For The Atlantic, Shira Telushkin writes that Coptic churches in the United States are attempting to balance reaching a wider audience by Americanizing with retaining the Egyptian culture and customs which have long underpinned Coptic identity. Assimilation risks alienating longtime members and Egyptian Coptic immigrants, but Coptic leaders fear that retaining Egyptian cultural norms and Arabic-language services will drive away potential American converts. Telushkin writes, “A new conversation has emerged among the faithful: Can an Americanized church truly count as Coptic?”
Ahead of the 50th anniversary since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Religion News Service’s Kimberly Winston writes about King’s theological development during his lifetime. King’s theology was shaped by diverse sources, from his family’s Baptist tradition to Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian Realism. In 1965, King himself said, “I am many things to many people; Civil Rights leader, agitator, trouble-maker and orator, but in the quiet resources of my heart, I am fundamentally a clergyman, a Baptist preacher.”
The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey writes that Frank Page, Bill Hybels, Paul Pressler, and Andy Savage, all of whom are evangelical leaders, have been beset by sex scandals as the #MeToo movement has encouraged more women to come forward with their stories. While Page and Savage resigned in response to their allegations and Pressler faces a lawsuit, Hybels has remained defiant. Bailey writes, “Some fear that women are still being discredited in a climate in which a high majority of white evangelicals support Trump despite the multiple sexual harassment and misconduct allegations he has faced.”
The New York Times reports that Pope Francis voiced hope for peaceful resolutions to war and conflict around the world in his Easter Sunday Mass. The pope mentioned conflicts such as the civil war in Syria, strained relations on the Korean peninsula, and the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. The New York Times adds, “At the Mass, Francis urged Catholics not to remain paralyzed in the face of injustice, and he challenged them to ‘break out’ of their routines and to let God in.”
POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi reports that Muslim-American civil rights groups are troubled by the appointment of John Bolton as national security advisor and Mike Pompeo’s nomination as secretary of state. Bolton has close ties with anti-Muslim activists and is the chair of an organization that harshly criticizes Islam, while Pompeo has encouraged conspiracy theories and made false accusations about Muslim-Americans in the past. Their predecessors, H.R. McMaster and Rex Tillerson, were seen as moderates who dampened Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. Toosi writes, “But if there was a sense among Trump’s critics that McMaster and Tillerson had been restraining his worst instincts, there is now concern that Bolton and Pompeo might encourage them.”
Vox’s Jane Coaston writes that evangelical Christians have relied on the biblical story of King David to defend Trump’s alleged marital infidelity. Coaston writes,” Their reasoning is that like King David, Donald Trump has committed adultery, and like King David (or President Franklin Roosevelt, as one columnist wrote), Trump can be a great (and moral) leader even after having committed adultery.” Polling has shown that white evangelicals have continued to support Trump at higher rates than other religious groups, even after details of his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels have emerged.
The New York Times’s Laura Goodstein profiles the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, a Latino pastor who serves as an informal advisor to President Trump. Rodriguez has been criticized for legitimizing the Trump administration, which has advanced an anti-immigration agenda and thrown the DACA program into limbo. Goodstein writes, “He thinks of himself as a modern-day Joseph in Pharaoh’s court, placed there to save his people and advance the common good.”
The Associated Press’s Aileen Chuang reports, “Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a new law that will require medical providers who treat women for complications arising from abortions to report detailed patient information to the state.” Opponents of the bill have argued that the measure will only serve to further stigmatize abortion, which has relatively low complication rates. Indiana has passed several anti-abortion laws in recent years, some of which have been blocked from taking effect after successful court challenges.
NPR’s Tom Gjelten writes, “Conservative Christian colleges, once relatively insulated from the culture war, are increasingly entangled in the same battles over LGBT rights and related social issues that have divided other institutions in America.” Administrators at conservative religious colleges fear that evolving social attitudes on sex and civil rights will ultimately be incompatible with official school views that reject homosexuality. With federal funding and tax-exempt status at risk in the long run, organizations like the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities have begun reviewing how LGBT and transgender students are treated and if policies should be changed.
For Religion News Service, Bobby Ross Jr. reports that Oklahoma lawmakers are debating a bill that would allow private adoption and foster care providers to turn away same-sex couples, on the basis of the providers’ religious convictions. Seven other states have already passed similar bills, which LGBT rights groups have labeled as discriminatory. Ross writes, “It’s a conflict playing out across the nation, and both sides say that if the other side wins, the number of children placed in loving homes will fall.”