The World Wide (Religious) Web for Thursday, August 11, 2011


BECAUSE AMERICANS ARE RELIGIOUS? “Why Religion Will Matter in 2012.”

These earlier observations stand up today in scientific surveys. Gallup found that Americans register higher religiosity scores — as measured by self-reported worship attendance, salience of religion in their personal lives, and confidence in religious institutions — than other residents of North America and every western European country except Ireland.

Consider these findings from the 2010 American Values Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute:

  • Nearly six-in-ten (57 percent) Americans say religion is very important or the most important thing in their lives.
  • A majority (51 percent) of Americans report attending religious services at least a few times per month
  • Nine-in-ten Americans report that they believe in God. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) believe that God is a person with whom one can have a relationship.
  • Nearly seven-in-ten (69 percent) Americans believe that the Bible is the word of God, and nearly half of this group (33 percent) believe that the Bible should also be taken literally, word for word.

Moreover, religion is not only a personal matter for many Americans, but it is also something they see as important in evaluating political leaders.

  • A July 2011 PRRI survey found that a majority (56 percent) of Americans say it is very or somewhat important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs, regardless of whether those beliefs are the same as their own. Majorities of both Democrats (51 percent) and Republicans (71 percent) agree with this statement.
  • A 2010 survey by Pew Research Center found that approximately six-in-ten (61 percent) Americans agree that it is important that members of Congress have strong religious beliefs, including 55 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans.

While it is too soon to say for certain what will happen in 2012, understanding the religious forces in American culture will be sure to help make sense not only of the twists and turns of the campaigns but of the final tallies at the ballot box.

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HE HAS A POINT: “Republicans race to prove Christian cred.”

Indeed, the political compensation for public displays of faith is so precious that it makes me wonder whether the candidates’ zealous efforts to to prove their piety as they race for the Republican nomination might be called calculating or opportunistic. Some might even suggest unchristian.

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APROPOS OF THE PREVIOUS POST: “Obama praises American Muslims for contributions since 9/11 attacks.” One wonders if this is also “calculating or opportunistic.”

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YES, UNFORTUNATELY, AT LEAST FOR SOME: “Is God a Marketing Strategy?”

When you consider the strong, built-in emotional triggers, God can certainly be a compelling marketing strategy. That is my marketing side speaking. My personal side knows that values of fairness, trust and good service aren’t exclusive to businesses that have a religious foundation.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY, APROPOS THE LONDON RIOTS:

I have very little patience for the school of thought that says that everything boils down to class warfare. But if I absolutely must pick a class — because some folks insist on it — I’ll pick the one that isn’t looting people’s shops and houses, thanksverymuch.

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FOR THE ECONOMY… “Why Christians pray.”

We pray for justice and a recovery not of the economy that is now failing us, but the economy of decency: free people in free markets freely choosing virtue.

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FREEDOM-OF-RELIGION WATCH: “Zimbabwean Churches Told to Support Ruling Party—Or Else.”

Pastors and advocates report that a new wave of persecution is washing over the churches of Zimbabwe as the country prepares for a new round of elections called by President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party.

Churches are “being targeted and harassed by security agencies and militias which are controlled by ZANU PF,” said Marlon Zakeyo, the Zimbabwe advocacy coordinator of the World Student Christian Federation in Geneva. They are “in need of active and practical international solidarity and prayer,” he said.

Reports from the Central African nation state that leaders of many of the country’s evangelical, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and African Independent Churches—especially the Zion Christian Church and the VaPostori Apostolic sects—are being pressed into service by the regime to cement its hold on power.

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SETTING FRANKIE SCHAEFFER STRAIGHT ABOUT HIS DAD: “A Lesson in Journalism for the New Yorker.”

I won’t go into all the reasons that Frank Schaeffer is an unreliable source. Better men than me have spent thousands of words proving that Frank has lied about his father’s legacy. This is but one more example of the depths of which he will stoop, even when the evidence is open for examination. However, in his article, Lizza says that he talked to Frank and includes a lengthy quote from him. There is no doubt that Lizza took the “violent overthrow” claim from Frank’s blog post—there is no other source for the claim. Perhaps Lizza can explain why he used the words of the son and attributes them to the father.

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NOT JUST PRETTY RELIGIOUS POETRY: “Understanding the Psalms though the Cries of the Homeless.”

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AN INTERESTING IDEA: “Feeding the Poor Through Pay-As-You-Go.”

“One of the best ways to help people get back on their feet is by giving them a way to serve others,” says Seth Kaper-Dale, pastor at the Reformed Church of Highland Park.

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