A little-noticed event in the state capital of Pennsylvania brought into focus two powerful religious trends in American national life: the emergence of Islam in the halls of political power and the corresponding resistance from white Evangelical Christians. It happened on the day when 55 guests, including many Muslims, gathered to witness the swearing in of newly-elected representative to the state General Assembly, Movita Johnson-Harrell, a Muslim. But the day began with the prayer offered by another representative Stephanie Borowicz. The prayer invoked the name of Jesus 13 times, mentioned God 6 times and Lord 4 times, and expressed thanks to President Trump for standing beside Israel. Needless to say, it created quite a stir.
Continuing the report from last week, the Templeton Foundation of Philadelphia awarded $4.2 million to the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School of metro Chicago. This follows an initial grant of $3.4 million in 2016 to help launch The Creation Project, an effort to engage Evangelical theology with the wider spectrum of modern scientific thought through the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding. It has promoted annual themes such as “Reading Genesis in the Age of Science” and “Reclaiming Theological Anthropology in an Age of Science.” The Divinity School is part of the larger Trinity International University.
The chief organization promoting the support of Israel met for its annual meeting in the nation’s capital this week. Eighteen thousand people were expected to attend the American-Israel Political Action Committee, or AIPAC as it is commonly known. President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi all addressed the crowd, while Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had to return home to deal with conflict on the Gaza border. The event was highlighted by Trump signing a proclamation recognizing Israel’s right to the Golan Heights, territory east of the Sea of Galilee long considered occupied territory. This pleased both Israelis and also many in the white Evangelical community in America, which sees any overt action in support of Israel as consistent with their end time playbook. The Secretary of State raised quite a stir when he asserted during the ceremony in Israel that God had raised up Trump to save Israel.
The General Social Survey (HSS) administered and interpreted by scholars at the University of Chicago has produced data indicating that, in terms of religion, those who claim no religion now constitute almost of quarter of the population in the United States. This is about the same number as claim either Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant affiliation. The GSS is “the only full-probability, personal-interview survey designed to monitor changes in both social characteristics and attitudes currently being conducted in the United States,” according to its web site. Primary interpretation was done by Dr. Ryan P. Purge of Eastern Illinois University. According to GSS data gathered over the decades, Evangelicals peaked at about 30% of the population in the 1990s while Roman Catholics have maintained for decades about one quarter of the American population.
The major of South Bend, Indiana, is giving a fresh twist to religion and the presidency. Pete Buttigieg is his name, and he is devoutly Christian and an active member of The Episcopal Church. But he is also openly gay and married!! But he has no hesitancy to talk about his faith, as do other Democratic candidates, such as New Jersey’s Cory Booker and Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren. These left-swinging politicians will contrast sharply with the fervent Evangelical Christians and their pseudo-Christian and current President Donald Trump. We have had other Presidents in recent history talk freely about their religion; Jimmy Carter and George H. Bush come to mind, and even Barack Obama wrote movingly of his conversion and baptism in his autobiography. All of this promises to keep religion at the forefront of American political life for the next two years.