In the wake of one of the greatest tragedies to hit the Sikh community in North America, Southern Baptists have an unprecedented opportunity, reports Baptist Press, to reach out to their Sikh neighbors with the gospel of Jesus Christ, says Aslam Masih, North American Mission Board’s national coordinator for Muslim people groups and South Asians. Masih’s comments come after the tragedy at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee on Sunday, Aug. 5. A gunman killed seven people, including himself, turning the nation’s attention to a religion of more than 20 million people worldwide. “We have an opportunity now to turn this very sad situation into a life-changing encounter with the Gospel for Sikhs throughout North America,” Masih said. Masih estimated there are more than 1.1 million Sikhs on the continent. Many of those Sikhs are concentrated in major metropolitan areas like New York City, Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Yet, Masih says, Southern Baptists have no churches specifically focused on reaching Sikhs with the gospel. Masih expressed hope that through Send North America, Southern Baptists with a passion to reach Sikhs will partner together to start new works among them. Send North America is NAMB’s church planting and evangelism strategy to penetrate lostness in 29 urban areas in North America. Through Send North America, NAMB is connecting church planters with partner churches and church planters with places that need new churches. Chris McKean, a senior at Truett-McConnell Christian College in Cleveland, Ga., knows God has placed Sikhs on his heart, notes Baptist Press. McKean says he was heartbroken when he read about the shooting. “Many people in the Christian faith don’t know about Sikh people,” McKean says. “A year ago, I didn’t know who Sikhs were. I thought they were a branch of Islam.” McKean and 13 students majoring in world missions from Truett-McConnell recently visited Bangkok as part of their senior capstone to learn about what Sikhs believe. They spent time with IMB workers, whose ministry focuses on the people group. Bryan, who is preparing to start doctoral studies in Sikhism, has spent hours reading and learning about the people and their culture; his passion is to see Sikhs come to know Christ as their Savior. Growing up in New York, Bryan says his friends were two Sikh brothers. Every Saturday, the three would hang out and eat Punjabi food. “From a young age, He’s [God] given me a heart for Sikh people,” Bryan says. “God’s put Sikhs in our lives. Our heart is to share with them. I’m praying God would use this event to open the eyes of the church.”

Other news:

  • The U.S. State Department removed the sections covering religious freedom from the Country Reports on Human Rights, reports cnsnews.com. The new human rights reports—purged of the sections that discuss the status of religious freedom in each of the countries covered—are also the human rights reports that include the period that covered the Arab Spring and its aftermath. Therefore, the reports do not provide in-depth coverage of what has happened to Christians and other religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East that saw the rise of revolutionary movements in 2011 in which Islamist forces played an instrumental role. Leonard Leo, who recently completed a term as chairman of the USCIRF, says that removing the sections on religious freedom from the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights is a bad idea. “The commission that I served on has some real concerns about that bifurcation, because the human rights reports receive a lot of attention, and to have pulled religious freedom out of it means that fewer people will obtain information about what’s going on with that particular freedom or right. So you don’t have the whole picture because they split it up now,” Leo told CNSNews.com. Former U.S. diplomat Thomas Farr says it’s possible that the move to totally separate religious freedom from the human rights reports could simply be a bureaucratic maneuver. But another possibility is much more likely. “The other possibility is the Obama administration is downplaying international religious freedom,” Farr said. Farr, who served in the State Department under both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, was the first director of the Office of International Religious Freedom. “I mean, it is important to note here that I do not know—I have no personal knowledge of the logic that went into removing religious freedom from the broader human rights report; but I also have observed during the three-and-a-half years of the Obama administration that the issue of religious freedom has been distinctly downplayed,” Farr said. “As far as I know, the administration has paid very little attention to the religion-state issues, in terms of policy effort, in terms of programs on the ground.” Former USCIRF Chairman Leo says the fact is the administration no longer makes the proper distinction between freedom of religion and freedom of worship.
  • An advocate of traditional marriage has a problem with Amtrak using its taxpayer-subsidized advertising dollars to focus on homosexuals and lesbians, reports onenewsnow.com. Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality reports that the “Ride With Pride” campaign encourages couples to go to “gay-friendly” destinations like Martha’s Vineyard. “It appears that Amtrak is following the lead of private corporations in going after the big gay dollar,” he notes. “And the difference is, unfortunately for the taxpayers, we subsidize Amtrak. So now, effectively since Amtrak is doing special ads for homosexuals, the taxpayers are subsidizing the promotion of homosexuality.” The two ads—one featuring two men, the other featuring two women—also promote the half-price campaign for children traveling with adults. Amtrak says it is all about diversity and embracing respect for people’s differences, but LaBarbera questions whether the campaign is about money or promoting the homosexual agenda. “I think Amtrak is trying to get the homosexuals’ business,” he believes. “That’s another lesson here . . . there’s a lot of money among gay activists. The ads say ‘Ride With Pride’—in other words, gay pride. But it’s not all about money in our culture, and the reality is that homosexuality is nothing to be proud of.” The AFTAH president concludes that Amtrak, like other corporations, is promoting homosexual behavior as normal. But as he points out, “It is a grievous sin. That’s the reality of it.”
