By / Apr 18

On this episode of the ERLC Podcast in the Christians and Politics series, we’re talking about the importance of your involvement in local and state politics.

2024 is a big year for politics. If you ask any person you pass on the street why this is the case, their answer would likely be because of the presidential election; one that, sadly, looks like it will be a contentious repeat of 2020. And they wouldn’t be wrong. Federal politics are important. 

But, most Americans don’t give much thought to political issues beyond the national level. This causes us to miss out on the good we can affect at the state and local levels through political engagement. While it might not be as glamorous, popular, or as exciting as a national election, getting involved in the states, cities, and communities in which we live is more important than we might think. 

On today’s episode you’ll hear from Tony Beam, who is the senior director of Church & Community Engagement for North Greenville University in South Carolina. He represents South Carolina Baptists at the Statehouse in Columbia as director of the Office of Public Policy. Dr. Beam is also the host of the podcast, “Truth in Politics and Culture with Dr. Tony Beam.” 

You will also hear from Lane Wakefield who is a clinical assistant professor of Marketing at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. He’s also a candidate for the school board in his community. 

By / Dec 13

I recently had the opportunity to visit the U.S.–Mexico border at El Paso and Ciudad Juárez with a group of SBC leaders to learn and gain a better understanding of what is happening on the ground at the border. We spent time with migrants at shelters in both Mexico and the United States, a retired border enforcement officer, and with those involved in meeting the needs of these migrants when they arrive.

This was not my first trip to the border, and it is always an emotional experience for me as I see the great need, pain, and desperation of many migrants and those on the front lines of both enforcing our laws and addressing a humanitarian crisis. This trip, though, offered me a new lens with which to view this experience: Advent.

A time of waiting and yearning 

Advent is a time of waiting. It is a time in which we both remember the great anticipation with which the people of Israel awaited the Messiah’s arrival and simultaneously look ahead to Christ’s second coming. It is a time where we often see the brokenness of our world more acutely and yearn with greater urgency for Jesus’ return when all will be made right. It is a time of both immense grief at what is and great hope of what is to come.

As I spent time with many young mothers and their children at a shelter in Mexico, it was as if I was watching this Advent reality play out physically in front of me. Many told of the great tragedy from which they fled. They spoke of poverty, threats to their children from gangs, and incredible trauma that forced them to flee their homes. Much was left unsaid about what they had experienced on their journey to Ciudad Juárez, though data tells us that it is likely that many of these women faced rape or sexual assault on their journeys, extortion from cartels, and some may have even lost loved ones on the way.

As I looked at their weary eyes and bodies that had carried so much tragedy, I thought of Mary and Joseph. I wonder if they similarly looked scared and tired to Egyptians when they fled, as what we would consider modern-day asylum seekers, with a very young Jesus. Were they met with help along the way? How did they sacrifice to protect their son? I wonder if Mary, much like these women, pleaded for strength from God to keep going amidst her fears and exhaustion.

These women and children find themselves in a time of waiting. As the United States’ border policies continue to change, many find themselves waiting for an opportunity to request asylum. Depending on their country of origin and circumstances, that day may come quickly for some, and for others, they may not have that opportunity for weeks, months, or years. They sit in a shelter, graciously run by a church, waiting for policies to change, waiting for safety, waiting for a new life. They wonder what opportunities they might have in the U.S. They look at their children and ask what opportunities will be granted to them—a decision largely made by lawmakers thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C. 

Resting in the first Advent 

Yet in the midst of their uncertainty, grief, and fear, there is incredible hope among these people. They trust God to provide a way for them and have sincere hope that someday they will make it to the U.S. and that their sacrifices will have been worth it for their children to grow up safe, free, and with opportunity. 

This type of experience can make me feel overwhelmed by all of the ways that our world is not as it should be. In a perfect, sinless world, people wouldn’t have to leave their homes. Women would not have to take birth control before migrating out of fear of rape on their journey. Children would not have to grow up with unspeakable trauma in their most formative years. Young people would not have to grow up in shelters and refugee camps instead of stable homes and schools. People would be able to flourish in their own neighborhoods.

But that is not our reality. Our world is fallen and broken, and people, made in the image of God, suffer as a result. This reality of our world makes me long for the reality of the new world. A world that is perfect—where there is no suffering, no tears, no tragedy. Advent reminds us that in a day coming soon, all will be made right.

