JUDAISM & CHRISTIANITY & “You Should Know This: A Rabbi Explains Christianity to Jews” an interview with author Rabbi Stephen M. Wylen.

by Jeffrey Salkin, Religion News Service, 11/1/22.

…Why did you write this book? Who is your audience?

…In this case, my audience is all American Jews, and a good portion of American Christians. Jews have so many questions about the religion of our neighbors, and they do not have a reliable place to turn for answers. I have given them answers.

Even though Jews live in an overwhelmingly Christian culture, we do not really understand Christianity as well as we might. Why is that the case?

Jeff, you have defined the problem exactly. There are a number of reasons for our misunderstanding.

First, we get a lot of our information from popular culture — movies, television, popular Christmas songs — and that information is often misleading.

Second, we live in a secular age, and general knowledge about religion is lacking. We can ask a Christian friend a question, but they might not know the right way to answer.

Third, there are still many people out there who want to convert Jews to Christianity, sometimes using deceptive means to reach out to us. This makes Jews defensive and suspicious, and rightly so. Jews need a trusted source for information.

…American Jews need to understand Christianity just like a fish needs to understand the ocean in which it swims. This is our environment.

What are some of the most common Jewish misconceptions about Christianity?

If Jews want to understand Christianity and how it differs from Judaism, first they need to know more about Judaism. That is why this book that explains Christianity contains a lot of Judaism.

…What is the biggest error that Jews and Christians share? The misconception that Christianity and Judaism are opposites. Jews and Christians alike simply assume that if something is Jewish, it’s “not Christian,” and vice versa.

So, for example: If Christians have a religion of love, then it must be that Jews just have a religion of harsh judgment.

If Christians believe in divine forgiveness, then it must be that Jews don’t believe in divine forgiveness.

If Christians believe in an afterlife, then it must be that Jews do not.

If Christianity is all about believing in Jesus, then Judaism is all about not believing in Jesus.

This popular view of Christianity and Judaism as opposites harms Jews and Judaism, and it also misrepresents Christianity. It would be far more accurate to say Christianity and Judaism offer different answers to some of the same compelling questions.

What do you think of the increasing tendency to try to meld these two faiths together and/or to minimize differences?

Everyone wants to get along. And, many households have both Christian and Jewish members. So, people have a stake in minimizing differences.

But, the problem in doing this is that it does violence to both religions. Just as you can only speak a specific language, you can only practice a specific religion. Judaism and Christianity are the “same” — only if you are not practicing either religion in your daily life. If we want to live our religion, it becomes apparent that Judaism and Christianity often contradict each other. That is why they are, in the end, different religions.

Some say we should all forget our differences and just come together. That sounds friendly, but in reality, it threatens the minority faith. It is as if the ocean says to the pond: “Let us merge, and just be one body of water.” If the ocean and the pond merge, the end result is that it will look just like the ocean. But, the ducks, trout and cattails will no longer have a home.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2022/11/01/you-should-know-this-wylen-judaism-christianity-interfaith/

EDUCATION & Does education ‘cure’ people of faith? The data says no.

by Ryan Burge, Religion News Service, 11/10/22.

 It’s been 30 years since The Washington Post published an article on Christian televangelists, describing their followers as “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command.” The pushback was immediate and overwhelming, as thousands flooded the Post’s telephone switchboard and letters poured in to its editors after Pat Robertson — a Yale Law School alum himself — read the offending passage on his television show, “The 700 Club.”

It was a watershed in journalism that woke many mainstream outlets to the reality of evangelicals’ demographics and power.

Yet the bias that says that churches, mosques and synagogues are filled with people who have a low level of education persists. The common assumption is that a formal education, particularly a college degree, is antithetical to religious belonging.

Even a cursory look at recent data reveals that just the opposite is true: Those who are the most likely to be religiously unaffiliated are those with the lowest levels of formal education. The group that is the most likely to align with a faith tradition? Those who have earned a college degree or more.

