As I've mentioned previously, "One church's vote for Jesus" was the headline on a story I wrote a few years ago on a Washington, D.C.-area congregation that declared itself a "politics-free zone."
This was the lede:
LAUREL, Md. — People of all political persuasions are welcome at the Laurel Church of Christ.
Politics is not.
“Believe it or not, it almost destroyed this church at one time because we’re so close to Washington,” said adult Bible class teacher Stew Highberg, who retired from the Air Force and works for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The politics of the president and the House and the Senate would creep in,” explained Highberg, a former Laurel church elder. “So we had to put a moratorium on it. You’ll get booted out of here if you start talking politics.”
He was joking about that last part. Mostly.
More than 300 people worship with this fast-growing Maryland church: Roughly three-quarters work for the federal government, the military or a government contractor or have a family member who does.
“We figure we can try to convince people they’re wrong politically, or we can try to persuade them to follow Jesus,” preaching minister Michael Ray said. “We pick Jesus.”
I was reminded of that Maryland congregation when I saw a front-page story in Tuesday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on elephants and donkeys sharing church pews:
The Pittsburgh story was written by Peter Smith, the Post-Gazette's award-winning religion reporter (and a longtime favorite of your GetReligionistas). Given the byline, I knew that I would find the piece fair, interesting and thought-provoking. But just to make sure, I went ahead and read it.
Once again, mission accomplished:
The Sunday after the presidential election, Pastor Rock Dillaman kept his ears tuned to the conversations among members at the church he leads.
He knew from his own observations and general trends that in a racially diverse congregation, there would be plenty of Donald Trump supporters and Hillary Clinton backers, and he could only wonder at the fallout after the most bitter campaign in recent memory.
“What I found that first Sunday was people loving one another, laughing with one another,” said Mr. Dillaman, pastor of Allegheny Center Alliance Church, a North Side congregation with large numbers of white and black worshippers.
Many religious congregations may be almost entirely red or blue in their politics, depending on their racial, theological, geographic and economic makeup.
But some houses of worship have flocks made up of a fairly even mix of donkeys and elephants. Preachers there find themselves “struggling to say something that’s both unifying and prophetic,” wrote Craig Barnes, president of Princeton Theological Seminary, in a recent edition of the journal Christian Century.
It's a quick, easy read — a nice nugget of daily journalism by one of the best on the Godbeat — and definitely worth your time.
Another Godbeat story that is timely with President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration just two days away: religion writer Holly Meyer's piece in The Tennessean — and picked up by Gannett flagship USA Today — on the Bibles that Trump will be sworn in on:
When President-elect Donald Trump takes his oath of office on Inauguration Day, his hand will rest on his family Bible and the Abraham Lincoln Bible.
Alex Stroman, the deputy director of communications for the 58th Inaugural Committee, confirmed the picks Tuesday morning. The Lincoln Bible, used during the 16th president's first inauguration, was most recently a part of President Barack Obama's first and second inauguration ceremonies and is a part of the Library of Congress' collection.
Trump's Bible, a revised standard version, was presented to him in 1955 by his mother upon graduation from Sunday Church Primary School in New York. Trump showed off the Bible in an early 2016 campaign video, thanking evangelicals for their support. Exit polls showed that four out of five white evangelicals voted for Trump.
“My mother gave me this Bible. This very Bible many years ago," Trump said in the video. "In fact, it’s her writing, right here. She wrote the name and my address, and it’s just very special to me."
Trump, a Presbyterian, has called the Bible his favorite book, and referred to it often on the campaign trail. But his Bible literacy has been questioned, including when he mispronounced a Bible verse. He cited “two Corinthians” rather than of saying “Second Corinthians” while speaking at Liberty University.
Keep reading, and Meyer (also a GetReligion favorite) offers nice details on the history of Bibles being used as new presidents take the oath of office.
Also, I would remind GetReligion readers that there's some debate on whether Trump got the Second Corinthians reference wrong or not:
Meanwhile, perhaps the most intriguing Godbeat/Trump story of the week comes courtesy of Religion News Service and national writer Lauren Markoe.
Some of the meaty content in the RNS report:
But theologians across faith traditions have taken the question of God’s role in human affairs quite seriously for millennia.
Among those who study religion and politics — even among those who don’t believe in God or reject the notion that he puts his thumbs on the electoral scales — the belief remains relevant if only because so many people hold it.
And while many scholars of divinity deem it theologically problematic, they still invite study of the issue. It’s an unsettled question in many minds, and complicated: Not everyone who believes God intercedes in human affairs believes so in the same way. Not everyone who believes God put Trump in office likes Trump.
The question of God and the election begs bigger questions — about the nature of God, and if and how God becomes involved in earthly affairs. It is also a question of comfort. For some believers a God who picks the president is a God close at hand.
“At bottom, it is connected to the belief that God cares about our lives, which is a great thing,” says Wheaton College theologian Vincent Bacote, who nevertheless subjects to close scrutiny any claim that God intercedes in American elections.
Finally, if you're in the mood, Washington Post religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey — a former GetReligionista — has a quiz on the biblical kings to whom Trump has been compared:
I bet you can't beat my perfect score:
Really, I hate to brag. But if you saw my college transcript, you'd know I'm not used to grades that high.
P.S. Please feel free to provide links to any Godbeat/Trump stories I missed this week.