A new survey by the University of Chicago has ranked the United States as the fifth most religious country. “Beliefs About God Across Time And Countries,” a research project conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, asked respondents in 30 countries the following:
Please indicate which statement comes closest to expressing what you believe about God:
1. I don't believe in God.
2. I don't know whether there is a God and I don't believe there is any way to find out.
3. I don’t believe in a personal God, but do believe in a Higher Power of some kind.
4. I find myself believing in God some of the time, but not at others.
5. While I have doubts, I feel that I do believe in God.
6. I know that God really exists and I have no doubts about it.
7. Can’t Choose
8. No Answer
Researchers concluded that the Philippines had the strongest belief in God, and Japan the least. The U.S. ranked fifth behind Israel, Poland, Chile, and the Philippines. The most atheistic countries were Germany (East), Czech Republic, France, The Netherlands, and Sweden.
Reducing abortion is important, but Matthew Lee Anderson doesn't think this is the way to do it.
by Url Scaramanga
Earlier this month evangelical leaders from every sector of the culture gathered in Washington DC for the Q conference. One of the panels focused on the staggering number of abortions among single women within the church. Panelists discussed the problem and how churches could begin to turn the tide. At the close of the discussion the audience was asked to respond to an instant poll: "Do you believe churches should advocate contraception for their single twentysomethings?" 70 percent responded "Yes."
While affirming God's intent that sexual activity be confined to marriage, those attending Q recognized the greater evil presented by abortion. While still affirming the ideal of pre-marital chastity, pragmatism led 7 in 10 leaders at Q to embrace the wisdom of preventing abortions by those who don't reach the sexual standards of Scripture. Many were likely persuaded by the undeniable statistics showing the failure of "abstinence only" sexual eduction to prevent pregnancy and lower abortion rates.
But should the church be swayed by these practical arguments? And can we truly hold up the biblical sexual ethics and simultaneously encourage singles to "sin safely"? Matthew Lee Anderson says we cannot.
There may be no easy answers to these problems. And the most convenient—advocating for contraception for sexually active single people in our churches—may temporarily reduce abortions. Yet whatever good consequences it might have do not mitigate the fact that such advocacy will inevitably further engrain into our communities the broken understanding of sex and community that is at the heart of our predicament.
Joel Osteen & Rick Warren react to Mitt Romney's nomination and faith.
Most evangelicals vote for Republican candidates, and for the last three decades the Republican Party has coveted evangelical votes by emphasizing the GOP's close link to Christian faith and values. But with Mitt Romney now the Republican candidate for President, many are asking whether his Mormon faith will be a stumbling block for evangelicals.
Last week a controversy erupted when Liberty University, the country's largest Christian college, invited Romney to be the commencement speaker. Some students and alumni are upset that the school invited a non-Christian to speak. They accuse Liberty of putting partisan politics ahead of it's commitment to Christ.
The Liberty U. controversy highlights a growing debate about the relationship between Mormonism and Christianity: are Mormons Christians? In these videos two prominent pastors take different perspectives. What are you telling your church members? And should it impact the way we vote?
A young Christian practices 12 faiths in one year and his surprising conclusion.
by Url Scaramanga
29-year-old Andrew Bowen became a Christian in high school, but says that he took "a nose dive into fundamentalism. It just ignited a furnace in me." His journey with God since then has been challenging. When his wife experienced a complicated pregnancy that ended tragically, Bowen says he plunged into a "two-year stint of just seething hatred toward God."
Last year he decided it was time to explore what he really believed. He began Project Conversion. With the aid of religious mentors, Bowen practiced 12 different religions each for one month including: Hinduism, Baha'i, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhisim, agnosticism, Mormonism, Islam, Sikhism, Wicca, Jainism, and Catholicism.
Media, mission, and why the church needs to grasp the power of humor.
Skye Jethani interviews Phil Vischer
Back in the 1990s, Phil Vischer achieved success with the creation of CG Protestant produce. Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber were the stars VeggieTales, the kids video series that smashed sales records and taught a whole generation that God is bigger than the boogie man. The winning combination of CG, catchy tunes, and Monty Python-esque humor proved Vischer's company, Big Idea, could teach Biblical truth to a generation raised on NIckeolodeon and Mtv. But by 2003 the ride was over. Vischer lost his company and control of his farmstand friends. The story of Big Idea's rise and fall is told in his book,Me, Myself, and Bob.
Having learned the peril of seeking big impact rather than small faithfulness, Vischer began his next venture, Jellyfish Labs, just as the media world was being transformed by iTunes and digital platforms. He created a new stable of characters led by anchorman Buck Denver (think of Ron Burgundy as a Muppet), JellyTelly- an interactive website for kids, and a DVD series called What's in the Bible? that walks kids through every book of Bible. But now Vischer has his sights set on an older audience. Realizing his humor resonates with college students and older adults, next month he will begin "The Phil Vischer Show"--a talk show focusing on the intersection of faith with culture, politics, science, theology, and anything else that flows through his mind. Featuring guests and a live audience (and the occassional puppet?), Vischer hopes his show will bring some silliness to conversations about the serious topics of our day.
