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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020  (Read 2091 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« on: October 05, 2020, 11:35:18 am »


Christians Call for Prayer After Trump Tests Positive for COVID-19

Leaders urge Americans to “put aside partisan politics” and pray in the spirit of 1 Timothy 2.

Instructed in Scripture to pray for “all those in authority,” Christians offered their prayers for President Donald Trump after he shared on Twitter late Thursday night that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for coronavirus.

Many pastors and ministry leaders encouraged Americans that this was a time to pray for the president and the country regardless of political stances.

Trump’s coronavirus infection comes a month before the election and following a busy campaign week that included multiple out-of-state events and the first presidential debate.

Twitter petitioners included pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in California. Laurie has previously prayed with the president in the White House and has spoken up about the need for the church to “respond appropriately” to the threat of the coronavirus.

Eugene Cho, a former Seattle pastor who now leads the Christian advocacy organization Bread for the World, asked Twitter followers to “put aside partisan politics and genuinely lift up the President and FLOTUS in prayer.”

Greg Laurie

Let’s all be praying for God’s intervention and healing for our President and First Lady! https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1311892190680014849

Donald J. Trump

Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!

12:17 AM - Oct 2, 2020
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Eugene Cho

May we put aside partisan politics and genuinely lift up the President and FLOTUS in prayer. Pray that many might be compelled to take this pandemic more seriously. May we also lift up so many in our nation and world that have been impacted by the pandemic. Lord, in your mercy. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1311892190680014849

Donald J. Trump

Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!

12:27 AM - Oct 2, 2020
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In their messages on Thursday night, some Christian leaders—like Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition and McLean Bible Church, outside Washington—quoted from 1 Timothy 2:1–4: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

The passage has long inspired Christians to pray regularly for the president, regardless of who is in office, and has trended online on landmark dates during Trump’s presidency.

Joe Carter
As Paul wrote, “ urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions...” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Please pray for President Trump, the First Lady, and all people who are suffering because of COVID-19.

1:28 AM - Oct 2, 2020
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Joel C. Rosenberg
The Bible commands believers to “pray for kings and all those in authority” — I join millions of Evangelicals in praying for President @realDonaldTrump and for the First Lady for the Lord to quickly heal them and protect them from harm. Praying for all our leaders today, as well. https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/1311892190680014849

Donald J. Trump

Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!

6:44 AM - Oct 2, 2020
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As CT previously reported, searches for 1 Timothy 2:2 reached 10 times the average on the day after the 2016 presidential election, according to the popular Bible site Bible Gateway, and increased again around the inauguration the following January, according to Google Trends. It was the theme for a 2019 day of prayer for Trump organized by Franklin Graham.

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and president of the National Day of Prayer task force, told CT last year, “As a pastor of Southern Baptist churches for more than 40 years, I do not recall a time when there wasn’t prayer for our nation, our president, and our elected leaders during our Sunday services, regardless of which party was in power. Why? We are instructed in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for those in authority.”

Many of those who pray regularly for the president pray not only for his leadership and policies but also specifically for his health. At a recent Evangelicals for Trump rally, supporters brought up how they have prayed more urgently for the president’s protection as the election nears.

Tony Suarez
Mr. President, @POTUS

I know a name greater than covid, corona, or sars, it’s the name of Jesus and I pray healing in that wonderful name over you and the first lady. Rest and get well sir. See you back on the campaign trail soon.

Blessings and continued prayers!

7:02 AM - Oct 2, 2020
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Dwight McKissic
Praying that the God of heaven would grant President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, a merciful, marvelous and miraculous healing from the Corona virus. May The Lord deliver our nation & the world from this dreaded disease, as we seek God’s face, & turn to Him in  humility.

12:42 AM - Oct 2, 2020
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Another line from Scripture referenced in tweets on Trump’s behalf was 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Despite the politicization around the coronavirus response, white evangelicals are as worried about the spread of COVID-19 as the rest of the population (70 percent say they remain concerned) and as likely to know someone infected with the disease, according to a Data for Progress survey.

Back in March, CT shared 20 prayers to pray during the pandemic, asking God to heal and help the sick, protect vulnerable populations, and more.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2020, 11:45:45 am by patrick jane »

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2020, 11:49:24 am »


Interview: To Elect Trump, Evangelicals Could Find Common Cause with Muslims

Surprising points of political commonality found between religious groups in fifth annual American Muslim Poll.

In a tightly contested presidential race, might Muslims swing the US election?

Referencing the release of President Donald Trump’s tax returns in Tuesday’s debate, former vice president’s Joe Biden’s “inshallah” [Arabic for “if God wills”] may have been a nod to the strong support he receives from this community.

But according to data from the fifth annual American Muslim Poll, Muslims make up only 1 percent of the American population, only 74 percent are eligible to vote, and only 57 percent are registered.

Why then do they occupy such an outsized space in the mind of many American evangelicals? And what should evangelicals better understand about the American Muslim community and their political preferences?

CT spoke with Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), which commissioned the poll. Surveying 2,167 respondents—including more than 800 Muslims, 350 Jews, 200 Catholics, and 200 white evangelicals—ISPU aimed to showcase Muslim perspectives within the context of America’s landscape of faith.

Among the findings is that American Muslims disproportionately practice their politics at the local level. Over 1 in 5 has attended a town hall meeting (22%), compared to white evangelicals and the general public (12% vs. 15%).

And while only 27 percent of the general public reports satisfaction over the direction of the country, both Muslims (37%) and white evangelicals (42%) are more positive.

Are they satisfied with the same things?

CT and Mogahed discussed the social conservatism of many American Muslims, their willingness to build coalitions on pro-life and religious liberty issues, and the surprising numbers concerning their approval rating of President Trump.

The level of support for President Trump has doubled among Muslims, from 13 percent in 2018 and 16 percent in 2019 to 30 percent in 2020. How to you interpret this finding?

We are still trying to understand it ourselves. One thing is that this growth in support came primarily from white Muslims. They are about 20 percent of the community, but approved of Trump’s performance at 50 percent, on par with white Americans overall [48%]. Non-white Muslims were much lower [20–27%], on par with non-whites in the general public [16–24%]. So there is a salience of race in the Muslim community, just as there is in America overall.

The second thing that may have contributed to the uptick is the timing of the poll, which was right at the start of the lockdown, mid-March to mid-April. There may have been a sense of “rallying around the flag” as the president led the country at that time.

Your poll also examined the attitude of the Muslim community toward building coalitions with religious liberty and pro-life groups. Might some of this increase in support for the president be connected to his stand on these issues?

That also may have contributed. [Among] the variables linked to support for Trump is support for religious liberty, as is choosing the economy as the most important issue facing the government. Interestingly, just like the general public, identifying as white was also a predictor of support for the president; so again, race is a salient factor.

What was most surprising to me is that religiosity—all else being equal—was not a factor. But partisanship was.

So it doesn’t matter how pious Muslims are [71% said their faith was important to their daily life in last year’s survey], or how often they pray [43%]. These have no bearing on their political choices.

Exactly. As is the case of the general public.

Looking closely at the coalition building figures, roughly half of Muslims seem to be pro-life [49%], and roughly half support issues surrounding religious liberty [47%]. But the question is specifically about coalitions. How do you unpack these figures?

The question asked if you are in favor of building political coalitions with activists working on the cause in question. The community is split right in half, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the other half is not pro-life or doesn’t care about religious liberty.

They may object for other reasons—if the activists have objectionable views about Muslims, or other issues—despite agreeing with them on abortion or religious liberty.

Are American Muslims pro-life? Do they favor restrictions on abortion? Or is abortion an unclear matter in Islamic teaching?

The question is difficult to answer. I’ve never seen data on what Muslims would say. Abortion is not as cut and dry as it may be for many evangelicals.

There is a difference over when the soul is breathed into the fetus’s life. Some say it is present at conception, while other legal scholars say it comes at 120 days of gestation. Some of the latter might say an abortion is allowed for specific reasons up until this 120-day mark.

But despite many Muslims being against an abortion for themselves, a minority would say they are wary of the government regulating it, because it opens the door to regulating other personal matters.

The community is very diverse in its views.

I think this would be a wonderful topic for a dialogue between Muslims and evangelicals. I was surprised the figures for coalition building were not higher for evangelicals in our poll [53% favorable for religious liberty coalitions, and 57% favorable for pro-life ones], as we give everyone the same questions.

The polls suggest Muslims suffer disproportionate religious discrimination [60%, compared to 33% of the general public]. So one might think they would be in favor of building coalitions in defense of religious liberty. Why is it that half of the community [47%] does not?

I would say half of Muslims see the solution to religious discrimination in terms of religious liberty—the first amendment. The other half would see the solution in civil rights laws.

This side is sometimes in conflict with religious liberty activism, which sees coalition building as a threat to their civil rights. If they don’t stick up for other groups who are discriminated against, their own rights won’t be respected.

The other side says no, we should be aligned with religious conservatives who want to give people the right to respect their faith and determine how to run their schools, churches, and mosques.

You really do have both sides in our community, in constant debate.

Is this tension reflected also in the finding that 55 percent of Muslims are not in support of building coalitions with LGBT groups?

Muslim-Americans are on par with Catholics [61%] and the general public [62%] in opposition to these coalitions. Those who approve them [39% of Muslims] may see common cause between Muslim issues and LGBT issues in terms of human rights.

How do Muslims interpret homosexuality within Islam?

This topic is much more cut and dry than abortion, and is not a debate within the body of Islamic jurisprudence in any way. The only sanctioned sexual activity is between a man and a woman in the context of marriage, anything else is considered a sin.

But I do want to clarify that in Islam, simply being a gay, lesbian, or bisexual is not a sin until it is acted upon. Islam draws the line between thoughts and actions, and gives rewards for self-restraint.

The debate is not about homosexual relations, but whether Muslim civil rights and religious liberty is protected by supporting other groups’ freedom to live their life as they choose.

This reminds me of last year’s survey, which polled Muslims on the degree to which they wanted their religious law to influence US legislation.

Some people within the Muslim, Christian [Catholics 28%, Protestants 39%], and certainly within the evangelical community do favor their religious principles to inform law. But Muslims are less likely than evangelicals to favor a role for their faith in law [33% vs. 54%], and are on par with the general public.

The poll shows that American Muslims favor the Democratic candidate [51%] over the Republican candidate [16%]. But if Muslims are socially conservative on so many issues, why do they “lean left?”

Muslims are more socially conservative than the average American—in terms of how they see sexual morality, for instance.

However, there are many things central to the Muslim belief system that resonate with the Democratic party. One is care for the poor. Health care as something people should have access to, even if they can’t afford it. Protection of the environment. These social welfare issues align with Islam as well.