Chart by Ryan Burge

The Cooperative Election Study, one of the largest publicly available surveys in the United States, began in 2008. In all 14 years since, those Americans who attained no more than a high school diploma have been more likely to report no religious affiliation than college graduates. In 2020, 38% of those who did not finish high school described their religion as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular. For those who had completed some graduate school, just 32% said that they were among those unaffiliated with any religious community, a group known as the nones.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2022/11/10/does-education-cure-people-of-faith-the-data-says-no/?

FORGIVENESS & When it comes to forgiveness, faith and science agree on the benefits. Across dozens of scientific studies in diverse contexts, the physical and mental health benefits of forgiveness have been validated. See links here.

by Azza Karam,  Andrew Serazin, Religion News Service, 10/24/22.

(RNS) — Forgiveness is an age-old practice central to the teaching of many of the world’s religions. In Islam, forgiveness suggests alignment with Allah. In Judaism, acts of atonement — or Teshuva — are expected for wrongdoing. In Christianity, forgiveness is unconditional, by loving one’s enemies as oneself.

… When it comes to the transformative power of forgiveness, scientists and faith leaders agree on its benefits for long-term mental and physical health. It is clear that the ability to forgive — to transform anger and resentment into hope and healing — can indeed be a restorative and healing act requiring faith. But forgiveness is also backed by an ever-growing body of scientific evidence, one that refines and extends our faith in new ways

… We now know that to receive the most powerful benefits of forgiveness, it requires both the head and heart. Decisional forgiveness, which accesses the cognitive centers of the brain, must be accompanied by emotional forgiveness, which involves a full range of affective consequences.  In addition, over the past two decades research has delivered high-quality evidence that forgiveness improves overall health and well-being, down-regulates the body’s stress response and improves cardiovascular outcomes. 

And for those whose ability to forgive may not be as automatic, scientific knowledge based on tested interventions can support the work of spiritual leaders who seek to help their communities with their forgiveness journeys. Likewise, scientific research has engaged directly with aspects of faith, demonstrating through empirical studies how belief can enhance a person’s ability to forgive.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2022/10/24/when-it-comes-to-forgiveness-faith-and-science-agree-on-the-benefits/?

HOMELESSNESS & New book invites Christians to rethink homelessness.

Kathryn Post, Religion News Service, 8/10/22.

… In his new book, ”Grace Can Lead Us Home: A Christian Call to End Homelessness” (out Tuesday, Aug. 9, from Herald Press), the Fuller Seminary graduate says that many of his fellow Christians make the same mistake. Too often, they offer cash or bagged lunches instead of relationships. Or they avert their eyes and just move on.

Churches can be involved in creating and sustaining affordable housing by donating land or supporting initiatives and candidates in building more affordable housing. For those already doing programs addressing homelessness, I really encourage moving from transactional to a relational model. Rather than having volunteers all in a kitchen or behind a serving table, have them move out, sit and eat with the people there. Instead of offering a to-go meal, allow people to rest for a few hours.

“Grace Can Lead Us Home: A Christian Call to End Homelessness”

Nye suggests trying to see people experiencing homelessness as if they were Jesus.

“If we actually saw Jesus on the side of the road, and recognized him as the Son of God, our savior, we probably wouldn’t just roll down our window and hand him a five,” Nye told Religion News Service in a recent phone interview. “We’d hopefully pull over and talk and enter into some sort of relationship where we are doing a lot more listening than talking.”

… In the merit-based model, people have to earn their way through a process that ends in independent housing. Often people need to be clean and sober to enter a shelter, then in the shelter, they follow the rules and can graduate to shared housing. If they keep staying clean and sober, and keep attending the treatment plan laid out for them, they can graduate to maybe interim housing. Long-term, if they stay the course, they can finally receive housing.

One thing to note is that it just doesn’t work, statistically speaking. People are more likely to end their homelessness on their own, without any help, than to end their homelessness with programs like that. Ultimately, that model has so many barriers and provides so many opportunities for people to fail. The moment they do, programs like that put blame on that person for falling out of the program rather than asking, is this program flawed?

