Category Archives: Christian – Protestant

BRIEF: UNCW lecturer to speak about N.C. eugenics and Nazi eugenics Thursday

Anthropometry demonstrated in an exhibit from ...

Anthropometry demonstrated in an exhibit from a 1921 eugenics conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New York Times bestselling author and investigative journalist Edwin Black will speak about eugenics programs used against blacks and mentally disabled people in North Carolina as well as the eugenics programs of the Nazis at 7 p.m. Thursday (April 26) in the School of Nursing McNeil Auditorium, Room 1005 on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

His speaking tour is based on his book War Against the Weak and is sponsored by UNCW’s History department, the Block & Rhine Fund for Jewish Studies in association with The American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Details: 910-962-3308.

– Amanda Greene

Belief Bytes: Wednesday’s Religion News Roundup

The Rev. Joel Osteen. Photo via RNS.

Here is your Religion News roundup for today:

By David Gibson
c. Religion News Service 2012
Reprinted with permission

“It’s official: Mitt Romney is a Christian. Joel Osteen tells me so.

Osteen is also set to sell out Nationals Park for a prosperity prayer rally this Saturday.

Billy Graham has a different take: “Instead of serving God, we serve money and things – and they end up controlling us.”

The “God gap” persists, and Romney has the “very religious” by 17 points over President Obama and Obama has the “moderately religious” by 14 points and the nonreligious by 31 points.

Joe the Plumber, newly-minted Republican candidate and born-again Christian, puts himself in the first category. He also says he doesn’t question Barack Obama’s faith and says those who do are not being Christian! To which he adds this charitable reading:

“After Barack Hussein Obama suddenly cast-off his Muslim roots, rejected his mother’s disbelief in God, turned tail on the Islam of his early life and converted to Christianity – BLAM – he’s elected President. Anyone who believes the two things are not connected is being disingenuous at best. I don’t know how or when it happened, whether when he was partying at college or five minutes before he first decided to run for office, but it doesn’t matter – he came to Christ and he is my brother.”

Thanks, bro.”

Read the rest of the article here.

-Samantha Freda, Wilmington Faith and Values news intern

Historic Ephesus Junior Academy closer to reopening

Board member Ron Sparks poses with the Ephesus Junior Academy sign. He's trying to get the school started once more. Photo by Amanda Greene

By AMANDA GREENE
Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com

Since his days as a Wilmington city councilman, Ron Sparks has been working diligently on a project very close to his heart – the reopening of Ephesus Junior Academy.

The kindergarten through eighth grade school is located on two floors of the brick L-shaped side of Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church at 1002 Castle Street. In its 100 years, the multi-racial school hosted thousands of students before it was closed because of its low class sizes in late 2010.

Because it did not have the required minimum of 12 students enrolled, the school’s accrediting organization, Adventist Education, temporarily closed Ephesus Junior Academy just before its 100th birthday.

“My mother went here, I went here, my aunt when here,” Sparks said. He’s on the school’s board. “The church stands behind the school. To say we were not happy when it closed is not even close to describing it.”

Ephesus alum Carl Newton said his heart broke when he heard the academy had closed.

“Especially now, kids need a school like that. That kind of attention,” he said, now a graduation coach at Hoggard High School. “Everybody can’t go to the same school. At that point in my life, that school met my needs.”

At one time, the church was so dedicated to keeping the school open, it subsidized tuition, sending up to $3,700 each month (the amount due for 12 students) to its parent organization, even though it only had four students enrolled. Tuition at the private school was one of the lowest in Wilmington at $250 per month.

But it wasn’t enough.

Adventist Education challenged Ephesus to boost its enrollment to at least 12 students and raise $60,000 in payroll balances for its teachers before re-opening. There are other Seventh-day schools in the area including Wilmington SDA School, Carolina Adventist Academy in Whiteville and Myrtle Beach SDA Christian School.

Sparks blamed the school’s sagging enrollment on the closing of a daycare linked to the school six years ago and the lack of community recruitment.

But he said the school has had a lasting impact on children in downtown Wilmington. In its history, the school was located in Castle Hayne and off Beasley Road.

The school once held fundraising education banquets with invited speakers talking about the state of American education. In 2002, one banquet theme was “The Role of the Home, the Church and the Community in the Education of the Child.” In 1985, an Ephesus school fundraiser featured Kennedy Center and Crystal Cathedral performer Wintley Phipps.

