Filtering by Category: Culture Wars

  •   Culture Wars, Pro Life: Outside the Womb, Reconciliation   •  

Evangelicals Join Forces in October to Pray for Victims of Gun Violence on Survivor Sunday

Evangelicals Join Forces in October to Pray for Victims of Gun Violence on Survivor Sunday - Standard Newswire

The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute joins with prominent church leaders and the Prayer Warriors Against Gun Violence social network to launch nationwide remembrance on October 15, 2017"God bless Prayer Warriors Against Gun Violence, Rev. Rob Schenck and the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute for organizing a national prayer effort appropriately titled Survivor Sunday.

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  •   Creation Care, Culture Wars, Pro Life: In the Womb, Pro Life: Other   •  

The new evangelicals: A return to the original agenda of Christ

I am one of those evangelicals who, in Professor Marcia Pally’s words, have “left the right.” As a former President-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, I resigned that position and all other positions that would box me into ideologies that were becoming insidiously narrow and negative. As a 64-year-old pastor, I may not yet be representative of my generation or profession in my political openness, but I am one of a growing number of white evangelicals who are making biblically-based decisions on an issue-by-issue basis, in a wider circle of conversations than ever. We are put off by the “hardening of the categories” that is stifling not only intellectually, but also spiritually. Part of this transition is cultural. As Professor Pally pointed out, it is not only a generational shift that naturally declares independence from traditional religious reactions (especially paternalistic ones). The transition is for others a distancing from the institutionalism of the church and the inelasticity of a movement that began as personally charitable but has become dogmatically xenophobic.

The greater part of this change, however, is a generic return to the original agenda of Christ. As the world becomes more complex and less predictable, we are seeing a “back to basics” trend. It is an expansion beyond a preoccupation with the more recent monitoring of sexual matters, to a more ‘whole life’ helpfulness. It is the turn from accusation to compassion, and it is much in keeping with the priorities and example of Jesus. His focus on helping the most vulnerable is also our concern. Thus more and more evangelicals are expanding the definition of pro-life. They are including in a pro-life framework concern with poverty, environmental pollution, AIDS treatment, and more. And issues like abortion are being expanded from focusing on only “in utero” concerns—increasing numbers of evangelicals now see prevention of unwanted pregnancy and support for needy expectant mothers as pro-life.

More evangelicals simply want to live our lives according to our spiritual values—unselfishness, other-centeredness, non-presumptuousness—so that when people see “our good works, they will give glory to our Father in heaven.”

Lastly, practically all sustainable change is relationally based. In an increasingly connected world, an increasing number of evangelicals are developing a broader range of relationships, both interfaith and inter-lifestyle. These make us think twice before we declare those who have different values as adversaries. As we “love our neighbor,” we want to cooperate in ways that express our own values while allowing others to express their own.

Professor Pally has established a masterful and nuanced summary of the change in the evangelical political voice. I hope that we will continue the dialogue.


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Young Evangelicals Calling for "Truce" in Gay Marriage Debate

Screen Shot 2012-07-02 at 12.16.30 PM As the battle over gay marriage heats up in this election year, one evangelical Christian writer is calling for a truce, fearing that the outspoken opposition to gay marriage among some church leaders could alienate an entire generation of religious youth.

“Evangelicals have been so submitted to these culture wars for so long, so that’s hard to give up,” evangelical writer and speaker Rachel Held Evans, 31, told But “the majority of young Christians really, really, really want to stop with the political emphasis.”

Held Evans, who regularly speaks at Christian colleges, said the young Christians she meets are much more open to gay rights than are older generations, an observation backed up by polling data.

A 2011 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows the generation gap between young Christians and their elders is large, with 44 percent of white evangelicals aged 18-29 in support of marriage equality compared to only 12 percent of those 65 and older.

According to the same survey, nearly 70 percent of young Christians also agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.

“For young Christians, having gay and lesbian friends is just a part of our life,” Held Evans said. “It’s just really hard for us to see them as mere issues to debate, because we’re talking about our friends here.”

The shift is manifesting itself increasingly on Christian college campuses, including at Biola University in California, where, about two months ago, an anonymous group of students announced the presence of the "Biola Queer Underground," asking that the LGBT community on campus “be treated with equality and respected as another facet of Biola's diversity."

At Wheaton College in Illinois, a group of alumni known as OneWheaton coalesced in 2011 to express its support of the LGBT community on campus.