Until then, though, we can rest on the first Advent—that Christ himself came as Emmanuel, God with us, to walk through the tragedy and hurts of our world with us. I wonder if this is why so many of our treasured Christmas hymns point to the truth that Christ has come to free his people from oppression and bondage spiritually and someday will do that physically as well.

For now we say, “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free. From our sins and fears release us, let us find our rest in thee.” Be the “joy of every longing heart” even as we wait. Someday the weary world will rejoice and these women and their children will victoriously proclaim with us, “Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name, all oppression shall cease.”

Emmanuel sees and knows those women in that shelter. Someday those women in ragged clothes and with worn-out faces who have trusted in Christ will be glorified as co-heirs with him, and they will find the ultimate rest, peace, and safety that they have longed for. Each of us this Christmas, regardless of whatever we may be walking through, can cling to Emmanuel’s presence as we are overwhelmed by the burdens, tragedy, and grief of this life. He knows you and cares for you, and he has paid the greatest price to redeem this broken world.

By / Jul 13

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—a ruling that overturned the court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and 1992 decision in Casey v. Planned Parenthood—there has, rightly, been a chorus of rejoicing among pro-life advocates. But the cheers of the pro-life community, it seems, have been matched by the public outcry of those lamenting this court’s monumental decision. From late-night talk show hosts to members of Congress to Hollywood actors and actresses, the mass of objectors, not to mention their collective noise and blatant vitriol, while not surprising, has nevertheless been disconcerting. Combine that with results from the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll (and others like it) that preceded the Supreme Court decision, revealing that 64% of Americans opposed the overturn of Roe, and we have to ask: is the American public really this pro-abortion?

New polling data gathered from a recent Harvard-Harris Poll, published in early July, helps answer this question. And its answer tells a different and more nuanced story than what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on our television and computer screens. 

Americans’ thoughts on Roe

Headlining most of these studies, though the numbers vary, is the reality that a majority of Americans did, in fact, oppose the overturn of Roe v. Wade. For instance:

  • As mentioned above, the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll, a survey of more than 1,300 American adults interviewed in May 2022, revealed that 64% of respondents “[did] not think Roe v. Wade should be overturned.”
  • A 2020 survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 69% of those surveyed opposed the overturn of Roe. 
  • More recently, a survey conducted by the Land Center for Cultural Engagement and Lifeway Christian Research “found that most Americans (52%) don’t favor the overturning of Roe. v. Wade.”
  • Finally, the Harvard-Harris Poll, conducted in June 2022 “among 1308 registered voters,” showed that “over half of voters (55%) oppose[d] SCOTUS overturning Roe v. Wade.”

Like it or not, regardless of the study referenced, it is clear that a majority of Americans, for a variety of reasons, did not favor the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. So, what are we to make of this? Are we to assume that the majority of Americans, by virtue of their opposition to the overturn of Roe, are necessarily pro-abortion? If we dig a little deeper, public opinion is not as disheartening as these numbers may seem to suggest.

Digging deeper

While the headline of many of these polls is the American public’s general support for Roe, it is the additional polling data that sheds light on the public sentiment surrounding the issue of abortion. If we go no further than reading these headlines, we may draw the mistaken conclusion that the majority of respondents in these surveys are not just pro-Roe but pro-abortion. But that’s not what the survey data reveals. For example, Leo O’Malley, a Notre Dame law student and contributor to the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics, & Public Policy, observed the following data points from the Harvard-Harris Poll:

  • While 55% of those polled opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, 49% support an abortion ban after six weeks, and 72% support an abortion ban after 15 weeks.
  • Only 10% of respondents support the Democratic position of allowing abortion up until birth. 

The findings of the Harvard-Harris Poll were, in large part, corroborated by a survey conducted by The Economist/YouGov in June 2022, showing that 38%, 54%, and 66% of respondents were in favor of banning abortion after six weeks, three months, and 15 weeks, respectively. 

Likewise, the study conducted by the Land Center and Lifeway Christian Research revealed similar findings.

  • Among those polled, 41% favored restrictions after the sixth week of pregnancy, 52% after the 12th week, 59% after the 15th week, and 65% after the 20th week. 
  • Only 10% of Americans support abortion up until the moment of birth.
  • 69% of Americans say that reducing abortions is important.

