- The Washington Times
Sunday, November 6, 2022


Welcome to Higher Ground, the faith-centric newsletter focused on the intersection of culture and politics from experienced journalists at The Washington Times.

This will be the last time you receive Higher Ground unless you have signed up. Click here to sign up and continue to receive Higher Ground from Billy Hallowell and Mark Kellner.

With the midterm elections approaching on Tuesday, a new survey found that half of American Protestants want “the church of their choice” to be in sync with their own political views.That’s the word from a Lifeway Research survey of 1,002 U.S. Protestants conducted in September by the Southern Baptist-affiliated polling group. Interestingly, Methodists (88%) and members of Restorationist congregations (80% and a cohort that includes the Churches of Christ) most desire political alignment in the pews. Baptists, Presbyterian/Reformed churchgoers, Lutherans and non-denominational church members? None of these categories crack the 50% mark.

Another couple of findings: Most under age 50 (57%) said they would rather worship with those of like political views, a figure that drops to 47% for the 50-65 age group and 47% for those over 65. Those with a high school education or less, at 44%, are the least likely to demand similarity of viewpoints.

Sikhs gain support in Marines quest

Members of the Sikh religion asking for Marine Corps accommodations for long hair and turbans have gained new allies in their legal quest, including a former secretary of the Army, Eric Fanning, who served under President Obama and was the first openly gay leader of a U.S. military service.

Attorneys representing three Sikh Marine Corps recruits — Jaskirat Singh, Aekash Singh and Milaap Singh Chahal — filed a brief as they wait for a ruling on whether the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will grant an injunction allowing them to join the Marine Corps without having to cut their hair and shave their beards. Enlistees in the Army, Navy and Air Force are able to gain exemptions.

The long hair and beards are key elements of observance in the Sikh faith, which has 30 million adherents worldwide and an estimated 700,000 followers in the U.S. 

Hard ‘no’ on women as pastors

A Southern Baptist pastor in Northern Virginia has made waves with a call for the denomination’s executive committee to advance an amendment to its constitution explicitly barring women from holding the title of pastor.

The Rev. Mike Law Jr. of Arlington Baptist Church is circulating a letter titled “A Call to Keep Our Unity,” calling for the exclusion of female pastors. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 900 Southern Baptist Convention pastors and officials had signed the letter.

The topic of female pastors has been a hot-button issue for the denomination, which has 13.7 million members. Several Washington-area SBC churches have women on staff with the title of “pastor.” 

Saddleback Church in Southern California, arguably the largest SBC outpost with about 23,500 attending weekly, drew fire for ordaining three women as pastors in 2021. The church’s recently retired senior pastor, the Rev. Rick Warren, who started the congregation, gave an impassioned defense at the June 2022 SBC business meeting: “Are we gonna keep bickering over secondary issues? Or are we gonna keep the main thing the main thing?” he asked.

‘Day of the Dead’ lives

Thanks in large measure to the Disney animated film “Coco,” what was an obscure Mexican celebration has become a North American “fan favorite” in Hispanic and White communities.

On the “Día de los Muertos,” or “Day of the Dead,” home altars remembering deceased relatives align with sugar skulls and faces painted to resemble skeletons. The remembrance was first highlighted in the U.S. by Chicano artists who had seen installations in rural Mexico, said Regina Marchi, a media studies professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Nowadays, there are also “Day of the Dead” costumes, Barbie dolls, planters and other merchandising gambits.

However, it’s important to link memorials for dead ancestors to the Christian roots of the practice, said Roman Catholic priest the Rev. Steve Grunow, chief operating officer of Word on Fire Ministries. The two days of “Day of the Dead” celebrations fall on the Catholic holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, Nov 1. And Nov. 2. Otherwise, he added, it opens the door to spiritually dangerous occultic practices.

In our opinion

Evil is real — don’t ignore it: Just before Halloween and the “Day of the Dead,” columnist Billy Hallowell wrote that evil — a word usually associated with mass murderers or those who persecute people of faith — has a “deeper connotation,” one “that cracks through every facet of the human experience.”

Society tends to celebrate evil as something light-hearted — such as Halloween — Mr. Hallowell says, but there are real dangers to occultic encounters. “The real story is what happens when evil is defeated,” he said, noting several examples of occult practitioners finding the light of faith.

“Christian Democrats” no more: Everett Piper, a former university president, maintains in his weekly column that the era of friendly political disagreement is over.

“As a conservative, I was often in the minority, but that didn’t impede mutual respect, nor did it hinder friendships. Political differences were stark, but nearly all of them boiled down to disputes over means and not ends. All of us, for example, agreed that child care was a good thing,” Mr. Piper writes

“We challenged each other’s politics but never questioned one another’s biblical faith. Those days are gone.”

Now, he asserts, militants in the Democratic Party advocate abortion without limits, normalizing pornography in schools under the guise of “sex education,” and gender-changing procedures for young children and teens that are irreversible. 

“I used to concede that there were many Christian Democrats, but I no longer believe this to be true,” he writes.

That wraps up this week’s Higher Ground. Read The Washington Times for more daily headlines.

Click here to sign up and continue to receive Higher Ground from Billy Hallowell and Mark Kellner every Sunday afternoon. 

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.