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Religion News from Around the World: A Monthly Roundup by Rick Herrick

November 2020

 

Faith Groups Respond to Biden Election

9/11 was a disaster for the American Muslim community. It led to two wars in majority Muslim countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), torture camps in Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, the criminalization of legitimate American Muslim institutions and charities, the sentencing of American Muslims to prison based on weak evidence, and the Patriot Act which further curtailed American Muslim civil liberties. The Obama administration said the right things, but continued many of the Bush era policies. The Trump years were a disaster. Anti-Muslim hate crimes skyrocketed, and the Trump ban on Muslims entering the country was a source of humiliation.

The American Muslim community has high hopes for the incoming Biden administration. They remember Senator Biden’s courageous condemnation of the Bosnian Muslim genocide in Srebrenica in 1995, and they are grateful for Biden’s promise to end the Trump ban on his first day in office. They also have a long wish list. They want an end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a more aggressive policy to support Palestinian rights against what they see as Israel’s policy of apartheid. They also want a much sharper focus on human rights with regard to Uighur Muslims concentration camps in China, the anti-Muslim policies of Prime Minister Modi in India, and protection for the victims of the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. That’s an ambitious wish list, but it is also one that has broad support from Americans with progressive political values. 1. (www.religionnews.com/2020/11/12/moving-past-inshallah-what-muslims-want-to-see-in-a-biden-presidency/)

As you can imagine, Christians are all over the map. American Catholic Bishops are sending mixed signals regarding the Biden victory. On the one hand, they are pleased to have their second Roman Catholic president. They also support his policies on immigration reform, income inequality, racism, the death penalty, and climate change. On the other hand, they oppose his stand on abortion with particular concern that he will repeal the Hyde Amendment and work to preserve Roe v. Wade. (www.religionnews.com/2020/11/17/catholic-bishops-broadcast-mixed-messages-about-biden-victory/)

Evangelicals, by and large, are worried about the prospects of a Biden presidency. A small town Mississippi pastor has created a video laying out a path for Trump to overturn the election results and serve a second term. The video has gone viral with more than ten million people viewing it on social media. The pastor compares Trump to King David, arguing that the President’s personal failings do not disqualify him for leadership. (www.religionnews.com/2020/11/16/meet-shane-vaughn-small-town-mississippi-pastor-viral-happens-if-trump-doesn’t-concede-video/)

These evangelicals have few regrets over the last four years. They praise the President for placing three conservative justices on the Supreme Court, for moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, for his imposition of strict immigration policies, and for his support for religious freedom. A sizable minority of them seem to recognize that their support of Trump has come at some cost. They are concerned that they have contributed to the racial divide in the country, that they have fallen into the moral trap of the end justifying the means, and that the Trump years have created division within their churches. (www.religionnews.com/2020/11/13/trump-divided-the-nation-and-their-church-experts-say-but-evangelical-fans-have-few-regrets/)

Not surprisingly, progressive Christian leaders are thrilled that the Trump nightmare is finally coming to an end. The Rev. William Barker, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, speaks for many when he says it’s now all about policy. He plans to pressure the incoming administration to keep its promises for progressive change. He will place his main focus on the intersection of poverty and health care. (www.religionnews.com/2020/11/17/emboldened-religious-left-leaders-vow-to-keep-up-pressure-under-biden/)

If there was one common theme from across the wide spectrum of Christian church leaders, it was the need for unity both within their churches and within the country at large. Bishop Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal church, told an interfaith prayer service on Sunday November 1st that “we must heal our country.” This must now be the work of the church and people of faith. He argued that this will involve a multifaceted approach. It will take far more than the simple matter of praying for unity at a church service or the passing of legislation that will contribute to national unity. The most important task is to change hearts. To do this, the church must help its members make friends with people from across the political divide. (www.religionnews.com/2020/11/11/amid-cries-for-church-unity-post-election-some-christians-say-not-so-fast/)

The Religion News Service, in an editorial soon after the election entitled “Five Takeaways from the 2020 Election,” spoke in a similar vein. In the last takeaway, they opined that we are a divided nation along several lines—rural/urban, Republican/Democrat, conservative/liberal with a high degree of animosity among the different groups. They called on all Americans to stop shouting and to enter into respectful conversations, to do more listening and far less preaching. Amen! (www.religionnews.com/2020/11/07/five-takeaways-from-the-2020-election/)

Vatican Document Calls for Practical Steps to Achieve Environmental Health

Five years after Pope Francis issued his encyclical on environmental sustainability entitled “Laudato Si ,” the Vatican released a new document on June 18th to help bring theory into practice. The new document entitled “Journey for the Care of the Common Home” aims to change the relationship between humanity and the environment. It encourages Catholic education programs at all levels throughout the world to focus on environmental sustainability. The document sets guidelines for Catholic dioceses, parishes, missions, and movements around the globe for addressing the environmental crisis. It calls on Catholics to “identify and combat” world actors responsible for deforestation, pollution, and inhumane food production processes. It is an important document because it addresses the role nonstate actors can play in creating a sustainable future. (www.religionnews.com/2020/06/18/with-new-document-vatican-implements-practical-steps-for-environmental-sustainability/)

2500 Evangelicals Sign Statement Urging Members Not to Ignore Science“A

Christian Statement on Science for Pandemic Times” urges Christians to follow the advice of public health experts. The 2500 signers include prominent evangelical theologians, seminary presidents, and leaders from well known evangelical organizations. The signers pledge to wear masks, get vaccinated, and to correct misinformation about covid-19.