Even the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll, a poll that seems especially sympathetic to the pro-abortion position, recognized “the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion rights.” After highlighting the strict partisan divide on the issue of abortion, the study goes on to report that, outside of the extremes, “nearly seven in ten (68%) [Americans] support some type of restrictions on abortion.”

Contrary to what is most often projected on our computer and television screens, it seems that the American public has a more nuanced view on the topic of abortion than we are led to believe. What does that mean for the church and the ongoing work of the pro-life movement?

Moving others with love and good deeds

While these numbers don’t reflect the views and opinions of those within our church pews exactly—”evangelicals are the cohort [that] is most pro-life,” as the Land Center/Lifeway Christian Research study made clear—they prove that the so-called consensus on “abortion rights” in this country is a myth, and that people are generally closer to the pro-life position of outlawing abortion than they are the pro-choice position of unfettered abortion access. In other words, the overwhelming majority of Americans are not “insolent opponents” of the pro-life cause. So, then, how should the church proceed? 

The apostle Paul tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22) and that “love is patient and kind” (1 Cor. 13:4), that it “is not arrogant” (v.4), “does not act unbecomingly” (v. 5), and it “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things” (v. 7). The fruit of the Spirit, Paul also says, is “peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). This is how we proceed. By walking in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25) and bearing his fruit, we perform this needed work with love, kindness, and gentleness, patiently enduring hardships, and hoping for the day when abortion becomes illegal and unthinkable to all Americans all across this country.

The point is, we will not be able to strongarm those with conflicted views on abortion over to “our side.” Instead, we’ll make friends with our neighbors and engage in meaningful conversations with them across our dinner tables. We’ll involve ourselves in our local communities and local schools, building relationships with peers and local leaders. We’ll open our homes to those who need care, whether friends or neighbors or those in our community group. And because we’re keeping in step with the Spirit, we’ll resist the temptation to caricature the people whose views on abortion deviate from our own. If we hope to see these numbers tick closer to the pro-life side of this issue—and I know we do—it won’t happen by force, but by love and good deeds, and the power of the Spirit. 

By / Jun 24

Last weekend, Americans celebrated Juneteenth National Independence Day, our nation’s newest legal public holiday. The observance honors Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery which dates back to June 19, 1865. But for some Black Americans, slavery both ended before and after that date. 

Here is a brief timeline of the 86-year period of the abolition of slavery within the continental United States. 

1780: Pennsylvania adopts a gradual abolition of slavery

In 1780, the Pennsylvania legislature passed the “Act for the Gradual Emancipation of Slavery.” The law freed only slaves born after its enactment, and the registered children of slaves would be enslaved until their 28th birthday. Also, while Pennsylvanians could no longer legally import slaves, they could buy and sell those who had been registered after 1780. 

1783: Massachusetts becomes first state to abolish slavery 

When the state adopted its constitution in 1780, slavery was still legal in Massachusetts. But in three related court cases from 1781 to 1783, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court applied the principle of judicial review to abolish slavery, stating the laws and customs that sanctioned slavery were incompatible with the new state constitution.

1787: Slavery is banned in new territories in the northwest

The Confederation Congress adopted the Northwest Ordinance in 1787. This law established a government for the Northwest Territory, outlined the process for admitting a new state to the Union, and outlawed slavery in the new territories.

1817: Gradual emancipation adopted in northern and western U.S. 

Following the Pennsylvania model, many northern states adopted a process of gradual emancipation. While about two dozen slaves were still held in those states by the time of the Civil War, by 1817 every state in the northern and western U.S. had committed to abolition

1863: Emancipation Proclamation expands the policy of abolition

On Jan. 1, 1863, during the second year of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” The “designated States” to which the Proclamation applied were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. The proclamation did not free slaves in the border states (which were loyal to the Union) or southern states that were controlled by the Union Army. 

1865: The U.S. ratifies a Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery

On Jan. 31, 1865, the House of Representatives passed a proposed amendment that stated, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The amendment needed 115 votes to pass and received 119 (with 56 votes in opposition). The following day, Lincoln approved a joint resolution of Congress submitting it to the state legislatures for ratification. The number of states needed to ratify the 13th Amendment was reached on Dec. 6.

1866: Slavery is abolished in the territories of Native American tribes.

