Daily Archives: September 4, 2014

Richard Flory et al–The Tidal Wave of Indifference: I Don't Church, I Brunch

A lot has been written recently about the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd, or the “religious nones”–people who have no particular religious affiliation–and how their numbers are rapidly growing in the U.S. Recent reports place “nones” between just under 20 percent to as much as 23 percent of American adults. The largest segment of the population that claims no religious affiliation are young people under 30 years of age (32 percent), with the next-least-affiliated group those between 30 and 49 (21 percent).

Closer analysis of these trends reveal that the majority of the “nones” are interested in spirituality, and many are still drawn toward certain religious practices. But regardless of how this development is described or measured, the upshot is that people are going to religious services less frequently than in previous generations, and our traditional definitions of religion and religious institutions are mattering less in the daily lives of younger Americans. In our view, however, this does not mean that we are entering a new age of atheism or irreligion, but instead signals what we would describe as a coming wave of religious indifference.

Among the many reasons for the increasing numbers of “nones” and the decreasing ability of religious organizations to successfully appeal to people who otherwise have some religious affinity, we suggest the following five are the most important:

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sociology, Spirituality/Prayer, Young Adults

(CC) From survival to love–Andrew Elphinstone's insights into Evolution +the problem of suffering

How can we possibly think that a God of love has created this violent, hatred-filled world? It is one of the hardest questions Christians face.

I did not expect to find an answer to this question when I first came across Andrew Elphinstone’s book Freedom, Suffering and Love. Elphinstone was an aristocratic clergyman trained at Eton and Oxford. Queen Elizabeth was a bridesmaid at his wedding. What could this entitled man have to say to about violence and injustice?

But it turns out that his essay on love and suffering””which combines insights from evolutionary biology, psychology, theology, and spirituality””speaks of the complexities of the human heart with incredible force while remaining almost entirely jargon free. Freedom, Suffering and Love was published posthumously from the author’s notes in 1976 and promptly forgotten.

Why does a world created by the God of love contain so much suffering and unrest? Elphinstone’s answer links the evolutionary process, with all its ruthless violence and competitiveness, to the process of love as it is formed in the human heart. He shows that “the present primacy of pain and unrest in the world is part of the raw material of the ultimate primacy of love.”

Read it all from Bethany Sollereder.

Posted in Uncategorized

(CT) Michelle Van Loon–The Midlife Church Crisis

Decades ago, baby boomers and older Gen Xers pushed to create churches centered on the young, nuclear family. Sadly, this ministry model now excludes many of us. Having outgrown the local church’s core programs, we’re left to usher, teach fourth-grade Sunday school, or attend committee meetings. At times, I can’t help thinking: Been there, done that. Got the Christian T-shirt to prove it.

While local churches work to reach a younger generation, some of their graying members are stepping away. In our 50s, 60s, and beyond, we face a new set of challenges: relationship shifts, loneliness, health risks, divorce, and death. Boomers have begun attending church less frequently, according to Barna Research, while Gen Xers registered a significant uptick in those with no church affiliation.

I recently took an informal survey on my blog, and heard from nearly 500 believers about their church experiences as they’ve gotten older. Most stayed involved, using their extra empty-nester time to serve and continue their relationships with other congregants. But a little less than half said they’d scaled back their involvement from what it had been a decade ago. Those who had downshifted or left cited weariness with church politics, increased career demands, significant time devoted to caring for parents or grandchildren, health issues, and a sense that they’d somehow outgrown their church. “I’m tired of the same programs year after year,” one said. “I want deeper relationships with fewer people, more spiritual exercises like prayer and meditation than the canned studies offered.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, Marriage & Family, Middle Age, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Guardian) Scottish referendum campaign 'permeated by something ugly' says senior cleric

The Church of Scotland’s most senior cleric has expressed fears that “something ugly” is permeating the referendum campaign, as a new poll finds that voters believe the country will be divided after 18 September regardless of the outcome of the vote.

The Right Rev John Chalmers, moderator of the General Assembly, said: “I am repelled by the name-calling and rancour we have seen in recent weeks. We need to behave as though we are paving the way for working together whatever the outcome.