Another issue, frankly, is the alienation of Muslims from the Republican party, especially after 9/11 and the so-called “war on terror,” and their perceived Islamophobia. Perhaps more Muslims would identify as Republican if there wasn’t such a hostile rhetoric against them from important leaders within the party.

At a social level, last year’s poll showed a 33-percent favorable rating toward evangelicals, compared to a 14-percent unfavorable rating. Can you explain this positive opinion toward evangelicals?

Unfortunately, the opposite is not true. Evangelicals are much more likely to have negative opinions of Muslims [44% unfavorable vs. 20% favorable], so the view is not reciprocated.

Why are Muslims neutral to positive? Muslims tend to respect and admire religious devotion, and they tend to see evangelicals as people who take their faith seriously, and live according to its teaching.

As our country tends more and more toward religious non-affiliation and agnosticism or atheism, this is the ideology that Muslims feel threatened by, not Christianity.

While evangelicals are responsible for their own community attitudes, what are Muslims doing, or can do, to overcome these negative perceptions?

Muslims are doing a great deal. I know of several Muslim-evangelical interfaith activities. But the key thing that needs to happen is for evangelical leaders to see Muslims in a more accurate light. I’ve watched evangelical television, and I am horrified by the way they speak about our community—things that are simply not true.

I think a better understanding of our faith would go a long way, as it tends to completely transform the view of Muslims. I’ve seen this firsthand many times.

What have you heard evangelical leaders say in denigration?

I have heard people say that Muslims worship a false god, that their faith is based in demonic teachings. I’ve heard this directly and in person.

This is simply not true. Muslims worship the God of Abraham, the same God Christians and Jews claim to worship. We have a different concept of God—we do not believe in the Trinity—but to accuse Muslims of demonic worship is so baseless and almost laughable.

Satan is portrayed in the Quran as our enemy, as someone who rebelled against God. I encourage everyone to just read the Quran for themselves.

Within the evangelical community, the issue of “same God” is a theological concern, not just a case of popular rhetoric. But if religious differences cannot be set aside so easily, where do you see examples of Muslims and evangelicals working on issues of the common good?

I believe there is an anti-torture campaign these groups are involved in, believing in the dignity of human beings as endowed by their Creator. Poverty is another issue. These are two areas where we can work together, with the younger generation especially concerned about environmental protection.

We started with politics, so we can end with it also. Since many evangelicals are inclined to vote for President Trump, and it is expected to be a tight election, how can they convince Muslims to vote for their candidate of preference?

They would have to reassure Muslims that President Trump wouldn’t seek to harm their community, violate their rights, and sanction discrimination against them. That he would make an effort to lift the “Muslim ban.” I would emphasize the economy and religious liberty, things pro-Trump Muslims already agree with. These would be my talking points.

The poll shows that Muslim support for Republicans has held steady from 2016 to 2020 [at 16%]. But this year, only 51 percent said they prefer a Democrat, which is a significant decline from 67 percent in 2016. And 28 percent of Muslims said they were undecided.

Is there a sense that Muslims are not as solidly in the Democratic camp as they were before?

I think there has been some erosion, especially because of concerns for religious liberty. Whether this will lead them to vote for President Trump, or just stay home, remains to be seen.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2020, 08:17:35 am »


Evangelical Witness Is Compromised. We Need Repentance and Renewal.

The National Evangelical Association calls Christians to affirm their moral leadership.

Polarization is like powerful magnets placed throughout our ideological spectrum. They pull us apart and clump us into tribes. We have a hard time breaking away from the magnetic security of being with like-minded people, who reinforce our like-mindedness. Efforts to move toward others must labor against that pull.

For this reason, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and World Relief have published a short sign-on statement of repentance, renewal, and resolve. It is based on the 2004 NAE document For the Health of the Nation, an evangelical call to civic responsibility and a guide for public leadership.

The statement focuses on eight broad issues of moral importance that are rooted in biblical convictions: protecting religious freedom, safeguarding the sanctity of life, strengthening families, seeking justice for the poor and vulnerable, preserving human rights, pursuing racial justice, restraining violence, and caring for God’s creation.

These issues do not exhaust the concerns of faith or government, but they illustrate a breadth of commitments in which evangelicals can engage in common action.

We are in a season in which the evangelical faith is being narrowly defined and misunderstood by many, with long-term ramifications for our gospel witness. We seek to present a thoughtful, humble, biblically grounded statement of our identity that we pray will function as a light shining on a hill to a watching world, to the glory of our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:14–16).

These biblical values unite us across denominational, geographic, ethnic, and partisan divides. Too many, especially young people and people of color, have been alienated by the evangelical Christianity they have seen presented in public in recent years, and they may rightly wonder if there is a home for them in evangelicalism. We have an opportunity to reaffirm with conviction and clarity that our tradition is rooted in fidelity to Christ and his kingdom values.

In rallying around these principles, we will also show those outside the church that evangelicalism is not defined by politics. Rather, we are motivated by love for God and our neighbor.

We invite Christians to join us in affirming this statement. Now is the time to promote faithful, evangelical, civic engagement and a biblically balanced agenda as we seek to commit to the biblical call to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.

Walter Kim is president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Speaking Out is Christianity Today’s guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the publication.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2020, 09:04:55 am »


Evangelical Witness Is Compromised. We Need Repentance and Renewal.

The National Evangelical Association calls Christians to affirm their moral leadership.

Polarization is like powerful magnets placed throughout our ideological spectrum. They pull us apart and clump us into tribes. We have a hard time breaking away from the magnetic security of being with like-minded people, who reinforce our like-mindedness. Efforts to move toward others must labor against that pull.

For this reason, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and World Relief have published a short sign-on statement of repentance, renewal, and resolve. It is based on the 2004 NAE document For the Health of the Nation, an evangelical call to civic responsibility and a guide for public leadership.

The statement focuses on eight broad issues of moral importance that are rooted in biblical convictions: protecting religious freedom, safeguarding the sanctity of life, strengthening families, seeking justice for the poor and vulnerable, preserving human rights, pursuing racial justice, restraining violence, and caring for God’s creation.

These issues do not exhaust the concerns of faith or government, but they illustrate a breadth of commitments in which evangelicals can engage in common action.

We are in a season in which the evangelical faith is being narrowly defined and misunderstood by many, with long-term ramifications for our gospel witness. We seek to present a thoughtful, humble, biblically grounded statement of our identity that we pray will function as a light shining on a hill to a watching world, to the glory of our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:14–16).

These biblical values unite us across denominational, geographic, ethnic, and partisan divides. Too many, especially young people and people of color, have been alienated by the evangelical Christianity they have seen presented in public in recent years, and they may rightly wonder if there is a home for them in evangelicalism. We have an opportunity to reaffirm with conviction and clarity that our tradition is rooted in fidelity to Christ and his kingdom values.

In rallying around these principles, we will also show those outside the church that evangelicalism is not defined by politics. Rather, we are motivated by love for God and our neighbor.

We invite Christians to join us in affirming this statement. Now is the time to promote faithful, evangelical, civic engagement and a biblically balanced agenda as we seek to commit to the biblical call to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.

Walter Kim is president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Speaking Out is Christianity Today’s guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the publication.


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2020, 04:42:25 pm »


Old Books Are Strange and Threatening. That’s Why We Should Read Them.

Alan Jacobs shows how to resist the pull of the present by engaging ideas from the past.

It all begins with the ancient poet Horace and a room full of undergraduates. Alan Jacobs and his Baylor University Honors Program class are reading the Roman poet’s Epistles, letters written as poems that Horace dispatched from his home in the country. In moving away from the bustle of Rome, Horace sought to acquire “a tranquil mind.” Rome was the center of everything, of course, and the place where the present, the concerns of the now, mattered most. Horace left the city because he understood what Jacobs and his students come to understand too—that the pull of the present can be the enemy of the tranquil mind.

In this story, which introduces his latest book, Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, Jacobs puts his finger squarely on a seemingly unshakeable problem of our moment: Most if not all of us find ourselves completely overwhelmed by how much information (and disinformation) there is to process and respond to in a given day. Jacobs writes of the reality of “information overload” and the unshakeable feeling of “social acceleration,” which necessitates a strategy, a way of deciding what is and is not worth our attention. Given these realties, most people turn to what Jacobs calls information triage, which is a way of quickly assessing the value of information and of dismissing what seems to be irrelevant or worthless.

The problem with this strategy is that for most people, there is an inherent bias toward seeing the present as the most important and salient thing. So the past is often dismissed outright because it is seen as completely irrelevant or objectively bad. But such easy dismissal of the past is a mistake, Jacobs argues, because the past, though it does contain certain “threats,” also contains untold “treasures.”

Spirit of Generosity
Though this is a book about the past and the benefits of engaging with it, it is not about why knowing history keeps us from repeating it. While Jacobs says he generally agrees with that point, he is after something different and perhaps more relevant to the current moment.

“I am going to try to convince you that the deeper your understanding of the past,” Jacobs writes, “the greater personal density you will accumulate.” He takes the phrase “personal density” from Thomas Pynchon’s famously difficult novel Gravity’s Rainbow. In the novel, an engineer character argues that by deepening your temporal bandwidth, primarily through engagement with the past, you increase your personal density. And reading old books as a way to engage the past is akin to breaking bread with the dead.

But if breaking bread with the dead, if reading and engaging with old books, is truly a way of cultivating tranquility and becoming more personally dense, then what keeps us from it? Jacobs recognizes that the past has fallen on especially hard times. It is viewed with suspicion. It is seen as superfluous or perhaps as even dangerous. Jacobs notes that for some the past is even a place of defilement, a place where one might be indelibly marked by the bad thoughts, bad values, and bad motives of those who have gone before. And to make matters worse, often those who do engage with the past can seem to be nostalgic about it and therefore blind to its real problems. Throughout the book, Jacobs responds to these critiques of the past, but he never simply dismisses them. He truly engages them, takes them seriously, and at points agrees with them—and this is one of the book’s greatest charms.

To describe how Jacobs does this in detail will spoil some of the pleasure in reading the book, so instead I will describe a couple of the strategies he recommends for engaging the past. When encountering ideas from the past that are contrary to our own, Jacobs advises that we must not set aside our own values. Rather, “what we need to do is keep all our values in play, not just some of them.” This allows us to engage the past with a spirit of generosity, which neither denies the wrongs nor naively dismisses them. To engage the past in this way greatly increases our ability to engage the present in the same way. After all, if I can learn to break bread with those in the past whose lives and views are vastly different than my own, then I might just find I am better able to love the neighbor right in front of me too.