The so-called “Five Civilized Tribes” of the southeastern U.S. (the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole) were the only Native American groups to formally recognize the institution of African slavery. As the legal scholar J. Gordon Hylton noted, “at the outset of the Civil War, African-American slaves made up 14% of the population of Indian Territory occupied by the civilized tribes.” Because of tribal sovereignty, neither the Emancipation Proclamation nor the 13th Amendment to the Constitution directly applied to what Hylton says were the “unorganized portion of the American public domain that was set apart for the Native American tribes.”

The United States government addressed the issue of slavery in Indian Territory in 1866 by entering into new treaties with each of the Civilized Tribes. Until these treaties, notes Hylton, only the Cherokee had taken steps to abolish slavery. In each of the 1866 treaties the tribal signatory acknowledged that slavery would no longer be recognized as a legal institution by the tribe.

The end of slavery within the continental United States thus officially came to an end as a legal institution on June 14, 1866.

By / Jun 10

In 1999, President Bill Clinton declared June to be “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.” The official sanctioning of the month fell away during the years of George H. W. Bush’s presidency, but returned in 2009 when President Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month. Since then, the month has been celebrated by President Trump and President Biden. 

When even U.S. presidents are celebrating “pride” in the LGBT identity, it shouldn’t be surprising that the label is taken up as a badge of honor. That seems to be the message that young adults are receiving. For example, a poll taken by Gallup earlier this year finds that the percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or something other than heterosexual in 2021 has increased to a new high of 7.1%. That figure is a 21% increase since 2020, and double the percentage from 2012. 

Since Gallup began measuring LGBT identification in 2012, the percentage of traditionalists (those born before 1946), baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), and Generation X adults (born between 1965 and 1980) who identify as LGBT has held relatively steady. In contrast, the LGBT identification among millennials almost doubled, from 5.8% in 2012 to 10.5% in 2021. 

In 2017, the percentage of Gen Z who identified as LGBT was already twice that of any other generation—10.5%. But in the next five years, that number would nearly double, to 20.8%. This means that 1 in 5 Gen Z adults currently identifies as LGBT. As Gallup notes, “Should that trend within Gen Z continue, the proportion of U.S. adults in that generation who say they are LGBT will grow even higher once all members of the generation reach adulthood.” 

Most LGBT Americans identify as bisexual

The most common identification of LGBT among Americans is bisexual. More than half of LGBT Americans (57%) and 4.0% of all U.S. adults say they are bisexual. Overall, 15% of Gen Z adults say they are bisexual, as do 6% of millennials and slightly less than 2% of Gen X.

In comparison, 21% of those who identify as LGBT say they are gay, 14% say they are lesbian, 10% say they are transgender, and 4% identify as “something else.” Each of these categories accounts for less than 2% of U.S. adults. 

Women (6.0%) are much more likely than men (2.0%) to say they are bisexual, while men are more likely to identify as gay (2.5%) than as bisexual, and women are much more likely to identify as bisexual than as lesbian (1.9%). 

There has also been an explosion of transgenderism among Millenials and Gen Z adults. While only 0.1% of all Baby Boomers and 0.6% of all Gen Xers identify as transgender, 1% of all Millenials and 2.1% of all Gen Z adults embrace that gender identity. 

From “born this way” to hero status

A decade ago, the LGBT community was still claiming that sexual orientation was primarily genetic, and ​​that those inclined to same-sex behavior were—as one popular song claimed—“born this way.” But subsequent research “suggests genetics may have a limited contribution to sexual orientation.” What then can be driving the increase in identification?

While still a complex topic with no clear-cut explanation, it’s possible that such polls based on self-identification are being skewed by social-desirability bias. In social science research, social-desirability bias is a type of response bias in which respondents to surveys answer questions in a manner that will be viewed favorably by others. LGBT identification is a prime example of such favorable status. Young adults have lived their entire lives in an era when identifying as LGBT is considered progressive and laudatory. Answering that they are “bisexual” in an anoymous poll is a cost-free way to signal one’s own socially approved “virtue” while not actually having to change one’s sexual behavior. 

But even if this bias is skewing Gallup’s self-reported poll figures, the reality is that many young people believe that it is preferable to identify as LGBT than as heterosexual. This preference may be part of or encompass the motivation to emulate those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender since culture deems them worthy of our admiration.