Sparks hopes the school can return to being a vibrant part of the downtown community again.

To prepare for a re-opening, Ephesus replaced all of the school’s windows, installed a handicapped stair access to its second floor and bought all new laptop computers.

There aren’t any electronic smartboards at Ephesus, as there are in

One of the classrooms at Ephesus Junior Academy. The school hopes to reopen in fall 2012. Photo by Amanda Greene.

many local public schools. But Sparks says the school has something more substantial – small class sizes and one-on-one teacher attention.

“We have a long history of being able to turn children around, children who have been in distress in the public school system,” he added. “When issues break out in the classroom, what the public schools can’t do is pray with the children. Our children can pray together.”

Ephesus Academy’s curriculum includes a bible class at each grade level along with art, computers, language arts, math, music, physical education, science and health and social studies.

But “turning children into Adventists isn’t the mission,” Sparks said. “We want to develop moral children to survive in the modern world.”

Newton took away many life lessons from his time at Ephesus Academy.

“Teachers then were more concerned with you learning the lesson versus preparing for a test,” he said. “And just being honest and always thinking about your fellow man, having integrity, always trying to do what was right and acknowledging the fact that you knew right from wrong. We were taught to acknowledge that.”

Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958 or on Twitter @WilmFAVS

Court says non-Jewish man can sue for anti-Semitic remarks

By STACY JONES and BEN HOROWITZ
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS)A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that a man who alleges he

endured anti-Semitic slurs can sue his former supervisors — even though he is not Jewish.

Myron Cowher, a former truck driver for Carson & Roberts Site Construction & Engineering Inc., in Lafayette, N.J., sued the company and three supervisors after he allegedly was the target of anti-Semitic remarks for more than a year.

Cowher, of Dingmans Ferry, Pa., produced DVDs that appear to show supervisors Jay Unangst and Nick Gingerelli making such comments in his presence as “Only a Jew would argue over his hours” and “If you were a German, we would burn you in the oven,” according to a state appeals court ruling handed down April 18.

The appeals court did not consider the merits of Cowher’s case, only whether he has standing to pursue it. The suit, alleging discrimination that created a hostile work environment, had been dismissed by a Superior Court judge who ruled that because Cowher was not a Jew, he could not sue.

However, the appeals court reversed the judge in its 3-0 decision, saying that if Cowher can prove the discrimination “would not have occurred but for the perception that he was Jewish,” his claim is covered by New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.

The “proper question” in this case, the court said, is what effect the supervisors’ allegedly derogatory comments would have on “a reasonable Jew,” rather than on a person of Cowher’s actual background, which is German-Irish and Lutheran.

Employment attorneys say the ruling is significant in that it expands the scope of who can bring discrimination suits under the state law by allowing a person who is not actually a member of a protected class to pursue a claim.

The law has typically been used to protect people based on their actual age, race, religion or sexuality. Judges, like the one who initially ruled on the validity of Cowher’s suit, have sometimes dismissed cases when there’s a discrepancy between the alleged remarks and a person’s actual characteristics.

The alleged slurs occurred from January 2007 until May 2008, when Cowher left the company due to an unrelated disability, according to his attorney, Robert Scirocco.

Gingerelli, who still works for the company, and Unangst, who does not, could not be reached for comment. Both men denied that they perceived Cowher to be Jewish, the court said.

Unangst also said that “perhaps” he had commented to Cowher about “Jew money,” that he had called him a “bagel meister” and that he had used the Hebrew folk song “Hava Nagila” as the ring tone for calls on his cell phone from Cowher, the appeals court said.

Cowher testified he had told both men to stop the comments, but they had not, the court said. Cowher’s attorney said Cowher is pleased with the ruling and intends to go forward with the case.

Cowher stayed on the job for more than a year after the alleged comments began because “he needed the work,” Scirocco said. He added that Cowher is now working as a truck driver for another company.

(Stacy Jones and Ben Horowitz write for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.

Nixon felon and evangelical icon Charles Colson dies at 80

Chuck Colson in prison. Photo via Religion News Service archives.

By DAVID MARK and ADELLE M. BANKS
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON (RNS) Charles W. Colson, the Watergate felon who became an evangelical icon and born-again advocate for prisoners, died Saturday (April 21) after a brief illness. He was 80.

Despite an early reputation as a cutthroat “hatchet man” for President Richard M. Nixon, Colson later built a legacy of repentance, based on his work with

Prison Fellowship, a ministry he designed to bring Bible study and a Christian message to prison inmates and their families.

