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Painful Fault Lines Emerging in American Evangelicalism

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Painful Fault Lines Emerging in American Evangelicalism

Article excerpt

This hasn't been a run-of-the-mill academic year for Oklahoma Wesleyan University President Everett Piper.

In December, he made news when he addressed the concerns of a student who told him that a chapel sermon "made him feel bad."

"Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a 'safe place,' but rather, a place to learn," noted Piper, writing online. "This is not a day care. This is a university."

Weeks later, he was a symbolic guest at President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address. Republicans welcomed Piper because his school is part of the U.S. Supreme Court fight about the Health and Human Services mandate requiring many Christian institutions to cooperate with health-insurance plans covering sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives.

Now, in response to press inquiries, Piper has made it perfectly clear -- in a post called "Trumping Morality" -- that there is one thing Oklahoma Wesleyan will not do that would make headlines.

"Anyone who calls women 'pigs,' 'ugly,' 'fat' and 'pieces of a-- ' is not on my side," he wrote. "Anyone who mocks the handicapped is not on my side. Anyone who has argued the merits of a government takeover of banks, student loans, the auto industry and health care is not on my side. Anyone who has been on the cover of Playboy and proud of it, who brags of his sexual history with multiple women and who owns strip clubs in his casinos is not on my side. ... Anyone who ignores the separation of powers and boasts of making the executive branch even more imperial is not on my side."

Piper concluded: "No, Donald Trump will not be speaking at Oklahoma Wesleyan University."

Yes, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. personally endorsed Trump, soon after the billionaire spoke on his campus.

It's becoming increasingly obvious that this White House race is prying open painful evangelical fault lines, said historian Paul Matzko, who is finishing his doctorate at Pennsylvania State University.

"I honestly think many evangelical leaders don't know what to do right now," he said in a telephone interview. "Some of them seem confused and divided because there are new factors in play in American politics, in our courts and even in our church pews."

At least one trend seems clear, wrote Matzko, in an academic essay entitled, "What Evangelical Support for Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump Suggests About the Future of American Evangelicalism. …

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