Showing posts with label Religion-Community. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion-Community. Show all posts

August 14, 2019

Evangelicals Are Really Turned On By Trump First Term (The Blasphemy Not So Much)

Congregants at First Baptist Dallas church celebrate Freedom Sunday. (Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Washington Post)

 Three years ago, Rickey Halbert was torn about whether to vote for President Trump. 
On the one hand, he’d read about Trump’s extramarital affairs and the women who alleged he had sexually assaulted them. Halbert, a Defense Department employee, didn’t think the candidate matched his moral compass.
Then again, he believed Trump would reduce the number of abortions in the country.
In the end, he said, that convinced him to vote for the president, like most of his fellow evangelicals.
In the years since, he’s watched as Trump restricted abortion access, rolled back gay rights and tried to reduce both legal and illegal immigration. He’s listened as Trump has made racist statements and been accused of rape.
He has reached the same conclusion as so many evangelicals across the country: In 2020, he’ll support the president. This time, it won’t be a hard choice.

President Donald Trump stands with Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. in Lynchburg, Va. (Steve Helber/Associated Press)
Trump enjoyed overwhelming support from white evangelicals in 2016, winning a higher percentage than George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney. That enthusiasm has scarcely dimmed. Almost 70 percent of white evangelicals approve of Trump’s performance in office, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll.
Interviews with 50 evangelical Christians in three battleground states — Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — help explain why. In conversation, evangelical voters paint the portrait of the Trump they see: a president who acts like a bully but is fighting for them. A president who sees America like they do, a menacing place where white Christians feel mocked and threatened for their beliefs. A president who’s against abortion and gay rights and who has the economy humming to boot.
“You’ve just got to accept the bad with the good,” Halbert said.
Evangelical Christians are separated from other Protestants (called mainline Protestants) by their belief in the literal truth of the Bible as well as their conservative politics on gender roles, sexuality, abortion and other subjects. 
For many, the eight years of the Obama administration felt like a nightmare. The indelible image for the Rev. Chris Gillott was the night the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage legal across the land and Obama flooded the White House in rainbow lights.
“I didn’t see it lit up in a rainbow this June,” the youth pastor at Christian Life Center in Bensalem, Pa., notes, with a hint of satisfaction.
Gillott perceived, during the Obama administration, a newly hostile attitude toward Christians in America that left him worried his country was changing irrevocably. “If you think marriage is between one man and one woman, you’re a bigot and we don’t need you in this country,” he summarized what he saw as the thinking of Democrats. “There is animus being attributed to Christian core beliefs. And where that’s coming from is the left.” 
Trump looked to many like a protector, a brash culture warrior who would take their side. “He said, ‘I’m gonna fight for you. I’m gonna defend you,’ ” said Ralph Reed, the chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Georgia, which will distribute millions of voter-guide pamphlets at churches to drive evangelical turnout in 2020. “He gets it. He knows they’re hungry for that.”
Reed, and others, don’t necessarily expect Trump to fix the problems they see. On gay rights in particular — by far the most drastic change in American attitudes in this century — evangelicals fought hard to block marriage equality. But now, many believe that ship has sailed.
While they cheer Trump’s many efforts to chip away at LGBT rights, they are much more concerned with protecting their own right to maintain their opposition. 
They want to be able to teach their values without interference — some churchgoers fretted about school textbooks that refer to transgender identities without condemnation and about gay couples showing up in TV commercials every time they try to watch a show with their children.
They want the right to choose how they run their businesses. Members of large churches across the country can rattle off the details of the court cases involving Christian business owners who refused to participate in gay weddings and the bill that Democrats in Congress want to pass to compel service for all customers.
