Two weeks after the sudden and untimely death of Rachel Held Evans, the Christian community in the United States continues to mourn her passing and assess her impact. From the evangelical Christianity Today to the secular New York Times, ordinary readers and religion specialists have eulogized her personal honesty, her spiritual journey, and her staunch affirmation of life in Christ and life for Christ. “We must continue to be a safe place for people who wonder as well as those who wander”, asserted Ed Stetzer. “She spoke the doubts and hopes and resurrected faith for many, me included,” wrote one of my former students.
Pentecostal pastor Paula White Cain surrendered leadership of her mega-church, now renamed as the City of Destiny, and installed her son Brad Knight and his wife Rachel as lead pastors. Cain will retain the title of apostle with oversight responsibilities and will preach at the congregation she has led for six years as she is invited. She announced further that she desires to start 3,000 new congregations and perhaps a university. She will continue as pastor and advisor to President Donald Trump.
Vice President Mike Pence gave the commencement address at Liberty University this week, two years after President Trump spoke at the event. Pence affirmed Trump, spoke glowingly of the progress of America, told the story of his conversion, warned the graduates to expect hostility from the broader culture, and summarized the values of the nation: strong military, support for Israel, low taxes, fewer regulations, conservative judges, freedom of speech and religion, and the sanctity of human life. He concluded with a call for them to have faith in themselves, in the ideals and mission of the university, and in God.
Debate over the role of women erupted in social media among Southern Baptists, with professor Owen Strachan challenging Beth Moore about the matter, and the nationally-popular Bible teacher from Houston responding on Twitter with: “I would be terrified to be a woman you’d approve of.” Southern Seminary president Al Mohler voiced his opinion that God prefers for his message to be spoken through a man’s voice. Much of this public dialogue was prompted by the death of writer and women’s advocate Rachel Held Evans. Perhaps the best line came from the pen of the Baylor professor who described it all as “one big carnival.”
The state legislature of Alabama has approved (and the governor has signed) the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the nation. It prohibits all abortion, except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. Neither rape nor incest will justify abortion under the new law. Penalties for both mother and performing doctor can be up to 99 years in state prison. In the state senate, every vote in favor of the bill was cast by a white male. This bill is part of a wave of such challenges to the famous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, asserting that a woman’s right to privacy took precedence over the state’s interest in preventing abortions. It is widely thought this Alabama bill was crafted with the express purpose of giving the current U. S. Supreme Court the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. Abortion has been the most powerful public issue fueling the rise and sustained influence of the Religious Right on American politics.