Colson founded the group in 1976 upon release from federal prison on Watergate-related charges. Prison reform and advocating for inmates became his life’s work, and his lasting legacy.

Colson had undergone surgery on March 31 to remove a pool of clotted blood on his brain. On Wednesday (April 18), Prison Fellowship Ministries CEO Jim Liske told staff and supporters that Colson’s health had taken a “decided turn” and he would soon be “home with the Lord.”

Due to his illness, for the first time in 34 years, he did not spend Easter Sunday preaching to prisoners, his ministry said.

”For more than 35 years, Chuck Colson, a former prisoner himself, has had a tremendous ministry reaching into prisons and jails with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said evangelist Billy Graham in a statement. “When I get to Heaven and see Chuck again, I believe I will also see many, many people there whose lives have been transformed because of the message he shared with them.

He will be greatly missed by many, including me. I count it a privilege to have called him friend.”

In many ways, Colson’s life personified the evangelical ethos of a sinner

in search of redemption after a dramatic personal encounter with Jesus. He also embodied the evangelical movement’s embrace of conservative social issues, although often as a happy warrior.

Today, Prison Fellowship has more than 14,000 volunteers working in

President George W. Bush listens to Robert Sut...

President George W. Bush listens to Robert Sutton, left, a graduate of the Prison Fellowship Ministries InnerChange Freedom Initiative, during a roundtable discussion in the Roosevelt Room Wednesday, June 18, 2003. The initiative is is part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice System and the new prisoner reentry and treatment program proposed by the Department of Justice. White House photo by Tina Hager (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

more than 1,300 prisons across the country. More than 150,000 prisoners participate in its Bible studies and seminars every year.

The organization founded by Colson also provides post-release pastoring for thousands of ex-convicts, and supplies Christmas gifts to more than 300,000 kids with a locked-up parent through its Angel Tree program.

Colson also founded Justice Fellowship, to develop what he called Bible-based criminal justice, and advocate for prison reform. In 1993, Colson won the $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, and donated the money to his ministry.

As recently as February, Colson was still contributing to political debates, writing an open letter with fellow evangelical leader Timothy George that criticized the Obama administration’s health care contraception mandate.

”We do not exaggerate when we say that this is the greatest threat to religious freedom in our lifetime,” he wrote with George, comparing the mandate to policies of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

In 2009, Colson was a chief architect of the “Manhattan Declaration,” which advocated grass-roots resistance to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. He called the manifesto “one of the most important documents produced by the American church, at least in my lifetime.”

”The Christian’s primary concern is bringing people to Christ,” Colson told Christianity Today magazine in 2001. “But then they’ve got to take their cultural mandate seriously. We are to redeem the fallen structures of society.”

Colson also was a key figure in Evangelicals and Catholics Together, a network of religious leaders who found common ground supporting a “culture of life” and reaffirmed their stance in 2006 when they called abortion “murder.”

Religion was far from Colson’s mind during his early adult life, when his main passion was politics. A Boston native, Colson showed early signs of political acumen as a star debater in high school.

After graduating from Brown University, Colson enlisted in the Marines and rose to the rank of captain. Following law school and a stint in the Pentagon, Colson worked on Capitol Hill as a top aide to Sen. Leverett Saltonstall, R-Mass.

After serving on Nixon’s 1968 election team, Colson was appointed by the newly elected president as special counsel to the president. During Nixon’s first term, he was known as Nixon’s feared but respected “hatchet man.”

Colson once bragged of a willingness to “walk over my grandmother if necessary to assure the President’s reelection,” and was roundly known within the Nixon administration as the “evil genius.”

”I was known as the toughest of the Nixon tough guys,” he said in 1995.

Nixon himself described Colson as one of his most loyal aides. “When I complained to Colson I felt confident that something would be done, and I was rarely disappointed,” the former president wrote in his memoirs.

Among other activities, Colson helped set up the “Plumbers” to plug news leaks. The Plumbers engaged in illegal wiretapping of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex, triggering the scandal that took down the Nixon White House.

Colson was also involved in the creation of the Special Investigations Unit, whose members broke into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, the psychiatrist of Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, who had given copies of the Pentagon Papers, a secret account of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, to newspapers.

Nixon aides justified the break-in on the grounds of national security, but

Colson later admitted that the agents were trying to dig up damaging information about Ellsberg before his espionage trial.