… Housing first is proven to work far more effectively, and it’s common sense. If you provide someone with a baseline of safety, security and a place where they can sleep well every night behind a locked door, receive mail and have neighbors, then they are far more capable of building their lives back, whether that’s finding work or getting treatment for mental health, substance use or for a physical disability.

Housing becomes the springboard for people to flourish.

… Churches can be involved in creating and sustaining affordable housing by donating land or supporting initiatives and candidates in building more affordable housing. For those already doing programs addressing homelessness, I really encourage moving from transactional to a relational model. Rather than having volunteers all in a kitchen or behind a serving table, have them move out, sit and eat with the people there. Instead of offering a to-go meal, allow people to rest for a few hours.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2022/08/09/new-book-invites-christians-to-rethink-homelessness/

HYPOCRITICAL & New Research says non-Christians are likely to say Christians do not represent the teachings of Jesus, illustrating a disconnect between how Christians and non-Christians view Christianity.

By Emily McFarlan Miller, Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service, 3/9/22.

Ask a Christian to describe other Christians and the answers likely will be “giving,” “compassionate,” “loving” and “respectful.”

Ask a non-Christian, on the other hand, and the more likely descriptors you’ll get for Christians are “hypocritical,” “judgmental” and “self-righteous.”

Non-Christians are also far more likely to say Christians do not represent the teachings of Jesus.

Those are the results of a new surveyconducted by the Episcopal Church, released Wednesday (March 9), that illustrates stark differences between how Christians and non-Christians view Christianity in the United States. 

“There is a disconnect between the reality of Jesus and the perceived reality of Christians,” said Bishop Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Strong majorities of evangelical Protestants (71%), mainline Protestants (59%), other Protestants (65%) and other Christians (61%) said they viewed Christians overall as compassionate, as did 46% of Catholics. However, only 15% of those who belong to other religions said the same, and the number was even lower among people who claim no religious affiliation (12%).

The ratio roughly flipped when respondents hypocritical: Most religiously unaffiliated Americans said yes (55%), whereas 20% or less of all Christian groups agreed. Evangelicals in particular were the least likely (12%) to describe Christians as hypocritical.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2022/03/09/episcopal-bishop-curry-says-more-to-do-as-poll-shows-christians-seen-as-hypocrites/?trrr

DEMOGRAPHICS & White mainline Protestants now outnumber white evangelicals, while ‘nones’ shrink. #CensusOfAmericanReligion

by Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service, 7/8/21.

White Christian decline has slowed. Mainline Protestants now outnumber white evangelicals. New York is home to several of the most religiously diverse counties in the U.S.

These shifts and findings are among some of the notable revelations documented in a sweeping and exhaustive survey of the U.S. religious landscape by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The 2020 Census of American Religion, released on Thursday (July 8), is based on what researchers called an “unprecedented” dataset that includes hundreds of thousands of respondents surveyed between 2013 and 2019.

Clergy and other faith leaders will be perhaps most interested in PRRI’s finding that religiously unaffiliated Americans, or “nones” in religion demography parlance, have lost ground, making up just 23% of the country. The complex group — which includes atheists, agnostics and some people who say they pray daily but don’t claim a specific faith tradition — peaked at 25.5% of the population in 2018.

White Christians, meanwhile, have expanded their share of the population, particularly white mainline Protestants. That group sits at 16.4%, an increase from 13% in 2016, whereas white evangelicals — who PRRI delineated from white mainliners using a methodology researchers said is commonly utilized by major pollsters — now represent about 14.5% of the population, down from a peak of 23% in 2006. White Catholics now hover around 11.7%, up from a 2018 low of 10.9%.

Chart courtesy of PRRI Census of American Religion

Chart courtesy of PRRI Census of American Religion

The percentage of white Christians ticked up overall, rising from 42% in 2018 to 44% in 2020.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/07/08/survey-white-mainline-protestants-outnumber-white-evangelicals/?

