Interesting interactive graphic here on the topography of Faith in America
From a pew forum study
Americans could only answer correctly 50% of the questions on a very simple religious knowledge survey. Three main areas on the survey: knowledge of the Bible, knowledge of other religions and knowledge about role of religion in public life of America. Interesting stats
- Athiests/agnostics, mormons and those of the Jewish faith have a higher level of overall religious knowledge than do protestants
- Mormons and white evangelical protestants know more about Christianity than do other groups
- Jews and athiests/agnostics have a higher level of knowledge about other faiths and about religion in public life than do other groups
Interesting paragraph on bible reading
- Many Americans are devoted readers of Scripture: More than a third (37%) say they read the Bible or other Holy Scriptures at least once a week, not counting worship services. But Americans as a whole are much less inclined to read other books about religion. Nearly half of Americans who are affiliated with a religion (48%) say they “seldom” or “never” read books (other than Scripture) or visit websites about their own religion, and 70% say they seldom or never read books or visit websites about other religions.
Click here If you want to take a quiz representing an abbreviated form of the questions asked. I scored 87%, missed a question on public prayer being allowed in America and one other.
Fascinating study of the early Jewish sources by Dr. Gerald Schroeder about the age of the earth. He suggests that we are dealing with two ages in Genesis 1. The first six days are billions of years (don’t quite track how he computes the length of time) but suggests that it has only been a little less than 6000 years from the creation of Adam on day 7. I am impressed but I suspect the young earthers out there will not be!
Saw this in a comment on the GetReligion.org site
After reading an article on Nidal Hasan, I was struck by the question about how difficult it is many to distinguish between piety and fanaticism. That got me going on a parallel track. The author of the above article was actually commenting on an earlier article published in the Washington Post and asked the following:
In other words: when does piety become deadly? The question is not only how do you draw the line, but where? Daily prayer? Making a pilgrimage Mecca? Traveling to Pakistan for terror training?
Further, there is a serious societal danger in misreading piety for fanaticism.
Looking up pious on Wikipedia, I found the following: “While different people may understand its meaning differently, it is generally used to refer either to religious devotion or to spirituality, or often, a combination of both. A common element in most conceptions of piety is humility.”
Spirituality is one of those words that is often used today but seldom understood and has as many definitions as there are writers. The word “spirituality” is not used in the Bible but there is “spiritual” or pneumatikos (greek). Pneumatikos is used 21 times in the NT, 20 of these by Paul and 11 of them in 1 Corinthians. It seems that the opposite of spiritual is unspiritual or fleshly (sarkinos) which is also translated as worldly in the NIV. Spiritual individuals are also contrasted with the immature or nerios in 1 Cor 3:1) Spiritual teaching is contrasted with human wisdom or sophia (1 cor 2:13). Something is spiritual because of the work of the Holy Spirit (pneuma) and so we have spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:1, 14:1), spiritual people (Gal 6:1) spiritual blessings (Eph 1:3), spiritual songs (Eph 5:19) , spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col 1:9) and a spiritual house (1 Pet 2:5). The one exception is in Eph 6:12 in which “the spiritual forces of evil” are referred and there spiritual seems to contrast with the fleshly or bodily forces of evil. One could also look at Gal 5:22-23 to see what the fruit of the Spirit should be.
Now it gets very interesting when one considers religion or threskeia in the NT which is only used in three passages. In Col 2:18 threskeia is used to describe the worship of angels. And what does Paul equate with this religion? False humility, an unspiritual mind that is “puffed up with idle notions,” someone who has “lost connection with the Head” (referring to Christ), “based on human commands and teaching,” have an appearance of wisdom, self-imposed worship, false humility, a “harsh treatment of the body” that “lacks any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Sounds like fanaticism to me.
When you look at threskeia in James 1:26, 27, we learn that true religion (spirituality?), religion that God accepts as “pure and faultless”, means that we can “control our tongue,” that “we take care of orphans and widows in their distress” and involves keeping ourselves from “being polluted by the world.” If we don’t do these things, then we are “deceived” and our “religion is worthless.”
I find this to be quite convicting personally and would welcome comments.
Here is a summary of Pew Research study on Islamic populations in the world. One section,
More than 60 per cent of Muslims are in Asia, with only 20 per cent in the Middle East and North Africa. But the latter have the highest percentages of Muslim-majority countries, some of them with Islamic populations of 95 per cent or more.