For many, abortion was the defining issue of the last election. In Appleton, Wis., the Rev. A.J. Dudek sat with several leaders of men’s Bible study groups recently in his megachurch’s huge curving lobby. 
“Do I enjoy his tweets? No,” Dudek said about the president. But he believes the agenda far outweighs that concern. “If Donald Trump will help save a couple million babies that’s a good thing. My vote has to align with my view of God’s word — I should care for the baby in the womb.”
It’s a calculation that evangelicals frequently described making when they considered their options in the 2016 election.
But now, many are genuinely delighted by the Trump they’ve seen in office.
The economy is roaring. Trump makes mention of God at rallies and pays lip service to evangelicals. They praise his honesty, focusing not on falsehoods spoken but on his attempts to do all the things he said he would do in office.
“He’s forthright and honest — at his rallies, he talks about God,” said Joey Rogers, who wore a Trump hat while shopping at a gun show in Bradenton, Fla., last month. Rogers, a member of an evangelical church near Tampa, has attended televangelist Paula White’s church in Georgia a few times and said her affiliation with Trump reassures him that the president is a praying man. 
Democrats think Christians are “wacky,” he said. He also bemoaned a degradation of American life brought on, Rogers said, by half a century of removing prayer from public schools and Bible verses from federal courthouses.
“All of our laws are based on the Ten Commandments,” he said. “I think that’s why the country is losing the values that we once had.”
During a Sunday in July when Trump spent morning not at church but instead tweeting that four congresswomen of color — three of whom were born in the United States — should “go back” to the countries “from which they came,” many white evangelicals in Florida said immigration is their top priority. They almost unanimously approved of Trump’s handling of the border.
“If you are coming to America and you are in one of our facilities being held, that’s on you,” said Andrea Owen, a retired police officer who spends most days babysitting her autistic great-nephew. “I’m not trying to be hateful because we’re all God’s people. But do it legally. . . . The places they’re housing them? Honestly, if they’re so uncomfortable, they shouldn’t have come here.” 
Some evangelicals, like Julian Ketchum at Hope Community Church in King of Prussia, Pa., label themselves “values voters.” What they mean by values: abortion and gay rights, not traits like integrity and kindness. “There’s no way I can know those” attributes of a person’s character, Ketchum said, though he then said he picked Trump over Clinton in part because he found her dishonest.
And the allegations that Trump sexually assaulted numerous women are not a moral concern, many Christians say.
“I don’t see him as a rapist,” said Cheryl Gough, a preschool teacher at Bay Life Church in Brandon, Fla. “He can be not the nicest person, but I don’t see — I’m not calling her a liar. There’s just been too many allegations. Now you’re coming to the public about it?”
Evangelical views on gender roles also tend to put them at odds with the American mainstream: Most believe the Bible teaches that women ought to be submissive to men, who are in charge within the family. 
Reed, who predicts Trump will capture as large a share of the evangelical vote in 2020 or even larger than in 2016, said a Democratic opponent who tries to chastise Trump for sexual harassment will only turn off these voters.
“Do not campaign on somebody’s personal shortcomings. History says voters are very forgiving. And they don’t like hearing it,” he said. “They’ve had moral shortcomings. They’ve had moral failings.”
The accusations of Trump’s shortcomings just keep coming. Opponents decry his attitude toward people of color, his approach to immigrants detained at the border, his answers to violence in American cities, and on and on.
But in Appleton, the Rev. Dennis Episcopo hasn’t felt the need as a religious leader to denounce any of it in front of his congregation, which includes more than 5,000 attendees on a typical Sunday. The megachurch that he has led for 22 years is almost entirely white and conservative, like the lakeside region where it is located.
Episcopo has not seen any behavior from Trump in the past three years that would prompt him to openly dissuade churchgoers from supporting this president.
“There could be something, where society really crosses the line on something, that I feel as a pastor I have to get up and say something,” he muses. “But it hasn’t happened yet.”