ATTENDANCE & Gen Z is keeping the faith. Just don’t expect to see them at worship. Young people’s trust in religious institutions is low, but trust in relationships with religious people is still extremely high.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I’m delivering Sunday sermons on how to use the #RomansRoad to equip congregants to one-on-one share their faith. The following research indicates that that may be the best way to reach the next generation.

Religion News Service, September 23, 2021 by Josh Packard, Casper ter Kuile

Given the decline in attendance at houses of worship and the so-called rise of nones, it might come as a surprise that the majority of young people say they are spiritual and/or religious. According to those who participated in Springtide Research Institute’s State of Religion and Young People 2020, 78% of people ages 13-25 consider themselves at least slightly spiritual, including 60% of unaffiliated young people (atheists, agnostics and nones). And 71% say they are at least slightly religious, including 38% of the unaffiliated.

The coming generation may be investing more in faith because of stress and loss. After a year navigating the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020-2021), over a third of young people (35%) said their faith became stronger, while only 11% said their faith became weaker (half said their faith remained steady). Even more, 46% started new religious or spiritual practices during this time, far more than the 27% who stopped some religious or practices.

The caveat for anyone hoping to turn Gen Z into the generation that came back to church is that while today’s young people take what they find useful in faith traditions, this group has significant trust issues when it comes to formal religious institutions. Asked to rate their trust of organized religion on a 10-point scale, 63% of young people answered 5 or below, including 52% of those who say they’re affiliated with a religious tradition.

You read that right: Over half of young people who claim a religious affiliation have little trust in the very religious institutions with which they identify.

Where trust in religious institutions is low, however, trust in relationships with people in those institutions is extremely high.

Faith leaders who want to appeal to Gen Z need to focus on gaining trust through relationship rather than relying on their institutional authority — their title, role or accomplishments. To be sure, Gen Z members respect expertise, so long as it is combined with genuine care and concern for their well-being — an approach Springtide calls relational authority.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/09/23/gen-z-is-keeping-the-faith-just-dont-expect-to-see-them-at-worship/?

DEMOGRAPHICS & White mainline Protestants outnumber white evangelicals, while ‘nones’ shrink.

by Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service, 7/8/21.

White Christian decline has slowed. Mainline Protestants now outnumber white evangelicals. New York is home to several of the most religiously diverse counties in the U.S.

These shifts and findings are among some of the notable revelations documented in a sweeping and exhaustive survey of the U.S. religious landscape by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The 2020 Census of American Religion, released on Thursday (July 8), is based on what researchers called an “unprecedented” dataset that includes hundreds of thousands of respondents surveyed between 2013 and 2019.

Clergy and other faith leaders will be perhaps most interested in PRRI’s finding that religiously unaffiliated Americans, or “nones” in religion demography parlance, have lost ground, making up just 23% of the country. The complex group — which includes atheists, agnostics and some people who say they pray daily but don’t claim a specific faith tradition — peaked at 25.5% of the population in 2018.

White Christians, meanwhile, have expanded their share of the population, particularly white mainline Protestants. That group sits at 16.4%, an increase from 13% in 2016, whereas white evangelicals — who PRRI delineated from white mainliners using a methodology researchers said is commonly utilized by major pollsters — now represent about 14.5% of the population, down from a peak of 23% in 2006. White Catholics now hover around 11.7%, up from a 2018 low of 10.9%.

Chart courtesy of PRRI Census of American Religion

Chart courtesy of PRRI Census of American Religion

The percentage of white Christians ticked up overall, rising from 42% in 2018 to 44% in 2020.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/07/08/survey-white-mainline-protestants-outnumber-white-evangelicals/?

CHURCH REVITALIZATION & Why it is needed more than ever! Researchers discover more Protestant churches closed in 2019 than opened — continuing a decades-long congregational slide that is only expected to accelerate. Pre-pandemic 75-150 churches close per week!

I have helped 100s of churches turnaround. And I’ve written & taught DMin courses in three seminaries on “How to Turnaround a Church.”

