Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Survey: Americans don't know much about religion

A new survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.
Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn't know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.
More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.
The survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.
Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they could name the Islamic holy book and the first book of the Bible, or say what century the Mormon religion was founded. On average, participants in the survey answered correctly overall for half of the survey questions.
Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.
Not surprisingly, those who said they attended worship at least once a week and considered religion important in their lives often performed better on the overall survey. However, level of education was the best predictor of religious knowledge. The top-performing groups on the survey still came out ahead even when controlling for how much schooling they had completed.
On questions about Christianity, Mormons scored the highest, with an average of about eight correct answers out of 12, followed by white evangelicals, with an average of just over seven correct answers. Jews, along with atheists and agnostics, knew the most about other faiths, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Less than half of Americans know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, and less than four in 10 know that Vishnu and Shiva are part of Hinduism.
The study also found that many Americans don't understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority know that public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature.
"Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are," Pew researchers wrote.
The survey of 3,412 people, conducted between May and June of this year, had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, while the margins of error for individual religious groups was higher.
___
Online:

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT LEAVEN?

At last they understood that He wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:12).

Anything that makes us unnaturally big is evil. Whether it be the individual life, or whether it be what is called the work of God, trying to make it bigger than its real spiritual measure, inflating it beyond its genuine spiritual degree, that is something evil, that is leaven. Anything that results in divisions and breaking up - disintegration is evil. Do not let us excuse our divisions. Do not let us look favorably upon the divisions amongst the Lord's people. If there are only two of us who are divided, let us not make excuses for that, let us say, 'This is wrong, this is evil, this ought not to be, there is some evil at work to divide us.' And what may be true between just two people, is true amongst all the Lord's people. We must not look upon divisions as being good, they are bad. And we must know that God is against divisions. He does not accept this working of leaven.

Then what about this leaven that makes things appeal to our natural taste? Paul said to Timothy, "The time will come when they will not endure sound teaching; and they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears." And he goes on to say that they will believe the lie instead of the truth. Why is that? Because these teachers appeal to the natural life. These teachers cover over evil. Indeed, they will sometimes call evil good. People do not like the teachers who tell them what is wrong, that this thing and that thing are contrary to God. They like leavened bread, it pleases the flesh... He says, there will be leaven, will be corruption and defilement everywhere, but the teaching of the New Testament is: Keep yourselves pure. See that your garments are not spotted. Walk in this sinful world as those who do not belong to its nature. Although there is leaven everywhere, you be the unleavened bread. But, the world may not like you, the world will not like unleavened bread. It does not please the flesh, but the bread which is pure is pleasing to God.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Go Figure

Stats on divorce, adoption, youth ministers, and church volunteers.
Compiled by Ted Olsen | posted 9/23/2010 10:08AM

Marriage
3.5 Divorces per 1,000 Americans in 2008.
4 Divorces per 1,000 Americans in 2000.
Adoption
26% Increase in all adoption placements at Bethany Christian Services, the largest U.S. adoption agency, in 2010 over 2009.
66% Increase in international adoption placements. Inquiries are up 95 percent.
Church Life
Churches with 100 or more teens that have a full-time youth minister.
87% Evangelical churches with 100 or more teens that have a full-time youth minister.
55% Mainline Protestant congregations with 100 or more teens that have a full-time youth minister.
69% Church volunteers who are married.
58% Church volunteers who are female.
Copyright © 2010 Christianity Today. 

His way is narrower still

Carmen Fowler ~ 9/22/2010
It’s not quite the eye of a needle nor the head of a pin, but 3.19 inches isn’t a very big space. My hand doesn’t fit, neither does a 16-ounce coffee cup and a standard roll of toilet paper is not even close. My keys would fit and so would a flash drive, but what would be the point of that without a vehicle, a house or a computer?

2,230 feet below the surface of the earth, 33 Chilean miners are totally dependent upon three narrow boreholes, 3.19 inches in diameter. Rescue is still months away, but hope and the life and even joy arrive via little “doves” that shoot back and forth from the surface 24 hours a day. 

On the day that the first borehole reached the miners it was literally a shaft of light piercing the darkness announcing deliverance and salvation.

