“America’s Pastor” got his start in Wheaton, Illinois

By Bethany Peterson 

Billy Graham, worldwide evangelist and “America’s Pastor, died this morning, Feb. 21, at age 99 at his home in North Carolina. Graham advised 11 presidents and preached to roughly 2.2 billion people for over six decades before retiring to his North Carolina home in 2005.

And where did this evangelical powerhouse get his start? Right here, at Wheaton College.

Graham graduated from Wheaton in 1943 with a degree in anthropology. He met and married his classmate, Ruth Bell, on Aug. 13, 1943.

It was also at Wheaton that Graham came to believe the Bible was the infallible word of God, according to his autobiography, “Just As I Am.”

While a full-time student, he preached at the United Gospel Tabernacle for $5 per hour;  that church closed in 1950. After graduation, Graham became pastor of The Village Church in Western Springs, Illinois, near Wheaton, for 21 months. During this time, Graham hosted the radio broadcast, Songs in the Night, reaching the greater Chicago area. Afterwards, Graham left the Wheaton area as a Youth For Christ evangelist and began his global travels.

Yet Wheaton continues to be influenced by Graham’s work and legacy.

In 1950, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was formed, but Graham still felt that there was a need for a more permanent training center. Wheaton seemed like like the right place for that as a leading evangelical institution. In 1980, the Billy Graham Center (BGC) was dedicated.

According to the BGC website, “Rev. Billy Graham sought to develop a center for strategic planning, inspiration, and preparation of leaders to fuel the evangelism mission of the Church in the world. After completing two global conferences (Berlin 1966 and Lausanne 1974), he was convinced of the need for an institution to continually stimulate and accelerate the Great Commission.” The BGC was developed to act a center for evangelism and Christian leadership training.

In addition, Graham continued to be present on Wheaton’s campus for a number of years. He spoke in several chapel services, and acted as the keynote speaker for multiple commencement addresses, most recently in 1993.

During Wednesday morning chapel, Wheaton College President Philip Ryken commemorated Billy Graham’s legacy at Wheaton, saying “all his thoughts of the past were of Wheaton College, and all his thoughts of the future were of Jesus and heaven.”

Picture Source: https://billygrahamlibrary.org/from-billy-graham-to-the-graduate-2/

#BlackPantherChallenge: $400,000 for disadvantaged kids to see breakthrough film

Ticket prices hit an all-time high in 2017 at an average rate of $8.95, much too high for some children, especially those in lower income areas, to attend movie in the theaters at all. But this weekend, celebrities have made sure that this won’t be the case for over 30,000 children.

Thus far, $400,000 has been raised through GoFundMe accounts and private donations to send children to the latest Marvel movie, “Black Panther.” On Twitter, the initiative has been going around as the #BlackPantherChallenge.

The Black Panther Challenge was started by marketing professional and media representation advocate Fredrick Joseph. According to an article Joseph wrote for the Huffington Post entitled, “Why I’m Raising Money for Black Kids to See Black Panther,” he started the campaign to “[ensure] that our children get to see themselves as heroes too.”

The challenge exploded into a national initiative. Octavia Spencer, an Oscar-winning actress, promised to buy out a theater in Mississippi “to ensure all our brown children can see themselves as a superhero.” Many other celebrities, including J.J Abrams, Chelsea Clinton, Viola Davis, Ellen DeGeneres, Jemele Hill, and more have donated to the cause or agreed to buy out showings.

This campaign comes alongside the massive media hype over the Feb. 16 release of Black Panther to movie theaters. It is the first Marvel movie, and possibly the first movie ever, to have a majority black cast, Afrocentric storyline, and black director. Many have praised the film as a smashing end to well-established stereotypes and an exciting beginning to a new kind of movie empire.

The film is expected to make $250 million worldwide this week and Fandango reported it to be the fourth largest pre-seller of all time, only preceded by the Star Wars movies. The movie has received the largest merchandise line ever for a non-sequel Marvel movie.

Black Panther comes at a time where movie theaters are declining in an world of Amazon Prime and Netflix, yet also a time of risk-taking in the film world. Previously, Marvel has said that films with an woman superhero star, all-black cast, or any other not-so-mainstream character would not do well worldwide. Enter Wonder Woman, Deadpool, and Black Panther — already enormous hollywood hits. Wonder Woman alone made over $800 million in the box office.

“One by one, these unwritten Hollywood rules about what audiences supposedly will and will not support are falling by the wayside,” said Jeff Bock, a senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations, an entertainment research firm.

“Black Panther” is more than just a movie. It’s a movement,”  reported CNN.