If your church wants to preserve its legacy and grow … then contact me today at http://www.Leadership.Church

“Study: More churches closing than opening” by Yonat Shimron, Religion News Service, 5/22/21.

A new study from Lifeway Research suggests more Protestant churches closed in 2019 than opened — continuing a decades-long congregational slide that is only expected to accelerate.

The study, which analyzed church data from 34 Protestant denominations and groups, found that 4,500 churches closed in 2019, while about 3,000 new congregations were started. The 34 Protestant denominations account for about 60% of U.S.-based Protestant denominations.

“Even before the pandemic, the pace of opening new congregations was not even providing enough replacements for those that closed their doors,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.

The study also pointed to the hastening of church closures. In 2014, it found, there were 3,700 church closures, compared with 4,500 in 2019.

…That study, published in April, estimated that in the decade ending in 2020, 3,850 to 7,700 houses of worship closed per year in the United States, or 75 to 150 congregations per week. It also projected those numbers will double or triple in the wake of the pandemic.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/05/26/study-more-churches-closing-than-opening/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Study%3A%20More%20churches%20closing%20than%20opening&utm_campaign=ni_newsletter

reMIX & Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.

Sociologists also report that the experience of immigration increases the intensity of whatever religious convictions are held by migrants. They find religious homes in the U.S. within existing congregations and through establishing new ones, often using the facilities of declining churches. Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

remix cover

reMIX & People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%.

… What’s dramatically declining in the U.S. is white Christianity. People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%, reflecting trends continuing today. One-third of U.S. Catholics are now Hispanic. Without its growing nonwhite members, the Catholic Church would be in free fall instead of remaining at about 22% of the U.S. population.

The nones who enjoy lattes at downtown coffee shops on Sunday mornings instead of singing in church are largely young, hip and white. But the country’s demographic future as a whole is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, and this will impact the religious landscape.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

TRENDS & The primary challenge facing pastors … is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God rather than persuade them to join or rejoin a religious organization.

… The decline of membership in churches, synagogues and mosques cannot be equated with decline in religious curiosity or practice. When nones are asked why they have disaffiliated from any religious organization, only 22% say it is because they do not believe in God. The primary challenge facing pastors, rabbis and imams is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God rather than persuade them to join or rejoin a religious organization.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson. Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

MUSIC & The impact of the faith & music of DMX

by T.C. Moore, Religion News Service, 4/14/21

The Gospel of John tells the story of the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist, describing him as “the voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord,’” paving the way for Jesus the Nazarene.

Hence, his other, lesser-known title: John the Forerunner. John’s fearlessness and bold announcement of the coming of the Messiah tilled the soil of hardened hearts and planted the seeds Jesus would cultivate into his world-changing kingdom of God movement.

Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, was my John the Forerunner.

In the wilderness of my gang-involved teens, DMX was a voice unlike any other, piercing my defenses and opening me up to the work of God that would eventually convert me into a devoted follower of Jesus.

DMX burst onto the hip-hop scene in 1998 with an utterly unique debut album, “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.” It was at once a raw testament to DMX’s story of suffering and survival while also sounding a faith-filled and hopeful note.

It wasn’t as if God was a stranger to hip-hop lyrics: Tupac Shakur, whose posthumous 1996 album “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” depicted the rapper on a cross on its cover, had often invoked God and heaven, to say nothing of the “Five Percent” theology that pervaded so much of East Coast rap.

But what “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot” had that no other could claim was a distinct and overt Christian — maybe even charismatic — spirituality. DMX spoke directly with God in “The Convo,” in a lament worthy of Job (“Why you chose the hood for me?”) and wrestled with satanic temptation in “Damien” as Jesus did in the wilderness. “The Snake, the Rat, the Cat, the Dog / how you gonna see him if you livin’ in a fog?”

DMX wrote hauntingly about death, summoning the anguish of Jesus praying passionately in the Garden of Gethsemane. “You give me the Word / and only ask that I interpret / and give me the eyes / that I may recognize the Serpent.”

