Tag: presidential politics

South Carolina church battles opioid ‘emergency’

South Carolina church battles opioid ‘emergency’

Addicts find love, hope — and Jesus — through ministries focused on recovery and discipleship.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

SURFSIDE BEACH, S.C.Opioids, meet Jesus.

The drugs behind a crisis that President Donald Trump characterizes as a “national emergency” are no match for the savior of the world.

That’s the message at the Grand Strand Church of Christ, which has become a haven for prodigal sons — and daughters — caught up in addiction.

“The whole congregation kind of took me in and just showed me as much love as they can,” said Jordan Taylor, a recovering heroin addict who served prison time for drug crimes. “I went through ups and downs, and they’d always accept me with open arms.

“They would never judge me or anything like that,” added Taylor, who was baptized after showing up for the church’s Celebrate Recovery program and studying the Bible.

The church in this beach town battles an epidemic — linked to opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers like oxycodone and fentanyl — that has caused drug overdoses to skyrocket nationally.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the September 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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Robert Jeffress on God, Trump and North Korea: A pastor explains his politics

Robert Jeffress on God, Trump and North Korea: A pastor explains his politics

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

DALLAS — Anyone who knows the Bible shouldn’t take issue with the idea that God has given President Trump authority to take out North Korea’s dictator, said Pastor Robert Jeffress, the Dallas megachurch leader who drew sharp rebukes for stating just that.

Jeffress sat down for an interview with RNS after his sermon Sunday (Aug. 13), just days after his words made headlines around the world. Christians and non-Christians accused him of exacerbating an already alarming war of words between Trump and the temperamental, young leader of nuclear-armed North Korea.

The critics have overreacted, said Jeffress, lead pastor of First Baptist Dallas, whose public observances on current events have not for the first time made him a target. A public pastor with the president’s ear, Jeffress, 61, does not shy away from sharing his belief that Scripture should undergird politics and diplomacy.

“What I said was that the Bible has given government the authority to use whatever force necessary, including assassination or war, to topple an evil dictator like Kim Jong Un,” said Jeffress, elaborating on a Tuesday (Aug. 8) statement in which he said that God has giving Trump “authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

“That authority comes from Romans 13. Paul said that government has been established by God to be an avenger of those who practice evil,” Jeffress told RNS. “I made it very clear that Romans 12 says we are to forgive one another when people offend us — don’t repay evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.

“But in Romans 13, Paul isn’t talking about individual Christians. He’s talking about government. Government is an organization God uses to bring vengeance against those who practice evil.”

Jeffress said his statement wasn’t the same as saying that “God ordained President Trump to nuke North Korea.”

But many thought it came too close.

Read the full story.

Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.

Amid partisan din, Sen. James Lankford walks a fine line: Pastor and politician

Amid partisan din, Sen. James Lankford walks a fine line: Pastor and politician

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

OKLAHOMA CITY — As music plays softly and the Quail Springs Baptist Church prepares to sing “Jesus Is Tenderly Calling,” the guest speaker urges the crowd to bow and pray.

“Here’s my very simple invitation,” the fill-in preacher tells the congregation. “There’s a God who loves you and will walk with you through some very difficult things. Are you interested in coming to know him?”

It’s a traditional altar call — the kind offered in countless evangelical churches each Sunday.

What makes this one unusual is the person behind the pulpit: U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a rising political star who mixes a boyish, Opie Taylor-like face with a booming, bass voice.

In the nation’s capital, Lankford’s weekdays consist of Senate Intelligence Committee hearings into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election and frequent cable news appearances to discuss policy questions ranging from national security to health care.

“He’s one of the most respected members of the Senate, even though he’s only been there two years,” said Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats. “He’s deeply respected on both sides of the aisle.”

But each weekend, the former youth pastor flies home to Oklahoma and worships with the Quail Springs church, a large Southern Baptist congregation in this Bible Belt state capital. Here, the senator insists, he’s not “The Honorable James Lankford.” He’s simply “James,” husband of Cindy and father of Hannah and Jordan.

Read the full story.

Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.

 

The pope praised him for providing for his parents; now Texas may want to deport them

The pope praised him for providing for his parents; now Texas may want to deport them

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

FORT WORTH, Texas — For the past two years, Mexican immigrant Ricardo Ortiz felt he had an advocate.

Pope Francis, speaking via satellite, had praised Ortiz for “the way you gave everything you could as a boy, when you supported your family.”

Now, the 21-year-old Ortiz — like numerous other Hispanics in Texas  — worries about how the Lone Star State’s immigration enforcement crackdown may make his family a target.