As the Watergate scandal mushroomed, Colson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in 1974, and the felony led him to serve seven months of a one- to three-year sentence at Alabama’s Maxwell Prison as Prisoner 23226.

Colson later said he became a Christian before going to jail, and his time behind bars cemented his faith.

”There was more than a little skepticism in Washington, D.C., when I announced that I had become a Christian,” he said in 1995. “But I wasn’t bitter. I knew my task wasn’t to convince my former political cronies of my sincerity.”

In addition to his work with Prison Fellowship, Colson authored more than 30 books that sold more than 5 million copies, including his seminal 1976 autobiography, “Born Again.”

Colson became an evangelist for better prison conditions and championed what he called “restorative justice,” in which nonviolent criminals should stay out of jail, remain in the community where they committed their crime, and work to support their families and pay restitution to the victim.

Colson also forcefully advocated President Clinton’s impeachment and removal from office in 1998 over what he called perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from the Monica Lewinsky affair.

VIEWPOINTS: What’s more important to your faith – believing, behaving or belonging?

By AMANDA GREENE
Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com

A new survey out last week from the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs has some sobering figures about millennials leaving Christianity behind.

“A Generation in Transition: Religion, Values and Politics Among College-Age Millennials” said while only 11 percent of the millennials surveyed were religiously unaffiliated as children, now 25 percent identify as religiously unaffiliated. Catholics and mainline Protestant denominations lost the most footing among millennial membership.

At the same time, some Americans in middle age are returning to the faiths of their youth.

So this week’s Viewpoints deals with a human’s core desire when involved in a belief system or no faith at all:

What’s more important to your faith- believing, behaving or belonging?

David Scott

David Scott

I assume, in this context, that believing means religious belief or faith. If that’s the case, believing is not that important to me. In my case, I would prefer to define believing as having confidence that the spiritual and social beliefs I had were moral, logical and best for the common good. Without this type of belief system, my life would seem empty, meaningless and without purpose.

My first impulse to this answer is to reply “Behavior is by far the most important,” and I guess that comes close to what I think. What good is a religion or faith if it allows its adherents to behave poorly? What good is a belief system that allows its followers to justify criminal means to reach a selfish, misguided, or even a noble end? In modern society, we observe a series of perennial “holy jihads” fought by religious fundamentalists of all stripes who are convinced that his god is on his side. If a god condones this type behavior, what good is he?

Belonging is important to most people in that it helps to affirm one’s worth, gives identity, and provides many social advantages. Conversely, belonging can also have a corrupting influence on an individual, if that person finds himself belonging to a group that adopts a doctrine that is immoral, unenlightened, or counter to achieving the common good. In my observation, many groups, religions, political parties, or cults have seduced good individuals and indoctrinated them to become robotic monsters—puppets of groupthink or mob psychology.

Steve Lee

Steve Lee

In short, Buddhist practice values all three: belief, behavior, and belonging. Belief, behavior, and belonging: belief in Buddha and the example of his awakening; clarity of thought and behavior in and through the Dharma; and “being one—a “Buddhist”, that is—through refuge in the Sangha. Read Steve Lee’s expounded post on how Buddhist texts inform the values of believing, behaving and belonging later today on WilmingtonFAVS.

Philip Stine

Philip Stine

In the stream of Christianity where I grew up, right belief was all important. You had to believe in certain things, e.g. the resurrection, the need for personal salvation, or a triune God, to be a “real Christian.” I learned later that right belief is hardly even biblical. What is required is right relationships: we are to love God with our whole being, and we are to love what God created, specifically, our fellow human beings. Behaving and belonging are natural results of the these relationships. If we love others, we will act in certain ways, and instead of creating divisions, we will see how we are joined together.

Christine Moughamian

Christine Moughamian

In the context of faith or no faith at all, it seems belief would determine behavior and belonging.

A friend of mine once told me about a tragedy that happened a decade earlier to her son, then in his early twenties. When he was at a large public event, a young man stepped out of the crowd and held him up at gunpoint.

Her son was so shocked, he cried: “Are you going to shoot me?”

The mobster hesitated a fraction of a second; then shot.

Although he gravely wounded my friend’s son, he missed killing him, by a fraction of a… doubt?

The police later reported the mobster was required to kill four people that day, in cold blood, to gain admission in a street gang.

The mobster’s hesitation proved to me that he was not motivated by belief in a certain set of values but by a desire to belong.