  • A significant number of social and personality psychologists, reports The Christian Post, have told researchers they would discriminate against conservatives in decisions about publishing, grant applications, and hiring, according to a study published in the September issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Authors Dr. Yoel Inbar and Dr. Joel Lammers assert in the study the more liberal the psychologist claimed to be, the more likely they were to admit to anti-conservative discrimination. Study results showed that nearly one-quarter of the psychologists surveyed in the Society for Personality and Social Psychology admitted they would discriminate against conservative researchers in awarding grant money, nearly 20 percent would recommend against publishing conservative research, and more than one-third of psychologists surveyed would pass over a conservative in hiring if an equally qualified liberal psychologist were available.
  • A Black Virginia bishop is calling for Christians to leave the Democratic Party over what he describes as a “cult-like devotion” to abortion and what he terms as a “rejection” of the traditional family. Bishop E. W. Jackson, a veteran of the Marine Corps and Harvard Law graduate, says the Democrats’ enslavement of some Americans, most notably Black Americans, is the modern-day equivalent of slavery, and his focus is to lead an exodus, similar to what Moses did in the Old Testament. “Let God’s people go,” Jackson told The Christian Post in a telephone interview. “Clearly, the Democratic Party is the anti-Christian Party in this nation. They reject the Bible, what Bible-believing Christians embrace and they encourage the growth of what we can a ‘non-traditional’ family. That is morally wrong and a disgrace to our nation and our Lord,” said Jackson.
  • More than 20 conservative leaders joined Media Research Center president Brent Bozell in raising their voices in support of religious freedom and constitutionally protected right to free speech as part of the Coalition Against Religious Bigotry, reports newsbusters.org. The leaders said the controversy over Chick-fil-A exposed the rampant anti-Christian bias and First Amendment double standard characteristic of liberal media in several ways: (1) On Wednesday, Aug. 1, the night of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, CBS Evening News ignored the story entirely, while NBC Nightly News aired five different clips of anti-Chick-fil-A protesters to offset the hundreds of thousands who showed up in support of traditional marriage and freedom of speech. (2) On Thursady morning, the networks continued their smear campaign against Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy as an anti-gay bigot and Chick-fil-A’s Christian principals as hate speech. CBS This Morning’s anchor Charlie Rose vilified patrons as anti-gay, stating that “thousands went there to eat and to make a statement—a statement against same-sex marriage.” On Friday morning, Good Morning America’s Steve Osunsami similarly slandered Chick-fil-A and its leadership, mischaracterizing Chick-fil-A’s pro-traditional marriage stance as a “fight against gay Americans and gay marriage.” (3) The media underplayed gross government overreach by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Tom Menino when they pledged to ban Chick-fil-A from doing business in their cities. If a conservative mayor had tried blocking a pro-gay marriage business from opening through the threat of government reprisal, the media would be calling for his resignation. (4) When the media-hyped “Kiss-in” counter protest planned for Friday fizzled, the media omitted any substantial coverage of its embarrassing failure. If a large-scale Tea Party rally had been such a flop, the liberal media wouldn’t be able to talk about it enough. “It’s a double standard as old as the liberal media itself,” stated Bozell. “If it’s part of the liberal agenda, it’s protected free speech. If it isn’t, it’s bigotry. The media smeared anyone who lined up for a chicken sandwich as an anti-gay bigot instead of a proud Christian or free speech patriot, and when the counter-protest flopped, they were predictably silent. Thanks to Chick-fil-A, the media’s liberal bias was stark naked for all to see.”
  • Has salvation been reduced to a “Get Out of Hell Free” card? That’s what one Southern Baptist believes, reports The Christian Post. Ken Keathley, professor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., says many Christians are presenting salvation as a “commodity that Jesus purchased and now offers.” “Christ is presented as having bought salvation by His death on the Cross, and if you ask Him then He will give it to you,” he wrote. “Salvation, redemption, and forgiveness are understood entirely as a purchase, a business deal, or a transaction. Salvation is reduced to the offer of a ‘Get Out of Hell Free’ card.” The professor was weighing in on a debate regarding the “sinner’s prayer,” where one asks Jesus into his or her heart. The Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution in June supporting the “sinner’s prayer” amid debate over whether it is Biblical and effective. The resolution came after David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., called the prayer “superstitious” and said it doesn’t exist in the New Testament. He further referred to it as “modern evangelism built on sinking sand” that “runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls” in his talk at the Verge Conference earlier this year. Keathley believes the entire debate has been misguided. “In my opinion, what is driving the concern of many is the paltry results of much of our evangelistic efforts,” he wrote. “Whether it’s one-on-one soulwinning . . . or mass evangelistic meetings (such as crusades, youth camps, or VBS) the outcome is too often the same. Scores make ‘professions of faith’ who afterward demonstrate little or no interest in Christ, the church, or the walk of faith.”
