Tag: Barack Obama

San Bernardino massacre puts focus on Muslims

San Bernardino massacre puts focus on Muslims

Jihadist theology vs. mainstream Islam debated. 

Finalist (part of three-story portfolio), Magazine News Religion Reporting, Religion News Association

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Anger.

That was minister and elder Royce Bell’s first reaction when a friend called to tell him her son, Robert Adams, had died in the terrorist attack on county employees enjoying a holiday celebration.

In all, the Dec. 2 massacre by Islamic extremists wielding military-grade rifles killed 14 and injured 21 — stunning this city of 215,000 about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

“I cannot fathom a religion … that so radicalizes its adherents to where they become murderers and evildoers,” the San Bernardino Church of Christ preacher said, referring to the jihadist theology espoused by the terror group Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS.

The California tragedy came on the heels of coordinated suicide bombings and shootings that claimed 130 lives in Paris on Nov. 13.

Among America’s estimated 2.7 million Muslims, both attacks stirred fears of a backlash — concerns ratcheted up when presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Addressing the nation from the Oval Office, President Barack Obama declared that the San Bernardino killers “had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.”

Obama urged Americans not to define the fight with terrorists as a war between America and Islam.

“Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors,” the president said.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the January 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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Same-sex marriage legalized — now what?

Same-sex marriage legalized — now what?

Landmark ruling alarms Christians who view marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

“If Caesar gives it, he can take it away.”

So warns minister and lawyer Melvin Otey in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 5-4 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Despite declarations of support for religious freedom by President Barack Obama and the high court’s majority, Christians “definitely should be concerned,” Otey said.

“I believe churches and Christian institutions will be significantly affected by the larger movement that has ushered in the acceptance of same-sex unions,” said the former U.S. Justice Department attorney, now an associate professor of law at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala.

“It is at least possible that churches and organizations that speak against homosexuality, for example, will lose their tax-exempt status because the exemption is a benefit bestowed by the government,” added Otey, who preached for the Georgia Avenue Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., for eight years.

For members of Churches of Christ — most of whom believe God ordained marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman — the ruling has sparked myriad questions and concerns:

Read the full story.

This story appears in the August 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

How the ‘faith-based FEMA’ are helping Moore move on

How the ‘faith-based FEMA’ are helping Moore move on

How the ‘Faith-Based FEMA’ Are Helping Moore Move On

As President Obama pledges recovery, Christian volunteers aid Oklahoma tornado victims based on what each denomination does best (reporting from Moore, Okla.). Christianity Today story published online May 26.

MOORE, Okla. — At the edge of the disaster zone—just across the street from the decimated Moore Medical Center—teens and adults in cowboy hats cook smoked sausages outside the Central Church of Christ.

This group of volunteers drove 430 miles from Denver City, Texas, southwest of Lubbock, to prepare meals for victims after last Monday’s EF5 tornado destroyed 1,200 homes and killed 24 people, including 10 children.

Inside the church, worshipers—many wearing bright orange “Disaster Assistance” T-shirts—at the Sunday service maneuver around ceiling-high stacks of emergency food and supply boxes delivered on a tractor-trailer by Nashville, Tennessee-based Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort Inc.

The church’s marquee sign along Interstate 35 normally grabs drivers’ attention with catchy Bible verses and witty sayings.

But now it declares simply: “Disaster Relief Center.”

Even as President Barack Obama consoles victims and promises the government’s assistance “every step of the way,” the so-called “faith-based FEMA” is already out in force—from Mennonite Disaster Service chainsaw crews to Samaritan’s Purse debris cleanup teams to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance pastoral counselors.

Election night: Reflections of a career journalist

By Bobby Ross Jr.

Matt Curry, a former colleague of mine with The Associated Press in Dallas and now a Presbyterian pastor, tweeted last night:

“What he said,” I immediately replied.

For the first time in many years, I’ll enjoy a presidential election night from the cheap seats — my couch at home — rather than inside a frenzied newsroom or at a campaign watch party.

Twenty years ago, I wrote the local angle story on Bill Clinton’s election for The Edmond Sun, the afternoon Oklahoma daily where I worked for a year and a half. The banner headline on the front page on Nov. 4, 1992: “Bush Wins America, But Loses Edmond.” I still chuckle as I recall George Nigh, the popular former two-term Oklahoma governor, singing to me over the phone after his close friend’s victory:

George Nigh couldn’t be happier.

Larry Stein could be a whole lot happier.

Pat Briley is not as happy as he would like to be, but not as sad as he could be.

“Happy times are here again,” Nigh sang jokingly this morning, relishing the election of not only a Democrat, but a close friend, as president.

But while Nigh savored Bill Clinton’s electoral landslide, staunch Republican Stein lamented George Bush’s devastating loss. Dedicated “Perotite” Briley looked to a future with the Ross Perot movement remaining a live force in American politics.

Nigh, as a former Oklahoma governor, developed many relationships with other states’ top leaders.

However, the newly inaugurated University of Central Oklahoma president formed a special bond with Arkansas Gov. — make that President-elect — Clinton.