“I have faith that despite divergent views most Scots are behaving courteously during the runup to the referendum. However, it has become clear that some are not. I fear that something ugly may be beginning to permeate the independence debate.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Scotland, Theology

(Telegraph) Refuge for Iraqi Christians could play into Islamic State's hands says Michael Nazir-Ali

Granting asylum to persecuted Iraqi Christians and religious minorities could unwittingly aid Jihadists in their goal of “cleansing” the Middle East of non-Muslims, a bishop has insisted.

The former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, said well-intentioned calls for Britain to welcome refugees from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) could play into the hands of militants and spell the end of a Christian presence dating back almost 2,000 years.

His remarks, reinforced in a letter to The Telegraph, effectively break ranks with the official stance of the Church of England which has repeatedly pressed David Cameron and other ministers to accept refugees fleeing persecution because of their faith.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(The Atlantic) And Now, the News Through Catholic Eyes

All of us are seekers, in one way or another. In everyday life, we seek meaning, understanding, ways to pass the days. On the Internet, everyone’s looking for something, be it news articles or cat pics. But there’s a spectrum: Websites like Beliefnet or Biblegateway.com cater to a more stereotypical version of “seekers,” offering endless inspirational quotes and meditative-looking stock photos. Traditional news sites satisfy a different kind of craving, a desire for straightforward information about what’s going on in the world””readers are just seekers by another name.

It’s a tricky thing to try balance seeker and reader, but The Boston Globe is going to try. On Tuesday, the newspaper launched a new site called Crux, dedicated to coverage of the Catholic Church. The site will include reported pieces about the Vatican, discussions about topics like abortion and gay marriage, and “lighter fare, including quizzes, travel coverage, and recipes … and a column called ‘OMG,'” which will focus on ethical and moral dilemmas, according to the press release.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Media, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Albert Mohler–The Osteen Predicament–Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel

Judged in theological terms, the Osteen message is the latest and slickest version of Prosperity Theology. That American heresy has now spread throughout much of the world, but it began in the context of American Pentecostalism in the early twentieth century. Prosperity theology, promising that God rewards faith with health and wealth, first appealed to those described as “the dispossessed” ”” the very poor. Now, its updated version appeals to the aspirational class of the suburbs. Whereas the early devotees of Prosperity Theology prayed for a roof over their heads that did not leak, the devotees of prosperity theology in the Age of Osteen pray for ever bigger houses. The story of how the Osteens exercised faith for a big house comes early in Joel Osteen’s best-seller, Your Best Life Now.

According to Osteen, God wants to pour out his “immeasurable favor” on his human creatures, and this requires a fundamental re-ordering of our thinking. “To experience this immeasurable favor,” Osteen writes, “you must rid yourself of that small-minded thinking and start expecting God’s blessings, start anticipating promotion and supernatural increase. You must conceive it in your heart before you can receive it. In other words, you must make increase in your own thinking, then God will bring those things to pass.”

There is nothing really new in this message. Anyone familiar with the New Thought movement and later books such as Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich will see a persistent theme. The important issue is this ”” Prosperity Theology is a false Gospel. The problem with Prosperity Theology is not that it promises too much, but that it aims for so little. What God promises us in Christ is far above anything that can be measured in earthly wealth ”” and believers are not promised earthly wealth nor the gift of health.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Christology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Books and Culture) Dale Van Kley–The French Revolution and the Radical Enlightenment

A decade and a half ago I put forward a counterintuitive thesis about the religious origins of the French Revolution. Although the book underscored the importance of a century-long controversy resulting from the Bourbon monarchy’s attempt to suppress the “heresy” of Catholic Augustinians, or Jansenists, it did not argue that Jansenists made the French Revolution. Put briefly, the thesis was rather that the monarchy’s repeated need for papal authority to condemn Jansenism as a heresy eventually put it on the unpatriotic side of France’s Gallican liberties, which had long held the papacy to be subject to general councils and which Jansenists began to use in their own defense. By the mid-18th century””so the thesis went””a religious fight picked by the monarchy desacralized the monarchy in its own terms, sanctified the notion of national sovereignty in indigenous Gallican terms, and caused a schism within the Gallican Church that reappeared in more virulent form during the Revolution. It also produced Europe’s most anti-Christian enlightenment, which of course also inflected the course and character of the Revolution. The point was therefore not to dismiss the role of the French Enlightenment in the Revolution, but to enlighten the longer-term religious and political parameters within which that enlightenment assumed its peculiar character and could make its force felt.