According to the Newsweek Back Story, the miners are now receiving:

·          A daily 2,000-calorie diet
·          Five liters of bottled water per miner per day
·          Poles and canvas for cots
·          Shoes, clothing, toiletries
·          Journals and 33 mini-Bibles
·          An iPod with speakers
·          Head-lamp batteries
·          Vitamin D supplements
·          Syringes for tetanus, diphtheria, influenza and pneumonia vaccinations
·          Camera and phone line
·          A mini-projection and fiber-optic line to show sports and movies in a 50 in. picture on the cave wall

So, come to find out, a lot can fit through a little space!

Now, consider the reality of all that God was able to supply for us through the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of one man, Jesus. A narrow way? Yes, but with grace all sufficient and all that was needed for our salvation.

In the person of Christ, God bore a hole through the layers of darkest sin. In the person of Christ, God offers a way out of the pit of despair and certain death. In the person of Christ, God provides for a means of restored relationship, communication, fellowship, hope. He is a lifeline, a conduit, the only hope of a salvation.

Just like the miners in Chile, we cannot save ourselves. Digging a deeper hole will not do. Help has to come from the outside. And so it has! By the grace of God, in the person of Christ, who pierces the darkness with the light of life.

3.19 inches is a very narrow way. Narrower still is the way to the Father through Christ, the Son. But genuinely blessed are those who have access to life through it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

ARE YOU RESTED?

All who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. (Hebrews 4:10).

Christ is God's Sabbath. Christ is our Sabbath. When we enter by faith into Christ's righteousness, we enter into God's rest. It is a tremendous power... The Lord says, in quite simple language, "If only you will trust Me, and trust My provision, and stop worrying, stop fretting, stop being anxious; if you will but believe Me, I have the ground upon which I could meet all your need; I am no longer without ground. There was a time when I had not the ground upon which to do anything with you, and for you, but now you are on the ground of Christ, the ground which I have provided; if only you will trust Me, if only you will rest in Me to bring you through, you will be saved from so much of this weakness, and fret, and anxiety!" Worry is a destroying thing. Back of a lot that we suffer in body, and in mind, there is so often a secret, hidden restlessness, something deep down in our subconscious being of a fret, an anxiety, something that is not rest. It takes many forms. Sometimes over a concern of the Lord's we feel that, unless we do it, it will never be done. We feel that if we are not up and at it, then the whole thing will go to pieces, so much depends upon us.

No one will think that this is the call for passivity, for abandon of concern for the things of the Lord; but it is possible for us to have the things of the Lord on our hearts and yet to have faith in God about them. There are hidden secrets to a great deal of our weakness and defeat, and unnecessary suffering. They are the hidden things of something which is other than just restful faith in God. There are some people who need to take things to heart a little more than they do, but for many the trouble is perhaps of the other kind. They are thinking that they have to run God's universe for Him; they must look after things or else they will never be looked after! ...But to observe the Sabbath (no one will take that literally as meaning the observance of a particular day of the week), to recognise Christ as God's Rest through righteousness, to observe that, to keep that Sabbath, is Life which conquers death, because it is righteousness which cannot be destroyed.

From the writings of T. Austin-Sparks

Monday, September 13, 2010

America’s Religious Identity Crisis

Written by Gary DeMar on Sep 13, 2010 08:46 am

With a title like The Myth of a Christian Nation, one would think that the author would have spent more time on the nuances of how the phrase “Christian Nation” is used by people like John Eidsmoe, David Barton, and other scholars writing on the subject. If you’re going to critique a concept, it’s necessary to deal with those who make the claim and define the phrase, which I do in America’s Christian History.[1] Wayne Grudem does a good job answering the question “Is the United States a Christian Nation?” in his recently published book Politics According to the Bible (2010), although I disagree with his conclusion that a discussion of the question is not “very helpful in current political conversations” because “[it] just leads to arguments, misunderstanding, and confusion” (65). It seems to me that the best way to avoid misunderstanding and confusion is to be aware of how people are using the designation “Christian nation.” The only way for arguments to be avoided is to say nothing. All discussions lead to arguments. Grudem’s 600-page book is an argument waiting to happen.