The moral philosopher Linda Zagzebski says that admiration is an emotion toward someone who exhibits, upon reflection, a human power in a high degree of acquired excellence leading to the behavior of emulation, or imitation. Zagzebski proposes that our admired figures tend to fall into three categories: heroes, saints, and sages. Heroes exhibit strength and courage, in either physical or social acts. Saints exhibit self-denying love for God and others. Sages exhibit great wisdom and insight.

As applied to LGBT propaganda, young adults have been conditioned to see those in the LGBT movement as “heroes”—people who exhibit great courage in “living out their truth.” The reality, of course, is that it takes almost no courage for a young person to identify as LGBT in modern America, especially in urban areas or on college campuses. Indeed, as the promotion of Pride Month by corporations and the White House reveals, in many parts of our nation being LGBT is awarded a higher status than being heterosexual.

Millennial and Gen Z adults are given the impression that they are emulating heroic behavior that goes against cultural norms when the reality is they’re conforming to an identification that has become trendy and popular. 

How churches offer a truly “alternative” identity

The trend is likely to increase for the foreseeable future. As Gallup notes, “The proportion of U.S. adults who consider themselves to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender has grown at a faster pace over the past year than in prior years.” But the rate of increase is likely to plateau relatively soon. 

The reason for the rapid increase in LGBT identification—its trendiness and trappings of nonconformity—is likely to lead to its eventual decline. The culture will soon hit a tipping point where identifying as LGBT, and especially as bisexual, will be seen as an insincere pose to fit in rather than as an actual expression of a minority sexual orientation. Besides, the current trend cannot—mathematically speaking—last for much longer.

This trend—whether because of peer pressure or a genuine struggle with same-sex attraction— provides an opportunity for evangelical churches to reach young adults who are exhausted by the broader culture’s over-emphasis on sexual identity. Churches that hold to the biblical standard of sexuality will increasingly be the only area of culture where young people can hear the truth that their sexuality is not the most important aspect of their identity. 

Such churches will be able to provide a safe haven for those who sincerely wrestle with gender identity issues and for those who will feel increasingly coerced to identify as LGBT even when they are not interested in changing their gender idenity or pretending they have same-sex attractions. It is only in biblically faithful churches that Millenials and Gen Z adults will learn that truth that the identity they’ve been searching for—the most important thing about themselves and what they are at the deepest level—can only be found in being a disciple of Jesus, the one by whom all things were created and whose authority over us leads to our ultimate flourishing (Col. 1:16). 

By / Jun 1

In a span of just 10 days, the United States was rocked by the news of two mass shootings. The first, a racially motivated crime, occurred in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people. The most recent tragedy occurred at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and resulted in the deaths of 19 students and 2 adults. The nation finds itself, once more, discussing and debating what policies and prevention are needed to stop these atrocities and how to do so in a way that respects our Second Amendment rights. Christians should be ready to enter into those complex discussions with a perspective that is governed by a desire to honor God through obedience to Christ and protect the vulnerable. In the midst of these crucial conversations, it’s also important that we weep with those who weep while being forced to reckon with the inevitability of our own deaths.

Weeping in the face of sorrow 

Undoubtedly, when Paul instructed the churches in Romans 12:15 to “weep with those who weep,” he envisioned the example of Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb. While the Son of Man fully trusted in the Father and did not waver regarding his goodness and sovereignty—even amid the suffering and loss of Lazarus—he still wept. Jesus’ perfect knowledge did not prevent him from expressing perfect compassion and grief in the face of deep personal loss. As those who follow the Savior who wept over the brokenness that sin brought into the world, we too, when we take sin and its effect on our world seriously, will be moved to mourn with the mourners. In doing so, we imitate Christ, the Incarnate God who is near to those who are brokenhearted (Ps. 43:18) grappling with suffering that is impossible for our finite minds to make sense of. 

While we weep with those who weep and seek to bring comfort to others as those who have been comforted by the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4), we will inevitably be reminded of our own mortality as we come face to face with the reality of death. And, if we are not, Jesus believed we should be. This is seen in a passage from Luke’s Gospel. When Jesus encountered a group of people asking questions about the fate of the Galileans who perished at Pilate’s hand (Luke 13:1-5), he quickly redirected their inquiries. 