Just to be fair, here is a link to Greg Laden’s post about how missionaries in Africa have set back the gay rights of Africans. Of course, he only presents part of the story. Would be interesting to find out the laws against child abuse and attempted murder. If people are intentionally infecting others with HIV, would that not be the same as poisoning them although with a much higher assurance of success?
When I see things like this, I feel shame that I might be connected with them and anger at their ignorance! What foolishness. Thanks to Michael Hyatts blog.
Almost as bad as the sermon about why men should stand to pee!
I knew that the loosely defined “spirituality” was on the rise but apparently, so is athiesm. Several interesting quotes. Here is one:
“When people are ethically and financially stable, it prevents them from exploring religious options and they tend to focus on themselves and others,” he said.
Could this be the selfish gene at work?
Who or what is a none you may be asking? From a study just released by Trinity College on data from the American Religious Identification Survey 2008
Who exactly are the Nones? “None” is not a movement, but a label for a diverse group of people who do not identify with any of the myriad of religious options in the American religious marketplace – the irreligious, the unreligious, the anti-religious, and the anti-clerical. Some believe in God; some do not. Some may participate occasionally in religious rituals; others never will.
How many Nones are there?
- The Nones increased from 8.1% of the U.S. adult population in 1990 to 15% in 2008 and from 14 to 34 million adults
- Whereas Nones are presently 15% of the total adult U.S. population, 22% of Americans aged 18-29 years self-identify as Nones
- Nones are significantly younger than the general population: 30% are under age 30 and only 5% are 70 years or older (see Figure 1.2). The median age of adult Nones is 41 years, compared to 46 years in the
general U.S. population
- Whereas 19% of American men are Nones only 12% of American women are Nones
- More than 1 in 5 people in certain regions (the West, New England) are Nones. Vermont is #1 with 34% of the population declaring themselves to be Nones, New Hampshire at 29%, California at 18%. 12% of Texans are Nones and only 5% of those from Mississippi admit they are nones.
- There is a variety of belief in God among the Nones, ranging from theism to atheism, though the largest proportion (59%) is agnostic or deist. Nones are not particularly superstitious or partial to New Age beliefs.
- Nones are more accepting of human evolution than the general U.S. population.
- Nones do not seeminterested in religious rites of passage, like baptisms, religious marriage, or religious funerals.
- American Nones embrace philosophical and theological beliefs that reflect skepticism rather than overt antagonism toward religion.
- If current trends continue and cohorts of non-religious young people replace older religious people, the likely outcome is that in two decades the Nones could account for around one-quarter of the American population.
Since the full report is 24 pages (but does include a lot of nice charts), you may want to look at the shorter USA story on this or from U.S. New and World Report. I found this on the Religion News Blog
“People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water,” said Jesus in John 4:13
The thirst that Jesus is speaking of here is for the “more than,” the transcendent. Why do we (including myself here) look in every place other than in Jesus? What are some waters that we think will quench us? Here are a few for me:
Sex, entertainment, sports, books, tv, movies, winning, control, power, being alone, being with people, work accomplishments, people “needing” me, money, stuff, food, drugs or alcohol, sleep, honor, compliments, appreciation, success, relationships, status, vacations, luxury. Yet the water that Jesus offers, satisfies that thirst we all have. He is the one whom we need and are longing for.
I am (ego eimi) the one you are looking for says Jesus to the woman in 4:26. Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Creation writes about the ego eimi sayings of Jesus.
In saying these words that echo from Exodus 3:14, Jesus is claiming to be God himself. His listeners understood this since they prepared to stone him for blasphemy when he said this in Jn 8:58. According to Peterson, they knew he was saying, “I am God himself, here and now; I have always been, will always be.”
Peterson goes on to explain how the simple statement of Jesus, “I am” is an invitation into a conversation with himself, a conversation “marked by intimacy and leisure.” There is an invitation for those of us who are thirsting for a taste of the “more than” into his very life–Jesus is accessible to us! As Peterson says,
Jesus doesn’t try to impress us with big words or highfalutin concepts; he doesn’t flaunt his credentials; he doesn’t bully or intimidate with a show of authority. Jesus is in conversation with the same kinds of people we talk to most days and many of them we recognize in ourselves. 90
In a statement sure to shock some, Peterson says about John,
he is not nearly as interested in telling us anything new about Jesus (although he does plenty of that along the way) as he is in drawing us into an increasingly intimate relationship with Jesus. “Believe” and “love” are the characteristic verbs; neither can be accomplished in a hurry. 91 (italics original)
Later in the chapter, Peterson makes an amazing statement about belief.