America's Christian History

Boyd defines “Christian Nation” to mean “‘Christ-like,’ and there never was a time when America as a nation has acted Christlike” (107). With such a narrow definition, then Israel could not be described as God’s chosen people because they didn’t always act like it. Kirk Fordice, the former governor of Mississippi, said on a CNN interview, “The media always refer to the Jewish state of Israel. They talk about the Muslim country of Saudi Arabia, of Iran, or Iraq. We all talk about the Hindu nation of India. America is not a nothing country. It’s a Christian Country.”[2] To be accurate, Boyd should have titled his book The Myth of a Christ-Like Nation, but even with this title he would not be telling the whole story.
Like so many who attempt to deal with this subject, Boyd is very selective in whom he quotes to support his claim. Instead of arguing the case himself, he appeals to Richard T. Hughes’ Myths America Lives By. Boyd should have made the argument himself using historical sources that are available to everyone. Then there is his obligatory appeal to the 1797 Treaty with Tripoli which states that “the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” (199, n. 13). Boyd does not explain the context of the phrase or why the 1805 treaty does not include it.[3] Why doesn’t he mention other treaties and documents that contain Christian references?

America's 200-Year War with Islamic Terrorism

Let’s look at just two contrary opinions. There are many more. The first is the French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville and his comments found in Democracy in America:
“Each sect [in the United States] adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner, but all sects preach the same moral law in the name of God . . . . Moreover, all the sects of the United
States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same. It may fairly be believed that a certain number of Americans pursue a peculiar form of worship from habit more than from conviction. In the United States the sovereign authority is religious, and consequently hypocrisy must be common; but there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America.”[4]
David J. Brewer, who served on the Supreme Court from 1889 through 1910, made the following observations in his 1905 book The United States a Christian Nation:
  • “This republic is classified among the Christian nations of the world” (11).
  • “[W]e constantly speak of this republic as a Christian nation—in fact, as the leading Christian nation in the world. This popular use of the term certainly has significance. It is not a mere creation of the imagination. It is not a term of derision but has a substantial basis—one which justifies its use” (12).
Brewer then spends twenty-six pages convincingly supporting his claim with historical evidence.
  • “In no charter or constitution is there anything to even suggest that any other than the Christian is the religion of this country. In none of them is Mohammed or Confucius or Buddha in any manner noticed. In none of them is Judaism recognized other than by way of toleration of its special creed. While the separation of church and state is often affirmed, there is nowhere a repudiation of Christianity as one of the institutions as well as benedictions of society. In short, there is no charter or constitution that is either infidel, agnostic, or anti-Christian. Wherever there is a declaration in favor of any religion it is of the Christian” (31–32).
  • “You will have noticed that I have presented no doubtful facts. Nothing has been stated which is debatable. The quotations from charters are in the archives of the several States; the laws are on the statute books; judicial opinions are taken from the official reports; statistics from the census publications. In short, no evidence has been presented which is open to question” (39).
  • “I could show how largely our laws and customs are based upon the laws of Moses and the teachings of Christ; how constantly the Bible is appealed to as the guide of life and the authority in questions of morals” (39).
  • “This is a Christian nation. . . .” (40).[5]
Boyd makes some good points in his book, but his definitions are anachronistic and his analysis of the nature of God’s kingdom is na├»ve and narrow. Not all Christians can be as easily categorized as Boyd describes them.

Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States

Why is this discussion important? America is fighting an ideological war. It’s been going on for some time but with no bloodshed. Secular ideology has co-opted our nation from the inside. A new religio-political threat is emerging around the world that is beginning to have an impact in America: Islam. I realize that not every Muslim is devoted to the radical element of their religion just like not every person who grows up in a Christian home is an adherent to the general principles of Christianity. Like Islam, Christianity has its cultural side. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where most people were either Protestant or Roman Catholic. If you weren’t Jewish, then you were “Christian,” and yet I never heard the gospel preached or discussed. Not once. It wasn’t until college that I heard the gospel.
Islam is different. It has a long-term societal agenda that is contrary to anything we’ve seen in Christendom. It nests in the freedoms of Christianized nations and then steadily eats away at the culture that gave rise to those freedoms. The former Christian nations of Europe have put aside the belief that religion serves as the binding agent of society. Presently, Europe—both Eastern and Western—are living off the capital of Christianity. They have adopted a neutral position on religion. All religions are equal in their sight. Even Christians have fallen for this absurdity. Islam has not. Until America defines what it really is, and until Christians come to realize that there is no neutrality, Islam will have its way in the world.
Endnotes:
  1. Gary DeMar, America’s Christian History, rev. ed. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2005), chap. 1
  2. [1]“Mississippi Governor Criticized for `Christian Nation’ Remark,” Dallas/Fort Worth Heritage (January 1993), 14. Quoted in John W. Whitehead, Religious Apartheid: The Separation of Religion from American Public Life (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994), 149.
  3. See Gary DeMar, America’s 200-Year War with Islamic Terrorism. Also see DeMar, America’s Christian History, chap. 8.
  4. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 2 vols. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 1:303.
  5. David J. Brewer, The United States a Christian Nation (Philadelphia, PA: The John C. Winston Company, 1905). Reprinted by American Vision, 1996 and 2010).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Invisible Illness Week is here!

