Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saddleback Civic Forum on the Presidency

During last night’s Civic Forum at Saddleback Church, pastor Rick Warren asked Senators Barak Obama and John McCain, “What does it mean to you to trust in Christ?”

Barack Obama said, “As a starting point, it means I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. I know that I don't walk alone, and I know that if I can get myself out of the way, that I can maybe carry out in some small way what he intends. And it means that those sins that I have on a fairly regular basis hopefully will be washed away.” Quoting from the book of Matthew, Obama said it also meant an obligation to “the least of these.”

When asked the same question, John McCain told Warren, "Means I'm saved and forgiven. Our faith encompasses not just America, but the world."

McCain went on to talk about his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. McCain said a guard drew a cross in the sand while he was praying. "For a minute there we were just two Christians worshipping together."

How Rick Warren Got to the Point

John McCain and Barack Obama will make an appearance together tonight at 8pm Eastern at Rick Warren’s southern California church. Here's a CNN report on Warren's career.

More on Rick Warren.

Rally in Washington

Thousands of youth are expected to flood the Mall in the nation’s capital today for a prayer rally. TheCall DC is structured like the Promise Keepers' 1997 rally. Among the speakers are Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Atheists Get Discount, Too

Atheists demanded and got the right to get a discount at the Wilson County Fair in Tennessee on Sunday. It’s God and Country Day. The fair planned to give discounts to people who brought a church bulletin. But atheists complained and now the price break is being extended to everyone – provided they show a bulletin from a church or a printout from a religious or secular group's Web page.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Obama Ad Aimed at Christians

A pro-Obama Christian political action committee will start running the TV ad below in support of the Democratic candidate. It may air during tomorrow’s presidential forum at Rick Warren’s Saddleback church in Southern California. Both Obama and McCain are speaking at the event. The Matthew 25 Network decided to include some Christian leaders and academics in the commercial including a leader of the Emergent Church movement Brian McLaren and the Houston-based Methodist pastor who officiated Jenna Bush's wedding Kirbyjon Caldwell. You can see the video here.

Baptist Pastor Sues Texas Baptists

Otto Arango is suing the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The pastor who’s been involved with starting churches in the Rio Grande Valley claims he was defamed by the group when it investigated allegations of misspent money. Some 250 new churches in south Texas were given received more than $1 million in funds but many of those churches never existed except on paper. Some of the money went into Arango’s personal bank account, according to the investigation launched by the General Convention. But he’s never faced any formal charges and calls the allegations nothing more than rumors. The Baptist organization says the lawsuit has no merit.

Obama & McCain at Megachurch

John McCain and Barack Obama will make an appearance together tomorrow at Rick Warren’s southern California church. The candidates will appear separately, only passing each other on stage and coming together for a handshake. Warren will ask each one questions for an hour. The Southern Baptist pastor is best known for writing The Purpose Driven Life. Read more about Rick Warren. Here's what Warren had to say to ABC News.

Judge Orders Prayer in Courtroom

The ACLU has filed a complaint against an Alabama judge for dropping to his knees during a hearing and ordering everyone (about 100 people) to hold hands and pray. The case involved members of the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Monroeville. They were suing to get financial records from a former church secretary.

Covington County Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan of Andalusia first gained notoriety a few years ago when he donned robes embroidered with the Ten Commandments.

Christian Network to Buy Virginia TV Station

Living Faith Ministries plans to buy Roanoke TV station WDRL. It reaches into the Danville and Lynchburg markets as well. Abingdon-based Living Faith already owns three TV stations: WLFG in Grundy, WLFB in Bluefield, West Virginia and WAGV in Harlan, Kentucky. Liberty University tried to buy the station last year for $6 million but changed its mind when it found lots of FCC violations at WDRL that it would have to fix. Living Faith is paying $5.3 million.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Osteen Verdict

Here's a report from KTRK-TV in Houston on the verdict in the case involving megachurch pastor Joel Osteen and his wife.

Verdict in Osteen Case

A Houston jury has determined that the wife of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen did not physically assault a flight attendant on a Continental flight in 2005. Sharon Brown wanted at least $405,000 in damages for their altercation. Even a witness called by her attorney testified that no assault occurred.

Flight Attendant has Done this Before

Final arguments will be heard this morning in the trial of Victoria Osteen, wife of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen. A flight attendant (Sharon Brown) has accused her of assaulting her on a plane before takeoff. But not only have three passengers testified there was no altercation, a Continental gate agent told jurors yesterday that a decade ago Sharon Brown accused her of pushing and hitting her. A judge dismissed that complaint. Brown's attorney tried to stop the jury from hearing about that but the judge allowed it.

Presidential Polling

Since June, Obama’s lead has dropped by a large number of points among these groups:

  • Non-evangelical born again Christians - 9
  • Active Christians - 20
  • Protestants - 13
  • Catholics - 11

But Evangelical support for McCain has among evangelical voters has also dropped during this time period – from 78% to 61%.

Source: The Barna Group

Dobson's Focus on the Family Pulls Video

Focus on the Family has yanked a video posted on its site after getting some bad publicity. The video shows Stuart Shepard, director of digital media for Focus Action, the political arm of the conservative Christian group. In the video, Shepard is asking Christians to pray for disruptive rain during Barak Obama’s acceptance speech in Denver. The clip is intended to be humorous and make a point but some supporters complained. Make up your own mind:

The Gospel of Management

Villanova University's School of Business is now offering a master's degree in church management. The courses in the program will have a Catholic focus and be offered primarily online. Only a one-week residency on campus is required and the cost is $23,400.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Abortion & Mental Health Issues

There is no link between elective abortion and mental-health problems for adult women, according to a report presented to the American Psychological Association yesterday. The information came from a two-year review of published research. Some courts have issued opinions based on the belief that there is a significant connection. But he APA has endorsed these findings.