Jacobs also encourages his readers to readily acknowledge the strangeness of the past. That the past can be truly strange is in many ways the crux of the book, because this strangeness has the power both to delight and to offend. The strangeness of old books and the strange worlds they speak of might repel us, but that same strangeness is also what can also make them compelling. One can seek the wisdom while trying to ignore the strangeness, but the strangeness is an essential ingredient in what gives the wisdom its depth.

Jacobs’s own way of reading demonstrates why breaking bread with the dead is more of a feast than eating the bread of the present. A lovely side benefit in doing this is that the more we engage the past, the weaker the hold the present exercises on us and our attention. If we learn to regularly feast with the dead instead of continually gathering up the crumbs and scraps of the present, we might find ourselves more nourished and strengthened. This is not to say that the bread of the present, a kind of manna, cannot and does not nourish, but it is always just for the day. For all manna can do, it does not keep. In fact, it rots.

The more we break bread with the dead, then, the less we try to subsist on the crumbs of the present. This is the both the premise and the promise of this book, and it is certainly attractive, but there is nothing easy about acquiring the tranquility it describes. Enlarging and expanding the self, even through reading, is often a dangerous business. Jacobs knows this too. Contending with the past, he writes, “requires us to be like Jacob, who wrestled with a mighty figure by the Jabbok not in order to defeat or destroy him, but with a strange generosity, an eager and earnest belief that his opponent had something of greater value in his possession, and that he could give it to Jacob. I will not let you go until you bless me.”

That the past has real blessings is a beautiful reminder, but it can be easy to forget that Jacob, though he is truly blessed, still limps away from his encounter. That wrestling and that blessing cost him. If we are willing to wrestle for the wisdom of the past, are we also willing to walk away limping? Early on in his book Prayer, the Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar notes that there is only so much one can learn about prayer by reading about it. There is, in fact, something amiss about only reading about prayer or even just watching and listening to someone pray. At some point one must pray oneself. And so it is with breaking bread with the dead. Though Jacobs is a fine dinner guest himself, at some point we must host our own meals.

Go and Feast Likewise
Breaking Bread with the Dead beautifully demonstrates both how and why Jacobs engages the past. He demonstrates how expanding his temporal bandwidth has increased his own personal density. At certain point, though, if his argument holds any water, the reader must go and do likewise. And so my only fear for a reader of this book is that Jacobs so ably demonstrates what he commends that his readers might think that either the work is already done or that there is no way that they could ever do the same themselves.

That being said, every reader needs able guides, and Jacobs is more than able. Ever since I first picked up one of his books in a campus bookstore as an undergraduate, I have been impressed by his generosity as a reader, both in the breadth of his reading and the depth of his engagement with what he reads. My impression then and my conviction now is that Jacobs is eminently sane. Such sanity is always a rare quality, but now more than ever it seems especially precious. His work confirms that breaking bread with the dead is truly a way to cultivate sanity and tranquility of mind.

Early on, Jacobs describes the book as a meandering and ascending staircase. My encouragement would be to meander and ascend with him. Along the way you will meet all manner of interesting characters and encounter a wealth of stimulating ideas. At the end you might find yourself looking at things from a higher vantage point. You might find you are breathing cleaner air. You might find that things have slowed down, even just a little. And you might find that you have developed an appetite for the kind of bread only the dead can offer. And once you have a taste for such bread, then, dear reader, go and feast likewise.

Christopher Myers is the associate rector of St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church in Dallas and a doctoral student in theology at Durham University. He blogs at The Road Between Here and There.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2020, 04:46:01 pm »


Amid COVID-19, Pro-Lifers Push to Avoid Abortive Fetal Cells in Medicine

Despite the ethical challenges, most still concede to using old cell lines in life-saving drugs.

President Donald Trump has praised the treatments he received for the coronavirus, including an experimental COVID-19 drug cocktail, as “miracles coming down from God.” But in the week after his hospitalization, some questioned the president’s endorsement of the medication—which he says he wants to make more widely available for free—since it was tested using aborted fetal tissue and his administration promotes a pro-life platform.

This is an ethical dilemma that pro-life Christians have wrestled through long before the coronavirus. Given the role of old fetal cell lines in more than half a century of vaccine development—including options for a COVID-19 vaccine—many have been able to reconcile the use of fetal tissue from decades-old abortions while opposing the use of fetal tissue from new abortions for further testing.

That’s actually the current position of the Trump administration as well. Last year, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced plans to discontinue research “that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions,” though it will still allow the use of abortive fetal tissue through older cell lines, of which there is plenty in supply.

Trump’s treatment included an antibody developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which used a fetal tissue cell line from an abortion in the 1970s to test the efficacy of the drug. Several COVID-19 vaccine candidates also use this cell line.

The actual drug cocktail contains two antibodies. The first uses embryonic mouse stem cell lines—not human ones—genetically altered to contain human antibodies from previously recovered patients, a research technique often termed “humanized mice.” The second antibody is produced in hamster cells.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, affiliated with the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, deemed it an “ethical treatment” because of the composition of the drug. The institute has not advocated against the use of animal stem cells.

As far as the testing, “there are ethically derived cell lines that could be used instead,” said David Prentice, the institute’s vice president and research director. “It’s disappointing that they chose to do the tests with the old fetal cell line.”

But Lozier, like other religious groups that oppose abortion, sees a distinction between testing a treatment using the old cell lines and using abortions to obtain further fetal tissue for research.

Researchers sought fetal tissue from elective abortions dating back to the 1960s, creating cell lines that are still used today, after having been multiplied in a lab and frozen. Two of these older fetal cell lines are used mainly to manufacture vaccines, including those for rubella (in the MMR) and chickenpox. The other two are immortalized cell lines, meaning they will grow continuously. Some of these are used in current COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

The Lozier Institute tracks pharmaceutical companies’ use of these abortive cell lines in the development, production, and testing of COVID-19 vaccine options; some use them throughout the development process, and others only in testing.

Prentice felt that the same reasoning for the moral good of vaccines holds true for the Regeneron treatment the president receivd.

Though a growing number of individual Christians refuse vaccines on moral grounds, many institutions, such as the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the Catholic church, support immunizations while acknowledging their dismaying history. They make the case that the use of older fetal cell lines, while not ideal, is not creating additional harm. As the Catholic church concluded for vaccines: Beneficiaries of the drug are not culpable in the original sin of the abortion.

In a previous CT interview, Francis Collins, the director of the NIH and a committed Christian, suggested comparing it to an organ donation after a tragic shooting, saying that the giving of tissue would still be considered “a noble and honorable action” even though we acknowledge an evil was done.

An evangelical Protestant, Prentice weighs other ethical questions against arguments to refuse vaccines: “Is there a grave reason to use it (such as preventing death or serious illness)? If yes, is there any alternative?” If not, he says, people should feel free to ethically receive the vaccine or drug in question.

The Catholic church wrote that doctors and families may determine it necessary to use vaccines developed using the fetal cell lines to prevent illness and death. It suggested that they also have a duty to oppose the use of the fetal cells and pressure the medical industry to use alternative methods.

Prentice offers a similar support. “Future directions for use of fetal tissue from ongoing abortion will hopefully be to move swiftly to better, modern techniques that do not use fetal tissue from elective abortion,” he said.

While most pro-life groups remain unenthused about the use of the abortive tissue in the COVID-19 vaccine candidates, as with other vaccines, they have not suggested people to refuse treatments or immunizations that are developed with the cell lines.

Prentice, who joined the first fetal tissue ethics board formed by a presidential administration, said those who feel the use of abortive fetuses is morally repugnant “should also feel a duty to advocate for a licitly-produced alternative.” That board includes many others who have publicly expressed pro-life views.

Per the new direction of the HHS, the board met in July to review present-day research proposals requiring acquisition of fetal tissue. It recommended only one proposal out of 14, though final decisions lie with the HHS. The recommended proposal—approved by two-thirds of the board—planned to use existing tissue, and if successful, wouldn’t require its future use.

The criteria the board used included review of the procedures for informed consent, which were not satisfying to some members in a number of cases. Though there are National Institutions of Health procedures in place today, to some, lack of consent tainted the process of obtaining the original fetal cell lines.

Some also raised issue with an NIH call for research proposals that originally required scientists to use fetal tissue to compare their treatment with alternatives. “This was an unfortunate specification, as there is neither ethical nor scientific justification for a specific fetal tissue comparator,” said Prentice, suggesting there are other possibilities.

Kathleen Schmainda, a Catholic and a biophysicist at the Medical College of Wisconsin who also served on the ethics board, said that alternatives “are proven to be scientifically viable and often scientifically preferable.”

She pointed to the list of COVID-19 vaccine candidates in trials that do not use fetal tissue cells as evidence that scientists are preferring not to use them in some cases. For example, several Chinese vaccine candidates use vero monkey cells. The Moderna and Pfizer candidates use no cells in the design or production instead creating the vaccine with a genetic sequencing on computers, though they use fetal cell lines in lab testing.

One avenue for ethically obtaining fetal tissue could be the use of banks that maintain fetal tissue from miscarriages, said Schmainda. While some scientists will say they prefer abortive fetal tissue because it is healthier, Schmainda maintains that most miscarriages are due to pregnancy complications, not genetic abnormalities.

Board chair Paige Comstock Cunningham, who is also the interim president at Taylor University, could not be reached for comment. The ethics board is dissolved each year. If President Trump is reelected, a new ethics board will assess proposals in coming years.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2020, 04:49:42 pm »


Half of Protestant Pastors Back Trump

Recent Lifeway Research offers insight into how pastors are voting in 2020.

Almost all Protestant pastors plan to participate in the 2020 election, but around a quarter still haven’t decided who will get their presidential vote.

In the latest election survey, Nashville-based LifeWay Research found 98% of Protestant pastors in the U.S. say they plan to vote in the presidential election.

When they cast their ballot, 53% of pastors likely to vote say they plan to do so for Donald Trump. Around 1 in 5 (21%) say they are voting for Joe Biden. A similar percentage (22%) say they are still undecided. About 4% say they are voting for a different candidate.

“Pastors vote like any other American,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “The large number of pastors who are still undecided may reflect difficulty in finding a candidate who aligns with their overall beliefs. Also, some pastors are intensely private about their political preferences and may prefer to respond ‘undecided’ than to even confidentially share their voting intentions.”

Presidential votes

Compared to 2016, the president has much higher levels of support among pastors this year.

In a 2016 LifeWay Research survey, 40% of pastors were undecided midway through September. Around a third supported Trump (32%). Hillary Clinton, the Democratic party nominee, garnered 19%, while Libertarian Gary Johnson had 4%.