The only child of a schizophrenic single mother, I’d experienced more than my fair share of abuse and neglect. For a teenager wrestling with his own inner demons, DMX opened up a way out of the game through faith. If he could loft his questions about the problem of evil directly at God and rebuke the devil who tempted him to sin, maybe I could too. “Somebody’s knocking / should I let him in? / Lord, we’re just starting / but where will it end?”

Later that year, DMX dropped “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” which, like “Hell Is Hot,” topped the charts. When the criminal community to which I’d fled for safety began to unravel and my own choices landed me in one too many potentially deadly situations, the lyrics of “Slippin’” hit me like prophecy: “See, to live is to suffer. But to survive, well, that’s to find meaning in the suffering.”

About this time, my childhood friend Nate invited me to his baptism at a Pentecostal church. I heard God’s voice through the pastor. It called me like the voice of God in DMX’s music. After I was baptized, I encountered a new version of myself. On repeat on my Sony Discman, meanwhile, DMX was telling the story of a prodigal come home: “My child, I’m here as I’ve always been / it is you who went away and are back again,” he said on “Ready to Meet Him.” I tagged my first Bible with a sketch of myself drenched in blood like the cover of that album.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/04/14/dmx-was-my-john-the-forerunner/?utm_source=

reMIX & Those who enjoy lattes at downtown coffee shops on Sunday mornings instead of singing in church are largely young, hip and white. But the country’s demographic future as a whole is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, and this will impact the religious landscape.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

For strategies almost any church can utilize to become a church of living color see my and Mark DeYmaz’s Abingdon Dress book: reMIX – Transitioning Your Church to Living Color.

ATTENDANCE & Over half of pastors (54%) said their online attendance was higher than their usual in-person attendance … with fully 1 in 4 reporting it was “much higher,” according to #Barna data.

“Higher attendance, lower giving: Survey shows how churches are responding to COVID-19” by Emily MacFarland Miller, Religion News Service, 3/31/20.

…Barna surveyed 434 senior and executive pastors online using its Barna Church Pulse tool, starting one week after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency related to the pandemic; 222 pastors responded between March 20 and 23, and another 212 between March 27 and 30.

… Most have moved those services online. Even churches that hadn’t been online previously are trying it out to reach their congregants at home: While 32% of churches were not offering any digital options in the first week, that number had shrunk to 7% by the second week, Kinnaman pointed out.

Just over half of pastors (54%) said their online attendance was higher than their usual in-person attendance this past Sunday (March 29), with fully 1 in 4 reporting it was “much higher,” according to Barna data.

But nearly 8 in 10 (79%) said financial giving is down, with nearly half (47%) reporting it is down “significantly.”j

Still, almost all of the pastors surveyed (95%) felt confident their churches would survive and said they haven’t made any changes to their staffing (71%).

“The church is adapting to the new normal, and they’re starting to use the language about the indefinite future, about working remotely,” Kinnaman said.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2020/03/30/higher-attendance-lower-giving-new-survey-shows-how-churches-are-responding-to-covid-19/

EVANGELICALS & Scholars Classify 5 Types: Which are you? #InfoGraphic #RNS

How can Christians support Donald Trump?” by Diane Winston, Religion News Service, 12/17/18.

…While conservative white evangelicals are a significant voting bloc and, as such, command cultural cachet, they’re not monolithic. Millions of evangelicals, notably those who aren’t white, didn’t support Trump.

The evangelical world is more complex than news coverage of Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham would suggest. A handful of white conservative leaders, even if they don’t all agree, isn’t representative of American evangelicalism’s breadth.

That’s why a group of scholars, including evangelicals, former evangelicals and non-evangelicals who are black, white and brown, met regularly this fall to discuss and develop a typology that would describe the complexity of American evangelicalism. Those discussions eventually led my colleagues and me at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California to create a short guide on the varieties of American evangelicalism.

Illustrations classify five types of American evangelicalism. Image courtesy of USC

…The guide breaks evangelicals into five groups: Trump-vangelicals, Neo-Fundamentalist Evangelicals, iVangelicals, Kingdom Christians and Peace and Justice Evangelicals.