The too often disregarded scriptural rule is that we cannot be made to believe. Belief by its very nature requires assent and participation, trust and commitment. When we believe we are at our most personal and intimate with one another, with the Other. Belief cannot be forced. If we are bullied or seduced or manipulated to believe, we do not end up believing, we end up intimidated or raped or used. And we are less, not more. 94
I know there are a lot of folks out there with a bad church experience (perhaps bullied, seduced and/or manipulated) and that may be keeping them away from Jesus. But, as we go back and read the stories of John, we discover/remember that there is no other place to find the soul quenching intimacy that Jesus offers!
Science has discovered yet again something that Christians have known for a long time. Suffering strengthens faith! Check out the book of Acts and the growth of the church after the persecution began. Thanks to World Mag
My reading this morning fits well with the following poem that John Fischer highlighted in his Catch of the Day (he notes that he does not know the author of the poem). Reading Is 53:3-6 in New Living and parenthesis are my personalization of the passage.
we (I) turned our backs (my back) on him and looked the other way
he was despised and we (I) did not care
it was our (my) weaknesses he carried
it was our (my) sorrows that weighed him down
he was pierced for our (my) rebellion
crushed for our (my) sins
beaten so we (I) could be made whole
whipped so we (I) could be healed
All of us like (I am like a) sheep have strayed away
We (I) have left God’s own paths to follow our (my) own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all!
Who’s in heaven?
by John Fischer
I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven’s door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
Nor the lights, or its decor.
But it was the folks in Heaven
Who made me sputter and gasp–
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics, and the trash.
There stood the kid from seventh grade
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
Who never said anything nice.
Herb, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
Looking incredibly well.
I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How’d all these sinners get up here?
God must’ve made a mistake.
“And why’s everyone so quiet,
So somber – give me a clue.”
“Hush, child,’ He said, “they’re all in shock.
No one thought they’d be seeing you.”
Since the lenten season began yesterday with Ash Wednesday, here are a couple of places to look about lent if you are interested. Once again, Ruth Barton provides some challenging words for us about lent. She suggests that lent is not just about disciplines of abstinence–what we give up. Writing about the lenten disciplines of prayer and repentance, she writes, “They are a means to an end and that end is that we would return to God with all our hearts.” Barton says,
The real question of the Lenten season is: How will I find ways to return to God with all my heart? This begs an even deeper question: Where in my life have I gotten away from God and what are the disciplines that will enable me to find my way back?
Then, my wife sent me some links to Breakpoint’s blog which provided other resources. To find out about the meaning of lent, when it is practiced and to find some beginning resources, see this article by Craig R. Higgens.
Finally, here is a link to day 1 of reflections by Catherine Larson in which she writes about being honest enough to admit the evil that lurks in our hearts.
Speaking honestly, I confess that I really don’t know much about lent and have never used the weeks of lent or even the week of Easter as a time of personal reflection. I think that needs to change.
I am not usually that interested in statistics since I never know quite what to do with them. Here are a few from a mid-2007 on religion in America by the Pew Forum. A few facts of note:
1. Although 78.4% identify themselves as Christians, only 51.3 % consider themselves Protestants.
2. 16.1% are not affiliated with any religous faith–looks like they are one of the fastest growing segments of the population
3. Protestants (and other groups to a lesser extent) have significant internal diversity and fragmentation
I have always thought that our problem was closing the back door and the following conclusion seems to agree.
The survey finds that constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace, as every major religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing adherents. Those that are growing as a result of religious change are simply gaining new members at a faster rate than they are losing members. Conversely, those that are declining in number because of religious change simply are not attracting enough new members to offset the number of adherents who are leaving those particular faiths.
Here is another link to the same survey in which they asked the following question: When it comes to questions of right and wrong, which of the following do you look to most for guidance? Guess what, religious teachings & beliefs was right up there with Practical experience & common sense, even among evangelicals.
Encouraging news on the growth of the evangelical church in London. We just completed the Alpha marriage course and found it to be useful.
Interesting link over at worldmag.com to a Gallup Poll on the importance of religion in each state. Mississippi heads it up at 85%, Texas is at #11 with 74%, Nevada and Connecticut finish out the list at 55% and 54% respectively. Amazingly, 65% of Americans polled answered yes to the question, “Is religion an important part of your daily life?” I wonder how they would answer if the question involved “evangelical Christianity” or “spirituality”?