A desire so strong that it drove him to attempt murder.

At the other end of the spectrum, I attended a retreat in August 2009 with Thich Nat Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who founded the Unified Buddhist Church. He gave a lecture on the Three Jewels of Buddhism: The Buddha (the teacher), The Dharma (the teaching), The Sangha (the community of believers). He emphasized the importance of belonging to a community of believers. That tenet echoed everything I’d heard before in my Yoga training.

Swami Satchidananda put it this way: “Associate yourself with like-minded people.”

In the two Christian churches I’ve belonged to in Wilmington, studies showed “fellowship” was the number one reason people became members.

Discrimination of belief is paramount since it dictates behavior. Without belief, behavior and belonging balanced as a solid tripod, we might be condemned to play musical chairs.

Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958 or on Twitter @WilmFAVS

BRIEF: Temple of Israel plans an “Invite your neighbor” service

The Temple of Israel is planning its first Invite Your Neighbor Shabbat service at 8 p.m. on May 4 at 1 S. 4th St. The service will include explanations of Jewish prayers and customs and a “Torah Roll” (a close-up look at and explanation of the Torah scroll).

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, courtesy StarNews file photo by Paul Stephen

“Many people are curious about Judaism and often aren’t sure if they are even allowed to enter a Temple or attend a service,” said Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, spiritual leader of Temple of Israel, Wilmington’s reform Jewish house of worship. “Of course they are always welcome, and this is a great chance to reach out to people, both unaffiliated Jews and those who are not Jewish.”

Details: 910-762-0000.

– Amanda Greene

House of Mercy grows; looks to become a community center

House of Mercy volunteers pray with a guest. Photo courtesy of Global River Church.

Andy Lee

By Blogger Andy Lee
Walk the Talk

Global River Church’s entire ministry is based on Ezekiel 47. In this chapter, the prophet describes a river flowing from the threshold of the temple of God. Ezekiel experiences the water deepening into a river that flows into the Dead Sea, instantly purifying the sea into fresh water where fish can swim and live. Everything that touches the flowing water thrives. Trees line the border of the river, and the trees contain healing in their leaves.

This is the vision that constitutes GRC’s mission to bring healing, both physical and spiritual to those in need. One way the church fulfills this mission is through its House of Mercy. They not only give monetary assistance, they also pray for physical and emotional healing, and they have witnessed miracles.

When I interviewed Pastor Michael Satorre, the pastor of GRC’s benevolence ministry, I was struck by Satorre’s humility and gentle spirit. He is a man who has given his life to service for others and the God he believes in. But the House of Mercy did not start with Satorre. In fact, he never planned to be a pastor.

A former pastor named David Green and another member of the church, Annie Shaw, started House of Mercy. His experience of living in poverty as a child made him passionate about helping people.  They counseled and assisted those in need the best they could with a small monthly budget of $500.

Not long after Green started this ministry, he died of a heart attack. His funeral was filled with people from all walks of life who shared testimonies of how Pastor Green had helped them. They told stories of him buying groceries for their families, giving away air conditioners, and bringing Christmas presents to children. The testimony of his generous heart made an impact on the leadership of the church who knew this ministry must continue.

Since his death, Green’s ministry has more than tripled in size. It has a much greater budget, more volunteers and serves a wider demographic. People from three surrounding counties come to House of Mercy for assistance.

The House of Mercy’s doors are open 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Fridays. It is

House of Mercy volunteers work with guests. Photo courtesy of Global River Church.

located in the Global River administration building behind the church. Participants can call ahead to schedule an appointment, but appointments are not necessary. Volunteers are available to counsel and pray with each client, and participants are provided a $20 Food Lion card and other assistance if needed.

Beyond their Friday ministry, the House of Mercy also prepares for hurricanes and disaster situations with its House of Mercy Response Team. The team stores enough canned goods and other non-perishable food to feed at least 250 people three meals a day for two weeks.

The House of Mercy also plans to start an after school feeding outreach that would involve traveling to different schools around the city to feed children who don’t get a meal when they go home.  For many of us, it is hard to believe there are children in our city who have no food at home. But this is the reality.

The program is modeled on the St. Louis Dream Center in Missouri.

“I see in the future of Wilmington a Dream Center, a place where broken families and single moms and just broken people can come and receive the love of Jesus without condemnation or judgment,” Satorre wrote in an email. “A place where they can receive healing and encouragement and especially hope. A place where they can receive medical, financial, spiritual help and shelter for homeless families, abused children and individuals.”

