Monday, September 25, 2006

In God(s) We Trust

A new poll by the folks at Baylor University suggests that Americans tend to have one of five views about God:

Atheists
Only 5% of all Americans say there's no God.

Type A: Authority
31% say God exists, and view Him as a "hands on" deity with definite ideas about right and wrong (and a full array of rewards and punishments that are based on those rules).

Type B: Benevolent
23% believe God exists . . . but while they'd agree with people in the first group that God gets involved -- both in the world and in the lives of individuals -- they see Him as more caring and forgiving.

Type C: Critical
16% think God doesn't get involved in the here and now . . . but He does exist, and He does judge you in the afterlife.

Type D: Distant
Finally, 24% believe in the Deity of Thomas Jefferson, i.e. God established the laws of this Universe, set the whole thing in motion, and then walked away; He neither judges nor intervenes in human affairs.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Funny, they tried this on people who were listening to one of my sermons, but nothing happened.

Buddhist monks chant. Franciscan nuns meditate. Pentecostals speak in tongues.

But hook them all up to a brain-scan while they're doing these things, and you get . . .

Well, judging by the letters that came in response to this article in Salon, you mainly get a lot of people who are sure this proves whatever they happened to believe before this study came along.

Myself, I can't help but think the Adventist concept of the soul would be a helpful addition to this conversation -- is there anybody out there who's thinking about these things?

Nirvana meets James Dobson

This is one article in Salon where I'm not sure how to react -- it seems the author spent some time at the Mars Hill Church in Seattle; it's your basic (and wildly successful) grunge-Goth fundamentalist church . . . but if the author's right, it's also gone big-time into the idea of "wives, be obedient to your husbands."

And yes, the author has an axe to grind. I'm not sure, for instance, why I'm supposed to think it's so sinister that members of this church actually sell real-estate (gasp!) to other church members.

Still . . . this wouldn't be the first time a church has started pushing people into boxes. And the pastor of Mars Hill is pretty conservative theologically -- in fact, he's been pretty vocal about the "liberal" failings of the "emerging church" movement.

So how about it -- is the author over-reacting? Or is Mars Hill offering a post-modern version of kuche, kinder, und kirche?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pro-life in Pennsylvania

Nice profile of Robert Casey in The Washington Post -- he's running for the US Senate in Pennsylvania.

So why's a pro-life Catholic running as a Democrat? His answer:
"If we are going to be pro-life, we cannot say we are against abortion . . . and then let our children suffer in broken schools. We can't claim to be pro-life at the same time we are cutting support for Medicaid, Head Start or the Women, Infants and Children's Program."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

It's a Zen thing -- you wouldn't understand.

Interesting overview of American Buddhism in The Christian Science Monitor -- with 1.5 million believers, it's now the fourth-largest religion in America (just behind Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). What I find fascinating is the article's statement that it's growing so fast because it doesn't try to convert people.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

If you own a building that seats 600, then why do you call yourself an "emerging church"?

"The emerging church," said Dennis Colby in The Christian Century, is "a term that refers to churches attended exclusively by white people in their 20s and 30s who have at least one tattoo or body piercing. Their distinguishing characteristics are a refreshing, up-to-date interpretation of Christianity and a reluctance to directly answer questions."

Close enough -- though The Washington Post's recent profile of "emerging church" guru Brian McLaren points out he's actually 50-years-old! (And no, the article doesn't tell us whether he has any tattoos or body piercings.)

Then too, I can't help but wonder what happens when the members of these churches start having children. Most are the alumni of conservative churches, after all -- churches that stressed structure, order, and discpline. It's easy to understand why they'd grow up longing for something a little more "laid back."

And yes, many "emerging church" members make no secret of their disdain for megachurches. "Too slick and professional," they say, "too much like McDonalds."

Fair enough -- but start raising children, and words like "structure," "order," and "discipline" (much less "slick," professional," and even "McDonalds") start looking pretty good!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"When you're in a hole, stop digging."

Back in 2004, roughly 40-percent of American voters said the Democratic Party was "friendly" to religion.

"Whoa!" said the Democrats. "We've got to do something!"

And so, after three years of the Democrats trying to figure out how they can appeal to white Evangelicals and ethnic Catholics . . .

The number of American voters who say the Democratic Party is "friendly" to religion has dropped to 26-percent.

Click on the title for an analysis in Slate.