Facing our mortality 

As one reads the passage, an underlying assumption about the crowd emerges. Based on Jesus’ answer, it would appear that the crowd presumed that there was something inherently defective about those who suffer in this world. Otherwise, in their mind, why would such a horrible thing be allowed to happen? That was the only way they could think to make sense of such a tragedy. Jesus, however, answered by saying that there was nothing substantive or morally different between the Galileans who perished under Pilate and those who did not. The evil committed by Pilate against those Galileans was not due to something wrong with them. 

Jesus then went on to make the same point in the passage by highlighting another tragic accident in Siloam, where a tower had fallen on a group of 18 people, killing all of them. Those that survived in Siloam were not more righteous than those who perished. In other words, one’s goodness or badness is not the sum total explanation for “why” any given tragedy occurs. Jesus rebuked the people for what was implied in their search for an answer to the evil they experienced and turned their question on its head by ending his comments with a warning of repentance. 

Those that addressed Jesus were hoping that they could establish criteria for the type of people that bad things happen to, but Jesus wouldn’t allow it. He would not let them rest in the idea that somehow they could, through their own decisions and effort, avoid the horrors of this life in a fallen world. Instead, what they could do is repent and prepare for eternity so that they would not perish forever. In the Old Testament, the author of Ecclesiastes emphasizes the importance of considering our mortality: “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (7:2). The solace of understanding this on the other side of the cross is that those who trust in Christ will ultimately pass through the valley of death into a life of neverending feasting and joy (Ps. 23; Ps. 16:11). 

Hope amid the horror 

While we dwell in this broken world and weep with those who weep, we must not assume that somehow we are or can be immune to the sufferings that others experience. Mankind’s rebellion against God has resulted in a good world gone bad because of the curse of sin. Our only hope of escaping the curse that sin has brought is for someone to bear the curse for us. This is what Jesus, the Son of God, born of woman, born under the law, does for all who would place their trust in him (Gal. 4:4). And this is the truth we point to as we love others and meet their physical needs in the midst of terrible sorrow. 

Jesus, as the only sinless, innocent, stainless human to ever live, came and took on our sin that we might become the righteousness of God in him (1 Cor. 5:21). He bids us to come to him in our grief and under the weight of unbearable burdens (Matt. 11:28). He alone has conquered death, and the precious promise we have is that all who are in him will be raised like him when he returns. It is from this posture of hope amid the horrors of this world that we can face our mortality and come alongside others to minister to them and mourn with them in their darkest moments. 

By / Jul 9

A new survey on American religion finds that the percentage of Christians has stabilized, after falling for two decades.

The survey, called the 2020 Census of American Religion, finds that 7 in 10 Americans (70%) identify as Christian, including more than 4 in 10 who identify as white Christian and more than one-quarter who identify as Christians of color. Christians of color include Hispanic Catholics (8%), Black Protestants (7%), Hispanic Protestants (4%), other Protestants of color (4%), and other Catholics of color (2%). Nearly 1 in 4 Americans (23%) are religiously unaffiliated, and 5% identify with non-Christian religions.

The largest religious demographic are those who identify as white and Christian. More than 4 in 10 Americans (44%) identify as white Christian, including white evangelical Protestants (14%), white mainline Protestants (16%), and white Catholics (12%). Black Americans are also mostly Christian (72%). More than 6 in 10 (63%) are Protestant, including 35% who identify as evangelical and 28% who identify as non-evangelical Protestants.  Three in 4 Hispanic Americans (76%) also identify as Christian, and half (50%) are Catholic. About 1 in 4 (24%) identify as Protestant, including 14% who say they are evangelical and 10% who identify as non-evangelical Protestant.

Six in 10 Native Americans (60%) identify as Christian, with most (47%) identifying as Protestant (28% evangelical, 19% non-evangelical) and an additional 11% who are Catholic. Asian American and Pacific Islander Americans are as likely to be religiously unaffiliated (34%) as they are to be Christian (34%). The Christian subset includes 1 in 5 (20%) who are Protestant (10% evangelical, 10% non-evangelical) and 10% who are Catholic.

(All respondents who identified as Christian were asked: “Would you describe yourself as a ‘born again’ or ‘evangelical Christian,’ or not?” Respondents who self-identified as white, non-Hispanic, or Protestant and affirmatively identified as born-again or evangelical were categorized as white evangelical Protestants.)