Sounds like a village of hope to me.

For more information contact Pastor Michael Satorre at 910-392-2899, ext. 103 or email him at mercy@globalriverchurch.com.

Southern Baptists to probe Richard Land’s Trayvon Martin remarks

Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, preaches Nov. 11 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned a master's degree and met his future wife in the 1970's. Land often acts as a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, articulating the denomination's positions on issues such as abortion, same-sex unions, bioethics and race relations. Photo by Bryan S. Berteau.

By ADELLE M. BANKS
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) Southern Baptist leaders will investigate whether their top ethicist and public policy director plagiarized racially charged remarks about the Trayvon Martin case that many say set back the denomination’s efforts on racial reconciliation.

Richard Land, who leads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, was accused of lifting remarks for his radio show that accused Democrats and civil rights leaders of exploiting the case of the unarmed Florida teenager who was shot and killed by a volunteer neighborhood watchman.

Even though Land has apologized for both the remarks and not attributing their source, the commission’s executive committee said it was obligated “to ensure no stone is left unturned.” An investigatory committee will “recommend appropriate action” to church leaders.

“They need the Travyon Martins to continue perpetuating their central myth: America is a racist and an evil nation. For them it’s always Selma Alabama circa 1965,” Land said on his radio program, speaking of civil rights activists.

Those comments, included in a partial transcript published by Baptist blogger and Baylor University Ph.D. student Aaron Weaver, were previously written by Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner.

While conceding that talk radio has different attribution policies than traditional journalism or academic scholarship, “we nevertheless agree with Dr. Land that he could, and should, do a better job in this area,” the Executive Committee stated.

In a statement, Land said he serves “at the will of the trustees,” and “I look forward to continuing to work with and under the oversight of my trustees.” A commission spokeswoman said Land was not commenting beyond his statement.

The commission trustees, along with other Southern Baptist leaders, noted Land’s role in the passage of the 1995 resolution in which Southern Baptists apologized for their past defense of slavery. They also credited him for “engaging the culture and our political leaders on matters of religious conviction.”

Yet others have criticized Land, including the Rev. Fred Luter, the New Orleans pastor who’s expected to become the SBC’s first African-American president, who called the remarks “unhelpful.”

Ed Stetzer, a Southern Baptist researcher who blogged about Land’s comments without mentioning him by name, said the firestorm threatens to undo progress made by the overwhelmingly white denomination.

“The Southern Baptist Convention still must earn a better reputation for racial inclusion and justice,” Stetzer wrote. “As such, perhaps SBC denominational leaders are not the best persons to speak into racially charged situations, critiquing the actions of African Americans or African American leaders.”

From prime-time hearthrob to Hollywood ‘freak’

By LAUREN MARKOE
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) Kirk Cameron was once one of Hollywood’s babies, the spunky,

Photo taken at the 41st Emmy Awards 9/17/89

Photo taken at the 41st Emmy Awards 9/17/89 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

handsome teenager who starred in the 1980s hit “Growing Pains,” and whose picture was taped inside many a schoolgirl’s locker.

But now, Hollywood scolds and even mocks Cameron who, at 41, is a vocal evangelical Christian, and, in the view of many of his fellow celebrities, kind of a jerk.

Cameron’s more recent acting and directing projects almost always carry a deeply Christian message, and he knows he is now the darling of only a certain segment of America. He even seems to take some pride in the fact.

“I’m kind of a Hollywood freak,” he said in a recent interview. “I didn’t really turn out the way most people turn out growing up in this industry.”

Which raises the question: Can an actor be both a pop culture icon and an outspoken Christian?

The latest chapter of Cameron’s tense relationship with Hollywood played out as the actor promoted his new documentary, “Monumental,” in which he argues that American civilization will self-destruct if it continues to spurn its Pilgrim forebears’ God-inspired blueprint for a righteous society.

“You look at the state of the world that we live in and all signs say ‘panic,'” he said.

Talking about the film with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Cameron gave his unvarnished opinion when asked about homosexuality. It’s “unnatural,” he said on the April 2 show. “I think that it’s — it’s detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”

The response drew rebukes from gay rights organizations, and ridicule from several Hollywood stars, including an off-color video from a group of fellow former child actors.

As Morgan later summed up the backlash, many people were “shocked by the fact of this sweet nice boy from ‘Growing Pains’ has come out with what he clearly felt were perfectly normal comments but actually in the cold light of day are transparently offensive.”