Picture source: https://patch.com/maryland/baltimore/4-black-panther-challenge-campaigns-benefit-baltimore-students

The Obama portraits: praise, criticism, and conspiracy theories

As the Obamas continue their legacy of breaking historic norms and ending stereotypes, it’s no surprise that their portraits, unveiled Monday, Feb. 12, in Washington D.C., were untraditional to say the least.

In addition to being the first African-American presidential portrait on display in the National Portrait Gallery, the painting itself will the first painted by an African-American artist.

In the days following the unveiling, positive and negative reactions have abounded as critics and the public alike search for hidden messages, controversy, and political statements. With such distinctive portraits, there is much to be found.

Mr. Obama

Former president Barack Obama’s portrait, the one that will hang with the other 43 paintings of past presidents, features him leaning forward in a chair with a serious look on his face… and that’s about where the similarity to other presidential portraits ends. His chair is somewhat suspended in midair, surrounded by a brightly-colored garden scene. His stern expression and stiff posture contrasts sharply with the soft flowery scene surrounding him.

The artist behind this work is Kehinde Wiley, known for his stylized paintings of young black people as recreations of traditional portraits. Wiley often uses his art as a critique of the lack of non-white figures throughout the history of art, which is exactly what drew Obama to him in the first place. “What I was always struck by whenever I saw his portraits was the degree to which they challenged our conventional views of power and privilege,” Obama said at the ceremony.

While many have praised the portrait for its break from tradition and subtle messages, others have found reason to criticize, as well as speculate.

Wiley has drawn some controversy for a painting that portrays a black woman cutting off the head of a white woman. Some have said that the former president went a little too far with his unconventional choice of artist, and criticize him for being divisive rather than unifying.

In another twist on the garden background, some conservatives, like Sean Hannity, have seen a sexually pervasive theme.. On Twitter, Hannity claimed that there were “secret images of sperm” within the garden scene, and that the painting served as a sort of sexual innuendo. (The tweet was later deleted.)

Mrs. Obama

Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s painting is just as unconventional and stylized as her husband’s. Amy Sherald, known for her portrayals of African-Americans doing everyday things, was commissioned to paint Mrs. Obama’s portrait. The finished work portrays Obama in a long, abstractly designed dress against a blue backdrop. Her hair flows around her shoulders, and the entire painting is in grayscale, making it less realistic and more stylized.

Yet the dress symbolizes much more than just the fashion of Mrs. Obama. The painted dress is based on a real dress designed by Michelle Smith under her company name, Milly. Obama has worn several Milly outfits and was involved in the decision to have the Milly dress in the portrait. Milly is also known for designing clothes meant to support equality movements and criticize President Trump. In addition, fashion experts have pointed to the more affordable cotton material of the dress as a foil to Melania Trump’s expensive, high-end fashion choices. It is unclear whether Obama hid this message in her portrait intentionally.

Lastly, many are saying that Obama’s portrait doesn’t look that much liker. Conservative Commentator Ben Shapiro compared her portrait to a completely abstract painting on Twitter, pointing out that Sherald appears to have gone more stylistic than realistic. That said, other critics have praised Sherald for capturing the essence of Obama’s character, and making her portrait more universal and relatable through her stylistic choices.

One thing’s for certain, the Obamas are masters of sending subtle messages through creative outlets, and the uniqueness of their portraits created space for a discussion of issues they care about that may not have happened with more traditional renditions.


Picture source: http://www.elle.com/culture/art-design/a17045197/obama-michelle-national-portrait-gallery-wiley-sherald/

Is the Mormon church responsible for Rob Porter’s spousal abuse?

Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, both ex-wives of former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, are two individuals of only 7% of American Mormons who are divorced or separated.

Mormons have the one of the lowest divorce rates, and highest marriage rates of all religious groups in the US. Marriage is considered sacred and eternal, and Bishops are told not to advocate for divorce during marital counseling.

As uncommon as divorce is within Mormon churches, Porter’s ex-wives decided independently to take that step—after years of abuse.

Holderness and Willoughby reported their experiences of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse within their marriages in a story published by Daily Mail on Feb. 6. While stories like theirs are not exactly uncommon within the US, Porter’s essential role within the Trump administration forced their story into the limelight, catching the attention of both the public and the president.

Immediately following the publication of the allegations against Porter, Chief of Staff John Kelly, among other political figures, denied the accusations, and praised the integrity of Porter’s character, until, on the morning of Feb. 7, Daily Mail published a picture of a black eye Holderness had received after Porter punched her in a hotel room in 2005. Porter abruptly resigned from his White House position, and many individuals that had previously doubted the allegations revised their statements of support.

Porter continues to deny the accusations, calling them a “smear campaign” intended to damage his reputation and make him lose his job, which, in fact, they have.

In the aftermath of Porter’s resignation, many have begun to question the role of the Mormon church in perpetuating abusive relationships.

According to the official statements made by the Mormon church, there is no tolerance for abuse. The “Church handbook of instructions” states that The church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form.”

