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How to heal a medical system that abandons the vulnerable.

In seven years, Bethany Joy Kim has cycled through Obamacare, a Christian health care sharing ministry, state insurance, employer-based insurance, and back to Obamacare.

Kim’s biggest concern, amid her various insurance experiences, has been cost. She was living in Arizona in 2014 when she purchased insurance through the marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But her premiums increased and she couldn’t find doctors who would accept her plan, so eventually she canceled it.

When Kim and her husband moved to Wisconsin in late 2017, she was expecting. She qualified for BadgerCare, the state’s insurance program for pregnant women and children. Not long after, the family got insurance through her husband’s new employer. Even with about $600 taken out of her husband’s paycheck each month to pay for premiums (the employer paid the other half), Kim was surprised that they still spent thousands of dollars annually out of pocket in the form of copays and uncovered percentages.

“When I look at the amount I pay in for the library system or the fire department, that seems reasonable. When I look at what I pay for health care, it doesn’t make sense to me anymore,” Kim said. She is hardly alone: The average premium for family insurance coverage last year was $20,000, a 54 percent increase from a decade earlier.

In between Obamacare and state insurance, when Kim was without insurance, she joined Medi-Share, one of several major nationwide Christian health care sharing ministries (HCSMs). Since 2010, when HCSMs and their members were exempted from various ACA requirements, these ministries have seen a dramatic increase in enrollment and now count over 1.5 million members.

HCSMs ...

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How I came to see the value and beauty of gatherings exclusively for people of color.

My mixed-race identity is so much a part of me that when asked to bring an object that represented me to a group interview icebreaker, I came in with a blender.

Perhaps my own disparate ancestries—my father is Chinese and Hawaiian, and my mother is Caucasian—make me more curious to know and connect and mix with others from all sorts of backgrounds. I love hosting parties, I flit around networking events, and I somehow always find ways to connect with strangers.

My social personality, as well as my Bay Area upbringing, meant that I felt comfortable in different settings, from my majority-minority Catholic high school to my largely white Christian college. But there, I began to notice that fellow students of color mostly just hung out with each other, and the school’s programming seemed to reinforce this enclave.

Raised in white evangelicalism, I had the vocabulary and references to get along with white classmates at college. Because I was so comfortable there—and could largely pass as white, as I realized when someone asked if my last name was “Lee, like Robert E. Lee”I didn’t recognize how draining it would have been for other minorities to socialize, live, and learn in this setting.

Despite being three hours from New York City and two hours from Philadelphia, a surprising number of my white classmates had spent little time in the city. When I traveled home to visit their communities over Thanksgiving and Easter holidays, I noticed few lived in racially diverse communities, attended multiethnic churches, or had friends outside their race. I grew up with a handful of childhood friends whose parents were also white and Asian, but I didn’t meet a single other person in college ...

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A Christian vision of the public square starts with being a different kind of people.

In the days after the 2016 election, one statistic became the story: the notorious 81 percent. Though this data has been debated and the reasons behind it are murky, it’s clear that a vast majority of white evangelicals voted for Trump.

Cards on the table, I think this is one of the most damaging events for the mission of the American church in the last few decades.

In his article “Young Evangelicals Are Defying their Elders’ Politics,” Kyle Meyaard-Schaap writes, “Because no political party can completely capture the fullness of the values [an evangelical] was taught, her community’s embrace of partisan politics creates in her dissonance and disillusionment.”

I bear witness to this disillusionment daily. I regularly hear from younger Christians wondering aloud how the good news of Jesus can be true if the church is marred by racism, injustice, partisanship, and pettiness.

Many of us who work among these disillusioned young people find ourselves holding our breath till November. We are anxious to see if this election shows a more complex and less partisan engagement among evangelicals—one that better reflects a surprising group of people who love the weak, care for creation, honor life from conception to death, attend to justice, and seek the welfare of our neighbors.

But as important as this election is, focusing on it alone is foolish.

Public activism has long been part of evangelical identity, motivating our leadership in abolition, women’s suffrage, and the labor movement. Over time, however, we have seen a slow disintegration of faith and politics. Most of us now aren’t sure how theology should influence our public life. Therefore, whatever we profess to believe, ...

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Characters in Scripture don’t “follow their dreams.” But some do stand out from the crowd.

I love watching Bollywood movies. What could be better than three hours of delightful singing and dancing, colorful settings and costumes, sappy romance, and a dash of slapstick humor? Every Indian knows you watch these films for the music and dancing, not the plot. Most of the time, the plots are the same: A guy falls in love with the girl from the wrong side of town (or vice versa) and can’t marry her because his parents arranged for him to marry someone in his social class. Somehow, the story eventually gets to a happy ending, but however that happens, the guy always has to reconcile with his parents.

Why? Because family comes first—before love, before business, before “following your dreams.” Indians (and Indian Americans like me) get this, but some of my white American friends wonder what all the fuss is about. Be yourself! Listen to your heart! Follow your dreams!