  • Boko Haram is demanding that Nigeria’s Christian president convert to Islam or resign, a stance that again calls into question the Obama administration’s playing down of religion as the primary motivation for the radical group, reports cnsnews.com. In an online video clip released over the weekend, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau told President Goodluck Jonathan to “repent and forsake Christianity.” The News Agency of Nigeria said Shekau, speaking in Hausa, said the president should convert or resign if he wanted Boko Haram to end its violent campaign. Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati dismissed the demand as attempted “blackmail.” “When Nigerians voted overwhelmingly for President Jonathan in the 2011 general election, they knew they were voting for a Christian,” he told reporters in the federal capital, Abuja. “He has the mandate of Nigerians to serve his fatherland. Nobody should imagine that he will succumb to blackmail.” Inviting an enemy to convert to Islam or face the consequences is a longstanding tradition in Islam, modeled on the example set by the religion’s seventh century prophet. Meanwhile, Christianity Today reports that gunmen opened fire at an evening Bible study Monday in the country’s largely Christian south, killing at least 19 worshipers.
  • President Barack Obama, campaigning in the swing state of Colorado Wednesday, decided to make the Supreme Court a key issue for the presidential campaign, after earlier focusing on his health care overhaul law, free contraception, and funding for Planned Parenthood, reports cnsnews.com. “Today is the three-year anniversary of Sonia Sotomayor taking her seat on the Supreme Court,” Obama said at the Auraria Event Center in Denver. “Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of Elena Kagan taking her seat on the Supreme Court. So, let’s be very clear, the next president could tip the balance of the court in a way that turns back the clock for women and families for decades to come.” Obama’s Republican opponent Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, wants to repeal the Obamacare law that mandates every American purchase health insurance. The Supreme Court upheld the law by a 5–4 vote this year.
  • Kansas pro-lifers can rejoice in Tuesday’s primary results because pro-life candidates, including incumbents, were victorious, reports lifenews.com. Kansans for Life’s endorsed candidates won handily: In the House, 74 percent (31 of 42 races) and in the Senate, 77 percent (24 of 31 races). These elections were characterized as a referendum on pro-life Gov. Sam Brownback’s conservative agenda, with the media repeatedly identifying economic conservative groups as major players. But the GOP rout depended on the candidates’ pro-life credentials and is a reflection of Kansans’ pro-life persistence, hard work, and prayer, notes lifenews.com. KFL executive director Mary Kay Culp explained, “This continued pattern of electing pro-life legislators is inspired by more than a decade of frustration with the failure to prosecute fraudulent late-term abortions, the Senate resistance to toughening abortion laws, the shameless shredding of evidence of criminal abortion by the Sebelius administration, and the failure of the Senate to throw out the worst state judicial process in the nation, as we watch newly-passed pro-life bills sit in court or head to our extremely liberal state Supreme Court.” The Senate results were truly stunning, says lifenews.com: eight “moderate” GOP Senators, including the Kansas Senate President, Steve Morris (with a huge war chest) all lost their primaries Tuesday to authentically pro-life challengers endorsed and promoted by the Kansans for Life political action committee. Senate President Morris came into office with a pro-life record, but then betrayed it by rigging Senate committees with pro-abortion majorities and working behind the scenes to hurt pro-life bills. But due to the pro-life routing of “moderates,” there is a real possibility that after the November elections, as many as 32 out of 40 Kansas Senate seats could be filled by trusted pro-lifers.
  • A federal judge has ruled against two Hawaii women who want to get married instead of entering into a civil union, reports onenewsnow.com and AP. Judge Alan Kay’s ruling was a victory for opponents of same-gender marriage including the Hawaii Family Forum, a Christian group. Kay ruled that lawmakers and the people should decide whether to allow same-sex marriage. In its ruling, the court concluded, “Throughout history and societies, marriage has been connected with procreation and childrearing. . . . It follows that it is not beyond rational speculation to conclude that fundamentally altering the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions might result in undermining the societal understanding of the link between marriage, procreation, and family structure. In this situation, to suddenly constitutionalize the issue same-sex marriage ‘would short-circuit’ the legislative actions that have been taking place in Hawaii. . . . Accordingly, because Hawaii’s marriage laws are rationally related to legitimate government interests, they do not violate the federal Constitution.”