“OneWheaton understands that LGBTQ issues are difficult to process at Wheaton College,” reads a statement from the group. “We desire this to change for current students and wish to create such an environment, a safe place for them to process these issues and develop into the people they are meant to be.” In response, school officials have said they are open to having a conversation about homosexuality on campus.

To Held Evans, American churches’ attitude toward gay rights will play an important role in the retention of young Christians. In an article she wrote following North Carolina’s recent vote to ban gay marriage, Held Evans points to data mentioned in David Kinnaman’s book You Lost Me, which shows that 59 percent of teens who were raised Christian abandon the church when they become adults. One of the main reasons, the article says, is the church’s attitude toward gay rights.

Fellow Christian writer Matthew Anderson, 30, agrees that there is a generational shift taking place in Christians’ support for gay rights, but he is less convinced it’ll lead to any profound changes in the near-term.

“Those of the conservative side aren’t going away. They’re just going to be a lot more careful in terms of how they frame their positions,” Anderson told

He also doesn’t think younger Christians are going to embrace more liberal views on matters of sexuality, including homosexuality.

“There’s going to be a large, less vocal, at least a substantive minority – it’s not an outright majority – of younger evangelicals who are going to take a broadly conservative position on sexual ethics,” he said.

That position stems from the conviction that God defined marriage in the scripture as between a man and a woman, Anderson said, and Christians don’t believe they have the right to redefine it.

For thousands of years the definition of marriage has been the same, said Pastor Joel Hunter, a spiritual advisor to President Obama. “And so, there’s some reason for the apprehension that says this thing is moving so fast that I wonder what the next 10 years will hold,” he told

In Hunter’s view, the word “marriage” cannot be used to characterize a same-sex union, but he believes having this debate on a national stage offers a unique opportunity.

“We really have an opportunity to raise the level of respect, to raise the dialogue to where no rights of one group trumps another group’s rights,” he said, adding: “The scripture has certain listed sins, and we want to dissuade people from those behaviors, because we think in the long run if it’s in scripture then that’s not something that God approves of.”

Hunter, who leads a Florida megachurch, said he believes the government could establish a kind of civil marriage, which would not fit within the definition of Biblical marriage.

”We don’t 100% equate this as a part of the civil rights movement because for us at least a part of this is a matter of choice, it’s a behavior, and so it’s a different category than skin pigmentation,” he said. “Having said that, we want to be sure that all Americans do have citizens’ rights to enter any legal relationship that they want to.”

But finding compromise appears unlikely, Anderson believes, as most players on the national stage treat the debate as a zero-sum game.

“It’s winner-take-all, and there’s sort of no middle ground between the two positions,” he said.

While young Christians may be divided on whether gay relationships should be celebrated in the church, Held Evans said, they’re increasingly unified on their stance against legislative action, such as North Carolina’s gay marriage ban and others that will be up for votes this fall.

“The majority of young Christians really, really, really want to stop with the political emphasis,” she said. “Even young Christians who think that gay relationships are not God’s design, a lot of them will still say ‘but I think it should be legal for gay people to get married, because this is America.’”

By Becky Bratu,


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  •   Culture Wars, Religious Freedom   •  

How the Church Should Respond to Same Sex Marriage

Screen Shot 2012-06-11 at 2.49.38 PM Last month President Obama publicly acknowledged his support for same sex marriage in an interview with ABC News. Shortly before the interview, the president called Dr. Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland Church near Orlando and a spiritual adviser to the president, to tell him about his decision. Hunter told the president that he disagreed with his view on marriage, but the decision would not fracture their friendship.

I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Hunter and his wife in April at the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast. As we walked along the grounds of the White House and West Wing, I asked Dr. Hunter about his friendship with President Obama. He told me what he said to NBC News last week: “I love him and he’s a friend.” We also discussed how his church members have responded to their evangelical pastor being so close with a Democratic president. His response was both wise and full of grace.

So when news broke about President Obama’s “fully evolved” position on same sex marriage, I decided to contact Dr. Hunter about it. Specifically, I wanted to know what he was saying to his congregation about the matter, and how he thinks other Christians should react to the rapidly shifting cultural views on marriage. Once again, his thoughtful remarks struck me as both wise and gracious.

What are you telling people in your church about the President’s announcement last week that he supports same sex marriage?

First, it gives us a wonderful platform to reemphasize the definition of marriage as God has laid it out in Scripture. We are not free to redefine it once God has defined it. Secondly, I am saying we have to be careful not to enter into a culture war. We have gay people in our congregation. They are people made in the image of God, and we want them to come close to him in Christ and follow God. So we have to remember that this is a hurtful issue for many, many people and we have to be very respectful as we talk about it.

