MH News November 7, 2019

Phillip E. Johnson, the chief architect of what is known as Intelligent Design Theory, has died at the age of 79. Johnson was raised in a Christian home but did not become a Christian until he was 38, divorced, and disillusioned with his career as a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley. His journey let him to question evolutionary theory and write two influential books, Darwin on Trial and The Wedge of Truth. His work developed into a powerful ideology that challenged Darwinism’s ability to explain the origin of all things. Intelligent Design has consistently been interpreted by scientists and judges as a religious dogma rather than a scientific theory. Johnson was educated at Harvard University and the University of Chicago School of Law. He and his second wife were very active in First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley.


The religious faith of the one-time slave Harriet Tubman is at the center of a major motion picture, simply entitled “Harriet”. It opened this past week and earned a respectable $12 million. The movie chronicles the life of the 20-something slave who embraced faith instead of fear as she escaped her status as a slave but returned to Maryland to help others escape on what is known as the Underground Railroad. The film, staring Cynthia Erivo, was shot entirely in Virginia, at the famous Berkeley Plantation on the James River, near Richmond, Virginia. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first African brought to America (Virginia) and made a slave. Harriet Tubman died in 1913.


Rev. Paula White, a Pentecostal minister in Tampa and Orlando, Florida, who serves as personal pastor to President Donald Trump, has been hired by the White House to direct re-election efforts among the white Evangelical-Pentecostal community that has been a key constituency of his presidency. White is a controversial minister, with limited ministerial credentials, multiple marriages, and a prosperity gospel message; until this past spring, she was pastor of the New Destiny Christian Center in the greater Orlando area. White is the author of five books, including the newly released Something Greater: Finding Triumph Over Tragedy.


First Baptist Church of Naples is at the center of a storm, after failing to call as their pastor the person recommended by their Pastor Search Committee. The minister is Marcus Hayes, a black man married to a white woman and father to three biracial children. More than 3,500 members voted in the special election with 81% voting to call (or hire) Rev. Hayes; but church by-laws require an 85% approval vote for the calling of a pastor. After the vote, leaders of the congregation announced that a racially focused, social media campaign among the church members accounted for the size of the negative vote. The racial elements of this action will pose a challenge to the Southern Baptist Convention which recently approved language allowing dismissal of a congregation for racist actions.

And from everywhere, it seems
The year-long emergence of Kanye West as a Christian artist continues to draw praise and putdowns. The release of his new album “Jesus is King” two weeks ago only intensifies both the attention and the controversy surrounding him. Throughout the year he has sponsored worship services around the country, featuring his music and his testimony of a wild life turnaround. His support of Donald Trump, his odd public statements about slavery, and the ego-centric elements of his worship concerts have brought much pushback from both the black religious community and the black music community. Many in the black gospel music business, though, have ignored his politics and supported the innovations of his music.