The statement was drafted by BioLogos, a nonprofit organization founded to bridge the divide between science and faith. The organization seeks to educate evangelicals about science in a way that is not contrary to their faith. It accepts evolution and human-caused climate change as well as the rigorous use of the scientific method in the study of scientific issues. (www.religionnews.com/2020/08/19/2500-evangelicals-sign-statement-warning-don’t-ignore-clear-scientific-evidence/)

Adam Taylor Succeeds Jim Wallis as Sojourners President

The Rev. Jim Wallis is retiring as President of Sojourners, an organization he founded fifty years ago to advocate a Christian response to social justice. Wallis will continue working for Sojourners until July 2021 when he will join the faculty at Georgetown University as director of the new center for “faith, public life, and the common good.”

Wallis will be replaced by the Rev. Adam Taylor. Taylor first met Wallis as a student at the Kennedy School at Harvard University where he took a course there taught by Wallis. Taylor has worked in government relations, advocacy, and fundraising for organizations such as World Vision and Global Justice. From 2005 to 2010, he was the senior political director at Sojourners. He became executive director of the organization in 2019. As president he will focus on mobilizing people of faith to work for justice because of his belief that Sojourners has done a better job advocating for justice than equipping Christian to work for it. (www.religionnews.com/2020/11/19/adam-taylor-succeeds-jim-wallis-as-sojourners-president/)

Multiracial Churches Growing in the U.S.

The National Congregations Study has found that multiracial congregations grew in America from 6% in 1998 to 16% today. A multiracial congregation was defined as one in which no racial or ethnic group constituted more than 80% of the participants. The study also found that black pastors are increasingly leading these multiracial churches. These diverse churches are mostly mainline Protestant with Roman Catholic, evangelical, and Pentecostal churches showing little change. The study also found that this diversity is primarily a one-way street with blacks joining predominantly white churches but few whites joining black churches. (www.religionnews.com/2020/11/12/study-multiracial-churches-growing-but-racial-unity-remains-elusive/)

Churches Returning Land to Native American Tribes in Canada and the United States

Thanksgiving is a treasured family holiday. It also has a darker side that is rarely addressed. It is the time of year that turns a spotlight on the brutal history of land theft and genocide against indigenous people. Some mainline Protestant churches in the United States and Canada have responded by repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery which justified seizing land inhabited by indigenous people. Several of these churches have taken a significant step further by participating in the LandBack Movement which purchases and returns land to the original native American owners. It is the hope of these churches that their actions will inspire governments to follow their lead. (www.religionnews.com/2020/11/26/churches-return-land-to-indigenous-groups-amid-repentance-for-role-in-taking-it-landback-movement/)

The Return of Black Like Me

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is the story of a white journalist who temporarily changed the color of his skin in preparation for a tour in 1961 through the segregated South. I read the book in college in the late 1960s, and it had a profound effect on me.
Two white middle class families from deeply religious evangelical backgrounds recently performed a similar stunt. One family moved from an all-white small town in rural Minnesota to the largest African-American community in Minneapolis and the other left a white Houston suburb for the city’s poorest neighborhood. The moves turned their worlds upside down.

Before moving, their political views were defined by the Republican party and strongly supported within their respective churches. They had been taught to believe that racial inequality was caused by problems within the black community—black crime, a poor work ethic, broken black families, and the fact that black people were less intelligent.
However, when black residents from their adopted communities became their neighbors and friends, they quickly learned that the conservative ideology of their past was nonsense. They encountered many people working two jobs to make ends meet, and family oriented people whose primary concern was getting a good education for their children. They found their neighbors to be churchgoers rather than criminals. They were impressed that despite all the obstacles they faced, the people in their adopted neighborhoods loved their country.

Both families reflected on their experiences and dreamed of what the nation could become if white evangelicals came to see through their narrow bigoted beliefs. With Trump gone from the White House, both families believe there’s a chance that this could change.
(www.religionnews.com/2020/11/24/evangelical-christians-once-were-saved-by-trump-theyre-lost/)

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The above news items are summaries taken from the Religion News Service. Readers interested in pursuing a news item further should consult the RNS website by using the link listed at the end of the summary…

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