A much smaller percentage of Americans identify as Latter-day Saint (Mormon), Jehovah’s Witness, or Orthodox Christian. The rest of religiously affiliated Americans belong to non-Christian groups, including 1% who are Jewish, 1% Muslim, 1% Buddhist, 0.5% Hindu, and 1% who identify with other religions. Religiously unaffiliated Americans comprise those who do not claim any particular religious affiliation (17%) and those who identify as atheist (3%) or agnostic (3%).

Until 2020, the percentage of white Americans who identify as Christian had been on the decline for more than 20 years, losing roughly 11% per decade. In 1996, almost two-thirds of Americans (65%) identified as white and Christian. But a decade later that had declined to 54%, and by 2017 it was down to 43%. The proportion of white Christians hit a low point in 2018, at 42%, but rebounded in 2020 to 44%.

The recent increase is primarily due to an uptick in the proportion of white mainline Protestants, as well as a stabilization in the proportion of white Catholics. The report notes that since 2007, white mainline Protestants have declined from 19% of the population to a low of 13% in 2016. But over the last three years, the mainline has seen small but steady increases, up to 16% in 2020. White Catholics have also declined from a high point of 16% of the population in 2008 to 12% in 2020.

Since 2006, the most radical decrease in affiliation has occurred among white evangelical Protestants, a group that shrank from 23% of Americans in 2006 to 14% in 2020. That proportion has generally held steady since 2017 (15% in 2017, 2018, and 2019).

The proportion of white Christians decreases for the younger generations. A majority of white Americans 65 and older (59%) identify as Christian, as do those ages 50-64. But that drops to 41% for those ages 30-49. Only 28% of Americans ages 18-29 are white Christians (including 12% who are white mainline Protestants, 8% who are white Catholics, and 7% who are white evangelical Protestants).

Roughly one-in-four Americans ( 26%) are Christians of color (including 9% who are Hispanic Catholics, 5% who are Hispanic Protestants, 5% who are Black Protestants, 2% who are multiracial Christians, 2% who are AAPI Christians, and 1% who are Native American Christians). More than one-third of young Americans (36%) are religiously unaffiliated, and the remainder are Jewish (2%), Muslim (2%), Buddhist (1%), Hindu (1%), or another religion (1%). 

The shift among Christians of color is more modest. While the numbers are small, African American Protestants make up 8% of Americans ages 65 and older but only 5% of Americans under the age of 30. Among those aged 18-29, 26% are Chrisitans of color (including 9% who are Hispanic Catholics, 5% who are Hispanic Protestants, 5% who are Black Protestants, 2% who are multiracial Christians, 2% who are AAPI Christians, and 1% who are Native American Christians). By contrast, the proportions of Hispanic Protestants are significantly higher among younger Americans than among people over 65. 

White evangelical Protestants are also the oldest religious group in the U.S., with a median age of 56, compared to the median age in the country of 47. Black Protestants and white mainline Protestants have a median age of 50. 

By / Jul 2

This Sunday marks the 245th anniversary of Independence Day, a day celebrating America’s Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Here are five facts you should know about our country’s founding document and the observance of its commemoration.

  1. Americans celebrate Independence Day on July 4. But July 4, 1776, was not the day the Continental Congress decided to declare independence (that occurred on July 2, 1776). Nor was it the day that the American Revolution began (that happened in April 1775), the day when the Declaration of Independence was delivered to Great Britain (that wasn’t until November 1776), or the date it was signed (Aug. 2, 1776). July 4 was merely the day when the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence.
  2. The first Independence Day was celebrated on July 8, 1776, the day the Declaration was first made public. Over the next two decades, though, few people celebrated Independence Day on that date. Celebrations became more common after the War of 1812 until about 1870, when Congress first declared July 4 to be a national holiday. The July 4 date stuck because printed copies of the Declaration began to circulate in the 1800s with the date of “July 4, 1776” listed at the top. 
  3. When it was approved on July 4, 1776, the Declaration did not include all 56 signatures, since most of the men were not present in the same room at the time. The official signing event took place on August 2, 1776, when 50 men signed the document. Several months passed before all 56 signatures were in place. The last man to sign, Thomas McKean, did so in January of 1777, seven months after the document was approved by Congress. Robert R. Livingston, one of the five original drafters, never signed it at all since he believed it was too soon to declare independence.
  4. The signed copy of the Declaration is the official, but not the original, document. The approved Declaration was printed on July 5, and a copy was attached to the “rough journal of the Continental Congress for July 4th.” These printed copies were signed only by John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress, and Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Congress. Copies were distributed to state assemblies and conventions, and even to the commanding officers of the Continental troops. On July 19, Congress ordered that the Declaration be copied by hand with a new title, “the unanimous declaration of the thirteen united states of America,” and “that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress.”  
  5. While the U.S. Constitution makes no reference to God, the Declaration includes three such references: “their Creator,” “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” and “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The document also makes two references that tie natural law to God. Although the primary author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, was not a Christian, he had studied the work of Henry de Bracton, an English jurist and natural law proponent. Bracton has been referred to as the “father of common law” and is said to have “succeeded in formulating a truly Christian philosophy of law.”
By / Jan 9