  • Attorneys are gearing up for trial on behalf of two San Antonio street preachers who were harassed by police, reports onenewsnow.com. In the first case, Todd Leibovitz was sharing his faith outside a bar one evening when a police officer approached him and ordered him to stop. Jeff Mateer of Liberty Institute says his client explained to the officer that he had a First Amendment right to do what he was doing. “He wasn’t blocking anybody; he wasn’t disturbing anyone. He was simply sharing his faith,” Mateer reported. “The police officer proceeded to arrest him, and not only was he arrested, but he then spent the next evening in jail. The city of San Antonio proceeded with prosecuting him, [but] he eventually won.” A second sidewalk evangelist involved in the lawsuit, Jose Muniz, was repeatedly threatened and harassed by police. A federal judge has refused to dismiss the police officers named in the lawsuit and has paved the way for a trial in which Life Legal Institute will request that San Antonio police be trained in First Amendment rights. “It is the fundamental, black-letter law that citizens have a right to freely express themselves in public,” the attorney notes. “You can’t block the sidewalk, and you can’t yell false and malicious so-called ‘fighting words,’ but surely you can share the gospel, the love of Jesus Christ.” It appears the case will go to trial next year, unless San Antonio decides to settle out of court.
  • Richard A. Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, has issued a statement regarding possible Republican vice presidential candidates, reports Christian Newswire: “There is growing unease among conservatives that the ‘short list’ of vice presidential candidates Mitt Romney has under consideration has too many establishment-type Republicans and few, if any, principled small government constitutional conservatives.”Conservatives want Governor Romney to win, but there are millions of independent and right-of-center voters who are disillusioned with business-as-usual in Washington. To attract their votes, Romney needs a running mate who is a small government constitutional conservative, not an establishment insider. As the names of establishment Republican personalities like Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Congressman Paul Ryan, or ‘outside the box’ choices like General David Petraeus (whose political views are largely unknown) have surfaced, the names of small government constitutional conservatives, such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have faded into the background.”
  • In qualifying for the U.S. wrestling Olympics team, Sam Hazewinkel did more than just fulfill a lifelong dream. He made history, both for himself and for his dad. Dave Hazewinkel, Sam’s father, wrestled in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, reports Baptist Press. With Sam wrestling in London this week as part of the U.S. team, the pair becomes the first U.S. father and son wrestlers to compete in the Olympics for the United States. “It’s hard to put in words,” Sam said about competing in the Olympics. “It’s been a dream of mine that I’ve been chasing since I was really young. It’s not everywhere that you get the kind of support that I got from my dad, where I understood that I could be an Olympian. He did it. I could do it. Hard work pays off.” Dave and Sam share more than a father-son relationship, however. They’re also brothers in Christ, ever since Dave led Sam to the Lord when he was 6 years old. “I was in bed one night and realized that I wanted Christ as my Savior,” Sam said. “I didn’t want to follow any other life.” Dave is obviously excited about his son following in his footsteps and competing in the Olympics. But he gets even more excited talking about some of the fruit he saw after Sam’s conversion. “In elementary school, we’d always go to national tournaments and wrestle,” Dave said. “During the tournament, he would hand out gospel tracts to guys that he wrestled.” One time, Sam gave a tract to a boy that he beat. The boy raced up into the stands and gave it to his mother, and then his parents came down and wanted to talk to Dave. Dave was a bit fearful at first about what they might say. “You know what?” the boy’s dad said. “This is so good, we should do this.” Several months later at another tournament, Dave encountered this father again. “Your son gave my son a gospel tract, and we decided to do that with our team,” the man reported to Dave. “We had a chance to lead two wrestlers to the Lord this year.” For Sam, who attends Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla., the connection between wrestling and his Christian faith has always been tight. If he’s struggling with a certain sin, he thinks about how he’d handle a problem in wrestling. He’d go talk to a coach. He’d practice daily. “I’d do the things I need to do, so then I try to do that in my Christian life,” Sam said. “I’d go find my dad or a pastor and talk with them and learn the verses and learn how to defeat that demon.” The same holds for wrestling. If he’s having a difficulty with something in his sport, he considers how he would deal with it spiritually. He prays about it, asking for God’s help to overcome the struggle. “I think there’s a lot that can be learned between sports and the Christian walk if people are willing to look into it and understand it,” Sam said. “It really is a great avenue to better yourself as a Christian and as an athlete.” He wants to use his position and his status as an Olympic athlete to make a positive impact on others, especially kids. “I can be a testimony through wrestling,” he said. “I can lead others to the Lord. There’s so much in the sports world that is just backwards. I hope and I pray that I can be the right kind of model for kids. Now, making the Olympic team, with the Lord’s help, I can do that. I’ve got a bigger audience, if you will. I’m wrestling for God. I’m trying to use what He’s given me. It’s not about me becoming famous and me doing these things. It’s about God.”