The University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary have announced their jointly-sponsored Grawemeyer Award for outstanding ideas in music, psychology, education, religion, and world order. The winner in religion is Stephen J. Patterson, professor of religious and ethical studies at Williamette University in Salem, Oregon. His 2018 book, The Forgotten Creed: Christianity’s Original Struggle against Bigotry, Racism, and Sexism, was published last year by Oxford University Press. It explores the baptismal creed used by Paul the apostle in his letter to the Galatians in which he asserted that “there is no Jew or Greek; there is no slave or free; there is no male and female. For you are all one in the Spirit” (3:26-28). The award was created by a gift to the University by Charles Grawemeyer (1912-1993) in 1984 and carries a prize of $100,000 to each of the five honorees.
The international cyber center for all things newborn—BabyCenter.com—has issued their annual list of baby names; and two Muslim-associated names have cracked the top ten. Muhammad (by its various spellings) comes in at number 10 for boys; it first entered the top 100 in 2013 and has been steadily climbing the charts. Aaliyah also comes in at number 10 for the girls. Sophia remains number one for girls for the tenth straight year, and Liam is number one for the boys for the first year. Noah and Elijah, both Jewish names from the Hebrew Bible, also made the top ten; no clearly Christian names were in the top ten for girls. More than 600,000 names of newborns were entered into the pool.
Liberty University announced the launching of a new conservative religious think tank as a “support network for the revival of Christian American culture across the nation.” It will be named the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty, with its name as a mashup of Falwell, the founder of the school, and Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA. The name Falkirk is also the name of a well-known battle in 1298 popularized by the movie Braveheart, produced, directed, and featuring Mel Gibson. The rationale for the new center is this: “For the past few decades, conservative have felt like we’ve been losing the battle…. A growing and strident anti-Christian, anti-American sentiment has long dominated the most powerful institutions in America.” The center will promote limited government, free enterprise, individual rights, and the republic (but not a theocracy). The center immediately named five Falkirk Fellows: Jaco Boovens, Antonia Cover, Erika Lane Frantzve, David Harris, Jr. and Josh Allan Murray.
Justin Bieber and Manny Ramirez have joined the list of entertainment and sports celebrities who have embraced Christianity and gone public with it. Bieber, the global superstar of music (who himself was raised in a devout Christian family) has begun praying with his 122 million Instagram followers; and baseball superstar Ramirez (retired from the Boston Red Socks) has announced his conversion and has enrolled in seminary. These two public figures follow recent publicity given to rap star Kanye West, who is touring the country leading worship and promoting his new record-breaking CD “Jesus is King.” The United States has a long history of famous people, from performers to presidents, from executives to athletes, going public with their faith. These have included singer Pat Boone, president Jimmy Carter, quarterback Tim Tebow, singer Aretha Franklin, and scientist Francis Collins.
The North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church has filed a lawsuit against Southern Methodist University over the latter’s action to redefine its relationship to the Conference. Earlier this fall, the University trustees amended its articles of incorporation to assume full responsibility to manage the university, in keeping (so they contend) with the laws of the state of Texas which state that institutional trustees alone are responsible for making decisions about their institution. The University and the Conference have, as recently as 1996, signed a collaboration agreement in regards to governance of the University, which the Conference founded more than 100 years ago. The action by the University was prompted by the decision of the United Methodist Church last February to restrict opportunities for LGBTQ persons in the church. The University has an endowment of $1.6 billion.