For the 2020 election, support for the Democratic and third-party candidates remains similar, but around half of the number of undecided pastors in 2016 now say they will vote for Trump.

“There were a lot of unknowns in 2016, including Trump being an outsider candidate and little sense of how others would respond to supporting his candidacy,” said McConnell. “Pastors know their options for 2020, and a majority are willing to vote for him.”

Among self-identified evangelical pastors, Trump’s support is similar to that of evangelicals across the country. Almost 7 in 10 evangelical pastors (68%) say they plan to vote for the president, compared to 20% of mainline pastors. In a recent LifeWay Research survey, 6 in 10 Americans who hold evangelical beliefs (61%) pick Trump over Biden (29%).

Among African American pastors, 61% choose Biden, while 6% say they plan to vote for Trump. Younger pastors, age 18 to 44, are the least likely age demographic to back the president for reelection (41%).

Denominationally, Pentecostal (70%) and Baptist pastors (67%) are more likely to vote for Trump than pastors in the Restorationist movement (49%), Lutherans (43%), Presbyterian/Reformed (24%) or Methodists (22%).

The same percentage of Protestant pastors in the U.S. and American evangelicals by belief identify as Republican (51%). Around 1 in 6 pastors (16%) say they are a Democrat, while 23% see themselves as an independent.

Both major party presidential candidates retain the support of pastors who identify with their party. More than 4 in 5 Democratic pastors (85%) plan to vote for Biden. Similarly, 81% of Republican pastors support Trump.

Motivating issues

Unlike Americans with evangelical beliefs, Protestant pastors say abortion and religious liberty are two of the most important issues driving their presidential choice this November.

When asked which characteristics of the candidates are important in deciding how to vote, clear majorities of pastors say the candidate’s position on abortion (70%), their ability to protect religious freedom (65%) and their likely Supreme Court nominees (62%) are key factors.

Close to half point to an ability to improve the economy (54%), ability to maintain national security (54%), personal character (53%), their position on immigration (51%), ability to address racial injustice (51%) and their position on the size and role of government (47%).

Around a third (35%) say the candidate’s ability to slow the spread of COVID-19 is important.

Pastors also selected the single issue most important to determining their vote. Only the candidate’s position on abortion (25%), their personal character (22%), ability to protect religious freedom (16%) or likely Supreme Court nominees (10%) are seen as the primary issue by at least 1 in 10 Protestant pastors.

In a recent LifeWay survey of all Americans, voters with evangelical beliefs are most likely to point to an ability to improve the economy (22%) and an ability to slow the spread of COVID (16%) as the primary issue in deciding their presidential vote. Fewer say abortion (11%) or religious freedom (11%) are their primary issue.

“A microcosm of the national debate about COVID-19 has been directed at pastors this year as they have made decisions about necessary precautions for their own church,” said McConnell. “Despite the drastic changes the pandemic has caused to ministry and church practices, most pastors give much higher priority to other national concerns than a candidate’s ability to slow the spread of this virus.”

Evangelical and mainline pastors have different values they believe are important in this election.

Protestant pastors who identify as evangelical are more likely than mainline pastors to see as important in determining their vote: abortion (82% to 38%), protection of religious freedom (72% to 41%), likely Supreme Court nominees (70% to 53%), maintaining national security (58% to 47%) and the size and role of government (52% to 36%).

Mainline pastors, on the other hand, are more likely than their evangelical counterparts to say addressing racial injustice (73% to 44%), the candidate’s personal character (73% to 46%) and slowing the spread of COVID-19 (55% to 28%) are a key part of their presidential choice.

In terms of the most important issue in determining their vote, evangelical pastors are more likely than mainline pastors to say abortion (33% to 5%), while mainline pastors are more likely to point to personal character as the most vital issue in this election (44% to 14%).

For more information, view the complete report or visit LifeWayResearch.com.

Methodology: The mixed mode survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted Sept. 2 to Oct. 1, 2020 using both phone and online interviews. For phone interviews, the calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size. For online interviews, invitations were emailed to the LifeWay Research Pastor Panel followed by three reminders. This probability sample of Protestant churches was created by phone recruiting by LifeWay Research using random samples selected from all Protestant churches. Pastors who agree to be contacted by email for future surveys make up this LifeWay Research Pastor Panel.

Each survey was completed by the senior or sole pastor or a minister at the church. Responses were weighted by region and church size to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,007 surveys (502 by phone, 505 online). The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.4%. This margin of error accounts for the effect of weighting. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2020, 11:01:03 am »


Good News: Tomorrow We Die

Why dwelling on our mortality may be good for us.

I used to assume that God owed me a long life—to pursue a vocation and family with full strength, to live long enough to become a grandparent. Then, at 39, I was diagnosed with incurable cancer. The expected storyline of my life was interrupted. Now, as a cancer patient, my expectations have changed. The cancer is likely to cut decades from my life; I experience daily pain and fatigue that drain my strength. While my former expectations of God may seem reasonable, I’ve come to see how I had unwittingly embraced a form of the prosperity gospel. I believed that God owed me a long life.

This assumption is widespread. Among those in the United States who believe in God, 56 percent think that “God will grant good health and relief from sickness to believers who have enough faith,” according to a recent Pew study. In other parts of the world, the percentage of Christians who hold this view is even higher.

In some ways, this belief fits with Old Testament teachings about reaping what we sow. “Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things,” Proverbs 13:21 says. The prosperity gospel takes nuggets of wisdom like this and combines them with the healing ministry of Jesus in a way that explains illness in a clear axiom: Since God loves us, he doesn’t want us to be sick. So if we don’t have good health, it must be a consequence of personal sin, or at least a lack of faith on our part. One way or another, the ill person is to blame. While many evangelicals would reject this “strong” form of the prosperity gospel, many of us accept a softer version, a corollary: If I’m seeking to obey God and live in faith, I should expect a long life of earthly flourishing and relative comfort.

Recently, a friend told me about her work as a counselor with middle school youth at a Christian summer camp. On a designated day, campers participated in an activity designed to help them develop empathy in some small ways for people living with physical disabilities. Some students were blindfolded, others had their ears covered, and others sat in a wheelchair for the day’s activities.

Partway through the day, one girl ripped off her blindfold and refused to put it back on. “If I became blind, God would heal me,” she said. She had faith in Jesus and was trying to obey God. Like a predictable transaction, she knew that if she did her part, she could count on God to give her a life she considered to be prosperous. If she became blind, God would fix that.

The problem with this approach is not the belief that God can heal and that God loves us. The issue is that the God of Scripture never promises the type of prosperity this camper so confidently expected. Certainly, when healing comes, including through the means of medical treatment, it is a good gift from God. When we feel like we are in a dark “pit,” like the psalmist (Ps. 30:1–3), we can and should lament and petition for deliverance, including in our pain and illness. We rightly ask God for healing, just as we ask the Father for our daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer. Yet healing, like our daily bread, is ephemeral, passing away. Whether we live only a few years or several decades, Ecclesiastes reminds us that, viewed through a wide-angle lens, “Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart” (5:15).

Every one of us will eventually be struck down by death, a wound that no medicine can heal. Though Proverbs is right to point us to the general wisdom of reaping what we sow, it’s not a divine law of how the universe always works. Job was “blameless and upright” yet suffered great calamity with the loss of his children, his servants, his wealth, and his health

(Job 1:1, 13–19; 2:7–8). The apostle Paul served Christ and the church sacrificially in faith yet was not granted deliverance from his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7–10). When it comes to mortality and the losses that come with it, none of us will be exempt. Although we tend to push away such basic human realities in our daily life, I’ve discovered something surprising: For us as Christians, embracing daily reminders of our mortal limits can refresh our parched souls.

Good News Worth Dying For
Our lifetime is “fleeting,” our days like a “handbreadth” in relation to the eternal God, Psalm 39 reminds us. Until the Lord of creation comes again to make all things new, we join the psalmist in praying:

Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. (vv. 4–5, NRSV)

This prayer contrasts with commonly shared cultural assumptions today. Our tendency to construct tales about ourselves on Facebook and Instagram, for example, is part of a larger cultural liturgy—a set of practices shaping our desires—that subtly leads many of us to assume that we are at the center of the universe and that our story, if not our actual number of years on earth, will never end. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed these assumptions as illusions. The fact that refrigerated trucks were required to gather the bodies of the dead in cities like New York and Detroit is jarring testimony that highly developed nations are not immune to unexpected death. Moreover, as protests about the killing of unarmed black people have disclosed, the assumption that “my storyline will never end” is a culturally privileged one. The black church and other marginalized communities are painfully aware of the fleeting nature of human life. “Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus,” the Negro spiritual intones. For “I ain’t got long to stay here.”

Our mortality was not so easy to avoid in earlier generations. Beyond the reality that life-threatening communicable disease was an ever-present threat, the culture of death in America was more communal. Funeral services served as consistent reminders of human mortality as whole congregations attended, including children. These services traditionally focused on how we are not our own but belong to Christ in life and in death. In contrast, it is more common now to have personal memorial services tailored to the particular life story of the deceased, with only family and friends attending. We may care about someone else’s death, but only when it’s meaningful for our own story. Our own story counts the most. Death is something that happens to other people.

Psalm 39 cuts through such illusions, yet it is charged with hope. Though we are temporal creatures, we can still find true flourishing by investing our deepest loves in the one who is everlasting, the Lord. Peter Craigie, a particularly insightful commentator on the Psalms, notes how life’s value must be understood in light of its finitude. “Life is extremely short,” Craigie once wrote. “If its meaning is to be found, it must be found in the purpose of God, the giver of all life.” Indeed, recognizing the “transitory nature” of our lives is “a starting point in achieving the sanity of a pilgrim in an otherwise mad world.” Craigie penned these words in 1983, in the first of three planned volumes on the Psalms in a prestigious scholarly commentary series. Two years later he died in a car accident, leaving his commentary series incomplete. He was 47.

Craigie’s life was taken before he and his loved ones expected, before he could accomplish his good and worthy earthly goals. Yet in his transient life, he bore witness to the breathtaking horizon of eternity. He bore witness to how embracing our mortal limits goes hand in hand with offering our mortal bodies to the Lord of life. We’re not heroes of the world, and we can’t do much. But we can love generously, and we can bear witness to the one who is the origin and end of life itself—the everlasting Lord, the Alpha and the Omega, the crucified and risen Savior who has accomplished and will bring about what we could never do ourselves.