“I just don’t think you can sit there with a straight face and say ‘I’m a Christian, God-fearing, all-around good person, but by the way, I hate these people who were born the way they were.'”

Cameron fans, rushing to his defense from both Christian and secular corners of the Internet, made the point that he never actually said he hated anyone.

To them, he was attacked merely for speaking his and their truth; the very secular forces that Cameron warns of in his movies and ministries had once again proved just how eager they are to silence a believer.

“Finally someone had the courage to speak up for the Word of God,” one viewer posted on Morgan’s website. “Thank you, Kirk, you made me proud to be a Christian woman.”

But Cameron’s choice of words still sounded mean and backward to many in a country where a slim majority now supports gay marriage.

Hollywood evangelicals work in all parts of the industry, said Patton Dodd, who writes on religion and culture and has worked closely with evangelical pastors Ted Haggard and Rick Warren. But Cameron takes a different approach than most.

“It’s kind of like the difference between Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow,” Dodd said. Both are NFL star quarterbacks and believers. “But Manning is quieter about his faith. It’s just as fervent and strong by every indication. But he hasn’t made it part of his public image and Tebow has — and Cameron’s the same way.”

Well before he appeared on Morgan’s show, Cameron had made himself a hero to many conservative Christians, in both his personal and professional life.

At 17 — still starring in “Growing Pains” — he was an avowed atheist raised in a family that did not attend church. Then he went to a service with a friend’s father, and, as he has attested many times, realized that he was headed to hell.

Soon after, Cameron became “born again” and married “Growing Pains” co-star Chelsea Noble. The couple adopted four children, had two more and founded Camp Firefly in Georgia for terminally ill children and their families.

The Cameron family still lives in Los Angeles, not far from the Hollywood sign. His acting and directing, though, has kept him almost exclusively in the realm of Christian media.

In the past 15 years, Cameron has starred in the “Left Behind” franchise, a series of Christian thrillers based on the end of days. The books have sold 65 million copies, and the movies have fared well within Christian markets.

He also headlined the 2008 drama “Fireproof,” the highest-grossing independent film of 2008, about a firefighter who saves strangers but neglects his wife. Christian critics loved it. Mainstream critics found it preachy.

As he has pursued his Christian film projects, Cameron also founded, in 2002, a radio and television ministry, “The Way of the Master,” with New Zealand preacher Ray Comfort. The two men joined forces to inspire and teach Christians to evangelize, and the shows have further endeared Cameron with committed, traditional Christians.

But the choice to partner with the often brash Comfort also helped define Cameron as the kind of Christian who is bound to find himself marginalized in Tinseltown, said Larry Poland, an evangelical minister whose Los Angeles consulting firm aims to bridge the gap between Christians and mainstream Hollywood.

“I wouldn’t have picked Ray Comfort,” said Poland. “Ray Comfort brought to the TV show and to their writing a kind of acidity and an attitude. That didn’t help Kirk perpetuate that image of the gracious, reasonable Christian.”

“Monumental,” which Cameron narrates, was released in 500 theaters on March 27. It promotes the gospel of American exceptionalism, rooted in the religious zeal of the Pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic to build a more divinely inspired society than the one they left in England.

Though educators who work on social studies curricula say most American public school children are taught of the Pilgrim’s religious motivation, Cameron complains of a nationwide campaign to strip Christianity from U.S. history. He refers to public schools as “government schools,” and deplores an “all-out assault on the Christian heritage of our country.”

In Plymouth, Mass., he finds the Pilgrims’ faith-based blueprint sculpted into a little-known, towering granite monument that was dedicated 123 years ago. Cameron spends a good part of “Monumental” walking around its base with an evangelist, trying to decipher its message.

“Monumental” does not rail against homosexuality or abortion. Cameron asks his audience to help the nation reclaim its godly heritage, but makes few specific demands. Perhaps when the project is nothing short of saving America, it’s best to speak as inclusively as possible.

But Cameron, despite his star status with some evangelicals, may never reach the larger, more diverse audience that made “Growing Pains” a prime-time hit. And maybe he doesn’t care. But given the monumental goal of his latest big-screen endeavor, it seems as if he does.

“The moral fabric of our nation is unraveling so quickly,” he said. “If we care about our kids and the world that they’re living in, we need to change course before the whole thing goes down the toilet in the next 20 or 30 years.”