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Links on R&P from around the web

Jailed Chinese Pastor’s U.S. Family Seeks Mercy

posted on April 17, 2018

The Associated Press’s Yanan Wang writes that the Rev. John Sanqiang Cao was sentenced last month to seven years in prison by the Chinese government. Cao, whose family resides in the U.S., was arrested in March 2017 after decades of work organizing “house” churches and Bible schools not sanctioned by the Chinese state. The pastor’s son, Ben Cao, said, “Nothing my father organized was ever political. It was always just religious or charitable.” Wang adds, “Analysts say the government increasingly views Christianity’s rise in China as a threat to its rule, and may be using prominent figures such as Cao as an example to intimidate nascent movements.”

Read at The Associated Press

Going to Church with Jimmy Carter

posted on April 16, 2018

For The New York Times, Margaret Renkl writes about attending former President Carter’s Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. Renkl writes, “President Carter is not a pacing, gesturing, booming-voiced orator, but he is a brilliant teacher — moving nimbly between his memories, his concerns for the world and what the Acts have to say about the right relationship of human beings to one another.” She adds, “Jimmy Carter still has faith in this country, and I hoped his Sunday school lesson might restore my faith, too.”

Read at The New York Times

Abortion Foes Seize on Chance to Overturn Roe

posted on April 16, 2018

POLITICO’s Jennifer Haberkorn reports, “The anti-abortion movement believes it’s one Donald Trump-appointed Supreme Court justice away from a shot at overturning Roe v. Wade, and advocates are teeing up what they hope will be the winning challenge.” A series of harsh state-level restrictions on abortion have been passed or been proposed in recent months, any of which would prompt lawsuits that could then make it to the Supreme Court. Haberkorn writes, “The determination to revisit Roe comes amid renewed speculation about the possible retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, which would give anti-abortion forces their best opportunity in a generation to weaken or strike down the ruling that made abortion legal.”

Read at POLITICO

Dozens of Evangelical Leaders Meet to Discuss How Trump Era Has Unleashed “Grotesque Caricature” of Their Faith

posted on April 16, 2018

The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports, “About 50 top leaders of major evangelical institutions will attend an invitation-only gathering this week to discuss the future and the ‘soul’ of evangelicalism at a time when many of them are concerned their faith group has become tainted by its association with divisive politics under President Trump.” The Rev. Tim Keller, one of the pastors attending the gathering, said, “It is a complete terrible reversal when [people believe] religion is about politics when it’s the other way around.” Organizers asserted that the purpose of the gathering is not meant to be anti-Trump, but to examine how the term “evangelical” could be restored to its original, faith-based meaning.

Read at The Washington Post

U.S. Pastor Denies Terror Links, Spying in Turkish Court

posted on April 16, 2018

The Associated Press’s Mehmet Guzel reports that Andrew Craig Brunson, an American evangelical pastor and long-time Turkish resident, is on trial for charges that he spied against Turkey and had links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Brunson was the pastor of a small church in Izmir, Turkey, before being arrested after Turkey’s 2016 coup attempt. He denied all charges, saying in his defense statement, “I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.” If convicted, Brunson could face up to 35 years in prison.

Read at The Associated Press

Hybels Steps Down From Willow Creek Following Allegations of Misconduct

posted on April 11, 2018

The Chicago Tribune’s Manya Brachear Pashman and Jeff Coen report that the Rev. Bill Hybels has stepped down from his position at the influential Willow Creek Community Church. They write, “His departure comes less than a month after a Chicago Tribune investigation disclosed that Hybels had been the subject of inquiries by church leaders into claims that he ran afoul of church teachings by engaging in inappropriate behavior with women in his congregation—including employees—allegedly spanning decades.” Vonda Dyer, a former church leader and one of Hybels’ accusers, said, “I believe the women who have come forward because our stories are so similar. For the sake of the other women and for the sake of the church, I cannot stay silent.”

Read at The Chicago Tribune

State And Local Republican Officials Have Been Bashing Muslims. We Counted.

posted on April 11, 2018

Buzzfeed News’s Hannah Allam and Talal Ansari report that state and local Republican officials in 49 states have publicly attacked Islam with rhetoric and proposed legislation since 2015, facing few consequences. “In some states, the incident was a one-off from a local official in a rural, conservative district,” Allam and Ansari write, “But many others had multiple senior leaders attacking Islam in repeated incidents dating back years, with no punishment from either political parties or voters.” They add, “The anti-Muslim rhetoric in virtually every state reflects the general coarsening of political speech in the anything-goes era of President Donald Trump, who’s lashed out at Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, women, and other targets.”

Read at Buzzfeed News

Cultivating the Connection Between Soil and the Soul with “FaithLands”

posted on April 11, 2018

Religion News Service’s Kimberly Winston reports on FaithLands, an interfaith movement that promotes local sustainability farming. Winston writes, “What’s new about FaithLands is that there is now a critical mass of people and groups who see farming as a religious imperative.” Some FaithLands participants believe that growing food can serve the purpose of cultivating stronger faith communities. Winston adds, “What’s good for the table is also good for organized religion, they suggested, especially at a time when congregations face falling numbers, crumbling buildings and aging membership.”

Read at Religion News Service

Pope Francis’s New Major Document: Caring for Migrants and the Poor Is Just as Important as Preventing Abortion

posted on April 10, 2018

The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer reports that on Monday, Pope Francis published an apostolic exhortation, which provides guidance for the Catholic Church. “Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life,” Pope Francis wrote, before affirming that it was equally holy and pressing for Christians to care for the poor and downtrodden. The Rev. James Bretzke at Boston College said, “It will not make liturgy traditionalists very happy.”

Read at The Washington Post

What the Arlee Warriors Are Playing For

posted on April 9, 2018

For The New York Times Magazine, Abe Streep reports on the Arlee Warriors basketball team, based on the Flathead Indian Reservation, which has suffered from high rates of suicide. After a player on an opposing team committed suicide a week before the divisional tournament, the team made a suicide prevention video that went viral. “The team hoped a few thousand people might view their video,” Streep writes. “But within 24 hours, it had been watched nearly 86,000 times.” The team prays to God before each game, not just for victory, but for also for the wellbeing and survival of the reservation’s youth.

Read at The New York Times Magazine