Religion Today Summaries - April 23, 2012

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 23, 2012

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Chuck Colson Dies at 80
  • NASCAR Driver Loses Sponsor Over Christian Faith
  • Romney to Give Liberty University Commencement Address
  • Births to Cohabitating Couples Dramatically Increase


Chuck Colson Dies at 80

Evangelical leader and prison ministry founder Chuck Colson died Saturday afternoon from complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage, the Christian Post reports. He was 80. "Evangelical Christianity lost one of its most eloquent and influential voices today," said Prison Fellowship, the ministry Colson founded in 1976 shortly after serving a seven-month prison sentence for charges stemming from the 1972 Watergate scandal. Once known as President Richard Nixon's "evil genius," Colson read a copy of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity while he was facing arrest, which led to his dramatic conversion. Two years later, he published the memoir Born Again, which was made into a 1978 film of the same title. For more than 30 years, Colson ministered to inmates through Prison Fellowship, and was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President George W. Bush in 2008 for his faith-based outreach in 1,300 correctional facilities in all 50 U.S. states and 110 countries. "Whatever good I may have done is because God saw fit to reach into the depths of Watergate and convert a broken sinner," Colson said in 2008 in response to receiving the award. Colson was speaking at a conference in D.C. on March 30 when his speech became garbled and he had to sit down, according to witnesses. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he underwent surgery to remove a pool of clotted pool on the surface of his brain.

NASCAR Driver Loses Sponsor Over Christian Faith

Following California's Royal Purple 300 race, NASCAR driver Blake Koch sat just 28 points out of the top 10 driver standings, but he was forced to race with a blank car after losing his primary sponsor because of a controversy over his Christian faith, Charisma News reports. After ESPN rejected an advertisement from Koch's sponsor -- a voter-registration awareness organization called the Rise Up and Register Campaign -- because of the ad's so-called "political and religious overtones," the campaign decided to stop sponsoring Koch. While the campaign itself does not promote specific religions, its website linked to Koch's website, which promotes his ministry and religious activism -- the 26-year-old driver often speaks at churches on race weekends, at Christian outreach events and on TV shows. "I didn't think that my faith in Christ would have an impact on whether or not a sponsor could air a commercial or not," Koch said March 29. "The one thing I will not do is deny my faith just because a particular sponsor might not like the way I express my faith, which I do on my own time." Going into last week's O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at the Texas Motor Speedway without a primary sponsor, Koch would have been forced to park his car, but stepped up to sponsor him after hearing about his dilemma. Koch still needs a primary sponsor for the rest of the season, however, and has started a Twitter campaign to raise awareness. But for now, "We're excited to support Blake and stand for his faith," said Bobby CEO.

Romney to Give Liberty University Commencement Address

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will deliver the commencement address this year at Liberty University, a speech likely to offer more than the usual advice for graduates, according to WORLD News Service. Unlike Rick Santorum, his former rival, Romney has not actively courted evangelical voters, a bloc pundits say he needs to beat President Obama in November. After speculation about who evangelicals would support after Santorum dropped out of the race, the commencement gives Romney a chance to be seen and heard in a prime evangelical setting, said Mark DeMoss, an unpaid Romney adviser. "Schools don't endorse candidates, but I think his being there will be closely watched by conservatives and evangelicals around the country," DeMoss said. University officials expect at least 34,000 to attend the ceremony, likely Romney's largest audience before he accepts the nomination in August. Although Romney has not tailored his message to different audiences, DeMoss downplayed suggestions the candidate would overlook any group of potential supporters. "To be able to go to a place like Liberty and address that many people from all 50 states is a pretty good way to connect with a lot of folks who also happen to be evangelicals," he said.

Births to Cohabitating Couples Dramatically Increase

The number of babies born to unmarried couples who are living together in America has increased dramatically during the past decade, according to a new report by the National Center for Health Statistics, Baptist Press reports. About 23 percent of the reported births in the study -- based on interviews of 22,000 men and women from 2006 to 2010 -- were to unmarried heterosexual couples who were cohabitating when the child was born. In 2002, the figure from a similar study was 14 percent. "We were a little surprised in such a short time period to see these increases," said Gladys Martinez, lead author of the report. The study did not attempt to explain the increase, but a sociologist from Ohio's Bowling Green State University said the decline in marriages could be attributed to the economy. Another sociologist, Kelly Raley of the University of Texas-Austin, said, "It just could be that it's OK now to have a kid outside of marriage." Brad Wilcox of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, said children with cohabitating parents were three times more likely to experience their parents' breakup by the age of 5 than children whose parents were married. "They have less stability, security, legal and cultural support," he said.

Publication date: April 23, 2012