Welcome to this week's edition of "The 3" - featuring 3 stories of relevance to the Christian community. The role of faith in Presidential politics is a topic that will likely not go away over the next 15 months, and the spiritual dynamics have changed just a bit even over the past week. Also, another attempt to drive a wedge between corporate America and charitable organizations is underway. And, the top story involves one of those consequences of a state moving away from traditional marriage.
3 - Faith becomes subject of scrutiny in 2012 Presidential race
The trajectory that has been set in this Presidential campaign is that candidates, especially on the Republican side, will be challenged with respect to their faith. In 2008, Barack Obama's faith was scrutinized, especially with respect to his membership in Jeremiah Wright's church for 20 years, but as Obama distanced himself from the pastor, I don't recall that Obama's religious faith was that major of an issue. Now, there are many Americans that believe the President to be a Muslim, but again, he has made enough statements about his Christian faith, plus there are so many critical issues that have been facing the country over the past few months, that who Obama follows or prays to seems to be of little consequence overall.
That may or may not change in the 2012 campaign, but depending on who the Republican nominee becomes, faith may be a decisive issue with some Americans, especially with regard to how that faith perspective affects policy decisions. Already, we're getting a sense of how the media will spin the candidates' faith with respect to Michele Bachmann and new entry Rick Perry. I would imagine that Mitt Romney's Mormon beliefs will become a more prevalent topic of discussion, especially among evangelicals. (And, Romney apparently puts his money where his faith is, according to a new piece on the WORLD magazine website.)
Rick Perry's entry into the race does introduce a new spiritual dynamic - a member of an Austin Methodist church who attends a megachurch there, Perry made headlines by his involvement with a large prayer rally in Houston recently that drew some 30,000 people. There were attempts to paint Perry as some sort of religious extremist because of some of the views that are held by members of the speaker team, but his record and rhetoric show that his personal theology and policy positions might be in line with a majority of evangelicals. The spiritual balance of the race changed last weekend when former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a professed evangelical, bowed out following his third-place finish in the Iowa straw poll.
But, the majority of the spiritual scrutiny recently has been focused on U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann. From earlier associations with a church denomination that has allegedly held some pointed negative positions on Catholicism (she has since withdrawn from that demonination) to questions about her views on submission in marriage, her husband's views on whether or not homosexuals can change to the recent "Meet the Press" salvo from David Gregory about whether or not she communicates with God, Bachmann is attempting to navigate the potential spiritual minefields while trying not to detract from her political capital. As the race continues, the religious beliefs of the 3 "top-tier" candidates - Bachmann, Perry, and Romney - will be a consistent storyline of the 2012 campaign. While Obama's faith is seen and portrayed in the media as virtually non-threatening, based on past history, the beliefs of the Republican trio may be characterized as toxic, which will be an unfortunate occurrence.
2 - Change.org strikes again - gay activists and charities in tug-of-war with corporations in the middle
Over the past few months, a small but potent group of activists has formed, who are intent on portraying in a negative light Christian and charitable organizations that do not share their views on homosexuality or traditional marriage. We have seen Apple pull two apps from its app store - one was the app for the Manhattan Declaration, affirming life, religious liberty, and...the big one for the strident activists - traditional marriage! The other app pulled was the one belonging to Exodus International, which has a strong track record of helping those who wish to exit the homosexual lifestyle to actually do so. Last week, through a petition posted on the website, Change.org, a small group of activists stirred up enough rancor to force Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to withdraw from the speaker lineup for a satellite conference at Willow Creek Church, attempting to paint the church as intolerant.
This week, the public knowledge increased about another effort by activists to infect the business community against faith-based organizations. Another petition at Change.org claimed that corporations participating in the Charity Give Back Group supported charities that were so-called "hate groups" simply because they did not embrace the homosexual lifestyle and supported the Biblical view of marriage. This tug-of-war was highlighted in a piece in the Denver Post. Through the CGBG, shoppers designate a percentage of their purchases through the retailers who participate to go to their choice of charities.
Representatives of the CGBG have gone on the offensive, meeting with corporate leaders and highlighting the work of the charities that are being supported with donations that shoppers make. They also stress that groups such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council are not "hate groups", and instead of trying to engage in rhetorical conflict, they are attempting to demonstrate the love of Christ and relate the stories of how people are being helped through these charities.
Kevin McCullough, radio, TV, and Internet journalist, came on The Meeting House recently to discuss this overall story and how the CGBG has made a quality decision to push back against those who would engage in mischaracterization:
What a refreshing response - instead of responding in kind, the CGBG leadership has chosen to emphasize love and charitable effectiveness. Simarlily, Bill Hybels did not take the conventional or expected path, responding with grace to Howard Schultz and his withdrawal from the Willow Creek Summit. So often, we as Christians are rightly or wrongly portrayed as being reactionary, but if we respond in love, with grace, communicating positively, creatively, and constructively, we demonstrate to the world the character of Christ.
1 - Judge says Illinois can ban adoptions through organization that refuses same-sex adoptions
How might the authorization of same-sex marriage or civil unions in states that have voted to legalize them affect the ability of gay couples to adopt children? Well, recent action in the state of Illinois might give some unfortunate clues - a state circuit court judge has said that the state had the right to discontinue its contract with Catholic Charities, which had provided a significant percentage of the state's adoption and foster care cases. The ACLU had claimed that Catholic Charities discriminated against same-sex couples.
But, attorneys for Catholic Charities claim they are the ones being discriminated against, and that the religious freedom components of the new civil unions law are not being upheld. Here's the story from The Christian Post.
CitizenLink published an excellent analysis of how statistics show that children thrive best in an environment where there is one mother and one father in a marriage relationship. However, those that promote the so-called gay agenda are attempting to reinvent the family structure - in so doing, there is a tendency to create less-than-optimal situations that can be detrimental to the child, according to decades of research.