How to Build Trust in Science Within the Black Church

Q&A: Minister and scholar Cleve Tinsley says conversations should address history of inequality and include representation from black scientists.

The conservative Christian who sees science as a threat to faith is a common stereotype. Religious studies scholar Cleve Tinsley IV points out, however, that this view lumps conservative black Protestants into the same category as conservative white evangelicals, neglecting how African Americans’ unique history and justice concerns could shape their views of science.

For Tinsley, whose spiritual formation happened within black evangelicalism, the church was his first site of critical inquiry that set him on a path to become a scholar. Since he is also a minister, he recently used his connection to African American churches to engage congregants in a sociological study.

As part of broader nationwide research at the Religion and Public Life Program at Rice University, Tinsley and his colleagues studied three black Protestant congregations—two lower income and one higher income—in Chicago and Houston. Interviewing 50 individuals, they explored how factors like income and education affect views on the relationship between science and faith.

Tinsley and his team wondered whether congregants would mention the history of abuses by the scientific community against African Americans, such as the Tuskegee study from the 1930s-1970s that withheld effective treatment from black men with syphilis or the use of Henrietta Lacks’s “immortal” cells beginning in the 1950s without informed consent.

They found that respondents held a cultural memory of scientific research that reinforced ideas of black inferiority (though they didn’t mention specific events), along with faith concerns that sometimes compounded mistrust of scientists.

Many respondents in the lower-income congregations, and a few in the higher-income ...

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Korean Churches Close for First Time as Coronavirus Cases Hit 2,300

More than 1 million ask government to ban apocalyptic Christian sect linked to half of infections.

Although March 1 usually marks one of the most joyous services in South Korea, in celebration of Independence Movement Day, an unprecedented number of churches will be closed this Sunday in response to an escalating coronavirus outbreak now second in scale only to China.

“This is the first time that churches are officially postponing services in the 100 years of Protestant history and 200 years of Catholic history [in Korea],” said Won Jae-chun, a professor at Christian Handong Global University in Pohang. “Services and masses have not stopped—even during the Korean War.”

The world’s largest church, Seoul’s Pentecostal Yoido Full Gospel, announced it will broadcast its services behind closed doors to its half a million members. Other megachurches in Seoul with over 50,000 members that are broadcasting services include Sarang, Onnuri, and Myungsung, where one associate pastor has a confirmed case of coronavirus.

Although the Korean government and many denominations have discouraged public worship, as even military drills and political protests—common facets of life in Korea—have been canceled, the decision whether to hold public worship has been left up to each church.

COVID-19 has infected more than 2,300 and caused 13 deaths in Korea since the first reported case on January 20. Worldwide, almost 84,000 cases and 3,000 deaths have been confirmed across dozens of countries, with the vast majority in China’s Hubei province where the disease originated.

This week, the US State Department issued a warning against non-essential travel to Korea. “Americans [in Korea] that I know are mostly trying to not panic,” said Kurt Esslinger, an American Presbyterian Mission ...

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Trump’s Praise for Modi on India’s ‘Incredible’ Religious Freedom Doesn’t Match Our Research

The Evangelical Fellowship of India documents 300-plus cases of Christian persecution by Hindu nationalists each year. Muslims have it even worse.

Aside from some mispronunciations that sparked memes, President Donald Trump’s visit to India this week went mostly as scripted. The entire trip was high on optics—a spectacle of bromance between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi—but delivered little of substance apart from some modest deals on defense, energy, and telecommunications.

However, this was quickly displaced from the headlines by another happening in Delhi while the US president was still in India’s capital.

On February 23, the first day of Trump’s visit to the subcontinent, clashes broke out in Delhi after Kapil Mishra, a leader from Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), gave an ultimatum to the megacity’s police, in the presence of a senior police officer, to clear anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protesters from the Jaffrabad area of the capital within three days.

The CAA is a controversial act recently passed by the Modi government that links citizenship to religion in India and actively discriminates against Muslims. When combined with the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and an updated National Population Register (NPR), it will likely have an adverse impact on many citizens of India but mainly Muslims, who are the nation’s largest minority. Many could be deprived of citizenship. Social activists and commentators have called on the government to withdraw the legislation.

Hundreds of protests have erupted across the country, with some crowds reaching the hundreds of thousands. The Shaheen Bagh neighborhood in New Delhi is a symbolic epicenter of sorts of these protests, where mainly Muslim women have been leading demonstrations for three months. Jaffrabad, where Mishra gave the ultimatum ...

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Southern Baptists Have Only 13 African American Career Missionaries. What Will It Take to Mobilize More?

The International Mission Board launches new efforts to address historic shortage.

Most Ugandans assume Southern Baptist missionary George Smith is one of them. They talk to him and his wife Geraldine, who are African American, like they’re talking to one another, they said.