We used three sorting criteria.

First, each group shares a basic agreement on evangelical theology. Second, they each understand themselves as existing within the larger tradition of American evangelicalism, whether or not they refer to themselves, their churches and other organizations as “evangelical.”

Third, their theology motivates how they act in the world, including social and political activities, and their attitudes toward people who do not share their faith.

Trump-vangelicals are the most visible inheritors of the religious right’s mission to make America a Christian nation. The majority of this group is white, but some Latinos, Asians and African-Americans also belong. Many are not just concerned with electoral politics but also see their work as preparation for the Second Coming. Members stay connected through educational and media networks, including Fox News, and look to men like James Dobson, John Hagee and Franklin Graham for leadership.

Fundamentalist Evangelicals share the same worldview as Trump-vangelicals but cite moral and theological reasons for not supporting the president. However, they appreciate Trump’s making good on their agenda, and many voted for him, some holding their noses.

Unlike the Trump-vangelicals, neo-fundamentalists strive to be politically pure, motivated only by Christianity’s teachings. Notables include Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention and Tony Evans of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas.

iVangelicals, the largest division of American evangelicals, belong to megachurches. Mostly white, they also include Latinos, Asians and African-Americans. Though socially conservative, they are more concerned with church life than politics. Social change, they say, comes from individual conversion: people need to be saved before political structures change. Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston represents this group, as do T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House Church of Dallas and the leadership of Hillsong.

Kingdom Christians are the most racially and ethnically diverse of the groups. Churches tend to be urban and hyper-local, and members are active in their communities, working for grassroots changes that mitigate human suffering. Because of their local orientation, few leaders are nationally known.

Peace and Justice Evangelicals make up a small but growing movement of older leaders, mostly white men, and young adherents who are racially and ethnically diverse. Though many are pro-life, they part company with other evangelicals by focusing on issues such as racial justice, gender equality, immigration reform and “creation care” — what the rest of America calls environmentalism.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2018/12/17/how-can-christians-support-donald-trump/

NEED MEETING & For some churches, food trucks are a vehicle for serving the poor

Allen Lutes, center, an associate minister at Arlington Heights United Methodist Church, and founder of its new ministry: Five & Two Food Truck, serves food with other volunteers. Photo courtesy of Arlington Heights United Methodist ChurchBy SARAH ANGLE

c. 2015 Religion News Service

FORT WORTH, Texas (RNS) Allen Lutes wipes his brow as he prepares another plate of food. The culinary school-trained chef is serving grilled chicken, fresh vegetables and rice pilaf.

But this isn’t a typical restaurant and Lutes isn’t a standard chef; he’s an associate minister at Arlington Heights United Methodist Church and founder of its new ministry, Five & Two Food Truck. It was named after the biblical story of five loaves and two fishesfeeding the multitudes.

The converted 1995 Chevy plumbing truck shines in the hot Texas sun as Lutes’ dinner guests trickle up to the window — meekly at first — guiding their children as they reach up to take a hot plate of food.

Twice a month, the food truck serves Presbyterian Night Shelter, a homeless shelter in Fort Worth. Tonight, it’s at the nonprofit’s shelter for women and children; the majority of the women here are victims of domestic violence.

Teresa, 42, and her 16-year-old daughter say “thank you” as they grab a plate and some bottled water and head inside the shelter to eat with the rest of the families and church volunteers who have come not only to serve but to share a meal with these families.

“It’s good,” said Teresa, as she takes a bite of chicken. “The last time we came here we had chicken fingers and they were really hard. But you know, you can’t complain, because it’s food.”

Faith-based food trucks are building momentum across the country. In St. Paul, Minn., Lutheran pastor Margaret Kelly’s church is actually a food truck, providing free food and prayers to homeless and impoverished members of the community…

Read more at … http://unitedmethodistreporter.com/2015/08/06/for-some-churches-food-trucks-are-a-vehicle-for-serving-the-poor/