In contrast to such an indirect and structural attempt to factor religion into an account of the “causes” of the French Revolution, a more frontal and totalizing approach might have reduced all causes to religious ones on the grounds that, whether they knew it or not, the revolutionaries were still within the paradigm of the redemption of time originally established by the Judeo-Christian tradition, just as they were acting on the notion of human “rights” originally postulated in medieval canon law and scholastic theology. The notion that human beings have intrinsic worth is not after all a self-evident or empirically verifiable proposition; by the standards of human justice itself, humanity cannot be judge and party in its own cause. If no such attempt was made in that book, it was due not only to the desire not to press the evidence beyond the obvious, but also to be taken seriously by the entire community of professional historians.

In comparison to this argument, the case for the ideas of the French Enlightenment as the chief cause of the Revolution is much easier to make.

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Posted in Uncategorized

(WSJ) In Germany, Many Believers Balk at Tweak to Church Tax

In Germany, being an official church member usually means paying an extra tax. But a change in the country’s tax code is now causing many believers to leave the fold.

Germany is just one of a number of European countries where members of the main organized religions pay a special levy on income to provide the bulk of churches’ finances. But when a loophole concerning income from capital gains closes next year, church leaders have good reason to expect an exodus.

So far this year, the number of Germans leaving the country’s Protestant and Catholic churches has reached its highest level in 20 years, twice last year’s level””a surge many clergy and finance experts blame on the changes in how the tax is levied.

The outflow is now fueling a debate about whether a levy that goes back to the 19th century is an appropriate way to finance churches in an increasingly secularized Germany.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, who hast willed that the gate of mercy should stand open to the faithful: Look on us, and have mercy upon us, we beseech thee; that we who by thy grace are following the path of thy will may continue in the same all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.

–Psalm 37:3-5

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Gallup) U.S. Job Creation Holds at Six-Year High

Gallup’s U.S. Job Creation Index held steady in August at +28, tying the six-year high reached in July. This is up from +22 in August a year ago. The index has been fairly flat since May, when it reached +27, after trending up in the first few months of 2014.

Gallup’s Job Creation Index is a measure of net hiring in the U.S. as reported by a nationally representative sample of full- and part-time workers. In August, 41% of workers said their employer is hiring and expanding the size of its workforce, while 13% said their employer is letting workers go and reducing the size of its workforce, resulting in the +28 net hiring score.

This is only the second month since 2008 — the first being last month — that slightly more workers reported their employer is hiring rather than maintaining the status quo.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Theology

(Guardian) Archbishop of Canterbury condemns Isis persecution of Christians

The archbishop of Canterbury has condemned the “extreme religious ideology” behind the persecution of Christians and others in the Middle East. He also condemned the murder of American journalist Steven Sotloff and called for the perpetrators of violence in the region to be held to account.

Justin Welby was speaking at Lambeth Palace after a meeting with 20 leaders and representatives of Middle East churches before joining other faith leaders for a prayer vigil outside Westminster Abbey to show solidarity with the people of Iraq.

Welby admitted it took the west some time to realise how serious the situation was.

“It took the barbarism of jihadist militants to wake us up,” he said.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Barna) Public Schools: Christians Are Part of the Solution

“First day of school” photos have filled your Facebook and Instagram feeds. School crossing signs are popping up again on your daily commute. It’s back-to-school time.

But not all kids are heading into comparable classrooms: There remains a raging debate over the quality””and equality””of public education in America.

In research conducted for the Barna FRAME, Schools in Crisis by Nicole Baker Fulgham, Barna Group asked Americans what they think about the country’s public education: Only 7% of U.S. adults said the public education system in our nation is “very effective.” Nearly half (46%) maintain that public schools have further declined in the last five years. A mere one-third of parents of school-age children (34%) say public schools are their first choice for their children.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, Education, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sociology