Anglo missionaries, on the other hand, tend to be “a spectacle,” said Smith. “They draw a crowd.”

Through 20 years of ministry in Africa with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB), blending in with locals has afforded the Smiths distinct ministry advantages—from freedom to call local believers “on the carpet” in sermons, as Smith puts it, to an opportunity to live with Africans as peers.

Back in the United States, IMB leaders also have recognized the strategic advantage of sending black missionaries around the world. They’re making a concerted push to send more African Americans—not only for the sake of missions strategy, but also to align the percentage of black IMB missionaries with the percentage of black church members in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which includes nearly 4,000 predominantly African American churches.

At this point, it’s going to be a stark challenge. Of approximately 3,700 career missionaries serving with IMB at the end of last year, just 13 (0.3%) were African American, according to the IMB’s 2020 ministry report. For the percentage of black missionaries to approach the percentage of black church members in the SBC overall—6 percent, according to Pew Research—nearly half of the 500 new missionary slots the IMB aims to create over the next five years would have to be filled by African Americans.

Observers within and outside the SBC are hopeful, though they wonder if the IMB’s black ...

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Pro-Life Democrats Remind Candidates They Exist

Ahead of the South Carolina primary, religious voters’ push for a “diversity of opinions” on abortion gets little reception from presidential hopefuls.

Though South Carolina’s Democrats are more religious and more pro-life than voters in other early primary states, presidential candidates are sticking to the increasingly strident pro-choice positions held by their party.

Democrats for Life of America used the campaign push in the South as a chance to call on candidates to consider the place of pro-life voters in their coalition. The South Carolina Legislature has voted forward a “heartbeat bill,” one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country, and its Republican Senator Lindsey Graham sponsored the 20-week abortion ban voted on in the US Senate this week.

Evangelical Protestants and black Protestants make up half the population in South Carolina (compared to 30 percent of the overall US population). As Democrats engage in unprecedented levels of outreach to religious voters, many candidates make their way through black churches in the Southern state as they rally support. Kristen Day, executive director of the pro-life Democrats group, spoke at a press conference before Tuesday’s debate, reminding the presidential hopefuls from her party that many of the African American voters they are courting are less supportive of abortion than white Democrats or the party overall.

Exit polls from the 2016 primary show 61 percent of Democratic voters in South Carolina were African American, and Christian faith plays a key role among black voters, Day said.

Speaking in Charleston, South Carolina, Harriet Bradley, an African American minister and state chapter coordinator for Democrats for Life of America, quoted Proverbs 6:16–17, naming “hands that shed innocent blood” among the “things the Lord hates.” She described her ...

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Five Family-Friendly Resources for Lent

What does it mean to teach our children about lament, fasting, and mortality? These books, apps, and flashcards can help.

It’s one thing to observe Lent solo. It’s another thing to try to practice Lent with a family, especially if your family includes fussy babies, grumpy middle schoolers, or fantastically busy teenagers. For some parents, every day feels like Lent. You’re often laying down your life or giving up things that you love. When Ash Wednesday comes around, what can you give up when you already feel utterly spent?

My wife and I have felt all these things in some fashion with our two children and have been deeply grateful to discover resources that others have created in order to practically help families who wish to follow Jesus on this 40-day pilgrimage. The following five resources, which include books, downloadable apps, and creative devotionals, will offer families a starting point to practice Lent together.

Lenten Survival Guide for Kids: I’m Supposed to Do What?! by Peter Celano (Paraclete Press, 2014).

Written for elementary and middle school-aged children, this playful guide aims to help kids understand why they should care about a terribly big word that adults frequently take awfully seriously: Lent. Without talking down to them, Celano, an editor at Paraclete Press, offers children a chance to learn about such things as “What Lent Is,” “What Lent Definitely Is Not,” “40 Days of Survival Tactics,” and “A Few Prayers and Practices—Only for Kids.”

As Celano explains in this book, Lent is not about “giving up” silly things or about making sad faces to show how difficult life has suddenly become. It’s about learning to love God and to know who Jesus is and what it means to follow him—even as a kid! With Scriptures to memorize and ...

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Learning About Other Faiths Doesn’t Lead Evangelical Students to Lose Theirs

Compared to other colleges, students at evangelical institutions end up gaining the most knowledge of world religions.

One of the negative stereotypes of evangelical colleges is that they keep students in a religious “bubble.” But new survey data shows that these schools are particularly effective at teaching students about other faiths, and that this exposure to outside traditions is actually correlated with a deeper commitment to their own beliefs.

The Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS)—a panel study that surveys the same students before, during, and at the end of their college career—measures basic knowledge about world religions.

