For Politico Magazine, Brandon Ambrosino reports on discontent at Liberty University under the direction of Jerry Falwell Jr., the staunch Trump supporter and son of the school’s late founder. “We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” an official said. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.” Ambrosino also uncovered a photograph of Falwell at a Miami nightclub; Falwell had denied its existence in a statement. Ambrosino writes, “According to several people with direct knowledge of the situation, Falwell—the president of a conservative Christian college that frowns upon co-ed dancing (Liberty students can receive demerits if seen doing it) and prohibits alcohol use (for which students can be expelled)—was angry that photos of him clubbing made it up online.”
The New York Times’ Elizabeth Dias writes about Wendy Ramsey, the director of the Options Pregnancy Help Center in Newport, Tennessee, one of more than 2,700 anti-abortion pregnancy centers nationwide. Options operates out of a Baptist church and provides peer counseling, baby formula, clothing, and other support to pregnant women and parents of young children. The anti-abortion movement has gained political power under President Donald Trump, and critics say the pregnancy centers stigmatize abortion and shame women. Ramsey says she aims to help poor women in need. Dias writes, “She remembered a Bible story of Jesus welcoming an outcast woman — people like the pregnant women and new mothers she now spends her days trying to help. ‘If we want to be pro-life, we have to want more than legislation,’ she said.”
CNN’s Daniel Burke reports on the religious biography of Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Democratic candidate for president of the United States. Burke writes, “The son of a former Jesuit, he credits Catholicism with awakening his moral conscience, but the baptized Catholic says he did not consider participating in the church as an adult because he is gay.” Now an active Episcopalian, Buttigieg has become more outspoken about his faith on the campaign trail. Burke writes, “Progressives, particularly LGBT Christians, have cheerfully circulated his critiques of the religious right and lauded the gay Christian’s candidacy as a watershed moment for a community long shunted to the margins of church life.”
For The Washington Post, Anja-Maria Bassimir and Elesha J. Coffman draw parallels between the Richard Nixon and Donald Trump presidencies, noting that both received strong support from white evangelical Christians. Bassimir and Coffman write, “While [Billy] Graham enjoyed private chats in the Nixon White House and urged his fellow citizens to rally around the flag at Honor America Day, another prominent evangelical, then-Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.), warned that a bad graft between religion and politics was turning gangrenous.” Evangelical support for Nixon gradually began to erode as more Christian leaders spoke against him, often using the language of repentance and sin. Bassimir and Coffman write, “Some evangelical leaders are again calling out disgraceful conduct in Washington and in their own ranks.”
The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer reports on President Donald Trump’s high levels of support among white evangelicals. Zauzmer interviewed 50 evangelical Christians in the battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and she writes, “In conversation, evangelical voters paint the portrait of the Trump they see: a president who acts like a bully but is fighting for them. A president who sees America like they do, a menacing place where white Christians feel mocked and threatened for their beliefs.” Many also applaud his economic policies, his treatment of immigrants at the border, and his efforts to chip away at LGBT rights.
Slate’s Ruth Graham reports on the New Independent Fundamental Baptist movement, a loose cohort of churches whose young pastors are becoming known for noxious rhetoric that’s gone viral on the internet. The movement claims 32 churches across the United States, Canada, Australia, and the Philippines. Graham writes, “Anyone can declare themselves a ‘pastor,’ no matter how small their flock. The most virulent voices are typically fringe characters who do not represent—or even appeal to—very many people.” The Southern Poverty Law Center warns the movement’s influence is growing.
The New York Times’ Rick Rojas profiles the Rev. Fabian Marquez, a Roman Catholic priest who has been supporting survivors of the Aug. 3 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. The gunman killed 22 people and targeted Hispanics and immigrants, and Marquez sat with grieving families as they learned the names of the victims. Rojas writes, “He has vowed to attend the funerals held by each of the 17 families he had prayed with.”
The Believer’s Casey Jarman writes about the life and career of David Bazan, a singer and songwriter whose early work built a large following of young, questioning Christians. Jarman writes, “As his career progressed, Bazan’s focus homed in on issues of hypocrisy within Evangelical Christian culture: he’d contrast the teachings of Christ with the creeping influence of blind patriotism and nationalism; he’d call out the darkness of domestic violence in Christian households.” Bazan, the son of a music pastor, is back on the road, no longer singing of Jesus, but leading chatty, introspective concerts that touch on themes of forgiveness and vulnerability.
Religion News Service’s Emily McFarlan Miller reports that one of the nation’s largest Protestant denominations has declared itself a “sanctuary church body” in support of immigrants and refugees. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has 3.3 million baptized members, and the resolution was passed during a denominational meeting in Milwaukee this week. Members of the denomination also marched to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement building and held a prayer vigil for migrant children and their families. Miller writes, “Both came in response to President Trump’s policies at the United States border with Mexico and his pledge to deport millions.”
For NPR, Diane Cole reports on two studies that examined the religiosity of people who lived through wars and violent conflicts. The studies are featured in the journal Nature: Human Behavior, and were analyzed by a team led by Joseph Henrich, chairman of the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. Cole writes, “The more profound the impact of war on an individual—such as the death, injury or abduction of a household member—the greater the likelihood grew of that person turning to religion.”