The Antidote to Death Denial
Our faith should not be used as a buffer to shield us from the sobering reality of our own mortality. Indeed, this death-denying attitude, so common in the “soft” prosperity gospel today, is unnecessary because of our hope in God for the resurrection of the dead. In the end, a faith unable to cope with our mortal helplessness is not worth having. The apostle Paul admits this openly: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith,” he says in his famous chapter on Christ’s resurrection. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:14, 19). Daily admitting our impotence before death can be a way of giving ourselves over to the risen Lord rather than depending upon our own attempts to manufacture a “prosperous” earthly life.

Strangely enough, admitting our powerlessness over death in this way can free us from slavery to the fear of death. Sociologists, in a school of thought inspired by Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize–winning book, The Denial of Death, have documented how cultures tend to idolize political heroes or national fortunes as a way to deny their mortal limits. When we humans deny our mortality, we become defensive, trusting only our own political tribe or own racial or cultural groups. But living in resurrection hope displaces the need to idolize flawed leaders or whitewash sinful ideological causes. We can openly admit that we cannot defeat death. Instead, we live in trust that on the final day, “when the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’ ” (1 Cor. 15:54). That day has not yet come—we long for it in the coming age, when Christ’s kingdom comes in fullness. Our hope for it, and in God’s purposes rather than our own, makes a great deal of difference in how we live each day now.

In light of resurrection hope, Paul believed that though “outwardly we are wasting away,” our bodily decay will not have the final word (2 Cor. 4:16). Moreover, even our bodily afflictions are incorporated into the reality that holds us: our union with the crucified and risen Lord. “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body” (v. 11). Whether or not we have sight or mobility, whether we live 5 or 40 or 90 years, our bodies belong to the Lord, and the process of outwardly wasting away can be a testimony to the humble love of our Savior. Amazingly, the Spirit enfolds bodily failings into his work in the world. As we are witnesses to Christ, the very crumbling of our bodies makes it “clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (v. 7, NRSV). In this way, the anchor of our hope is not deliverance from the process of decay but union with the crucified and risen Christ. This union with Christ will fully blossom in the coming resurrection, sharing in “an eternal glory that far outweighs” our present troubles (v. 17).

The Gift of Mortality Reminders
According to Martin Luther, even when our bodies feel vibrant and dying seems to belong to a far country, we should make death a frequent acquaintance. “We should familiarize ourselves with death during our lifetime,” he wrote in a 1518 sermon, “inviting death into our presence when it is still at a distance and not on the move.” Why does Luther advise this? His reason is not a morbid proclivity but rather the same reason the psalmist refers to life as merely “a few handbreadths” before God: Death punctures our hubris, our sense that the world is a drama in which we are the focal point. Reminders of our death can point to the God of life—the God who put flesh on dry bones—as our only hope, both now and in the age to come. As Luther reminds us, “since everyone must depart, we must turn our eyes to God, to whom the path of death leads and directs us.”

On hard days and easier days, amid joy and pain, I’ve come to embrace mortality reminders as strange but good gifts. They can ground me as a mortal before God. We live in hope that the frailty and decay of our bodies will not be the final measure of our lives. We live in hope that the central drama of the universe is not our own life story. Instead, living as small creatures, we can rejoice in the wonder and drama of God’s love in Christ.

Our present life will end when, like Job, we as creatures are stripped of family and fortune and worldly future. But even in light of this mortal end—indeed, especially in light of it—we can join the apostle Paul in being “convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).

J. Todd Billings is the Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. This article includes material adapted from his latest book, The End of the Christian Life: How Embracing Our Mortality Frees Us to Truly Live.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2020, 10:09:06 am »


White Evangelicals Are Actually for Trump in 2020, Not Just Against His Opponent

Polls show faithful supporters no longer see the Republican incumbent as the “lesser of two evils.”

While white evangelicals’ support for President Donald Trump is close to the strong backing he enjoyed in 2016, voters’ motivations have shifted during his first term at the White House.

This year, a majority are excited to get behind Trump, rather than being primarily motivated by a distaste for his opponent. Among white evangelical Trump supporters, most characterize their vote in 2020 as “for Trump” (57%) and not “against Joe Biden” (20%), according to new Pew Research Center survey breakouts provided to CT.

Last presidential election, the numbers told a different story. White evangelicals voting for the Republican were more likely to say their vote was “against Clinton” (45%) than “for Trump” (30%) in Pew’s 2016 survey—which researchers caution isn’t directly comparable to the recent numbers because it was done by phone, while this year’s was done online.

Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says four years will change your perspective. He served on Trump’s faith advisory panel leading up to the 2016 election. This time, he’s actively campaigning for reelection.

“Now I’m more than an adviser,” said Suarez, who has spoken at Evangelicals for Trump events around the country. “It’s my call because of what I’ve seen in the last four years. … He respects prayer, receives prayer, and respects the faith community, but he gets a bad rap.”

Trump’s reputation is also an animating factor on the Left, where more Biden voters overall say they are voting “against Trump” than “for Biden.”

The only religious group that considers itself “for Biden” is black Protestants; 90 percent back the former vice president and over half say they are voting for him and not against the current president, Pew found. In comparison, among the 17 percent of white evangelicals who lean toward Biden, three-quarters say they are motivated to vote “against Trump.”

Nathan Hoag, an evangelical pastor in Colorado, says his choice to vote Democrat “has little to do with my approval of Biden and almost everything to do with my disapproval of Trump.” He said the decision was easier this year after seeing four years of the administration’s policies.

Though it’s still a minority position among white evangelicals, faith-based opposition to Trump has grown far more organized in 2020 and is focusing on the concerns shared by voters like Hoag.

Not Our Faith, a bipartisan Christian super PAC whose advisers include former Obama staffer Michael Wear, is the latest effort to launch. The organization will join a burgeoning number—Republican Voters Against Trump, Christians Against Trumpism, Evangelicals for Biden, and Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden—formed to rally believers to vote the current president out of office.

The increasingly vocal opposition cites Christian convictions around issues like racism, health care, poverty, and climate science, as well as concerns with Trump’s tone.

“We believe Christians who use, excuse and embrace toxic rhetoric to achieve specific policy ‘wins’ are short-sighted and wrong,” stated Christians Against Trumpism.

Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden said that beyond abortion, “Joe Biden’s policies are more consistent with the biblically shaped ethic of life than those of Donald Trump.”

Suarez and other evangelicals siding with the president have pushed back against the evangelical minority speaking up for Biden.

The president still feels the love from his evangelical base. On a prayer call on Sunday evening, he said, “Whether it’s evangelical, whether it’s Christian evangelical, call it whatever you want, people of religion, this is the most important election of our lives. We have got to get out and we have to vote.”

Joined by his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, pastor Paula White-Cain, and other evangelical leaders who have joined campaign efforts, the president—less than a week after being discharged from his coronavirus hospitalization—offered up his prayers.

“I want to thank God for working miracles, and I want to ask God for the wisdom and grace to lead our country and to lead it on the top level,” Trump said to more than 100,000 supporters tuning in. “We’re going to make America greater than ever before.”

For white evangelicals who have stood by Trump, this is what they see from the president: a leader who prays and welcomes their prayers and who has kept his promises to improve the economy, uphold pro-life stances, and appoint conservative justices.

Like white evangelicals overall, evangelical pastors have grown more confident in the president. At this point in 2016, they were more likely to say they didn’t know whom they’d vote for than to side with candidate Trump, according to a LifeWay Research survey.

This year’s survey found that more than two-thirds of evangelical pastors plan to vote for Trump (68%). LifeWay found that Pentecostal (70%) and Baptist pastors (67%) are more likely to vote for Trump than pastors in the Restorationist movement (49%), Lutherans (43%), Presbyterian/Reformed (24%), or Methodists (22%).

The racial divide among evangelical voters holds for pastors too. Only 6 percent of African American pastors say they support Trump, while a majority (61%) will be voting for Biden.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2020, 10:19:40 am »


Died: Thomas Howard, Author Who Said ‘Evangelical Is Not Enough’

In spiritual memoirs, son of prominent Christian family wrote about finding the fullness of his childhood faith in the Catholic church

Thomas Howard, a prominent evangelical English professor who converted to Roman Catholicism, died last week at 85.

Howard marked out a path to Rome in his spiritual memoirs, notably Christ the Tiger, Evangelical Is Not Enough, Lead, Kindly Light, and On Being Catholic. He wrote with grace and gentle wit about his journey from evangelical son to bow-tied Anglican professor and then to Catholic convert, received into what he came to see as the one true church.

An unknown number of educated young evangelicals followed Howard into Catholicism, and more found their own spiritual longings articulated in his prose. Howard’s love for liturgy and a concern for orderliness and unity drew him to the church, even as he continued to appreciate and celebrate aspects of his childhood faith.

“He found in the church something thicker than he found in Anglicanism, as in Anglicanism he’d found something thicker than he’d found in evangelicalism,” wrote author David Mills in a tribute for the Catholic Herald. “A mix of gratitude for the religion of his youth and courtesy to those still there kept him from a more explicit kind of apologetics.”

Howard was born into a leading evangelical family in Philadelphia in 1935. His parents had served as missionaries to Catholic Belgium before returning to the United States in the 1920s so his father Philip E. Howard Jr. could run the Sunday School Times. The weekly newspaper was the largest in the country for self-identified fundamentalists, and the elder Howard succeeded his uncle Charles Gallaudet Trumbull as editor, who had himself succeeded his father, Henry Clay Trumbull.

“Our group held to what it saw as Biblical Christianity and protested the mass apostasy of the age,” Howard wrote.

The family was deeply commited to missions and the six children were raised to be missionaries. Discipline was called GMT—Good Missionary Training. Howard’s older sister Elizabeth became a missionary to Ecuador, where her husband Jim Elliot died trying to evangelize the Waorani people. Howard’s brother David headed the World Evangelical Alliance for a decade.

Howard recalled his childhood as civilized and cozy, and framed by strict religious education. His parents believed in punctuality and required the children to sing a hymn every morning after breakfast, followed by a Scripture reading and the Lord’s Prayer. They prayed again at night.

Howard said that as a child, he inherited an energetic piety, an earnestness about holy things, and the sense that he was being directly addressed by the Lord. He also thought faith was mostly a list of prohibitions meant to keep Christians pure and separate from “the world.” He lived in fear he would succumb to the temptations of the index of forbidden activities, notably “sex, alcohol, tobacco, bridge, foxtrot, the races, and the movies.”

(“What might be written in superscript over the entire list of evangelical taboos,” Howard later wrote, “is the word ‘cleanliness.’”)

His sense of the orderliness of his religious tradition was thrown into crisis when Howard went to Wheaton College, and was met by what he saw as the chaos of the varieties fo evangelicalism. Howard questioned what he’d previously thought was certain—and came to doubt the power of propositions and orthodoxies to hold his faith together.