Well... ready or not, Invisible Illness Week is here!
National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week is September 12-19, 2010 and this week, Monday through Friday, the campaign features a virtual conference with one 90-minute seminar each day.

Listeners can log on to http://InvisibleIllnessConference.com to listen LIVE or later to the archived audio file. The seminars will also be available at itunes.com . To listen live, log on during September 13-17, 10:30 – 12 Pacific time; 12:30-2 PM Central time; or 1:30 PM – 3 PM Eastern time.

Topics include coping with illness, parenting, getting organized, relationships, setting boundaries, working, and of course, the whole "invisible" illness issues. Participants include best-selling author Pam Farrel, chronic illness coach Rosaline Joffe, and popular patient advocates Christine Miserandino or butyoudontlooksick.com and Jenny Prokopy of chronicbabe.com .

Over 20 speakers from all over the country come together to provide amazing workshops that are rarely available for those with illness who are unable to travel far for a conference or sit for extended periods of time.

(Okay, here is that weird "third person part"...) The host of the show is Invisible Illness Week founder, Lisa Copen, who began this week in 2002 and has produced it each year since then. Lisa is the founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill and author of many books on chronic illness, including, "Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend."

Invisible Illness Week offers many other ways to get involved including blogging for the cause, sharing invisible illness week facts on Twitter or Facebook, a Facebook cause page, and leaving anonymous sticky notes in honor of the campaign's theme, "Each One Can Reach One."

To find out more visit the web site http://InvisibleIllnessWeek.com .

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Faith is in fact a political issue

It seems strange that in the same week we celebrated the 47th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” sermon from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Presbyterian denominational officials have declared that “faith is not a political issue.”

You cannot read the Old Testament, and you cannot understand the arrest, trials and crucifixion of Jesus apart from the continual interplay of politics and faith. The God of the Bible sent His chosen people to be a light to the nations. That call has both religious and political implications.

Tell Moses, on his 10th trip in to demand the release of Jewish slaves in Egypt, that faith is not a political issue.

Tell Esther, who lived for “just such a time as this,” that faith is not a political issue.

Tell Daniel, who would not bow the knee to any king but God, that faith is not a political issue.

Tell John the Baptist, who lost his head as a political party token, that faith is not a political issue.

Tell Jesus, King of the Jews, who was executed by Roman authorities that faith is not a political issue.

That would be a good stopping point, but we need not stop there.

Tell the apostle Paul, who was jailed for voicing his faith and appealed to Rome on the basis of his citizenship, that his punishment was not a political issue.

Tell the apostle John, exiled to the island of Patmos, that his faith was not a political issue.

Tell the scores of Christian martyrs who have died under political regimes in every generation that faith is not a political issue.

Tell John Calvin, who was expelled by Geneva’s city council, that his faith was not a political issue.

Tell John Knox, who was exiled by the French and banished by Queen Mary, that faith is not a political issue.

Tell the Protestant pilgrims fleeing political persecution and the framers of the United States Constitution that faith is not a political issue.

Tell William Wilberforce that faith is not a political issue.

Tell the Nazis and then tell the Communists that faith is not a political issue.

Tell the pastors of the Confessing Church movement in Germany that faith is not a political issue.

Tell Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn that faith is not a political issue.

Tell Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who followed his leading to transform this nation, that faith is not a political issue.

Tell Mother Teresa that faith is not a political issue.

Faith is a political issue because faith has implications for the way we live.

Where there are people of faith, politics are affected. And yes, where there are politics, people of faith are affected.

Praise be to God that we live in a land where freedom of religion means that people can freely exercise their faith without fear of government retribution.