Both Holderness and Willoughby first sought help from Bishops within their local churches, but found that, for various reasons, the church leadership minimized their experiences, although both claim this was unintentional.

Willoughby explained that, when she had approached a Bishop about the abuse, she found two problems: First, he was concerned about Porter’s career and reputation, because, secondly, she was unable to articulate herself in a way that helped him understand how serious her circumstances.

These problems, according to Senior Columnist at Religion News Service, are really a product of a lack of training. Police, pastors, teachers, etc. are trained in how to spot abuse, as well as how to ask the right questions to find the information they need, but Bishops are often just ordinary in the community who volunteer for around 5 years.

On a Mormon blog called “By Common Consent,” the author calls for the church to respond in the midst of Porter’s resignation from the pulpit to support women who have been abused and tell them that the church is a place that can help them.

If churches do not explicitly work to end abuse, the author warns, “maybe [abused women] eventually [find] the strength to leave anyway.  But overcoming all of the general psychological difficulty in breaking off a relationship, plus the hurdles of dissolving a temple marriage, plus ignoring official Priesthood and perceived Apostolic advice – it’s nothing short of an Olympic feat.”

Whooping cough makes a comeback

In addition to the stress of testing, paper-writing, and final grades, Wheaton students also faced pertussis, or whooping cough, this school year. Student Health Services (SHS) sent out a precautionary email Dec. 1 that notified the campus community of a few cases of the disease, followed by an email on Dec. 11 to warn students of another confirmed case.

Wheaton is not alone in the sudden threat of a pertussis outbreak. Although eradicated by the development of a vaccine in the 40s, cases of the disease have actually been steadily increasing since the 1970s, especially in infants, who are the demographic with the highest mortality risk for pertussis. For babies below 4 months of age, the prevalence of pertussis has risen by 72 percent since the 1990s.

But the biggest spike has emerged within the past decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported case numbers remained under 10,000 until 2003 when they reached around 12,000, and continued to increase to roughly 48,000 in 2012. Since then, the numbers have decreased slightly to around 20,000, but seem to be rising once more in 2017/18.

Dupage County alone saw numbers rise to 106 in 2016—the highest number of cases reported since the 195 in 2012.

Many are blaming the increasing number of parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children for the rise in pertussis cases.

One study found that unvaccinated children were “roughly 23 times more likely to develop whooping cough” than those who received the vaccine. In addition, children without the vaccine are more likely to spread the disease to those who do have it. Another study found that “24 to 45 percent of people who came down with pertussis were either unvaccinated or undervaccinated.”

However, the CDC (among other scientific groups) places the blame on increasing immunity to the vaccine itself rather than some children’s lack of vaccine, as less than one percent of parents choose not to vaccinate their children.

Experts have found that immunity acquired by the pertussis vaccine declines five to ten years after the series of shots. The CDC suggests the Tdap vaccine shot for pregnant women, a series of five shots for babies over a period of four to six years, and now an added booster shot 11 or 12 years to counteract the immunity.

Chair of Pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School Dr. John Modline claimed that “whooping cough is the only vaccine-preventable disease that has not been completely controlled by routine childhood immunization.”

To meet a rising need for a booster, one manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, has proposed “Boostrix,” which would “add a pertussis component to the vaccine cocktail against tetanus and diphtheria that is currently given to 10-18 year-olds.”

In the meantime, health professionals, including those in the SHS, encourage students, faculty, and staff to wash their hands, keep vaccinations up-to-date, and watch for symptoms of whooping cough so that they can receive an early diagnosis, which aids in proactive treatment and containment.

5 reasons that current US immigration policy actually strengthens gangs

1. Deportations encourage transnational gang networks

Do you know where the most feared transnational gang, Mara Salvatura or MS-13, started? It wasn’t El Salvador, it was LA. Salvadoran immigrants fleeing from the brutal civil war and US-backed dictatorships in El Salvador formed street gangs to contend with the Mexican gang, “M.” Due to the deportation policies of Ronald Reagan (similar to those of President Trump) in the 1990s, gang members were deported back to their “home” countries in Central America—where they brought their gang membership with them. Once established back in Central America, MS-13 members were able to network with those still in the US to create an international drug trading network, and eventually became a transnational organization running between the “Northern Triangle of Death” (Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala) and the US.

When gang members are deported to other countries, it doesn’t kill their gang membership—it spreads it into a new territory. El Salvador is now ranked as one of the most violent countries in the world because of the gang problem created by deportations from the US.

