This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a story that received pretty wide play yesterday, about a certain Christian college and the decision to crack down on students who are Democrats.

Liberty University, the evangelical school in Virginia founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, is drawing heat Friday for its decision to revoke recognition of the College Democrats’ chapter on campus.

According to the Lynchburg News & Advance, the school decided a week ago the organization “stood against the moral principles” held by the school and therefore could no longer be sanctioned.

Maria Childress, the staff adviser to the club, told the paper the school — which opposes abortion rights and gay marriage — had issues with the Democratic Party platform.

Childress says she was told by Mark Hine, the vice president of student affairs, that “‘You can’t be a Democrat and be a Christian and be a university representative.'”

Now, Regent, an evangelical school in Virginia started by a different TV preacher (Pat Robertson), already has a chapter of the College Democrats, which enjoys university recognition. Liberty, however, formally recognized the Dems in October, only to suspend the group, for no apparent reason, eight days ago. LU’s College Republican chapter remains unaffected.

Liberty is a private evangelical college and can do as it pleases, but the decision seems tough to defend. If the school wanted to restrict students from organizing a Democratic student organization, it shouldn’t have recognized the student group eight months ago.

But for me, the most interesting part of this is the fact that there are students at Falwell’s Liberty University who are Democrats. In fact, they’re so enthusiastic about their support for the party, they want an active chapter of the College Democrats on campus. At the group’s first meeting, more than 50 students showed up.

This, again, speaks to key shifts among younger evangelicals. For Falwell’s generation and these students’ parents, to be politically active was to be a conservative Republican. To care about “moral issues” was to focus exclusively on gays and abortion. All of that’s changing, slowly but surely, and the GOP lock on evangelicals is loosening.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Giavonni Maria Vian, editor-in-chief of L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, does not believe that President Obama is a threat to Roman Catholic values. In a seeming rebuke to those who protested the president’s address at Notre Dame last week, Vain praised Obama’s appearance, adding, “Obama is not a pro-abortion president.” I assume that Bill Donohue and others like him will now attack the Vatican’s newspaper for being anti-Catholic.

* A 2,600-page report was released this week in Dublin, documenting horrific sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse of boys and girls in Irish orphanages and reform schools run by the Roman Catholic Church from the 1930s to 1990s. The report from the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse, based on a nine-year investigation, pointed to sadistic treatment of tens of thousands of Irish children, which state and church leaders preferred to ignore.

* And in Ohio this summer, Alysa Stanton will break new ground, becoming the first African-American woman ever to be ordained as a rabbi and the first African-American rabbi to lead a majority white congregation.