Religious Broadcasters Meet. The annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters is taking place this week in Orlando, Fla. I spoke with Jerry Johnson, the president of NRB, and he said his goal is to make the NRB a staunch defender of the First Amendment to the Constitution, the amendment that protects not just freedom of speech and the press, but also religious liberty. Thousands of people are gathered here. Among the higher-profile presentations was a media breakfast hosted by The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association that was surprisingly political in nature, highlighting Franklin Graham’s 2016 pre-election tour of state capitals and a keynote speech by Franklin Graham’s daughter Cissie Graham Lynch, a popular blogger who was also an outspoken Trump supporter last year. The leftist group SoulForce organized protests at the meeting, culminating Monday in some of the protesters being handcuffed by police.
Spain’s Minister of Sex. With birth rates falling in developed countries around the world, one of the most significant problems facing the leaders and the economies of these countries is a falling population. This problem is so acute in Spain that the country has appointed its first “minister of sex.” The goal: Boost Spain’s falling birth rate. According to Fox News, “Prime minister Mariano Rajoy appointed Edelmira Barreira as the country’s sex tsar to get Spaniards to produce more babies.” Many European countries are facing similar problems, but Spain has been hit especially hard by falling birth rates. Fox reports that “since 2008 the number of births in Spain has plunged by 18 per cent. And the number of childless couples has nearly tripled from 1.5 million in 1977 to 4.4 million in 2015. Most Spanish women say they would like two or more children but in 2015 those aged 18 to 49 had an average of 1.3 children—well below the EU figure of 1.58.”
Are Progressives Discovering God? According to a story in the New York Times, Democrats have not been comfortable—for a generation or more—talking about God in their political discourse, and this “God Gap” has been a big reason Republicans now control the White House, both houses of the U.S. Congress, and a majority of governor’s mansions and state legislatures. But that could be changing. That Times article observed that Hillary Clinton used coded “God Talk” in some if her commercials in the last election, and there’s some evidence that while evangelicals didn’t take her religious faith seriously, many Americans who still value such virtues as justice and fairness are comfortable with this form of secularized civil religion. Molly Worthen, in a separate Times article, points out that the religious language of the Left often borrows from Liberation Theology, which the American people have largely rejected, but which is nonetheless finding an audience with groups like SoulForce (mentioned above) and the Moral Monday protests that began in North Carolina but have spread around the country. Both of these New York Times articles display the typical liberal one-sidedness we have come to expect from this newspaper, but I nonetheless recommend them both to you as helpful roadmaps to the religious left.
Monk’s Corner. A Benedictine monk is saving important cultural artifacts from ISIS. According to an article in The Atlantic, Father Columba Stewart, a 59-year-old American, “has spent the past 13 years roaming from the Balkans to the Middle East in an effort to save Christian and Islamic manuscripts threatened by wars, theft, weather—and, lately, the Islamic State.” “Given what’s happened in the last years since the rise of ISIS, it’s very clear that things are really endangered,” Stewart said. “It’s imperative to make sure that these manuscripts are safe, because we don’t know what will happen to them.” The Atlantic story continues, “He has trained local teams to photograph centuries-old books with the help of the non-profit organization he directs, the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML). Based out of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, HMML is dedicated to preserving endangered manuscripts on microfilm and in digital format. So far, it has managed to photograph more than 140,000 complete manuscripts, for a total of more than 50,000,000 handwritten pages, according to the organization’s website.”
Image copyright National Religious Broadcasters.