For more than 400 years, Baptists have urged religious liberty for all. The advocacy of Baptists like Isaac Backus and John Leland helped enshrine religious liberty rights in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A radical shift during an age of state churches, this move created the very environment for churches to flourish.
In the U.S. context, we often hear laments about the decline of Christianity, how younger generations are walking away from faith and about our culture’s increasing embrace of immorality. If we hear such stories of doom and gloom enough, perhaps we start to believe them. But what if there’s more to the story?
The top religious advisor to President Donald Trump defended his policies on detaining immigrant children, claiming Jesus never broke the law. Rather than an aberration, Paula White, the Florida megachurch “prosperity gospel” preacher, demonstrated the feel-good theology of too many Americans that prioritizes order over morality.
It seems that since people could write, we’ve had stories warning about powerful people using their power to abuse others and to gain or preserve their power, assets or lustful desires. Homer’s “The Iliad.” Plato’s “Apology of Socrates.” And, the Bible.
In August of 2017 I made a commitment to preach a series of sermons on rape, abuse and assault. Little did I know that two months later the #MeToo movement would explode all over social media as women courageously stepped forward to tell their stories.
In May, I trekked to North East India on a trip in partnership between Word&Way, Future Leadership Foundation and Transforming Leaders in Asia Ministries. My first trip to India, I enjoyed meeting Baptists there and learning about their culture and ministry context. I also learned a bit about driving in India.
On occasion, I write short devotionals for other publications. What could be a better, more blessed way to start your day than in prayer and with a few brilliant words from me? (Don’t answer that.) The practice of writing such devotions is a spiritual exercise as I prayerfully consider the assigned texts in hopes of helping people experience God as they pause for a few minutes of meditation.
The forced resignation of Patrick Conroy as chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives quickly sparked questions and concerns about the intermingling of religion and politics. Some lawmakers believe Speaker Paul Ryan pushed out Conroy because of a prayer Ryan saw as too political. But that raises an important question: Can prayer actually be apolitical?
On Christmas Eve of 2016, the military of Myanmar detained two Baptist pastors. We’ve reported updates about their story in various issues of Word&Way. I’ll briefly review the story, but please stay with this column because I have a special request on how we can encourage our brothers who remain in prison.