Skye: When did you sense that God was calling you to engage the media/entertainment world? How did this fit with the ministry legacy of your family?
Phil: My family legacy was all about missions and the pastorate. I had relatives who faced down cannibals. My great grandfather was a radio preacher, and I grew up at the missions conference he founded, hearing amazing stories about the amazing things amazing missionaries were doing for God. I couldn't figure out how a shy kid like me fit into that picture. I preferred playing with Super8 cameras and my Atari 400 computer at home in the basement. Then MTV turned on when I was a sophomore in high school. I loved the creativity, but was very concerned about the values. Definitely not what I had learned in Sunday School. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe God could use someone like me to bring biblical truth into creative media. Suddenly I had a picture of how I could be on mission with God without ever getting on a plane, or facing down a cannibal.
How can Christians engage the public square to encourage flourishing?
by Url Scaramanga
We are entering into another presidential election, which means Christian voices will be invited into the political discourse. Some of these voices will make us proud, and others may not. So how should we think about Christian engagement in the public square? Miroslav Volf articulates two dangers:
While children’s poetry is an unusual form for a Leadership article, this is what emerged after reviewing Andrew Sullivan’s thought provoking article, “The Forgotten Jesus," in the April 9 edition of Newsweek. I'm glad that the disparity of church behavior with the teachings of Jesus is becoming a prominent national conversation, but it is often framed as a false choice between either Jesus or the church. Still, Sullivan's piece is an important article on the institutional church and the gospel of Jesus in our current American context.
There once was a writer named Sullivan
who wanted to give Christ a mulligan,
so he said “people, please—ditch the Church so diseased,
and remember what Jesus taught us again!”
His article published in Newsweek,
caused Americans widely to now speak
about clergy corruption, and “Christian” eruptions
of behavior not loving or meek.
My thoughts on the matter? As follows:
his argument’s not at all hollow,
the critique is well taken, “churchianity” shaken,
an indictment we’d do well to swallow . . .
My favorite part in the gospels is where Jesus says, "Come to me all who are weary and I will give you cars, cash, and HD TVs." What? That's not in your translation? Well you must not attend this church.
The President tells evangelical leaders "you have a partner in the White House."
by Url Scaramanga
The Q gathering began on Tuesday in Washington DC with a video address from President Obama. As reported by Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Christianity Today, the President addressed the role of Christian faith in motivating the 700 leaders at the conference, and the work of Christ on the cross. Here's the video of his remarks:
How a life of radical mission and selfish consumption both miss the Gospel.
by Url Scaramanga
Consumerism is a plague on the church, but is our remedy worse than the disease? Using the Parable of the Prodigal Sons, Skye Jethani explores how ministries that seek to transform Christian consumers into Christian activists may do more harm than good.
Are churches making following Jesus too easy? Where's the call to count the costs?
By Drew Dyck
I recently stumbled across an interesting set of questions. They are used by Asian Access (A2), a Christian missions agency in South Asia, to determine a new convert’s readiness to follow Christ. In the West, we might ask newcomers if they prefer contemporary or traditional worship. As you can see, the questions they ask in other parts of the world are a little different. Here they are:
Are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your father?
Are you willing to lose your job?
Are you willing to go to the village and those who persecute you, forgive them, and share the love of Christ with them?
Are you willing to give an offering to the Lord?
Are you willing to be beaten rather than deny your faith?
Are you willing to go to prison?
Are you willing to die for Jesus?
Besides making me feel very grateful for where I live (and slightly guilty for feeling grateful) the questions sounded familiar. I heard an echo of Jesus’ words from Luke 14. You know the passage. Jesus spins around to the people following him and says, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Yet another reason the baptists have an image problem.
by Url Scaramanga
While baptism is an ancient symbol of death, I'm not sure the addition of a shark to the rite is helpful. Most ministers are not as anti-humor as John Piper, but there is a line and Ed Young is about 300 yards over it.
Fewer young adults have a drivers license. What does that mean for commuter churches?
by Skye Jethani
What does the church have in common with the auto industry (besides big-haired salesman)? They’re both failing to engage Millennials. Reports show that younger Americans aren’t buying cars like they used to, and it may be more than the economy to blame. A closer look at the trends may have something to say to church leaders and not just auto executives.
The American auto industry has made a remarkable comeback in the last few years. After a nearly fatal collapse in 2008, the car markers are seeing record sales. But the boom isn’t evident among the young who are failing to buy cars at the same pace as earlier generations.
An article in The Atlantic by Jordan Weissmann reveals that automakers are struggling to connect their products to teens and twenty-somethings. The problem isn’t the cars, or even the economy, but driving in general. Fewer young people are getting drivers licenses. In 1998 nearly two-thirds of potential drivers age 19 or younger had a license. In 2008 it was less then half. It’s hard to believe, but trends indicate young people in the 21st century no longer view a car as the symbol of adolescent independence. As one Toyota executive noted, "Many young people care more about buying the latest smart phone or gaming console than getting their driver's license."