Third, we have to remember that this is a leadership issue. The church should not try to manage society. 1 Corinthians 5:12 says “what have we to do with judging outsiders?” Our business is the Church. We have to be careful not to expect people to follow the same values that Christians follow. Even though marriage is a sacred thing to us, that doesn’t mean it is to everybody. So as this conversation continues, we need to differentiate what is expected from a biblical, obedient Christian and what’s expected from someone who is acting from another worldview. They may have every right to make whatever legal arrangements they want for their relationships, but we have to make sure that the church is protected to do what it believes it is right and not violate its conscience.

Rather than fighting against same sex marriage, do you feel we should be working harder to protect religious liberty?

I think the conversation needs to be extended to include protecting religious liberty. Right now the conversation is only about the civil rights of gay people, but let’s also lift up the rights of those who want to practice their religion without being afraid of lawsuits. If gay marriage becomes civil law, then we need protections for the churches that choose not to marry gay couples. We need to know we will not be open to lawsuits. We do not want to be forced into something that would violate our conscience and our faith.

Was that part of your conversation with President Obama?

When the President called me, I told him that his support of gay marriage is going to be perceived by some Christians as a war on religion. I don’t agree with that, but we’re talking about perception here. I also told him there is an opportunity to lift up both sides--respect for gay people and respect for religious practices that limit the covenant of marriage.

How did the President respond?

He is there. The President is a Christian, and he gets it. He knows what we believe about traditional marriage, and he doesn’t want to violate religious conscience. But there is still a lot of conversation that needs to happen to see how this will actually work out. Until we hear statements and see policy that protects churches and religious liberty, then I’m not sure everyone will be reassured.

Are you concerned that this announcement will spark a new round of culture wars?

Yes, I am. It’s starting right now as people are beginning to organize a response, and given the history of some of these leaders it could become another culture war. But we need to be a third voice saying we don’t need to go there.

What advice do you give pastors who are scared to address marriage or gay rights issues because they’ve become so politicized?

I absolutely understand why pastors are reluctant. Some pastors live in fear of upsetting people because they don’t want to lose their jobs, but many of us are also concerned about dividing the congregation. But we still have to talk about God’s “Plan A” for marriage and raise up examples of exemplary marriages. We don’t have to approach this as a culture war and say the nation is going to hell in a hand basket. We can talk about the positive principles of Scripture without attacking those who disagree with us. I think more pastors feel equipped to do that.

What about critics who say the divorce rate within the church is doing more to harm marriage than anything else? Have we lost moral authority on this issue in the culture?

They certainly have a point, and they can point out our failings. But our platform will always be Scripture. We must stand on Scripture with an understanding that what it says is very difficult for people.


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Government Is Not the Enemy, Nor the Only Answer

Screen Shot 2012-06-04 at 11.05.51 AM Last December, the Gallup organization published the results of a poll about what Americans think “will be the greatest threat to the country in the future.” Sixty-four percent of respondents named “big government” as the greatest threat. Almost immediately a conservative blogger declared, “It is official. Government is the enemy.” Commentary’s Peter Wehner read the numbers as “good news for conservatives.” “They re-confirm,” Wehner wrote, “that this remains a center-right nation, one instinctively committed to limited government and the free market.”

Vigilance about government overreach is always wise; it also has its dangers. The problem with jumping from a normal concern about government intrusion to a far-flung conclusion that all governmental growth is bad is that it falls short of logic, practical solutions, and, for Christians, the foundational place of government in God’s design.

A biblical overview stands in contrast to the simplistic but popular objectification of “the government.” Objectifying the government as beneath us is as intellectually lazy and dismissive as objectifying women or races. The government is people. And most of the people I have met who serve in governmental capacities are working hard to fulfill their responsibilities of office. We can argue whether their office is truly needed, but we cannot simply lump them all together as “the enemy.”

The beginning verses of Romans 13 summarize God’s design to use and shape governments. He always had believers involved with government as agitators or advisors. Some of the prophets in both the New Testament (John the Baptist and Paul) and the Old Testament (Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos) offered corrective rebukes to those in power. Others (Joseph, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel) offered guidance inside the halls of power to both non-Hebrew-God believing leaders and to Hebrew-God believing leaders.

God has instituted government for our well-being. If government policy or leaders are bad, we are to oppose what we deem to be hurtful rather than helpful. But Romans 13:1-7 reveals that government is of God, government is a minister of God, and rulers are servants of God. Spiritually, government is not the enemy.