2. Receiving countries are ill-equipped to handle the influx of gang members

Central America is considerably less stable than the US. The two rival gangs MS-13 and Barrio 18 run the country of El Salvador much more than its actual government does. By deporting gang members to these places, the violence is intensified, and the developing countries do not have the power or resources to deal with it. Prisons are overflowing and inhuman, and more arrive by the day. This fact is what created the transnational gang problem in the first place, violent gang members were deported back to a country they had fled from, still ravaged by the civil war that had torn it apart.

3. Gang recruitment becomes really easy

When any deportee arrives back in Central America or Mexico, they don’t have the means to provide for themselves, especially if they’ve lived in the US for most of their lives. This is the breeding ground for gang membership—desperation and lack of options. Most kids that grow up to become gang members were living on the streets, alone and ignored by society, before the gang picked them up. Within the gangs, they are provided for and given a strong sense of belonging within their community.

In addition, if a deportee arrives back into El Salvador after having tried to escape gang violence in the US, they face retaliation from the gang for their disloyalty. These individuals fear for both their lives, as well as the lives of their families..

4. Mass prisons have proven to help gangs commit more crimes

It is statistically proven that gangs become stronger when all their leadership goes to prison together. Locking away a gang member does nothing—their structure is too flexible and hard to control, and putting them all in the same place allow for reorganization of leadership. Gang leaders simply make hit calls from behind bars, still getting everything done without too much inconvenience. They have a safety and freedom in prison that they don’t even have on the streets.

When gang members arrive in Central America, especially El Salvador, the government has no choice but to stick them in these prisons that become breeding grounds for even more violence.

5. Violence easily boomerangs right back into the US

Gang violence began in the US, what gives us the right to force our problems onto other countries? And what makes us think those issues won’t boomerang right back to our homes?

We are repeating history with our current policies. We think that getting gang members out of the country will fix the problem, but it’s a transnational organization. It doesn’t matter where the individuals are, gangs will continue to, according to the MS-13 motto, “Kill, rape, control.”

This is our problem too. We created it, and we have a responsibility to aid in ending it.

The worst trend in the history of crime

By Bethany Peterson

On Jan. 10, a Cook County judge ordered two 15-year-old boys to register as sex offenders and complete five years of probation for their involvement in the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl. Police and legal authorities had no trouble identifying them as perpetrators—they had a Facebook video of the entire incident.

A live-stream of the assault was broadcast live on facebook back in March. The video depicted a brutal gang rape involving six boys. A third boy has been arrested, and his case is pending. For the others, police investigations continue.

This video is only one in a long list of horrific crimes broadcast for others to watch over the internet. Three men in Sweden were caught by police after they live-streamed their rape of a young woman on Facebook from her apartment. Four men were arrested after they posted a video of themselves attacking a mentally disabled man in Chicago. A 16 year old boy live-tweeted bomb threats he was making to schools in Ottawa, Canada for weeks before police confronted him. The list goes on.

The digital age has paved the way for a new criminal trend: the “performance crime,” or a crime committed with the intention of having an audience, especially when “created for distribution via social media,” defined Criminal Justice Professor Ray Surette. “Offenders posting pre-crime confessions, videos of themselves committing offences, and post-crime footage holding evidence and bragging about their criminal acts” are all characteristics common to performance crimes.

Most experts blame the rise of social media for the explosion of performance crime in the 21st century; some even point to performance crimes as a logical progression of social media culture.

“There’s a snapshot culture. If we come across something extraordinary it doesn’t count unless we’ve filmed it or taken a picture. It becomes an instinct,” explained Expert Sveinung Sandberg, “so then when you commit a violent crime or a rape the same instinct might strike you. You just grab for the phone and film it without thinking about the consequences.”

Social Expert at M&R Marketing Matthew Michael agrees. “Just the viral nature of social media in general just kind of gives them the, just the added ego of being able to draw a larger audience for what they’re doing,” he added.

Although the performance crime allows authorities to identify and intervene in criminal acts, it also poses new questions about social media accountability.  

According to NPR, around 40 people watched the Facebook live-stream of the gang rape, yet none of them reported the crime to authorities. Some are calling for these viewers to be held legally responsible for failing to take action on the “scene” of a crime.

“We’ve seen a couple acts in [Chicago] now in the last few months involving social media, and it just disgusts me that people would look at those videos and not pick up the phone and dial 911,” explained Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, “it makes you wonder, where are we going, what are we doing as a society?”

Legal experts say that it is difficult to charge the viewers. Criminal Defense Attorney Stephanie Lacambra explained that not only do prosecutors have to prove that the alleged viewer actually watched the video, but they also must show that the viewer knew what they were watching was real, and intentionally chose to do nothing.

As social media develops, authorities grapple with complex questions about performance crime, as the culture of the online world continues to bleed into all aspects of society, including the criminal justice system.


Picture source: http://s.newsweek.com/sites/www.newsweek.com/files/styles/lg/public/2016/01/29/0129socialmediacrime01.jpg