For The Washington Post, Arelis R. Hernández and Mariana Zuñiga report that Venezuelans are turning to faith to find comfort and answers in the midst of political and humanitarian crises, triggered by the stalemate between President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Hernández and Zuñiga write, “Leaders across Venezuela’s faith traditions — Catholic, evangelical Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Buddhists — say they’ve seen crowds at services jump in recent months.” Pentecostal pastor Carlos Vielma, who leads a congregation in Caracas, said, “We are all living the same thing. We can’t avoid it, but we are encouraging, empowering and comforting them in the process.”
The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reports that President Trump is reviving his anti-Muslim talking points, which were part of his first campaign, in his criticism of Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress. On Friday evening, Trump tweeted a video that shifted between depictions of Omar speaking and the burning World Trade Center towers. Omar said, “Since the president’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life — many directly referencing or replying to the president’s video.”
The New York Times’s Jeremy W. Peters reports, “As a religious gay man who believes his party has ceded discussion of religion and spirituality to Republicans, Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic candidate for president, is talking about God and sexuality in an unconventional way: He is using the language of faith to confront the Christian right on territory they have long claimed as their own.” The South Bend, Indiana, mayor is an Episcopalian who has been criticized by religious conservatives for questioning the morality of Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian who opposes gay rights yet fails to address President Trump’s personal conduct. Jonathan Merritt, an evangelical author and speaker, said, “Mayor Pete could not have hoped to capture conservative Christian voters or moderate Christian voters at any point in modern American history — until now.”
For The New Yorker, Paul Elie writes about the Catholic Church’s efforts to find justice for victims of its sexual abuse crises. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, hired arbitration experts Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros in 2016 to create an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (I.R.C.P.), which has distributed $215 million to victims. Elie, a Catholic himself, adds, “Critics of Catholicism from Martin Luther onward have faulted the Church for dealing with matters of sin and repentance through mechanical means: the system of indulgences, the confessional booth. Is the Church today essentially outsourcing a reckoning with its past?”
NPR’s Tom Gjelten writes about the difficulties in pastoring a church with congregants of disparate political views. Christopher Edmonston, the senior pastor at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, N.C., said, “Many of the people who have come to church here in the last 25 years are from other parts of the country, and they bring their ideas, their politics, their viewpoints, with them. So we almost have to be purple if we’re going to continue to be open and welcome to any person that wants to come.” Gjelten adds, “The promotion of discourse over discord may strengthen civic culture in an era of political polarization, but for Edmonston, the mission is more a reflection of Presbyterian theology than it is a commitment to democratic process.”
Deseret News’s Kelsey Dallas reports, “A new lawsuit could resolve growing conflict over the religious freedom rights of death row inmates, which have been in the spotlight since the Supreme Court issued two controversial and seemingly contradictory orders in recent months. Charles L. Burton Jr., a Muslim who has been on death row in Alabama since 1992, has sued the state’s Department of Corrections for access to an imam in the execution chamber.” The lawsuit comes in the wake of the February execution of Domineque Ray, a Muslim inmate who was denied an imam. Two months later, the Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for a Buddhist death row inmate with religious freedom concerns.
The New York Times’s David M. Halbfinger reports that Israeli voters on Tuesday must decide whether they want to affirm Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to extend sovereignty over the West Bank, or leave open the possibility for a Palestinian state there. Halbfinger writes, “Saturday night, under intense pressure in a neck-and-neck contest with a centrist former army chief, Benny Gantz, Mr. Netanyahu gave in. Lunging further to his political right, he declared on national television that he would indeed begin to ‘apply sovereignty’ in the West Bank.”
For Mother Jones, Cara Giaimo profiles the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, a pastor at Boston’s New Roots African Methodist Episcopal Church, who believes faith leaders can work with scientists to communicate that climate change is a moral emergency. Giaimo writes that White-Hammond speaks at ecological and justice events “to reinforce less-than-obvious connections—and to help her forge new ones, whether between economic and environmental concerns, underserved communities and clean energy providers, or faith leaders and scientists.”
The Atlantic’s Emma Green writes that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is removing a 2015 policy that labeled LGBTQ members apostates and prohibited their children from being baptized. Green writes, “The Church acknowledged the widespread pain caused by the former policy: ‘While we cannot change the Lord’s doctrine, we want our members and our policies to be considerate of those struggling with the challenges of mortality.’” She adds, “Even with this new policy change, LGBTQ Mormons occupy a fraught space in LDS life.”
Religion News Service’s Emily McFarlan Miller writes that local and national faith-based disaster relief groups are helping Nebraskans recover from last month’s historic floods. On March 27, Within Reach, a network of Nebraskan church leaders, hosted a forum to discuss how they can work together to help the community in the wake of the flood. Wilbur Rayl, whose house was flooded, expressed gratitude to the volunteers who provided him aid as part of the evangelical disaster relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. “If you believe in God, if your heart’s in the right spot, I think you’re OK,” Rayl said.