sexual abuse

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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Religious left in Alabama: Washington Post settles for analysis of Doug Jones' faith

Religious left in Alabama: Washington Post settles for analysis of Doug Jones' faith

Let's talk about the religion of the U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama.

No, not that candidate.

I'm referring to Doug Jones, the Democrat facing the much-discussed Republican -- Roy Moore -- in Tuesday's election.

The Washington Post's Acts of Faith has an article with an intriguing headline noting that "Roy Moore isn't the only Christian running for Senate in Alabama." The article offers specific details on Jones' faith up high, rather like a news article.

But this is not a news article, even though this is certainly a topic that deserves solid, hard-news coverage. This article is clearly labeled "analysis." A key passage:

Jones belongs to Canterbury United Methodist Church, a 4,000-member congregation in Birmingham’s suburbs. Over the past 33 years, he has been an active participant in Sunday school, even teaching occasionally, and has driven the church bus to bring older members to services.
“It’s fair to say Doug has been a very active Christian,” according to former Birmingham-Southern College president Neal Berte, who first met Jones when he was working at the University of Alabama in the 1970s and attends church with him. “He is a principled leader, but … not in the sense of, ‘You either believe the way I do or there’s no room for you.’”
Through his campaign staff, Jones declined an interview. His spokesman, Sebastian Kitchen, said in a statement: “As a person of deep faith, Doug believes in Christ’s call to minister to all people -- regardless of their background, race, or religion. Unfortunately, Roy Moore instead uses religion to divide people, instead of trying to join together to make progress.”
In an article in the Birmingham News, Jones spoke openly about how his faith commitments drive his professional commitments of justice, fairness and respect.
“I go to church. I’m a Christian. I have as many people of faith that have been reaching out to me about this campaign,” he said. “They want someone who cares about all people, not just a select few. That’s what I think the teachings of religion are, is the caring about the least of these, the caring about all people, and making sure there’s a fairness to everything.”

Good stuff. I'm definitely interested in Jones' faith. Anyone following the Alabama U.S. Senate race should be.

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Let's be clear: It's rape, not a relationship, when a youth pastor impregnates a teen

Let's be clear: It's rape, not a relationship, when a youth pastor impregnates a teen

Jimmy Hinton is sick and tired of so-called "inappropriate relationships" between youth pastors and teenagers.

In such a case, Hinton declares, it's not a "relationship," it's a "rape."

He's absolutely right. More on the latest case drawing his ire in a moment. But before we get to that, a little background.

I first shared Hinton's story, headlined "A child molester's son shines a light," in The Christian Chronicle in January 2015:

SOMERSET, Pa. — Jimmy Hinton grew up at the feet of the wolf.
For 27 years, his father, John Wayne Hinton, proclaimed the Gospel to the sheep of the Somerset Church of Christ — a century-old congregation in this southwestern Pennsylvania coal-mining community.
“I went into ministry because of him,” said Jimmy Hinton, 35, the middle child of 11 brothers and sisters.
But three years ago, the son — who became Somerset’s preacher in 2009 — learned a horrible secret: John Hinton was a longtime child molester who had sexually abused young girls and escaped discovery for decades.
Jimmy Hinton uncovered the truth after an adult molested as a child confided in him. The Holy Spirit, he believes, drove his response. 
“I believe you,” he told the victim.
He reported his father to police and prompted an investigation that resulted in the pedophile preacher, now 65, pleading guilty to sexually assaulting and taking nude photographs of four young girls, ages 4 to 7.
While his father — inmate No. KP7163 — serves a 30- to 60-year sentence in Rockview State Prison, Jimmy Hinton works to help heal his home congregation and create awareness far beyond Somerset, a town of 6,300 about 75 miles east of Pittsburgh.

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An accused priest, a long-suffering victim: The hero in this sad tale is ... a journalist

An accused priest, a long-suffering victim: The hero in this sad tale is ... a journalist

We've said it before: Negative posts about media coverage of religion are so much easier to write than positive ones.

When critiquing a less-than-perfect story, there are flaws to point out. Unanswered questions to raise. Bias to criticize.

But when a story hits all the right notes — compelling subject matter, fair treatment of all sides, no sign of where the reporter stands — it's tempting to say, simply, "Hey, read this!" and move along.

That's the case with Godbeat pro Manya Brachear Pashman's in-depth report on whether a Chicago priest should return to ministry after revelations of teen misconduct:

Should a priest's sexual misconduct as a youth bar him from ministry? That's the question facing Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich.
For decades, the Rev. Bruce Wellems, a Roman Catholic priest with the Claretian Missionaries, has served as a father figure for young men in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood.
But when revelations of his sexual misconduct as a teenager resurfaced in 2014 shortly after his religious order transferred him to California, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez removed him from ministry immediately. He returned to his former neighborhood to resume work as a youth advocate and community organizer.
Now Cupich must decide whether the popular priest can wear a collar, celebrate Mass and officially return to active ministry. Wellems, 58, admits to the abuse, though his recollection of the details and how long it lasted differs from the victim's.
"These allegations had nothing to do with who I was as a person," Wellems said in an interview with the Tribune. "In my adult life I've done nothing against children. There's nothing that's ever come up."
The contrast between the actions in Los Angeles and Chicago highlights a gray area in the church's policies on clerical sexual abuse of children and a stark difference in how two archdioceses have handled the issue. Rules adopted by America's Catholic bishops in 2002 apply to priests and deacons who commit even a single incident of abuse, but they give dioceses considerable discretion on how to apply the church's zero-tolerance policy.

Another temptation with a story like this is to copy and paste every word. But at 2,800 words, that would make for a long post. And I'd get myself into copyright trouble.

So I'll try to explain what I like about this story. It's not the subject matter per se. Sexual abuse doesn't make for cheerful reading. 

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Digging in: Yes, this is another headline containing the all-important search term 'Duggars'

Digging in: Yes, this is another headline containing the all-important search term 'Duggars'

I realize that, in the current Washington Post effort to organize and increase its religion coverage (we applaud, of course) the flag headline "Acts of Faith" has become a kind of logo and catch-phrase to attract readers.

Still, I wonder if anyone at the copy desk stopped for a second before producing the following double-decker head on the tabloid-esque story of the week, producing some rather painful content when read in one flow:

Acts of Faith
Josh Duggar molested four of his sisters and a babysitter, parents tell Fox News

Hang on, because we will get to the content of the Post story, which was actually quite straightforward and subdued -- in contrast to the take-no-prisoners tone of some of the other coverage.

Religion News Service also produced a rather flat, sensible news piece, but as is the norm in the edgy social-media age, felt the need to wave the editorial flag with this bite of snark in the promo headline atop the daily email newsletter:

Duggars keep digging

As in the Duggars keep digging their own grave, of course.

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