Houston Chronicle’s Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco report on a pattern of sex abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) over the last several decades. The churches have repeatedly failed to address the abuse: “At least 35 church pastors, employees and volunteers who exhibited predatory behavior were still able to find jobs at churches during the past two decades.” David Pittman, who alleges he was first molested in 1981 by a minister who still works at an SBC church, said, “So many people’s faith is murdered. I mean, their faith is slaughtered by these predators.”
The Associated Press’s Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller report on Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast, in which President Donald Trump underscored the importance of anti-abortion policies in an appeal to conservative, Christian voters. Trump said, “As part of our commitment to building a just and loving society, we must build a culture that cherishes the dignity and sanctity of innocent human life.” Colvin and Miller write, “That pledge, two days after Trump in his State of the Union address denounced late-term abortion, is part of his effort to re-energize evangelical voters, who have been among his most loyal supporters and will be vital to his re-election prospects.”
The New York Times’s Jason Horowitz reports on Tuesday’s Mass led by Pope Francis in the United Arab Emirates, which was attended by Catholic migrants and thousands of Muslims. Pope Francis said, “It is most certainly not easy for you to live far from home, missing the affection of your loved ones, and perhaps also feeling uncertainty about the future. But the Lord is faithful and does not abandon his people.” Horowitz writes, “The pope’s homily, while joyous and uplifting for its Catholic audience, also had a whiff of rebuke for the extraordinarily wealthy Emirates who run this oil-rich country.”
The Associated Press’s Aya Batrawy reports, “Against the backdrop of the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula is an interfaith conference that includes prominent U.S. rabbis and Christian evangelicals, who are seeking stronger recognition of Israel through closer ties with Muslim figures and Arab leaders. These merged interests come as Arab leaders look to strengthen ties with the Trump administration through his evangelical base of supporters.” Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder of the Hampton Synagogue in New York, is working to build dialogue between Muslims and Jews in the region. He gave a weekend sermon to Jews in Dubai, and has underscored the growing acceptance of Judaism in the Gulf Arab States.
Religion News Service’s Emily McFarlan Miller and Jack Jenkins write that faith-based refugee groups are struggling in the wake of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration measures. Khadra Abdo, a 40-year-old Muslim mother of seven who fled civil wars in Somalia and Libya, is still waiting for her family to join her through the World Relief program. But the office that once helped her was forced to close in 2017, leaving her with little hope. Jen Smyers, director of policy and advocacy for the immigration and refugee program with Church World Service, said, “You’re not just changing policy for a couple of years; you’re dismantling decades of work and relationships that will be nearly impossible to rebuild.”
Slate‘s Ruth Graham writes that Nancy Pelosi is mistaken about the origins of one of her favorite pieces of biblical wisdom, which is not actually n the Bible. Pelosi’s latest use of the quote came this past week, when she was addressing presidents of Christian colleges in Washington: “To minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.” Graham writes, “Between 2002 and 2018, the quote appears 12 times in the Congressional Record, with Pelosi responsible for all but one of the entries.”
Vox’s Nadra Nittle writes about the rising popularity of faith-inspired diets and fitness plans, which have been enjoying extensive media coverage and support by celebrities. The Daniel plan, named after the Biblical prophet and developed in part by megachurch pastor Rick Warren, promises a healthier life in just 40 days. Nittle writes, “Warren found inspiration in the prophet Daniel, who subsisted on vegetables and water for two weeks instead of eating the forbidden foods presented to him by the Babylonian king’s court.” Churches are embracing wellness beyond faith-based diets and plans by integrating fitness facilities such as cycling ministries within their congregations.
The Associated Press’s David Crary reports on the #ExposeChristianSchools hashtag on Twitter, which highlights the divide between those who believe Christian schools are a blessing and those who see them as indoctrination. Crary writes, “It was introduced by Chris Stroop, an Indianapolis-based writer and activist, on Jan. 18, shortly after news broke that Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, would be teaching at a Christian school in northern Virginia that lists ‘homosexual or lesbian sexual activity’ as among the disqualifying criteria for prospective employees.” Some are using the hashtag to share their own stories about bad experiences in Christian schools, while others are defending the schools.
For Religion News Service, Vanessa Gera reports, “The world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday amid a revival of hate-inspired violence and signs that younger generations know less and less about the genocide of Jews, Roma and others by Nazi Germany during World War II.” Dozens of Polish nationalists protested the official observances. Gera writes, “The appearance by nationalists at Auschwitz comes amid a surge of right-wing extremism in Poland and elsewhere in the West. It is fed by a broader grievance many Poles have that their suffering during the war at German hands is little known abroad while there is greater knowledge of the Jewish tragedy.”
For Buzzfeed News, Hannes Grassegger writes about the origins of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories surrounding George Soros, a Democratic Jewish businessman. Jewish political consultants George Eli Birnbaum and Arthur Finkelstein, who were working on the election of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, began a public campaign against Soros in 2013 to fabricate a common liberal enemy for their supporters. Grassegger writes, “The anti-Semitism that sprang out of the Soros campaign might not be too surprising, even if Finkelstein and Birnbaum did not intend it. They imported ancient themes and modern grievances into 21st-century communications technology.”