E. Randolph Richards and Richard James have written Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes to help educate modern Western Bible readers about the collectivist value system of the biblical world. The underlying assumption behind this book is that many moderns interpret the world through a lens that centers on the desires, needs, and values of the individual. (Richards and James insightfully quote A. A. Milne’s Piglet in his distinctive dialect: “The thinks that make me different are the thinks that make me ME.”) Whereas collectivist societies in antiquity and around the world today orient their values around the family and the people group.

Collectivist Dynamics

Richards and James lay the foundation for understanding collectivist cultures by emphasizing how these cultures use honor and shame as tools for reinforcing ...

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Long before coming to campus, President Trump has shaped our class discussions, for better and worse.

As a political science professor at Belmont University, I have been privileged to watch two presidential debates come on our campus. In 2008, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain took the stage as candidates, and this week, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are in town for the final match of the campaign.

Both debates energized our university, with students getting the chance to interact with political and media luminaries and taking an active interest in engaging with the pressing issues of the day. Even with fewer in-person events due to COVID-19, students are as excited as they were in 2008.

My political science colleagues and I chuckle about a “Trump bump” in our enrollments. But the truth is that colorful politicians draw interest to our discipline in ways that are not easy to quantify. Love him or hate him, Trump is endlessly fascinating as a political figure, and my class discussions keep gravitating to him. This is both a blessing and a curse.

On the plus side, students are paying attention. When I approach the classroom, I know I had better be prepared to handle a number of issues connected to Trump’s latest tweet, as well as the Democratic response to it. Some of our conversations, like democracy itself, can get messy and chaotic, but they can usually be refined in ways that are academically productive. I find that my classic readings about presidential spectacle, executive power, and political rhetoric are infused with new life.

Additionally, comparatively newer topics, like the role of social media in campaigns, take on new intellectual wrinkles and meanings in a Trump era. Make no mistake about it—our students are bringing the intellectual heat from all corners of ...

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Cathy McMorris Rodgers says she wants to bring people together in divisive times.

Editor’s note: This profile is the third in a CT series featuring Christian candidates from both parties who are running for Congress in November.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers has firsthand experience with what political division looks like. She knows how it feels to be hated. She has been called a liar, has had people turn their backs on her as she spoke, and was once booed off a stage.

It’s part of the reason she’s so passionate about unity.

McMorris Rodgers is seeking reelection to the US House of Representatives in Washington’s 5th District, an office she has held since 2005. McMorris Rodgers was at one point the chair of the House Republican Caucus, making her the highest-ranking GOP woman in the House, and she was considered by President Donald Trump for the position of Secretary of the Interior. Before congress, she served as a member of the Washington State House for 11 years. She is now seeking her ninth term as a US representative.

McMorris Rodgers won her last race by more than 30,000 votes, and according to a recent forecast from Politico, she is predicted to win again in 2020. She is also outraising her Democratic opponent Dave Wilson, according to reporting from the Spokesman-Review. By mid July, she brought in almost $3 million in contributions, compared to Wilson's $28,000.

But even though she’s winning, McMorris Rodgers knows the last weeks of the campaign won’t be without challenges. In fact, the last four years have brought some of the toughest days of her political career.

One of the worst was January 16, 2017. In that narrow stretch of time between an election and inauguration, McMorris Rodgers was asked to give a speech in Spokane. After a very divisive national ...

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How do we disciple in good as we disciple out the wrong?

In an interview on immigration with Steve Inskeep on NPR’s Morning Edition, I concluded by talking about discipleship. It was a bit tricky because I was a little unsure about mentioning the idea of “discipling” in that context.

Inskeep specifically asked me whether evangelicals were hitching their wagon to the wrong horses. I explained, cautiously using the term “discipleship” on NPR’s flagship program:

Well, it’s a fair question. The challenge is a lot of people are being discipled—or spiritually shaped—by their cable news choices. I think ultimately evangelicals need to be known for what they are for rather than what they’re against; and, showing and sharing the love of Jesus seems like a better thing to hitch ourselves to over the long term as evangelical Christians.

I may have been unsure at first, but I am glad that I could use the word “disciple” in that context. Discipleship highlights a fundamental issue for followers of Jesus right now: there are certain things that are in us and need to be discipled out of us and other things that need to be discipled in us and aren’t there currently.

Three Things to Disciple Out

Some things need to be discipled out of believers.

The first is fear. In John 20:19, we read how the disciples were hiding behind closed doors because of fear. Two thousand years later, a lot of people are hiding behind closed doors because of fear. We not only fear the coronavirus; we are also fearful of the future.

Today, people hiding behind closed doors because of fear have something that humanity didn’t always have: The Internet. We’re hiding behind closed doors, fearful for ourselves and others, and spreading that ...