Talking to a friend the other day about depression and weakness. I could sense he was not used to being in a position of such weakness. I tried to show him that being shown his weakness is a great gift. It was always there anyway! So, why not let God use it. Here are some lyrics to a song by Jason Gray, called “Weak” from his album All The Lovely Losers.
I also like his song grace off of this album. His music works for me.
I was afraid to be weak
Afraid to be me
I was afraid
Because I didn’t want them to see
What’s broken in me
But I guess I was wrong
I should’ve known all along
When I’m weak You are strong in me
You make up what I lack
You shine through the cracks
Where I was shattered
Because You pour out Your grace
Through my broken places
So I won’t be afraid to cry
To confess or question why
I won’t hide the pain I feel
Now I know these wounds are how you heal
No I won’t be afraid to cry
I don’t want to live a lie
They will see Your love is real
When I let You use my wounds to heal
These wounds are how You heal
You can use these wounds to heal
If they’re afraid I stand too tall
They’ll tear down the bridges and build a wall
But if they see I stumble the walls may crumble down
I was wrong
I don’t have to be strong
I didn’t want to believe
But now I finally see
My deepest point of need
Is the better part of me
`Cause when I’m weak You are strong in me
I don’t know anyone who wants to be a ministry project. In our new role in member care, there have been a few times when people have been quite defensive when we have asked them how they are doing. How to communicate genuine care? How to care for people authentically? Some helpful words from Beth Porter via the Henri Nouwen society.
On the Journey Towards Becoming a More Authentic Minister written by BETH PORTER
I have sometimes felt so phony in my attempts at ministry. My words seem awkward and empty to me, and I can only imagine that the person receiving them recognizes this. Lately I have been looking back at one period of ministry when I felt I usually did have the right words – and right judgment about when silence and not speech was called for. It was a stint of chaplaincy training during which I was assigned to visit palliative care patients. Though I had little experience or training, authentic ministry seemed to come easily to me there, and fairly often I could sense the grace in the moment for the other person as well as for myself.
What were the elements in that situation that called the best out of me? I think the exigency of approaching death left no space for delay, for laziness, for the trivial, or platitudes, or dishonesty – or for self-conscious concern about whether or not I would find the right words. In the starkness, fully attentive, I reached deep for hope, and my ego took a backseat.
The word authentic means “from the author.” I usually realize after I have said something when it has come from a superficial part of myself – it’s as though the real me has not authored it! I don’t particularly want to keep death always in mind, but I see the importance of the psalmist’s plea that God “teach us to number our days, so that we might get a heart of wisdom.”
John Fischer writes about, “Why I’m (practially) not a Christian” below. I am beginning to remember why I liked some of his early books like Real Christians (don’t) Dance. Read the whole post here and subscribe to his daily post at www.fischtank.com
One of the things you will find out if you start to listen to non-Christians is why they don’t like Christianity. My guess is, when you hear their reasons, you may actually agree with some of them, because the Christianity they are against is quite often not true Christianity anyway. So right there you can have something in common. You can both not like Christianity (the wrong one, of course). I know that seems odd, but these are strange days anyway.
How ironic is it, that the thing we would have in common with non-Christians is the fact that neither of us like Christianity? Believe it or not, you can turn this “anti-Christian” commonality into an opportunity to talk about none other than Jesus.
I didn’t even know such a day existed until this week. Reformation Day is a religious holiday that recalls the beginning of the Reformation on Oct 31, the day in 1517 that Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door. David Mathis has an interesting post showing that Luther never forgot his desperate need for the cross.
The truth of Luther’s first thesis would reverberate throughout his lifetime, even finding expression in his last words.
His first thesis reads,
When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.
All of the Christian life is repentance. Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners aren’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every day and every moment. Repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture.
Almost 30 years later, on February 16, 1546, Luther’s last words, written on a piece of scrap paper, echoed the theme of his first thesis:
We are beggars! This is true.
From first thesis to last words, Luther lived at the foot of the cross, where our rebellious condition meets with the beauty of God’s lavish grace in the gospel of his Son—a gospel deep enough to cover all the little and massive flaws of a beggar like Luther and beggars like us.
Here is a smart rap video about the 95 theses. They also have the words posted on the site if you don’t want to wait for the video to upload.