The events that we witnessed at the Capitol this week are disturbing and almost unbelievable. And above all the things they reveal is that we are fallen human beings who are in need of a perfect, righteous, and holy Savior. When we don’t know what to do—and even when we do—the most important thing we can do is go to our God in prayer. Below is a prayer you can use personally, as a family, or in your church community.

Great God of the nations. Father, Son, and Spirit. We worship you. From the peak of Mt. Everest to the floor of the Indian ocean, you alone are worthy to be praised. We thank you for the privilege of being heard in prayer, which was purchased by the blood of your Son. 

And as we pray, we consider that majestic holiness that Isaiah peered upon. And as we do, we are quickly mindful, as he was, of our own sin. Oh Lord, how often we have fallen short of your glory. This past week, we have been greedy, prideful, and prejudiced—spending, speaking, and strolling past neighbors who were made in your image, thinking ourselves better than them. 

We are too often like the priest that walks by the wounded Samaritan. As our neighbors have been beaten, broken, and bemoaned, we have walked by with little regard for them and, at the same time, great regard for ourselves. Have mercy on us, oh God.

Forgive us for the ways in which we, the church of Jesus Christ, have contributed to the unrest that pervades our nation. Forgive us for our pettiness, our selfishness, and our gracelessness. Forgive us for the ways we have neglected your Word and prayer. Forgive us for using the church instead of serving the church. Forgive us for greater allegiances to party politics, patriotism, or preferences than to Christ, his Kingdom, his people, and his purposes in the world. 

In these days, we have had to learn, yet again Lord, that we ought not to hope in princes. We have learned to hope in you. 

As we do, Lord, we lament the present circumstances. We mourn the division that is rampant within our nation, our cities, and our churches. How much longer must we see people praising your name while at the same time blaspheming people made in your image? How much longer must we walk through the valleys of racism, murder, and pandemic fears? How much longer must we languish for our sons and daughters? How much longer until we are home, with you, in heaven? 

We wait, O blessed Lord. And as we wait, we pray that you would rend the heavens with blessings innumerable. In particular, we pray for a breaking forth of repentance among this land. People great and small. Black and white. Men and women. Boy and girl. Democrat and Republican. Baptist and Episcopalian. Bless our nation with a deluge of repentance so that we might walk in the newness of life—not alone, but together, as your people, in order that we might be the light you’ve called us to be—the light that so much of our nation is looking for now. 

Thank you, Father, for hearing us. It is only because of the sufficiency of the work and worth of your Son that we can not only be heard, but be loved and known by you. We love you Lord. May we learn to love you and one another more.

We ask, in Jesus’ magnificent name,

Amen.

By / Oct 5

Jeff Pickering and Travis Wussow welcome Israel based journalist and award winning author Matti Friedman to talk about the Middle East after the Abraham Accords. 

This episode was recorded at the end of September.

Guest Biography

Matti Friedman is a journalist and contributor to the New York Times Op-Ed Section and the author of multiple award-winning books. His 2016 book, Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War, is a memoir about his time serving in the Israli military and was chosen as a New York Times’ Notable Book and as one of Amazon’s 10 best books of the year. Matti’s first book, The Aleppo Codex, is an investigation into the strange fate of an ancient Bible manuscript, and his most recent book, published in 2018, is the Spies of No Country, the story of Israel’s first intelligence agents in 1948. Friedman is a former Associated Press correspondent, and his work as a reporter has taken him from Israel to Lebanon, Morocco, Moscow, and Washington, D.C. He was born in Toronto and lives in Jerusalem with his family.

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