His first response was an evangelical one. Howard wrote a critique of dogma and systematization, arguing that Jesus is always greater than our theology. The book, Christ the Tiger, made him a minor evangelical celebrity, though nowhere near as famous as his sister Elizabeth, who published Through the Gates of Splendor when Thomas was 23.

Howard joined the Episcopal church and became an expert in British literature, writing his doctoral dissertation on the novels of Charles Williams. He also became one of the early experts on C. S. Lewis, and a specialist in T. S. Eliot’s religious poetry. He took a position teaching English at Gordon College and was known as a tweedy professor who loved all things Oxford and attracted a loyal retinue of students.

He returned to religious memoir as he neared 50, with the publication of Evangelical Is Not Enough. Howard wrote the book as a defense of liturgy and church traditions, including written prayers, the church calendar, the sacramental understanding of communion, and the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He argued that evangelicals were orthodox, but had shorn themselves from the ancient tradition that ensures orthodoxy.

“We would have been more at home in the company of apostles, fathers, doctors, confessors and ancient traditions of catholic orthodoxy than among modern churchmen,” Howard wrote. “But there is something peculiar in this way of talking about evangelicalism. Our imagination did not run to creeds, fathers, doctors, tradition, or catholic orthodoxy. When it came to anchoring our faith, we cited the New Testament and nothing else.”

Howard decided to anchor his faith in the Catholic church in 1985. He resigned from Gordon two days later. Christianity Today published a three-part report on his conversion, including interviews with his sister Elizabeth, brother David, and close friend J. I. Packer, as well as Howard himself.

“The question of the unity between Christ and his church is the fundamental one,” Howard explained to CT. “A close corollary to that, if not virtually synonymous with it, is the question of authority, which immediately turns into the question of the magisterium—the teaching authority of the Catholic church. There is no magisterium in Protestantism.”

At the same time, Howard argued that he was more evangelical because of his conversion, not less. The Catholic church was the fullest and final form of the faith, he said, not another denomination or just an expression for a preference for a particular worship style.

“I will never be anything but an evangelical,” he said. “As a Catholic, I can lay claim to the ancient connotation of the word ‘evangelical’—namely, a man of the gospel, referring to the gospel, the evangelical councils, and so on. If, however, by evangelical we mean the 18th- and 19th-century movements in the Church of England, or the Free Church movement, or if we’re speaking specifically of the American revivalist phenomenon, then I might find myself outside the circle that these people might like to draw.”

The Catholics who were influenced by Howard regularly pointed to evangelical aspects of his character that made him, in their eyes, a good Catholic. His faith continued to be formed by his deep knowledge of Scripture, his sense of a direct relationship with God, and his missionary spirit.

“That evangelical world prized the missionaries,” wrote Dwight Longenecker, a Catholic priest who was also raised evangelical. “With that missionary spirit is a great sense of adventure. You can set out and do something beautiful for God. God will provide. Do not be afraid! … That’s the spirit that led him to follow his heart to become first an Anglican, then a Catholic.”

After Gordon, Howard moved to St. John’s Seminary in Boston and taught there for 14 years. He was a faithful lay Catholic for the remainder of his life, and though he never achieved the statue of other notable converts like John Henry Newman and Richard Neuhaus, he served as a mentor to many former evangelicals. He wrote a line-by-line commentary on Eliot’s poem Four Quartets, and continued to document his spiritual journey with titles like If Your Mind Wanders at Mass.

“We need the tradition springing from the ancient wellsprings of the race to come to our assistance and furnish us with words and movements that will give adequate shape to what it all means,” Howard wrote.

When a human body ceases to breathe and live . . . nothing will do but ritual and ceremony, that is, words and movements, which, by virtue of themselves springing from the heart of the race, as it were, and of having been tested and dignified by ancient usage, have taken on the weight and solemnity that answer to the occasion, as opposed to our own helter-skelter attempts to respond to what has happened.

Howard is survived by his wife, Lovelace, and their two children, Gallaudet and Charles.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2020, 10:34:48 am »


Ousted by Party, Former Democrat Holds to Pro-Life Platform in Tennessee

Longtime state legislator and Memphis pastor John DeBerry is now running as an Independent.

Editor’s note: This profile is the fourth in a CT series featuring Christian candidates who are running for legislative office in November.

John DeBerry insists he is not the one who changed; the Tennessee Democratic Party did.

The 69-year-old politician and Church of Christ pastor has represented part of Memphis in the state House of Representatives since 1994. But this year, after 13 consecutive victories in Tennessee’s 90th District, DeBerry was removed from the ballot and prohibited from running for reelection as a Democrat.

The Tennessee Democratic Party chair said DeBerry, who has voted according to his pro-life stance on abortion as well as in favor of school choice, “demonstrated more loyalty to the Republican Party than to the Democratic Party.”

DeBerry insists his voters have always known where he stood on abortion and other social issues; they sent him to Nashville again and again. “Life has mattered my entire career,” he told Christianity Today. “My principles have not changed, and I am not changing my principles because I have a D behind my name.”

DeBerry’s fight to stay in the race in Tennessee is an example of the precarious political position a dwindling number of pro-life Democratic politicians find themselves in. But DeBerry wants to remain in the party because, knowing his constituents, he believes he’s not alone; he says they too are Christian Democrats who stand for life.

DeBerry has been a Democrat since 1968 when he voted in his first presidential election. His parents were Democrats, but his grandparents had been Eisenhower Republicans. It was Christian leaders taking a stand during the civil rights movement—former president Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ralph Abernathy—that first spurred his own interest in politics.

DeBerry, who is also a pastor at Coleman Avenue Church of Christ in Memphis, sees faith as the foundation for his career in public service and how he thinks through policy issues.

He says you cannot fight for what is right based on political labels, but most rely on deeper convictions. “Fashion changes, style changes, laws change, but principles which are built on the Word of God don't change,” he said.

DeBerry believes abortion violates both God’s laws and the American principle that all persons have constitutional rights not based on their place of residency—those rights extend to those residing in the womb too.

The Tennessee politician, now running as an Independent, blames state party officials for taking a fundamentally undemocratic action to remove him from the ballot. He was already on the ballot when the party announced their decision, and a few of his colleagues spoke out on his behalf. House Minority Leader Karen Camper, a fellow Memphis Democrat, called the party’s actions “[an attempt] to nullify the choice of the people of the 90th District.”

DeBerry’s conservative positions may have frustrated some of his pro-choice colleagues, but they respect his leadership. They voted for him to serve as minority leader pro tempore for the entire Democratic Caucus. Legislators also passed a bipartisan bill to amend the Tennessee election code, allowing incumbents disqualified by their party’s executive committee, like DeBerry, to file a new petition under a different party identification past the standard filing deadline.

DeBerry has chosen to run as an Independent. On November 3, he will face progressive Democrat Torrey Harris, who would be both the youngest and the first openly gay member of the Tennessee House. When asked why he did not simply run as a Republican, DeBerry stated, “If I wanted to run as a Republican, I could have, but the majority of the district consists of Christian Democrats who share my pro-life views.”

According to Pew Research, young black Protestants have become less rigid in their opposition to abortion than previous generations, in part because they are more likely to view racial justice for those who are born as paramount. Yet DeBerry’s assertion that the majority of the black Democrats in his district share his views is borne out by the fact that he has beat out liberal African Americans in primary races twice since his district was redrawn in 2012, including Harris, his current Democratic opponent.

DeBerry is among state legislative candidates in ten states who received endorsements from Democrats for Life of America in 2020; the group endorsed just a single candidate for US Congress—Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota—this year.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, believes that “you do not have to be a Republican to care about life,” and as the party of the vulnerable and marginalized, the Democratic Party should take a stand for the unborn. Or at least not exclude politicians for doing so.

Day has pushed for an “inclusive, ‘big tent’ party” that doesn’t rely on abortion rights as the foundation of its platform and wouldn’t target pro-life Democrats like DeBerry. On a national level, US Rep. Dan Lipinski, a pro-life Democrat who served Illinois’s 3rd District for 15 years, lost his primary earlier this year to a pro-choice challenger who rallied more funding and support.

DeBerry likewise believes that the issue of abortion isn’t as starkly partisan as the “party elites” presume. According to a 2019 Gallup Poll on abortion, 24 percent of Democratic voters and 44 percent of Independent voters identify as pro-life. He says Democrats should not exclude that sizeable minority—many of them, like him, are religious people whose faith leads them to oppose abortion.

In evangelical denominations like DeBerry’s Churches of Christ, the Southern Baptist Convention, and Assemblies of God, as well as the historically black Church of God in Christ denomination, most say abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances, per a Pew Research Center survey.

DeBerry cites one of his favorite verses, Matthew 22:21, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (KJV), as part of his reasoning for his stance. For DeBerry, only God decides life and death.

DeBerry is unsure whether he will caucus as a Democrat or Republican should the 90th District residents send him back to Nashville as an Independent. But he pledges, no matter what side he’s on, to always place principles over party and personality.

Kathryn Freeman is an attorney and former director of public policy for the Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission. Currently, she is a master of divinity student at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary and one-half of the podcast Melanated Faith.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2020, 10:45:28 am »


Meet the TikTok Generation of Televangelists

These young influencers want to #MakeJesusViral.

Gabe Poirot runs from the street toward the camera, yelling, “Wait, wait, don’t scroll!”

If the urgency in his voice causes you to pause and watch his video, you’re in for a 60-second blessing. Wearing a pink crewneck sweatshirt with “#MakeJesusViral” emblazoned on the front, he leans deep into the frame. “Let me pray with you today,” he says earnestly, then bows his head and closes his eyes. “Father God, let me just pray for the person on the other end of this phone.”

Poirot, 19, is a student at Kenneth Copeland Bible College who uses the social media app TikTok to share clips of himself preaching short sermons and praying for his audience. TikTok feeds users a constant stream of one-minute-or-less videos via its “For You” page, making it easy for them to skip the ones that don’t catch their attention within the first few seconds.

While much of TikTok is devoted to less-than-youth-group-friendly content—like dances to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” and videos of users walking into rooms naked to film their partners’ reactions—Poirot’s content rests in a subgenre known as “Christian TikTok” (or, as rapper Kanye West suggested, “Jesus Tok”). Christian TikTok influencers publish sermonettes, cleaned-up versions of trending dance challenges, best Bible study practices, and even tutorials on how to stretch without participating in the Hindu elements of yoga. And many of the young content creators are on a mission: to spark revival among Generation Z—those born in the late 1990s through the early 2010s.

