AP and RNS, a subsidiary of RNF, and editors from The Conversation, the global religion news desk will produce multiformat religion journalism intended to improve general understanding and analyze the significance of developments in the world of faith.

As part of the initiative, AP will add eight religion journalists; RNS will add three religion journalists; and The Conversation will add two editors to cover religion, ethics and spirituality. Additional business staff will also be hired across the organizations.

“The Global Religion Journalism Initiative grant fundamentally transforms religion journalism in the U.S. and globally,” said Thomas Gallagher, president and CEO of the Religion News Foundation and CEO and publisher of RNS. “It is deeply affirming and humbling to be entrusted with this important grant, especially at a time when competent, reliable, professional religion journalism is needed now more than ever.”

“This collaboration significantly expands AP’s capacity to explore issues of faith, ethics, and spirituality as a social and cultural force,” said AP Vice President and Managing Editor Brian Carovillano. “We are delighted to be working with these organizations to produce meaningful religion journalism that will help inform audiences across the globe.”

The grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s support for efforts that strengthen the public understanding of religion. Grants have helped fund other media projects, including RNF’s support for RNS and documentaries about religious leaders and traditions.

“This collaborative initiative among RNF, The Associated Press and The Conversation is  groundbreaking and demonstrates significant promise to strengthen both the volume and quality of religion news reporting,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We are excited that the initiative will help to ensure that fair and accurate news coverage about religion will reach broad audiences and increase understanding about the role of religious faith in shaping national and international events.”

Maybe Bruce Springsteen Was Born to Run Home

springsteen netflix

Springsteen on Broadway (courtesy of Netflix)

Religion News Service is running my piece on Catholicism and “home” in “Springsteen on Broadway.” Needless to say, I had fun with this one.

Here is a taste:

Yet, as Springsteen knows all too well, escaping a Catholic past in the Irish and Italian enclaves of working-class New Jersey is not easy. “You know what they say about Catholics … there’s no getting out … (the priests and nuns) did their work hard and they did it well.”

Springsteen understands that the past often has its way with us — shaping us, haunting us, defining us, motivating us and empowering us. Like a priest conducting Mass, he asks the audience to receive the Lord’s Prayer as a “benediction” — perhaps a final blessing from a music legend who was never quite able to outrun the sound of the church bells.

Maybe this is what it means, as he wrote famously in “Born to Run,” to “get to that place where we really want to go” where we can “walk in the sun.” Maybe Bruce Springsteen was born to run home.

Over the years, Springsteen has become the darling of progressive politicians. He campaigned for John Kerry in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and (briefly) for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But when he tells his story on Broadway, he transports us back to a day when progressive ideals and the relentless quest for the American dream were not separated from tradition, roots, place, a longing for home, and Christian faith.

Read the entire piece here.

New Developments in the John Allen Chau Story

We have done several posts on the death of John Allen Chau, the missionary killed by the indigenous inhabitants of North Sentinel Island off the coast of India.  It seems like we learn more and more every day about this tragic event.  Religion News Service reporter https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js“>Jack Jenkins shared some new and relevant information on Twitter today:

What Should We Make of Yesterday’s Exit Polls on Religious Voters?

Vote church

Mark Silk of Religion News Service interprets the exit polls:

  • White evangelicals voted for Republicans.  (Surprise!)
  • Protestants constituted less than half of the electorate for the first time in U.S. history
  • Catholics were split, but they leaned Democratic.  This may be because of the Latino vote.
  • Trump’s support of Israel did not sway Jewish voters.  In fact, their support for Democratic candidates doubled
  • “Nones” voted Democratic

Silk concludes: “The bottom line, as moving parts of the American religious system continue their recent trends, is clear: Republicans beware.”

Read the entire piece here.

Mark Silk: May 2018 Was a “Humiliating Month”

WeinstienOver at his blog at Religion News Service, Trinity College professor Mark Silk reminds us what happened this month as it relates to the #MeToo era:

  • The elders of Willow Creek apologized for casting doubt on women’s allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of departing senior pastor Bill Hybels
  • Paige Patterson, denigrator of women, was relieved of the presidency of Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • “The judgment of God has come,” wrote Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
  • Harvey Weinstein left a New York Police Department precinct in handcuffs.
  • And then there was Morgan Freeman, the Voice of God Himself.

Click here to get the entire list.

What is Happening at Religion News Service?

RNSI have done a lot of writing for Religion News Service over the years.  I hope to continue writing for the site.  I am also a big fan of their reporting.  When the names Yonat Shimron, Adelle Banks, Emily McFarland Miller, or Kimberly Winston come across my feeds, I take notice.

But it appears that the syndicated news service has been facing some difficult challenges of late.  It’s a complicated story and Julia Duin’s piece at Get Religion unpacks it well.  I was most interested in the part of the story dealing Richard Mouw, the evangelical theologian and former president of Fuller Theological Seminary.  Here is a taste:

Last summer, Mouw was growing increasingly disenchanted with President Trump and wondered how he should confront his fellow evangelicals about the unqualified support many were still offering the chief executive. The most obvious editorial vehicle he could use was “Civil Evangelicalism,” Mouw’s regular column for RNS. But how to do so?

Mouw remembered a time back in 1980 when the senior Falwell had echoed the words of Southern Baptist Convention President Bailey Smith, who said that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” Falwell later said he agreed with Smith (Read this Washington Post story for details of who said exactly what) but seemed to modify his tune after a trip to New York, where he met with Jewish leaders.

However, it’s important to note that Mouw’s column said the following, concerning Falwell’s actions (without mentioning Smith):

… Then there was the time when [Falwell] said in a speech that God does not hear the prayers of Jews. This comment provoked an outcry from Jewish leaders. Your father’s immediate response was to call the folks who had criticized him and ask for a meeting. He flew to New York and spent several hours in discussion with these religious leaders. A rabbi friend who was present told me that your father was sincerely humble in his apologies. And when the meeting was over, your dad issued a statement asking Jews for forgiveness for what he had said.

Recalling this incident nearly 40 years later, Mouw, decided to post an open letter to Jerry Falwell Jr., one of the most visible evangelical supporters of the president.

“I said, ‘Look, isn’t it time to admit you were wrong about Trump?’ ” Mouw told me Wednesday. “I said, ‘Look, your dad was willing to admit he made a mistake.’ ”

RNS posted Mouw’s open letter on Aug. 9. You can read it on the website of The Colorado Springs Gazette, since this opinion piece has been deleted from the RNS home page.

It didn’t take long for Mouw to hear back from the younger Falwell.

“Within a day,” he said, “I get an email from the legal department of Liberty University saying I had defamed the character of Jerry Falwell, Sr.; that he’d never said that and I had to publish a retraction or they’d take legal proceedings against me.

Read the rest here.