Protestants & Politics 5/12/21
Robert Jeffress combats vaccine hesitancy; George W. Bush on white evangelicals, immigration & awakening; black church leaders & school funding; QAnon craziness; future of evangelicals; reparations
Robert Jeffress hopes to combat vaccine fears with First Baptist Dallas’ COVID-19 vaccination effort
To combat vaccine hesitancy among Christian evangelicals, First Baptist Church in Dallas will have a COVID-19 vaccination clinic May 16.
Senior pastor Robert Jeffress said he hopes the move will encourage people to get shots so more of his 14,000 congregants can come and worship in person.
“Our church will never be what it needs to be until you’re back. The greater risk is the spiritual danger of staying isolated,” Jeffress said in a recent sermon. “I’m not forcing anybody to get the vaccine. That’s your choice. But what I am saying is if you are not back yet, and would like to come back, one option is to take the vaccine, and therefore you don’t have to worry about what other people do or don’t do here in the church.”
“It seems to me that, in the recent past, churches have become, and particularly white evangelical churches, political instruments,” he said.
Moving forward, churches need to refocus on the “right mission” and bring that focus to immigration-related discussions, Bush added.
“Until there is a religious awakening to a certain extent, a revival of mission, this issue (of immigration reform) may not be as important as it used to be,” he said.
Local Black clergy leaders said Monday they support a county proposal to withhold some school funding until Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools comes up with a plan to improve academic performance, especially among Black students.
“Almighty God … we ask your favor, guidance and wisdom to inspire our school board, our school system, our county and city governments and the community at large, as all of us must do better for our children,” the Rev. Jordan Boyd prayed. “Continue to bless our collective efforts to advocate for all children, but especially our Black babies.”
The truth is, the connection between white conservative evangelicals and conspiracy theories goes back at least a century, through the Scopes Trial and into 1950s anti-communism. When I was a kid in the 1970s and ’80s, there was talk about Henry Kissinger or Mikhail Gorbachev being the Antichrist (as Christian writer Joe Carter explained, “the strange birthmark was considered an obvious sign that Gorbachev wore the ‘mark of the beast’”).
But the rise of new media, coupled with the dismissal of mainstream media (“fake news”) as a countervailing force, has taken things to a new and dangerous level (according to a 2019 Pew survey, only “about a quarter of white evangelicals (26 percent) say journalists have high or very high ethical standards,” which is “between 13 and 26 percentage points lower than Protestants overall, Catholics and the unaffiliated”).
This week the Berkley Forum asks: What might recent controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention suggest about the future of U.S. evangelical Christianity? What theological, biblical, or ethical resources could inspire a more inclusive or prophetic evangelicalism going forward? How does the recent move by Beth Moore to leave the SBC relate to other issues surrounding gender in American evangelicalism? In what ways does continued debate on critical race theory overlay broader discussions on religion and racial justice, as well as white supremacy in the church? How might lessons from the history of race and gender in the evangelical community find resonance in the current moment? What are the challenges and possibilities of evangelical engagement in American public life during the Biden administration?
Join us for a Zoom panel discussion with leaders in the reparations movement in the arenas of religion, government, policy and academia who will discuss their strategies, including truth and reparation initiatives, financial investments and long-term programs, in the fight for social justice. The panel is hosted by The Associated Press, Religion News Service and The Conversation. This event is open to the public.
Please register even if you may be unable to join. We will send a recording link to everyone who registers.
_Adelle M. Banks, national reporter with Religion News Service.
_The Rev. Dr. Iva E. Carruthers, General Secretary at Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference in Chicago.
_The Rt. Rev. Eugene T. Sutton, Bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Maryland
_The Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, Director of Community Engagement and Racial Justice at
Minnesota Council of Churches
_ Nicole Saffold Maskiell, Assistant Professor of History, University of South Carolina
May 19, 2021 04:00 PM in Eastern Time