At the beginning of 2020, TikTok set the record as the most downloaded app in one quarter; to date, it’s been downloaded over 2 billion times worldwide. Part of the app’s popularity among contributors is its algorithm, which suggests new videos based on users’ history and preferences. It can vault the average video onto the screens of TikTok’s 700 million monthly active users, launching the careers of aspiring social media influencers.

The app has been controversial, not only because of concerns that the Chinese government uses it to collect data on Americans, but also because it has haphazardly spread videos such as a girl documenting her abortion and a man filming his suicide. But Poirot (@gabe_poirot2) and other Christian TikTok creators hope to leverage the easy virality for the sake of evangelism.

The app seems to be rewarding their efforts. Poirot’s two accounts, where he posts videos with captions like “ITS TIME FOR CHRISTIANS TO UNITE” spelled out in bright, eye-catching red, cater to a combined following of 556,100 users. His audience is young: One study indicated that in 2019, 41 percent of TikTok users were between the ages of 16 to 24; other reports show TikTok has roughly 18 million daily users in the US under the age of 14.

If TikTok is fostering the next generation of populist preachers, they share a lot in common with their predecessors: wide smiles and amped-up personas, along with a keen awareness of the rules of medium in which their message lives. And like sawdust trail preachers and televangelists of old, Christian TikTok stars must contend with accusations of false teaching and strike a balance between self-promotion and proclamation.

From the beginning, religious broadcasters fought to “compete for the hearts and minds of the nation,” wrote sociologist Jeffrey K. Hadden in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Although broadcasting corporations initially saw evangelical programs as more work than they were worth, prosperity gospel preachers like Oral Roberts and Jim Bakker soon dominated airwaves and created an entire industry of televangelism.

Today, when virtually every prominent pastor and Bible teacher has an online following, grassroots Christian video influencers more commonly take the form of lifestyle vloggers. Atlanta wedding videographers Nate and Sutton Eisenman’s YouTube channel, for example, features Christian dating advice and footage of their world travels, attracting more subscribers than Beth Moore’s Living Proof Ministries or Tim Keller’s sermon channel. Christian TikTok stars see the populist potential of their platform as an untapped means for revival—part of a longstanding evangelical tendency “to diagnose where is culture moving, what is going to be the most influential, and then just jump into that,” according to Candy Gunther Brown, who studies evangelicalism at Indiana University.

When Poirot first started making TikToks in April, he didn’t take it seriously; he mostly just posted Christian comedy content. Then one of his videos accrued 50,000 views overnight.

“The thought came to my heart and it really struck me,” he said. “I’m not out here to be famous for myself. I want to make Jesus viral.”

The hashtag #MakeJesusViral was born, and Poirot began creating more evangelistic videos. He created a 40-part series on why “Everyone Deserves Hell” and often begins his clips with questions like “What if you stopped scrolling for 60 seconds and it changed your life?”

Poirot told CT that the Billy Graham crusades motivated his thirst for revival. He watched Graham videos when he was younger and was inspired by how Graham’s crusades helped “give Christians a place to bring their friends.” As the coronavirus pandemic limits in-person outreach, he thinks tools like TikTok could have a unique role in evangelizing the unchurched.

But Graham isn’t Poirot’s only inspiration. He also cited the traditional marketing funnel as his strategy for online outreach. Similar to how sellers encourage people to buy a product by generating awareness and buy-in, Poirot uses his TikTok videos to drive people to his lengthier YouTube livestreams. On Wednesday and Sunday nights, hundreds of eager kids around the world tune in to sing praise songs, listen to him preach, and recite a prayer of repentance along with him at the end.

“If you prayed that prayer for the first time,” Poirot said during one of his streams, “comment ‘First.’ If you prayed that prayer for the second, third, or fourth or fifth, just say, ‘Recommit.’ ” He then counts these comments to gauge how many people have been saved through his meetings and posts the number of conversions online.

Poirot’s social media presence across platforms isn’t unique. TikTok enables users to link their Instagram and YouTube accounts to their TikTok profiles, and many creators encourage their audiences to follow them in multiple places—giving them a more stable online persona and more ways to publish longer-form content that can be monetized.

This past summer, Poirot ran a TikTok collective called Carry Christ, comprising himself and more than 10 volunteers who helped create and promote videos. The Carry Christ account gained over 100,000 followers in four months; the hashtag #MakeJesusViral has garnered over 253.5 million views.

But virality doesn’t equal virtue. Within the fanfare lies a bitter cacophony: Poirot is one of many Christian TikTok personalities facing accusations of being a “false teacher.” For instance, in a now-deleted video called “God Doesn’t Send Anyone to Hell Part Twenty-Five,” Poirot claims that “God sends people to heaven, not hell.” Dissenters commented “FALSE TEACHER WARNING” and “this is false bro.”

When CT asked about the video, Poirot said he had made a mistake and his title was unclear. His intent was to reach people who wanted to know why God sends people to hell. Jesus has “given an opportunity for every person to come to heaven,” Poirot said, but some people “deny the free gift
of salvation.”

Accusations of false teaching—which sometimes mirror broader theological disagreements within the church—are not uncommon. Hailey Serrano (@haileyjulia_) made a video calling out a TikTok creator who claimed that people needed to be water baptized to go to heaven. One user said he saw a profile of a man who claims to be the Messiah.

But even with the criticism against him, Poirot doesn’t begrudge his critics their opinions.

“A lot of people will screen record one of their videos and then say their two thoughts on it,” he said, referring to the different editing functions on TikTok that allow users to record their “reactions” to other people’s videos. “Which is cool—actually just brings more traffic to the page.”


here are a lot of false teachers on TikTok,” said Peter Park (@bibleflexguy), 40, an elder at Lighthouse Bible Church in San Jose, California, who makes apologetics videos in his spare time. As a marketing professional and a parent, he started his TikTok account last year in an effort to understand the platform.

“The fastest way to grow on TikTok is to buy into the emotional, and the [Christian accounts] that are the most popular on TikTok are the ones that pray over you,” Park said. “Those tend to be, I think, ultimately the most dangerous ones, but those are the ones that usually shoot up to over 500,000 [or] over a million followers fairly quickly.”

Park thinks the popularity of these videos motivates people to make more of them. Such appeals to emotionalism find their roots in the early days of American Christianity, particularly during the two Great Awakenings that served as waves of “spiritual revival.” Charles Finney, a leader during the Second Great Awakening and the “father of American revivalism,” engineered a methodology of revivalist technique that emphasized creating the right spiritual environment for conversion. In “What a Revival of Religion Is,” he wrote:

Men are so sluggish, there are so many things to lead their minds off from religion and to oppose the influence of the Gospel, that it is necessary to raise an excitement among them, till the tide rises so high as to sweep away the opposing obstacles. They must be so aroused that they will break over these counteracting influences, before they will obey God.

The techniques that Finney pioneered—music, advertising, and the altar call—won him many converts. They also provoked criticism that extends to today. In her book Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey challenges Christians to think more biblically about the marketing tactics they use, both in terms of fundraising and evangelism. She advocates for treating people as “made in the image of God, not a mass of emotions to be manipulated.”

“Though Christians would never accept naturalism as a philosophy,” she writes, “many have absorbed a naturalistic approach to marketing, adopting techniques that treat a target audience essentially as passive ‘consumers’ to be manipulated into buying a ‘product.’ ”

Poirot, however, doesn’t see his ministry in this light—despite his now-deleted Carry Christ GoFundMe page, and a merchandise website that sells hashtag hoodies for $40. Other Christian creators sell merch, like Jana Jaye (@janatiktoks), who recently announced that she was selling T-shirts and accepting Venmo donations to raise money for her college tuition, room, and board.

“When I say marketing, the purpose of me preaching the gospel and having a funnel is not to claim the impact of reach,” Poirot said. It’s to offer seekers more ways to go deeper in faith. “The purpose is so that they can learn more in every moment, so that they can gain more learning and understanding.”


s with blogs and other forms of online discipleship, a major challenge for TikTok is that no one is really guiding that learning and understanding. Christian TikTok is not a church.

As COVID-19 has forced many places of worship to shift to holding online services, Park is concerned about the blurred lines between online church services and the “TikTok church” livestreams and Bible studies that some creators host over Zoom.

“Ultimately, those aren’t real churches,” Park said. “There’s going to be more and more Christians that call themselves ‘Christian’ that won’t ever be a member of a physical local church. But they’ll be part of these types of social networks. And they’ll be receiving some truth in these videos and they’ll go pick and choose what they want to watch on YouTube.”

Park isn’t the only one who’s concerned. Elijah Lamb (@elijah.lamb), 17, began making TikToks as a joke in 2019. He later began making apologetics videos and sharing his testimony with his 669,000 followers. (He’s currently creating a 66-part series on the books in the Bible.) Lamb said that although the app has given him the opportunity to build a lot of friendships, the community lacks a church’s governing authority.

“No one’s the president of Christian TikTok,” he said, “so it’s hard to maintain order.” Anyone can download TikTok and begin preaching on it, a freedom that hearkens to America’s trademark religious populism.

“Religious populism, reflecting the passions of ordinary people and the charisma of democratic movement-builders, remains among the oldest and deepest impulses in American life,” writes Nathan O. Hatch in The Democratization of American Christianity. With the birth of America, emphases on the dismantling of tradition and the sovereignty of the people resulted in a crisis of authority that ripped apart the fabric of society, including the hierarchical structure of the church. Laymen began preaching, often offending traditionally trained ministers; the most extreme populist preachers claimed that “divine insight was reserved for the poor and humble rather than the proud and learned.” A fundamental flip in authority granted power to anyone with a Bible and a voice.

Populist preaching lives on in the digital age. Even though TikTok has been praised for the way that it can make anyone be a star, Lamb noted that the free-for-all nature of the app made it “easy for [Christian TikTok] to split apart.” Creators have the license to say and do whatever they want—a liberty that provides a diversity of viewpoints and cultivates an atmosphere of creativity but also engenders a sort of recklessness in word and deed.

But while Park believes that TikTok presents a lot of dangers, he isn’t worried about all young evangelists. “I think a lot of the younger ones, like Gen Z, they’re doing it just for fun. They’re doing it to make friends,” he said. “We need to correct but also encourage.”

Despite concerns about the app’s Wild West atmosphere, there are plenty who fear that TikTok videos are, in fact, being controlled. Religion Unpluggedreported in May that some Christian influencers have claimed that TikTok “shadow bans” Christian voices, a practice in which a social media platform covertly removes or refuses to circulate certain videos.