Eight years ago, I covered George W. Bush’s final rally of the 2004 campaign in Dallas:

DALLAS — As Monday faded into Election Day, the bitter divide over the presidential race was evident outside President Bush’s late-night rally at Southern Methodist University.

Deep in the heart of Bush Country, several dozen demonstrators supportive of Democratic nominee John Kerry carried signs such as “George W. Bin Laden” and “Bible Toting Liar.”

The demonstrators taunted Bush supporters leaving Monday night’s rally with chants of “One More Day!”

“We want to welcome Bush home and tell him to make himself comfortable because we’re sending John Kerry to Washington,” said Dallas resident Heidi Wanken, mother of a 2-year-old girl and founder of the organization Moms for Kerry.

Bush fans sporting red, white and blue “W’s” and an assortment of “Bush-Cheney” signs had a different message for the president: “Four More Years!”

Police standing in the street kept the two sides from exchanging more than words.

Four years ago, in the reddest of the red states, AP dispatched me (working as a freelancer) to the Oklahoma Democratic Party’s watch party for Barack Obama. This was my small contribution to the 2008 Oklahoma election roundup:

After Obama’s national victory was announced, Democrats who gathered at an election watch party in Oklahoma City danced and waved political signs.

“This is the most electrifying moment in Oklahoma and U.S. state history,” said Kitti Asbery, vice chairman of the state Democratic party.

Tonight, like my friend Matt, I’m sure I’ll miss the journalistic adrenaline rush of election night just a little bit. And the pizza, too.

Contract concern: USAID policy on hiring alarms charities

Contract Concern: USAID Policy on Hiring Alarms Charities

Groups concerned religious liberty fear they could be challenged in the future. Christianity Today April print issue.

Evangelical organizations that partner with Uncle Sam to deliver humanitarian aid overseas are voicing concern and outrage over a new federal policy that “strongly encourages” all contractors to develop anti-discrimination policies covering employees’ sexual orientation.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) issued the policy statement—which has received little publicity—in October, a week after the Supreme Court let stand an appellate court ruling that favored World Vision’s faith-based hiring policies.

The high court left in place an August 2010 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals against three former employees fired after World Vision concluded that they did not believe that Jesus Christ is fully God.

All World Vision U.S. employees must sign a statement of faith and agree to a standard of conduct that limits sexuality to “a God-ordained covenant between a man and a woman,” said senior vice president Kent Hill. “For a government agency to ‘strongly encourage’ us to abandon such core beliefs in our hiring policies is offensive and uncalled for,” he said. Last year the 1,200-employee charity received nearly $200 million in government grants—19 percent of its total budget.

‘He was a hero to his church family’

‘He was a hero to his church family’: Member killed, wife wounded when gunman opens fire on Arizona congresswoman (reporting from Tucson, Ariz.). Page 1 lead.

First Place, News Story, Associated Church Press

Finalist (part of three-story portfolio), Magazine News Religion Reporting, Religion News Association

Third Place, General News Reporting, Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

TUCSON, Ariz. – Until a clear, crisp Saturday morning erupted in gunfire outside a Safeway supermarket, few had heard of the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ.

Desert terrain and mountain ranges surround this city of 550,000, about 60 miles north of the Mexican border, where the 120-member congregation meets in a red-brick building shaded by palm trees.

A familiar face only to his friends, relatives and church family, 76-year-old Dorwan Stoddard served Jesus in obscurity — taking charge of maintaining the 50-year-old church building and leading the benevolence ministry with his wife, Mavy.

“He was a hero to his church family,” pulpit minister Mike Nowak said.

But in an instant, he became a hero to millions and propelled the Mountain Avenue church into the national spotlight.

On the morning of Jan. 8, the Christian couple had gone to meet Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a “Congress on Your Corner” event. When a would-be assassin opened fire as the Stoddards waited in line, Dorwan tried to protect his wife and was hit in the head, witnesses said.

Tears, prayers follow Arizona mass shooting (reporting from Tucson, Ariz.). Inside Story.

One boy’s Bible reading inspires church. Second Front.

Building a lasting faith in teens: National Conference on Youth Ministries emphasizes the crucial role of parents (reporting from Colorado Springs, Colo.). Second Front.

Less aid for AIDS?

Less aid for AIDS?

Groups fear impact of Obama administration’s PEPFAR stance. February issue.

Leaders of Christian organizations that fight AIDS in Africa are expressing fears that the U.S. government is slowing its fight against the disease. The Obama administration is shifting its global health emphasis from putting more people on AIDS drugs to combating less-costly diseases.

“There seems to be an AIDS funding fatigue developing on many levels,” said Nelis du Toit, director of the Christian AIDS Bureau for Southern Africa.

The 2010 federal budget allocates $5.7 billion for programs like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. That represents a 3.6 percent, or $200 million, increase over 2009.

“Technically, it is not flatlining, but given the very considerable growth over the past five years, the AIDS advocates are considering this flatlining,” said Ray Martin, executive director of Christian Connections for International Health.