May 9, 2018

Prominent Baptist Minister Advised Women to Just Pray for Their Abusive Husbands

A prominent Southern Baptist leader faces demands for his dismissal after women from his own denomination reacted angrily to the news that he once advised abused women to pray for their husbands and gave a sermon in which he defended a lewd remark about a teenage girl as "biblical."
Paige Patterson, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has denied having condoned marital abuse. He has so far declined to apologize for his past comments and is still scheduled to speak at an upcoming Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Dallas.
The controversy centers in part on how Southern Baptists should interpret their commitment to "complementarianism," a doctrine that holds that the Bible assigns different but complementary roles to men and women.
More than 2,000 Southern Baptist women have signed an open letter saying they are "shocked" by Patterson's comments on divorce and sexuality and warning Southern Baptist Convention leaders not to allow "the biblical view of leadership to be misused in such a way that a leader with an unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality be allowed to continue in leadership."
The uproar was prompted by the release about 10 days ago of the recording of an interview Patterson gave in 2000 in which he counseled women who have been physically abused by their husbands to pray for them. In that interview, Patterson recounted how he had given that advice to one woman who had been repeatedly assaulted by her husband.
Returning some days later with two black eyes, the woman said, "I hope you're happy."
"I said, 'Yes, ma'am, I am happy,' " Patterson quoted himself as telling the woman. "What she didn't know when we sat in church that morning," he said, "was that her husband had come in and was standing in back, first time he ever came."
Patterson has also come under fire for a sermon he gave in 2014 about how God created women "beautifully and artistically." He related a conversation he had with a woman while her son and a friend were standing alongside. As they talked, a teenage girl whom Patterson described as "very attractive" walked by, and one of the boys said, "Man, is she built."
The woman immediately scolded him, but Patterson said he interjected in the boy's defense.
"I said, 'Ma'am, leave him alone,' " Patterson recounted. " 'He's just being biblical. That is exactly what the Bible says.' "
Hearing Patterson tell that story, Karen Swallow Prior was outraged.
"Regardless of one's view of how pastors should counsel women who are being abused," Prior says, "we should be uniform in denouncing any sexualization of a child."
Prior, a professor of English at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and about 30 other women immediately drafted the letter objecting to Patterson's remarks, addressing it to the Board of Trustees of Patterson's seminary.
"The future of the Southern Baptist Convention is at stake," Prior says. "As the world, as our country and our churches grow more diverse and the old guard of white male leadership fades away, we need to have people who will keep alive the doctrines and beliefs that people like myself believe in."
"[Patterson] needs to step down, or other men need to step in and recognize the inappropriateness of this kind of leadership," she says.
Within 24 hours of the letter's release, 2,100 Southern Baptist women had signed it, identifying the churches to which they belonged.
"I passed it on to women in my church," says Krissie Inserra, whose husband is the pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Tallahassee, Fla.
"I am proud to be a Southern Baptist," she says. "I think we do a lot of really great things. However, I am ashamed to be associated with this type of behavior, and I think a lot of women — and men — feel the same way. We cannot let this stand."
The controversy over Patterson's remarks has put a spotlight on the denomination's teachings about men's and women's distinctive roles in church and at home and the Southern Baptist beliefs that women should follow biblical directions to "submit" to their husbands and that men should hold the key leadership positions in the church.
Some prominent Southern Baptist women say male church leaders cite such teachings to justify their mistreatment of women. Beth Moore, a popular evangelical author, last week wrote a lengthy and angry blog post last week describing "attitudes of some key Christian leaders that smacked of misogyny, objectification and astonishing disesteem of women." She said she had encountered "one of the most demoralizing realizations of my adult life: Scripture was not the reason for the colossal disregard and disrespect of women among many of these men. It was only the excuse. Sin was the reason."
Among those who responded to Moore's post was Denny Burk, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an evangelical organization that promotes the philosophy of complementarianism.
"I grieve to read Moore's description of her experiences, but I am grateful that she shared them," Burk wrote. "Men, we have got to get better."
The letter from the Southern Baptist women does not challenge the teaching of complementarianism, and proponents of the principle argue that the failings of male Christian leaders should not discredit the teaching.
"In its essence, complementarianism simply affirms the fact that God created both men and women equally in his image and each with its respective role," says Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While Mohler takes no position on how Southern Baptist Convention leaders should handle the Paige Patterson controversy, he concedes that "even essential truths can be misused."
"There is no excuse for any kind of harmful statement, demonstration of sexism, or condescension from any man to any woman, and particularly from any man who has spiritual responsibility," Mohler says. "Many men act very badly, and men who act badly claiming the mantle of complementarianism can be some of the most dangerous."

August 30, 2017

Super Rich Joel Osteen Has Not Done Much For Houston Hurricane Victims

In 2005, Joel Osteen famously bought the former Compaq Center in Houston to house his ginormous Lakewood Church, which seats over 16,000.
As Hurricane Harvey flooding continues to displace thousands, folks on Twitter can’t understand why the famous televangelist hasn’t opened the church doors to offer assistance or temporary housing.
So far, Osteen has tweeted a message of support: “Victoria & I are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family.”

Houston pastor Joel Osteen is responding to widespread criticism of his megachurch's decision to not open doors of its 15,000-plus seat arena to flood victims seeking refuge after Hurricane Harvey.
Osteen said Monday that his Lakewood Church was "prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity" in a statement to ABC News, despite an earlier Facebook post from the church that insisted it was "inaccessible due to severe flooding."
The church announced plans Monday evening to act as a collection site for Houston-area shelters. "We know the need is great. That much is clear," a church statement said. "We do not yet know all the ways we can help."
Then, on Tuesday, the church announced it was currently "receiving people who need shelter" in addition to distributing supplies. 
Meanwhile, thousands of victims sought shelter in the George R. Brown Convention Center about six miles northeast of the church, ABC News reported. The facility held 6,000 evacuees — 1,000 past its stated capacity. 
Who is Joel Osteen?
Osteen is the senior pastor of Houston's Lakewood Church. Osteen took over the church after the death of his father and the church's founder, John Osteen, in 1999. From there, the church skyrocketed in attendance from about 5,000 people per week to more than 50,000. Osteen's wife, Victoria Osteen, serves as co-pastor.

How big is the church? 

Lakewood Church meets in the former Compaq Center in the heart of Houston, where the NBA's Houston Rockets once played. When the church moved into the arena in 2005, the $75 million renovations involved two waterfalls, jumbotrons, and concert-style lighting.
The exposure from the church, which also broadcasts services on television, helped Osteen become a best-selling author. The success of his book Your Best Life Now enabled Osteen to refuse his church's six-figure salary in 2005.

No stranger to criticism

Since his emergence, Osteen has faced criticism both for his church's operations and his messages, which emphasize positive thinking. When Lakewood moved into its arena, the facility did not feature a cross or other obvious Christian iconography, opting instead for a giant, spinning globe.

At the time, one liberal Christian magazine, The Christian Century, accused Osteen of neutering the Bible into "digestible categories of self-help and self-improvement." Osteen's mother, Dodie Osteen, responded to the criticism: "We don't preach the gospel sad, we preach it gladly."
The Associated Press and Holly Meyer of The Tennessean contributed to this article.
Follow Josh Hafner on Twitter: @joshhafner

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