The sample included over 1,300 students from 15 evangelical universities, the majority of which were members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

Compared to students who planned to attend Catholic or private secular universities, evangelical students had a lower baseline level of knowledge. The average student attending an evangelical university could answer just 4.9 questions correctly. However, this score was higher than those attending public universities (4.8) and those who attended Protestant schools not classified as evangelical (4.6 questions correct).

All institutions of higher education impart some knowledge of world religions, but there are clear differences between the types of schools. For instance, the average student attending a Catholic college answered 0.64 more questions correctly after four years at college, which is close to the average for the entire sample (0.67).

Those attending evangelical schools—many of which require some sort of religious formation classes in their curricula—saw a larger improvement, answering 0.83 more questions correctly on average by the end of their college career. That gain ...

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Don’t Let Jean Vanier (or Other Heroes) Off the Hook

The rhetoric around fallen leaders often erodes our high call to holiness.

L’Arche International recently published an internal report revealing the news that Jean Vanier, its founder, sexually abused women for decades. In the report, the leaders of L’Arche unequivocally condemned Vanier’s abusive behavior. They sought forgiveness from the victims while also lauding the victims’ courage to come forward and testify.

Along with many others, I was devastated by the news. After Vanier won the Templeton Prize, I contacted him about a possible interview. When his secretary was on vacation, he sent me a personal response that said, “From Jean, yes we can meet, tell me when you can come, peace.” Although I was never able to go, I cherished the invitation. I had been quoting Vanier in my writing for years. And in the seminary classes I taught, I repeatedly used Vanier as a role model of incarnational community and an exemplar of what it means to manifest Christ’s presence in the world.

As news about his abuse ricocheted across the globe, many of us took to social media to express our reactions and to collectively grieve. Many echoed Mark Galli’s question about sinful leaders: “What are we to make,” he writes, “of everything they taught, if their lives exhibited anything but what they taught?”

Others have opined that if we were more realistic about human nature, we wouldn’t be disappointed. “The lesson, surely,” Michael Coren tweeted, “is that nobody should be placed on such a pedestal.” Still others have wondered if we should have heroes at all.

They’re right, of course, but only in part. Scripture does tell us that “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10). ...

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One-on-One with Daniel Im on ‘You Are What You Do’

Doing does not result in done. It only leads to more doing.

Ed: Why did you write You Are What You Do?

Daniel: Because our definition of “normal” has changed—seemingly overnight. For example, working a steady nine-to-five job isn’t normal anymore. And waiting until you’re retired to explore the world, try new experiences, eat delicious food, and enjoy life isn’t normal either—if retirement is even a thing anymore.

What’s now “normal” is this desire that we all have for freedom and flexibility, which conveniently is exactly what the gig economy promises.

And contrary to common belief, this is not just something that affects those in their 20s and 30s. According to the research, there are people in every generation who have side hustles because this desire for freedom and flexibility has become our new oxygen.

I wrote You Are What You Do because I wanted to examine the ways that this new “normal” is affecting everyday work, life, and love. As I was digging into the research and examining the ways that this new “normal” was affecting the people with whom I interact on a regular basis, I discovered seven lies that were subtly and subversively affecting us right to our core: You are what you do, you are what you experience, you are who you know, you are what you know, you are what you own, you are who you raise and you are your past.

In You Are What You Do, not only do I show readers how to recognize these everyday lies in their lives—and why it’s sketchy to build their lives upon them—but I also unpack the truth on the other side—the truth that leads to freedom and will move us from surviving to thriving.

Ed: For whom did you write it?

Daniel: For the mom who’s rediscovering herself ...

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The Cross Changes Everything

Why the Crucifixion is the center of our theology—and our lives.

The cross of Christ is the center of salvation. It is the crucial point, the place of convergence where everything about the gospel comes together. If you interrogate Christian faith and ask, “In one word, how does God save sinners?” the response of a healthy faith will be instantly and confidently to pick out the Cross.

Of course a healthy faith will also ask, “Please, may I have more words than one?” The Cross is meaningfully central only when it is recognized as the center of something vaster. Salvation in seven terms might include, along with the Cross, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, not to mention the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Salvation in 20 words could be explicit about even more ideas that are presupposed in a shorter answer. O for a thousand words to sing my great Redeemer’s praise, to paraphrase Charles Wesley! Christian faith is fluent and eloquent when it comes to salvation; speaking as a theologian, I would love to tell you about salvation in as many words as you will permit me. But just as strong as the impulse to elaborate on the greatness of God in the work of salvation is the impulse to condense the whole message to the key point.

Yet the condensed statement is always meant to call to mind the larger reality. Whenever we say anything about the Cross, we are almost always using a figure of speech called metonymy. A word functions as a metonym when we use it to refer to something else, usually something larger to which it is closely related. When Paul says he boasts only “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14), he is using one thing (a large, wooden object ...

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