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Regulators aim to prevent another Trinity HealthShare scam. But ministries plan to do it themselves.

Amid a flurry of recent legal actions against Trinity HealthShare and its operations affiliate Aliera Companies, other health care sharing ministries are working to keep their place and reputation as an alternative to insurance.

Some say the entire industry requires greater oversight as “illegitimate” companies use the model—and exemptions carved out for faith-based options—to flout regulations.

Christian health care sharing ministries have existed since the 1980s but took off over the past decade. Since 2010, when the Affordable Care Act exempted members of health care sharing ministries from purchasing insurance, these groups have grown from around 200,000 members to include over 1.5 million Americans. Trinity (now known as Sharity) has 21,800 member households (not individuals) while Samaritan Ministries International, one of the better-known groups, has around 82,000.

New ministries have popped up across the country, making it more challenging for consumers and regulators to sift the wheat from the chaff. Longstanding ministries say they know the regulations, ascribe to Christian commitments, and have a long history of serving their members. They fear that new groups are taking advantage of the model they built.

Katy Talento, the executive director for the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries, told CT that Trinity—which has been sued in multiple states—is not a legitimate health care sharing ministry but a “sham front group” for the for-profit company Aliera.

Talento said that though scams have tarnished the health care sharing ministries’ image, the Alliance represents supportive communities faithfully sharing healthcare needs. Beyond Trinity, OneShare, which was ...

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Confessing the genocide, Turkish evangelicals seek forgiveness on behalf of their nation. With ongoing war in Nagorno-Karabakh, is there a path forward also with Azerbaijan’s believers?

Editor’s note: CT’s complete coverage of Armenian Christians is here.

Bahri Beytel never thought he would find Turkish food in Armenia.

An ethnic Turk and former Muslim, the pastor of Bethel Church in Istanbul skipped Burger King and KFC in Yerevan, the capital city, in order to complete a spiritual mission.

Six years ago, prompted to take a journey of reconciliation, he went in search of an authentic Armenian restaurant—and found lahmajun, a flatbread topped with minced meat, vegetables, and spices.

One letter was off from the Turkish spelling. Smiling, he ordered it anyway, in English.

“Are you a Turk?” snapped the owner—in Turkish—after Beytel pronounced it incorrectly. “God spare me from becoming a Turk.”

The owner’s family hailed from Gaziantep, near Turkey’s border with Syria, which before the genocide was a mixed religious city with a thriving Armenian community. Ignoring the insult, the pastor explained he was a Christian, not a Muslim, and had come to ask for forgiveness on behalf of his ancestors.

Up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1914–1923, as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. Once home to many diverse Christian communities, the modern state was built on a secular but ethnic Turkish foundation.

No Turk can be a Christian, the restaurant owner scoffed. He demanded the secret sign made centuries ago by believers in the catacombs.

Beytel drew the fish.

By the end of the conversation, the man gave him a hug, with a tear in his eye.

“If Turkey takes one step, the Armenians are ready to forgive,” said Beytel, of his time at a conference in the Armenian capital. “It was amazing to hear them call me brother.”

There was more to ...

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Young but growing community of former Muslims says Armenian warnings about genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh hurt the spread of the gospel.

Editor’s note: CT’s complete coverage of Armenian Christians is here.

Vadim Melnikov once fought for the land of Noah.

Donning his Azerbaijani uniform 17 years ago, the ethnic Russian took his post to defend Nakhchivan, an Azeri enclave bordering Turkey and separated from their countrymen by the nation of Armenia.

Known in both the Armenian and Azeri languages as “the place of descent,” referring to Noah’s landing on nearby Mt. Ararat, Nakhchivan is a geographical reminder of the mixed ethnic composition of the Caucasus Mountains.

As is Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan.

Its etymology is also a reminder of the region’s diversity. Nagorno is Russian for mountains, while Karabakh combines the Turkic for black and the Persian for garden.

Armenians call it Artsakh, the name of a province in their ancient kingdom. For the last three weeks, they have been defending their de facto control of the region as Azerbaijan fights to reassert its sovereignty.

As Melnikov did decades ago in Nakhchivan. Armenian soldiers crossed into Azeri mountain villages, before his unit drove them out.

This was one of the many border conflicts that followed a war of demography. But in the years before and after the 1991 independence of both nations, about 30,000 people were killed as hundreds of thousands on both sides fled or were driven to their lands of ethnic majority.

A 1994 ceasefire established the status quo, and the Minsk Group—headed by Russia, France, and the United States—preside over negotiations.

Despite the previous ethnic violence, Azerbaijan boasts that it remains a nation of multicultural tolerance. Of its 10 million population, 96 percent are Muslim—roughly ...

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    Bethel Worship Center Church International Inc.

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    To birth, mature, equip and send out a body of faithful Ambassadors, who are secure in their identity, unified in purpose, effectively reaching a lost generation for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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