Biola University

Debate continues: These evangelical insiders think Trump era creates a 'crisis' for the faith

Debate continues: These evangelical insiders think Trump era creates a 'crisis' for the faith

The conservative Christian news magazine World led off its 2017 wrap-up piece with the onrushing sexual harassment protests.  

Writer Mindy Belz linked America’s sexual squalor with the Barack Obama Administration's pushes for mandated birth-control coverage and legalized gay marriage. But she also blamed the election of President Donald Trump, known for a “long tally of sexual misconduct allegations and undisclosed settlements,” and a video that “bragged pointedly about sexual assault.”

Americans “seemed to be acquiescing to such behavior in the halls of power,” Belz wrote, including evangelicals who massively chose Trump over Hillary Clinton. Considering such sexual drift, pundits couldn’t anticipate that “the Trump era would usher in a season of national sexual reckoning.”  

Her observations are a glimpse of what’s called the “crisis” for U.S. evangelicalism in an anthology set for Jan. 23 release: “Still Evangelical?: Ten Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning” (InterVarsity Press), edited by Fuller Theological Seminary President Mark Labberton.

Labberton’s lament: “Evangelicalism in America has cracked, split on the shoals of the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, leaving many wondering  if they want to be in or out of the evangelical tribe.”

“Still Evangelical?” provides a handy hook for reporters who have yet to examine the paradox of Trump’s evangelical support, why that occurs, its impact upon movement prospects and the reasons some want to junk the vague “evangelical” label as misleading and embarrassing.

The book can also guide political writers who have trouble comprehending what the book calls “arguably one of [American Christianity’s] most vibrant and determined movements.”

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Yes, we'll keep defending journalism essentials, even when faced with 'so-called' impartiality

Yes, we'll keep defending journalism essentials, even when faced with 'so-called' impartiality

Apparently, the Los Angeles Times got Julia Duin's memo. Finally.

My fellow GetReligionista questioned last week why the news media seemed "to be ignoring a bill going through the California state legislature that would have a huge impact on dozens of religious colleges in the state and, eventually, the nation as a whole."

Julia wrote:

The matter has enormous implications for the rest of the country because, as we all know, what goes on in California doesn't stay in California.
If religious colleges lose their heads here – financially and doctrinally speaking – they can lose elsewhere too. So where the MSM in this debate? Are they simply unaware of how important religious higher education is in this state or don't they care?

Nearly a week later, the Times has the story.

Here's the opening paragraph:

Dozens of faith-based colleges in California are objecting to legislation that they say would infringe on religious freedom by allowing lawsuits from gay and transgender students who feel discriminated against because their sexual orientation conflicts with church tenets.

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Christian colleges on chopping block: Why are California newspapers ignoring the story?

Christian colleges on chopping block: Why are California newspapers ignoring the story?

Years ago, I was assigned to write a series about the huge growth of Christian colleges in the United States and I got to select the 10 I wanted to profile. To no one’s surprise, four of them were in California because I wanted to go someplace warm.

 While enjoying the March sunshine, I also learned there are tons of Christian colleges all over the state, ranging from a Nazarene university on the ocean to a Catholic college in the orange groves east of Santa Barbara. Religious higher education is a huge industry in the Golden State and this has been the case for decades.

Sports and civil rights are important too, as everyone knows. That's why journalists everywhere, including California, did that full-court press the other day following the death of boxer Muhammad Ali. However, the media -- even newsrooms in California -- seem to be ignoring a bill going through the California state legislature that would have a huge impact on dozens of religious colleges in the state and, eventually, the nation as a whole.

There’s lots of great hot buttons in this story: religious freedom, gay students, employee rights, to name a few.

As you would expect, the alternative, "conservative" press is covering Senate Bill 1146 to the hilt. But the Los Angeles Times, which doused Ali's passing with more than a dozen stories in the past week, has not touched it. At least I could find nothing on their web site, not that of the San Francisco ChronicleSan Francisco Weekly or San Diego Union-Tribune.