Logic also declares, “Government is not the enemy.” Jesus taught us that loving our neighbor involves practical help for those in need (Luke 10:30-37). The problems are too big for one faith community or even all faith communities combined to solve—extreme poverty, the ravages of climate change, the horrors of human trafficking, the financial bankruptcy of long-term medical conditions, et al. Logic would tell us that we must enlist various kinds of partners to help with a more comprehensive effort to effectively love our neighbor. Government funding is a necessary and welcome support for those who have no other effective safety net.

It is naive to believe that if the church was doing its job, the government would not have to be in the business of taking care of the needy. Would the church, or all religious institutions together, ever replace government aid? Practically speaking, and even faithfully believing, I say the answer is no.

A small church pastor, Chuck Warnock, summed it up quite nicely. He pointed out that according to figures from the Cato Institute and the Center on Policy and Budget Priorities, the average church would have to double its budget and funnel all its extra giving just to replace the government’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program—aka SNAP (formerly called food stamps). What makes this idea surreal is that almost every church is struggling to meet its week-to-week expenses. And these figures do not even address the additional provisions of government assistance: transportation, job training/education health care, et al.

Our church in Longwood, Florida has experienced firsthand the value of partnering with government agencies. For example, last March, when 60 Minutes did a segment on the challenge of homeless school children in our own county, the show highlighted how the school board and local faith communities banded together to set up a food bank at every school in the county. School-church partnerships mean needy kids don’t go hungry on weekends or during breaks when they are away from reliable food sources at their schools. Additionally, in order to break the cycle of homelessness, churches can do what the school and government cannot. In our church we provide a caseworker, often trained with government funds, for each family that wants personal support to work towards financial independence.

In the traditional Christian understanding of government, government is not the enemy; neither is government the answer. Government is a possible partner in completing faith communities’ mission of loving and serving our neighbors in practical ways. In God’s economy, government agencies and faith communities cooperate to maximize what each can provide for the community. God uses governments to provide material support for the well-being of those in need. He uses faith communities to promote the well-doing of those struggling due to circumstances or choices. He intends the right mix of faith communities and government to create a healthier, more loving society.

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Evangelical activism takes different shapes at Q Conference

Screen Shot 2012-04-10 at 5.38.02 AM Gabe Lyons thinks Christian culture warriors are on the wrong path.

His sixth annual Q Conference, which opens Tuesday in Washington, D.C., is an attempt to do things differently. With 700 participants gathered in a stately downtown auditorium, Lyons will play host to a distinct kind of Christian conference, one that seeks a respectful, constructive conversation on a host of issues confronting the nation.

Q, which stands for "question," will allow 30 different culture leaders — from New York Times columnist David Brooks to Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter— to present their ideas for the common good during a two-and-a-half day confab.

"We feel we have a role to play in renewing the culture and holding back the effects of sin," said Lyons, founder of Q, a nonprofit organization based in New York City. "We're not to do it in an antagonistic way. We hope to do it in a hopeful way that gives witness to the rest of the world in how things ought to be."

Part Clinton Global Initiative, part TED Talk, the conference is designed to highlight the best ideas rather than condemning the nation's ills. Presenters are allocated three, nine, or 18 minutes to talk. Participants sit at round tables instead of rows, and time is built in for participants to reflect and talk about what they've heard.

That kind of format allows Q to include both Richard Land from the religious right and Jim Wallis from the religious left; both will share the stage Tuesday to discuss areas of potential agreement.

Lyons, a Liberty University graduate, said he realized nine years ago how little most Americans respected Christianity. That realization prompted him to acknowledge that the nation's religious pluralism was here to stay, and that if Christians wanted their views to be given a thoughtful hearing, they had better quit resisting and start creating a culture that allows God's love to break though.

His 2010 book, The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America, was a kind of manifesto calling Christians to quit cursing the darkness and start lighting a candle.

Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he appreciates Lyons' point, but thought it was overly simplistic. "Jesus called us to do both; He called us to be salt and light," Land said. "We can walk and chew gum at the same time."

Land said his own denomination, which is often cast as a judgmental culture agitator, is also among the nation's largest providers of emergency disaster relief. In addition, its members give a higher proportion of their incomes to charity.

But Q participants are not about to compromise their evangelical convictions. On Thursday, participants will fan out across Washington to press Congress, the White House and the State Department on issues they deem important.

The difference, Lyons said, is the tone.

"It's more civil, less fear-based," he said. "There's more appreciation for the intellect and a commitment to let the best ideas win out."

The Q Conference will provide a free video stream of its opening day sessions from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. at


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