“There was one point where we all felt like we couldn’t even put Jesus in our captions because TikTok would pick up on it and not put the video out there,” said 22-year-old Aatiqah Wright (@uhteakuh). Wright said that while normally she would get 15,000 views in two minutes, the shadow ban made it so that she’d get a thousand views in an hour.

Shadow banning claims aren’t unique to Christians. Last year, the Guardianreported that TikTok banned depictions of alcohol consumption, figures of Jesus, and LGBT content in Turkey. Slate also reported last December that the app admitted to limiting videos created by users who looked like they would be “susceptible to bullying,” including disabled and overweight people.

Perhaps the biggest crisis Christian TikTok faces, however, is the uncertainty of the app’s future. TikTok, which is currently owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, made headlines over concerns that it was sharing user data with the Chinese government. These concerns culminated in August, when President Trump issued an executive order banning TikTok from the US if it was not sold to an American company. In September, Walmart and tech company Oracle announced they would become part owners of TikTok in a deal that would satisfy White House demands—but the arrangement leaves ByteDance as a majority owner of the company and is unlikely to satisfy all critics.


or Christian creators like Wright—who boasts 1.2 million followers on TikTok and only 10,600 on YouTube—building a ministry means turning online connections into in-person interactions.

Wright started making TikToks in 2018 and recently collaborated with a group of Christian TikTok creators known as Praise House—a collective formed in the style of the mainstream “TikTok house,” where several TikTok stars move into a mansion together. The close proximity allows them to more easily create content and boost each other’s followings, especially during a global pandemic.

Praise House members currently live around the US but eventually want to live together (boys and girls in separate houses, Wright said). They dream of traveling as a group and hosting evangelistic events, an idea that recently came to fruition when Praise House held a “meet and greet” in Marietta, Georgia. (Wright said Praise House members plan their events in states with looser COVID-19 restrictions.)

“Not only are these kids seeing us on TikTok,” Wright explained, “but they can also see us in person and we can evangelize to them and move from place to place.”

The glue that holds this subculture together seems to be a universal desire to see revival sweep across the United States—which they’ve tried to translate into more concrete ministries, or at least larger platforms.

Lamb has a management team that handles speaking engagements for him, and he wants to preach and travel in the future. He said he’s seen thousands of people get saved through his livestreams and TikToks. “I think social media, and TikTok especially, is the new medium of revival in the 21st century,” he said.

Poirot recently transitioned the Carry Christ account into Gabe Poirot Ministries, after other members of the collective left due to conflicting time commitments. He still plans on making TikToks and hosting livestreams, continually striving to #MakeJesusViral.

“They’re sticking booties in the air, so to speak,” he said, referring to Hype House, a popular mainstream TikTok collective in Los Angeles. “But our motto is stick Jesus in the air, bringing influence back to him.”

Rachel Seo is a staff writer at Christ and Pop Culture and a senior at the University of California San Diego, where she is studying literature and writing. Follow her on Twitter @rrachelalisonn.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2020, 10:49:24 am by patrick jane »

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2020
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2020, 10:48:42 am »


The Alpha-Male Style in American Evangelicalism

A historian asks whether a warped view of masculine authority has corrupted our faith and political witness.

As a recent college graduate in 1983, I sat spellbound with thousands in my southern city civic center, mesmerized by a mousy man projected on a big screen who taught us we must submit to authority in every domain of life. Authority is God-given, Bill Gothard taught, and in his moral universe, any diversion from obedience disturbed the force and ignited interpersonal conflict, along with personal anger and resentment. Gothard’s principles for life’s dilemmas included specific practices based on the Bible. Obedience begets blessings, peace of mind, and confidence in one’s relationship with God.

Specifically, Gothard directed us to seek out those we’d offended and ask forgiveness. Past conflict clogged up one’s conscience. To be released from former transgressions freed us for future treasure, or something like that.

My mind immediately went to a high-school girlfriend I’d heartlessly dumped as I made my way to college four years prior. Gothard offered a script of contrition, so I looked up her phone number, dialed, and read my repentance. Needless to say, she was nonplussed and wondered why in the world I was calling. I told her about the seminar, about obedience and the blessings that awaited us both if she’d obey and forgive me. Moreover, God structured things such that she actually had to forgive me since she was a woman and I was a man. It was how authority in the universe supposedly worked.

Fast forward 20 years to a congregation I served as a minister in Boston. We hosted a special event featuring the popular Reformed evangelical pastor John Piper, who like Gothard stressed the importance of obedience in a hierarchical chain of command starting with God and descending to men over women and children. The Lord established male headship over women as part of creation’s order, Piper taught, for his glory and our joy. The place was packed, mostly with young, male, goateed enthusiasts, wide-eyed in wonder over how good they had it as men in God’s economy.

In her recent book, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, Calvin University historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez situates Gothard and Piper in a long line of white, alpha-male leaders whose devotion to a militant Christian patriarchy and nationalism inevitably led to exuberant support, among large numbers of white evangelicals, for Donald Trump as President—despite his clear deviation from anything evangelical in a spiritual or behavioral sense. As it turned out, Du Mez argues, obedience wasn’t as much about goodness and grace as it was about power and who wielded it.

A ‘Masculinity Problem’
Early in the 20th century, Du Mez writes, “Christians recognized that they had a masculinity problem.” If America was to be truly great and fully Christian, it had to man up. Effeminate features of Victorian piety would no longer do for a nation aspiring to righteous superpower.

The popular idea of America as God’s chosen nation traces back to Puritan leader John Winthrop’s 1630 “city on a hill” sermon, which went mainly unnoticed (except by historians) until Ronald Reagan rolled it out amid the latter days of the Cold War. Invoked by successor presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, the notion of American exceptionalism became core to the national identity. In the eyes of many Christians, America’s chosenness was linked with its morality, specifically in the areas of sexual ethics, family values, character education, freedom of (Christian) worship, and a potent foreign policy. And safeguarding that morality required various forms of government action.

With the evangelical embrace of morals legislation came a commitment to order and hierarchical authority, starting at the top with God and manifested in strong male leadership in government, business, the military, churches, and families. Masculine power was essential to America fulfilling its calling. Without it, America would allegedly go the way of wusses, weakening as a nation into a soft and too-delicate democracy.

Du Mez saddles up with Teddy Roosevelt as a Rough Rider and giddyups all the way to the present, lassoing the likes of Billy Sunday and Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, Duck Dynasty and Mark Driscoll, along with plenty of other Christian cowboys (and a few cowgirls too). She shows how militant white Christian patriarchy paved the way for a fractured nation and a ruined religion whose doctrine of grace and commandment to love diminish in the face of political expedience. She stresses how, as a political culture as much as anything, white evangelicalism captivated believers enough to redraw the boundaries of faith around political allegiance rather than creedal assent. (One example of this dynamic at work: As I entered my new role as editor in chief of Christianity Today, I was asked more about my position on particular policy issues than about any thoughts on theology.)

As Du Mez explains, “For conservative white evangelicals steeped in this ideology, it can be difficult to extricate their faith, and their identity, from this larger cultural movement.” So true. This is especially the case as political loyalties hijack faith commitments to the point that whom you vote for determines what kind of Christian you are rather than the other way around. Du Mez cites Doug Phillips, a Teddy Roosevelt aficionado and leader of the Christian homeschool movement, as representative of the patriarchal-political ideology:

[Phillips] called on men to assume patriarchal leadership “more noble than the valiant deeds of shining knights of yore,” and, quoting Charles Spurgeon, he instructed wives to set aside their own pleasure, to sink their individuality into their husbands, to make the domestic circle their kingdom and husbands their “little world,” their “Paradise,” their “choicest treasure.” Phillips believed that patriarchy and patriotism were inextricably connected, and both were God-given duties. Patriarchy was key to the success of nations, and to be “anti-patriotic” was to be a spiritual ingrate.

Mix white patriarchy and patriotism together with prejudice, and you have all the ingredients for white supremacy, the fuel behind America’s longstanding racial animus and recent political hostility, which many worry could break American democracy itself. In voting for Donald Trump, Du Mez writes, “Evangelicals hadn’t betrayed their values. Donald Trump was the culmination of their half-century-long pursuit of a militant Christian masculinity.”

A Better Hierarchy
On one level, Du Mez’s thesis is compelling and extensively researched. She shows how white evangelicalism worked as both a basis and cover for white-privileged power plays and culture wars, all in an attempt to preserve a hierarchy that served white male agendas, excused misbehavior, and exonerated abuse. Not that all of us white males imbibed the testosterone. Plenty of us, including what Du Mez calls the “northern establishment evangelicals—the Wheaton and Christianity Today types,” were baffled by the overwrought Call of Duty discipleship. Still, our devotion to specific social policies, our worries over the loss of moral high ground and cultural hegemony, our fears over the dissolution of Christian institutional influence, and our own leadership led us to render unto Caesar the things that belonged to God in a desperate last gasp for legitimacy.

At the same time, Du Mez seems guilty of a bit of confirmation bias. If you’re hunting for white privilege and fragility, it’s not hard to find. Having announced her thesis about militant Christian-nationalist, male-patriarchal supremacy, she mines American history for classic deplorables, most all of whom went on to be exposed for the scandalous sins their pride and prejudice invariably caused. On the other hand are plenty of white evangelical men canceled out for political acts never committed but only assumed and whose patriotism gets distorted as nationalism simply because they’re white, Christian, and male. As a political force they barely register compared to Amazon, Facebook, and Hollywood.

But as the religion scholar Arthur Farnsley notes, white American evangelicals make up about a quarter of the American population. And “when this election is over,” he writes, “they will still be here. And they will still be deeply intertwined in American life. These folks are our fellow-citizens, part of our country’s lifeblood. We need to be building bridges toward evangelicals of goodwill, not burning them.”

As an older white southern male, weaned on evangelical Bible studies and teaching, it’s possible I’m part of the problem and that I have little ground from which to critique Du Mez’s argument. Hierarchy has its upsides, as I’ve enjoyed genuine privilege. And as one popular adage has it, when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

The high-school girlfriend I dumped declined to forgive me. I’d hurt her, she said, and grace wouldn’t come cheaply. That my conscience bothered me four years hence was a good thing, she thought. Better to let me stew in those juices for a while and learn a lesson. I confess that I did.

Obedience doesn’t work like a math equation. And the joy it brings comes at a high price. Jesus himself did not consider his own equality with God as something to exploit but humbled himself unto his own obedient death on a cross for our sake (Phil. 2:1–11). This is the attitude to which we should aspire, a hierarchy that locates our own interests at the bottom of the pile. It may not seem very manly, but if Jesus is the ideal, so much for John Wayne.

Daniel Harrell is editor in chief of Christianity Today.


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