One exception is the Sacramento Bee, which ran a guest editorial and the following brief article:

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What do Seattle, San Diego and West Virginia have in common? Right now, it's revivals

What do Seattle, San Diego and West Virginia have in common? Right now, it's revivals

Several months ago, a church in Seattle had a weekend revival. Then the meetings from that event carried over into the following week. And the next week after that. By the time they hit the fifth week, the church was getting bigger crowds, the event had its own hashtag (#westcoastrumble) and the nightly meetings were being broadcast online.

Similar revival meetings in San Diego were making this look like a regional phenomenon. By the eighth week, I decided this just might be news and so I started pitching a story about it. Religion News Service was interested and my story ran April 19.

This got me to thinking about revivals, mass meetings and movements, all of which are notoriously hard for a secular newspaper to cover well. Just what does constitute a large religious movement? Crowds? Miraculous healings? The fact that it’s spread to other locales?

Which is why I was interested to hear of a similar revival happening in West Virginia. The religious media, in this case CBN, were the first to arrive on the scene after a mere three weeks. CBN began with:

MINGO COUNTY, W. Va. -- There's a new sound coming forth from the hills of southern West Virginia - a sound many prophets have foretold but haven't heard until now.
For the past three weeks, the large sports complex in the small coal-mining town of Williamson, West Virginia, has been filled to the rafters with people crying out for God

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Inside Higher Education takes lazy road on covering sex and theology at Biola University

Inside Higher Education takes lazy road on covering sex and theology at Biola University

 

A short article in Inside Higher Education drew our attention this week, as it talks about Biola University going against the grain in contemporary American culture by strengthening its public opposition to sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

Once again, the key here is the school's statement of Christian doctrine -- as opposed to a set of legal "rules" -- that define it as a voluntary association of believers.

Biola is a private liberal arts Christian college in La Mirada, a suburb of Los Angeles that was described thusly by Inside Higher Education:

A few Christian colleges have moved in 2015 to change their rules to permit the hiring in some circumstances of gay and lesbian faculty members. Those colleges are in the distinct minority among evangelical colleges, most of which require faculty members, employees and students to abide by conduct codes that bar any sex except in heterosexual marriage.
At least one Christian institution in California, Biola University, has responded to shifts in public attitudes about sexuality and gender identity by twice in recent years making its rules more strict. While the university characterizes the changes as clarifications, some gay and lesbian employees have complained that the additions make it more difficult for them to sign a required statement that indicates their adherence to the college's rules.

 

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Stay tuned: The New York Times probes sex debates and the quiet evangelical left

Stay tuned: The New York Times probes sex debates and the quiet evangelical left

One of the hot social-media stories right now, in the world of religion news, is the New York Times piece that ran under this headline: "Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights." Note, in particular, that the word used is "debate" rather than the omnipresent liberal Protestant word "dialogue."

There really isn't anything new in this story, for those who have covered the evangelical left for the past quarter century or so. The news is that this debate is now in The New York Times, the bible of our culture's principalities and powers (that be). Even though there is little news content here, this piece does offer a fascinating update on three issues that we have been discussing here at GetReligion ever since we opened our cyber-doors a decade ago.

I. The news media consistently show a lack of interest in covering the actual beliefs -- doctrinal, not political -- of believers on the religious left. The assumption seems to be that their views are so obviously correct that there is no need to cover the fine details or let leaders in these pews and pulpits discuss why they believe what they believe.

For example, it will be interesting to watch mainstream media coverage of the long-expected announcement by the Rev. Tony Campolo, one of America's best known evangelical progressives, that he -- in the words of the Baptist News Global report -- now "supports the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the church." Reporters should also watch what is said, and not said, by those hailing Campolo's decision, such as retired Christianity Today editor David Neff. Again, it is crucial to look for what they are actually saying about Christian doctrine, not U.S. laws or public policy.

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