While Ortiz has a temporary work permit, his father and mother lack proper documentation. A new state law — set to take effect Sept. 1 if it survives legal challenges by major Texas cities — would allow a police officer to inquire about his or his parents’ immigration status in a routine traffic stop.

“It’s basically people-hunting. It’s like the new sport here in Texas, and the sponsor is Texas,” the Houston resident said of Senate Bill 4, a controversial measure banning “sanctuary cities” — local governments that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration laws.

“To me, it’s very racist, and I don’t know how people are able to look past that. I don’t understand how people are able to vote for that.”

Bishops for Texas’ 15 Roman Catholic dioceses — comprising an estimated 8.4 million parishioners statewide — are among the law’s harshest critics, maintaining it “neglects Christ’s call to welcome the stranger and undermines our nation’s heritage to offer the light of freedom to the oppressed.”

The bishops recently developed a resource guide explaining their opposition and providing a “know your rights” checklist on how immigrants can exercise their Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections.

Read the full story.

Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.

Trump coverage wins first-place SPJ award for election reporting

Trump coverage wins first-place SPJ award for election reporting

My stories on Donald Trump and other Republican candidates campaigning in Oklahoma City last year earned a first-place award for election reporting.

I received the honor in the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists’ 2017 contest.

The winning package included the main story “In the GOP primaries, do politics Trump values and character?” along with a column “GOP presidential politics, professional wrestling style” and a related story “Elephant in the pews: Is the GOP the party of Churches of Christ?”

I had a fun time at the April 22 awards banquet with my son Keaton, a journalism major at Oklahoma Christian University.

— Bobby

UPDATE: The same coverage also won a first-place award in the Associated Church Press national contest.

Syrian refugees find ‘second family’ in Canadian churches

Syrian refugees find ‘second family’ in Canadian churches

Toronto-area Christians welcomed Muslim strangers and ‘gained so much in the process.’

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ST. CATHARINES, Ontario — Ten-year-old Mohammed and his sister Miriam, 6, shriek with excitement when they hear knocking at the front door.

The pint-sized Syrian refugees are expecting Jori Warren, one of a handful of Canadian church members bringing meals while the children’s mother, Samia, recovers from gallbladder surgery.

“Jori!” Mohammed exclaims as he jumps up. “I’ll get it.”

“No!” Miriam protests. “I want to get it.”

The brother and sister trip over each other as they run to answer the door.

A year ago, two Churches of Christ south of Toronto — their hearts touched by the plight of strangers abroad and resolved to show the love of Jesus — sponsored the Faham Katan family’s resettlement to Canada.

In the United States, new President Donald Trump’s push to bar refugees from Muslim-majority nations deemed terrorism threats — including Syria — has dominated headlines.

But here in Canada, the government has welcomed more than 40,000 men, women and children fleeing Syria’s civil war since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s October 2015 election.

On this recent Saturday — with Mohammed, Miriam and their four other sisters all home from school — the Faham Katan household buzzes with chatter and laughter.

In the living room, the Muslim father, Moamar, 44, visits with minister Noel Walker and his wife, Julie, from the Tintern Church of Christ, which joined with the Beamsville Church of Christ to help the family start a new life here in Canada’s Niagara region.

A hijab covers the head of 18-year-old Samira — the oldest sister — as she serves tiny cups of expresso to the family’s guests.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the April 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

In rural Canada, churches that once shunned one another open their hearts to Syrian refugees

In rural Canada, churches that once shunned one another open their hearts to Syrian refugees

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

DAUPHIN, Manitoba (RNS) Ken Yakielashek, a Roman Catholic and semiretired farmer in the Canadian Prairies, says he remembers when Christians of varying denominations “wouldn’t talk to one another.”

To Yakielashek, that makes what’s happened in Dauphin — a rural community 200 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Winnipeg — all the more remarkable.

A year and a half ago, three churches put aside theological differences and came together to sponsor the resettlement of three Syrian refugee families to this town of 8,500.

“We have three different theological outlooks on things, but they’ve been pushed to the background,” said Ron Marlin, a lay leader for Dauphin First United Church, a liberal mainline Protestant congregation.

“The focus was very much on helping our neighbors in need,” agreed Cordell Lind, whose wife, the Rev. Lorayln Lind, serves as pastor for the conservative evangelical First Baptist Church of Dauphin.

In the United States, new President Trump’s effort to bar refugees from certain Muslim-majority nations deemed terrorism threats — including Syria — has dominated headlines for weeks.

But here in Canada, the government has welcomed more than 40,000 men, women and children fleeing Syria’s civil war since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s October 2015 election.

Read the rest of the story.

Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.