There are more than a million abortions each year in the US and nearly half are to women who have already had an abortion previously. This group, as well as teenagers who account for nearly a fifth of all US abortions, were left out the report.

Richard Roberts to Get Severance Package

He left Oral Roberts University in the midst of accusation that he spent school funds on personal luxury items. Now one-time president Richard Roberts is getting a severance package. The school is refusing to say just what he’s getting to go away.

The son of school founder Oral Roberts, the televangelist denied any wrong-doing.

But critics say the deal sends the wrong signals. Among the allegations: Roberts and his wife spent school money on horses for their daughters, home improvements and shopping sprees.

Here are some other posts on the wrongful termination lawsuit against the school and money the school has gotten to keep going. Be sure to vote in our online poll.

Witnesses Testify in Osteen Trial

The wife of megachurch evangelist Joel Osteen didn’t assault or yell at a flight attendant. That’s what three passengers who were onboard the plane in her trial in Houston told jurors. Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown is suing the Osteens, claiming Victoria Osteen attacked her and even threw her against a bathroom door. Brown wants 10% of the couple’s net worth. The Osteens have already paid a $3,000 FAA fine for interfering with a crew member.

Criswell Interim President Named

Lamar Cooper will be the interim president of Criswell College. The Dallas Bible school lost its president when Jerry Johnson decide to quit battling the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Robert Jeffress. First Baptist founded the school but Johnson accused Jeffress of trying to sell its assets in order to fund a church sanctuary. Jeffress has denied the charge. Cooper has been a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament studies and served as acting president in 2003.

Support for The Presidential Candidates

Non-evangelical born again Christians:
  • Barack Obama 43%
  • John McCain 31%

Notional Christians:

  • Barack Obama 44%
  • John McCain 28%

People aligned with faiths other than Christianity:

  • Barack Obama 56%
  • John McCain 24%

Atheists and agnostics:

  • Barack Obama 55%
  • John McCain 17%


  • Barack Obama 39%
  • John McCain 29%


  • Barack Obama 43%
  • John McCain 34%

Source: The Barna Group

Candy Canes at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will consider whether to take up the case of a former Saginaw, Michigan student who was told he couldn’t make an ornament with a Christian message attached to it. The fifth-grade student at Handley Elementary School made the ornament for a class project and included The Meaning of the Candy Cane which has references to Jesus. A judge ruled that the principal violated Curry's First Amendment rights but a appeals panel reversed the that decision. The high court could decide this fall whether to consider the case. Although often repeated by Christians, the Candy Cane story has been discredited as not historical.

Judge Favors Lawsuit by Christian Group

A Virginia school system has to stop charging a Christian group to use its facilities while a lawsuit progresses over the payment. The Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools has been making Child Evangelism Fellowship of Virginia pay $12.50 per hour for the right to hold after-school meetings of The Good News Club. Other groups get to meet on school property for free. A judge now says it’s not constitutional to make a religious group to pay when other don’t and he expects the Christian organization to prevail in court.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Osteen Trial Resumes

A Continental Airlines flight attendant who is suing the wife of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen took the stand yesterday. She'll take the stand again this morning. Houston's KRIV has this report.

Denver Pastor Dies While Climbing Matterhorn

Osteen Trial Update

The airline flight attendant who's taken the wife of megachurch evangelist Joel Osteen to court for allegedly assaulting her on a flight is testifying today. Flight attendant Sharon Brown admitted she called Joel Osteen a devil during her deposition and said his Lakewood Church was “a cult”. The incident started over over a spill on a first-class seat. Read More.

Counting Evangelicals in the Presidential Race

About 4-out-of-10 Americans say they are Evangelicals. And among this group that say they are likely to vote in the presidential election, John McCain’s lead is narrow:

  • McCain 39%
  • Obama 37%
  • Undecided 23%

But instead of asking people whether they are Evangelicals, The Barna Group asks a series of questions to determine whether the respondent fits into the traditional understanding of evangelicals.

Barna’s more restrictive figures show only 8% of Americans really qualify as Evangelicals. Among those people in this group who say they are likely to vote, McCain’s lead blooms:

  • McCain 61%
  • Obama 17%
  • Undecided 14%

Calvinism Among Southern Baptists

A survey released last year shows nearly a third of recent Southern Baptist seminary graduates say they are Calvinists. Among all Southern Baptist pastors, only about one-out-of-ten consider themselves Calvinists. The survey was conducted by the Southern Baptist Convention's Lifeway Research and North American Mission Board Center for Missional Research.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Report on Abortion

A comprehensive report reviewing years of research on how abortion affects women is due out this week. It will be presented at the American Psychological Association's annual conference in Boston. Both sides of the issue hopes the report will support their position. In its ruling upholding a ban on partial-birth abortion, the Supreme Court cited concerns over women’s health as one of the reasons for stopping the late-term procedure.

Bush at Church in China

President Bush gathered for photos with parishioners after attending services at a Protestant church in Beijing. Bush told reporters, "It just goes to show that God is universal. No state, man or woman should fear the influence of loving religion.” A well-known Christian activist and pastor at an underground church was detained while on his way to join the worship service. His Bible and cell phone were taken away. Here is a video report on Bush's church visit.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

White Evangelical Voters

A survey of white evangelical voters shows that 7 out of 10 support John McCain. Here are some other findings:
  • 27% of McCain's Evangelical backers say they are NOT enthusiastic about him
  • 15% of McCain's Evangelical backers say they ARE very enthusiastic about him

Asked which presidential candidate is most guided by his religious beliefs, White Evangelicals say:
  • McCain - 42%
  • Obama - 17%
Source: TIME magazine