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Links on R&P from around the web

A Booming Church and its Complicated, Ugly Past

posted on September 18, 2017

The New York Times’s Sharon Otterman profiles Zarephath Christian Church, a “dynamic evangelical congregation” in central New Jersey that includes a new $12-million sanctuary and Christian radio station. Otterman writes that the church has a problematic history as a congregation of the Pillar of Fire, a Methodist offshoot that endorsed the Ku Klux Klan in the early twentieth century. In February, the church’s charismatic preacher Rob Cruver announced that he was stepping down as the congregation’s leader after admitting to an extramarital affair.

Read at The New York Times

Pastor Reinforces “Disruption, Not Destruction” in the Wake of the Stockley Verdict

posted on September 18, 2017

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Ashley Jost reports that the Rev. Clinton Stancil of Wayman AME Church in St. Louis is an outspoken protester of Friday’s acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley, who shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. Jost writes, “On Friday night, the Rev. Clinton Stancil walked with his arms locked with fellow clergy and protesters in the Central West End.” Stancil said, “We are not about destruction, we are about disruption. Any other message you hear is not our message.”

Read at St. Louis Post Dispatch

Black Christians with White Pastors Seek a Reckoning on Race

posted on September 14, 2017

WNYC’s Karen Rouse argues that the church’s white leadership often fails to respond to issues of race that affect black Christians. Rouse profiles Jurrita Williams, an African American Christian who attends a predominantly white church in Dallas. Rouse writes, “In the wake of Charlottesville, she and many other black Christians say it’s time for evangelical leaders to address racial discrimination, attacks on undocumented immigrants and police brutality.”

Read at WNYC

Faith Groups Provide the Bulk of Disaster Recovery, in Coordination with FEMA

posted on September 12, 2017

USA Today’s Paul Singer writes, “Faith-based organizations are integral partners in state and federal disaster relief efforts. They have specific roles and a sophisticated communication and coordination network to make sure their efforts don’t overlap or get in each others’ way.” Singer finds one example in The Convoy of Hope, a Christian organization that prepared three truck-loads of food, water, and sanitary supplies to help victims of Hurricane Irma. Singer adds, “Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical aid group run by Rev. Franklin Graham, has trucks at the ready in Florida with chainsaws and debris removal experts to help clean up houses. After initial cleanup, the group has contracting services available to help the needy rebuild their homes.”

Read at USA Today

Will Trump Direct FEMA to Fund Churches Hit by Hurricanes?

posted on September 12, 2017

The Atlantic’s Emma Green reports that three Texas churches are suing the federal government for refusing to provide funding from FEMA’s public-assistance program. Although faith-based organizations provide significant support for their communities in times of disaster, organizations that spend most of their time on religious activities are not eligible for the public program. President Trump Tweeted on Friday, “Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others).”

Read at The Atlantic

Pope Criticizes Climate Change Deniers and Trump on DACA

posted on September 12, 2017

The New York Times’s Jason Horowitz reports that on Monday the Pope criticized climate change deniers and President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Children Program (DACA), which protects undocumented children from deportation. Horowitz writes, “The pope, echoing the excoriation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – which called the president’s decision ‘reprehensible’ – argued that the removal of children from families hurt both children and parents.” Referencing psalms, Pope Francis said, “Man is stupid, the Bible said. It’s like that, when you don’t want to see, you don’t see.”

Read at The New York Times

Where Trump’s Hands-Off Approach to Governing Does Not Apply

posted on September 11, 2017

The New York Times’s Ben Protess, Danielle Ivory, and Steve Eder report that the Trump administration has shown an increasing focus on promoting social conservatism. They write, “It scrubbed references to ‘L.G.B.T.Q. youth’ from the description of a federal program for victims of sex trafficking. And, on the advice of religious leaders, it eliminated funding to international groups that provide abortion.” Protess, Ivory, and Eder add, “The turnabout stems in part from lobbying by evangelical Christians and other conservative groups.”

Read at The New York Times

Senators Take Fire Over Questions for Catholic Judicial Nominee

posted on September 11, 2017

POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein reports that University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins and Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber criticized questions posed in a confirmation hearing last week, which challenged a Catholic judicial nominee’s ability to keep her faith separate from the law. California Senator Dianne Feinstein said to law professor Amy Barrett, “Dogma and law are two different things. And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma.” Eisgruber wrote in a letter, “Because religious belief is constitutionally irrelevant to the qualifications for a federal judgeship, the Senate should not interrogate any nominee about those beliefs.”

Read at POLITICO

The Prayer Circle: Texans Rebuild After Harvey as a Practice of Faith

posted on September 11, 2017

The New York Times’s Kevin Sack writes about the faith-based clean-up efforts of an 80-year-old widow’s house flooded by Hurricane Harvey. Seventeen volunteers linked for a circle of prayer in Angie Klimple’s yard last Saturday. Sack writes, “Some did not know one another, or for that matter the Klimples. It mattered little. Each felt called by faith to lend their hands – and legs and backs, which would soon ache with soreness – to an elderly woman in distress.” Angie’s son, Jeff, said, “You know, bad things happen to good people and we don’t know why. But this is what the Lord wants, for you to love your brother like yourself.”

Read at The New York Times

When the U.S. Government Tried to Fight Communism with Buddhism

posted on September 11, 2017

For POLITICO Magazine, Joe Freeman writes, “As Buddhist Myanmar is once again in the news for a brutal crackdown on its Rohingya Muslim minority, it’s worth remembering just how politically volatile religion can be in Southeast Asia.” Freeman points out that Buddhist institutions were propped up by the United States during the Cold War to combat the anti-religious sentiments coming out of communist countries. Freeman adds, “The U.S. used the same quiet approach in other countries – grants to Buddhist educational and development groups, the distribution of anti-communist propaganda, staking out a presence at Buddhist conferences and the sponsoring of trips to the U.S. for senior members of the Sangha, or clergy, where they visited such sites as the Empire State Building.”

Read at POLITICO Magazine