This Week in Christian History: RFRA, Oswald Chambers Dies, Billy Sunday Revival

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Christianity is a faith with a long and detailed history, with numerous events of lasting significance occurring throughout the ages.

Each week brings the anniversaries of great milestones, horrid tragedies, amazing triumphs, telling tribulations, inspirational progress, and everything in between.

Here are just a few things that happened this week, Nov. 11-17, in Church history. They include the death of Oswald Chambers, a major Billy Sunday revival event in Boston, and the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Oswald Chambers Dies – November 15, 1917

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(Photo: Public Domain)Oswald Chambers (1874-1917), British chaplain whose writings and sermons were posthumously published as the book "My Utmost fr His Highest."

This week marks the anniversary of when Oswald Chambers, whose sermons and messages formed the best-selling book My Utmost for His Highest, passed away at age 43.

Chambers was serving as a chaplain for British troops stationed in Egypt during the First World War when he had to undergo an emergency appendectomy; he died soon after the surgery.

Following Chambers' death, his wife compiled his many sermons, notes, and teachings into a volume titled My Utmost for His Highest, being first published in 1923.

"There have been few books published in the last century that have impacted the lives of more Christians than Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest," explained Relevant Magazine in a 2015 piece.

"Part of the appeal of Chambers' teachings and his famous devotional is his ability to capture deep, profound biblical truths in ways that are easy to comprehend, but force you to wrestle through them to truly understand."

Billy Sunday Boston Revival Event Draws 70,000 - November 12, 1916

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(Photo: Public Domain)Famed American evangelist Billy Sunday (1862-1935), as seen in a photograph taken in 1921.

This week marks the anniversary of when the famed evangelist the Rev. Billy Sunday held a revival meeting in Boston, Massachusetts that drew approximately 70,000 people.

Preaching from a temporary tabernacle on Huntington Avenue, 15,000 of those who came had to be turned away due to the crowding. However, Sunday would remain in Boston for ten weeks, drawing approximately 1.5 million people during that time.

"His acrobatic antics, colorful language, frank discussion of sexual mores, and retinue of performers smacked of a vaudeville show. But his masterful preaching moved many to commit their lives to Jesus," explained Mass Moments.

"The sermons against the evils of alcohol that he delivered in Boston, long remembered as among his most powerful, helped win passage of the constitutional amendment that made prohibition the law of the land."

Religious Freedom Restoration Act Becomes Law - November 16, 1993

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(Screenshot: YouTube/clintonlibrary42)President Bill Clinton giving remarks in November 1993 regarding the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This week marks the anniversary of when the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act became law, after being passed almost unanimously by Congress and signed by then President Bill Clinton.

RFRA was first introduced in response to the United States Supreme Court decision Employment Division v. Smith (1990), in which the high court upheld the firing of two Native Americans who lost their jobs due to using peyote as part of a religious ceremony.

When commenting on the broad support for RFRA across religious and political lines, President Clinton quipped in a speech at the time that "the power of God is such that even in the legislative process miracles can happen."

"Usually the signing of legislation by a President is a ministerial act, often a quiet ending to a turbulent legislative process," added Clinton.

"Today this event assumes a more majestic quality because of our ability together to affirm the historic role that people of faith have played in the history of this country and the constitutional protections those who profess and express their faith have always demanded and cherished."

During the 2010s, many Christian businesses and nonprofits have appealed to RFRA in response to state-sponsored efforts to compel them to support liberal social positions on abortion and LGBT rights. These efforts have come with mixed results.

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