In this video, Scott Williams interviews Scott Wilson, pastor of The Oaks Fellowship and author of Act Normal.
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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.
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.
APROPOS OF THE PREVIOUS POST: “Obama praises American Muslims for contributions since 9/11 attacks.” One wonders if this is also “calculating or opportunistic.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NOT JUST PRETTY RELIGIOUS POETRY: “Understanding the Psalms though the Cries of the Homeless.”
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.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: “The Cause of All the Trouble.”
It’s hard to imagine a vision for this country that’s farther from a “libertarian Christianity” that minds its own very private business and politely declines to have anything to say about the public realm. So if you too are convinced by Andrew’s denunciations of “Christianism,” it’s past time to point your critique at the source of all this trouble: Martin Luther King, more than anyone else, is responsible for bringing an explicitly Christian and Biblical critique of America into the mainstream of modern politics.
(And if you don’t happen to be interested in denouncing Dr. King, then maybe your problem is not with anyone and everyone who brings Christian convictions into the public sphere, but rather with some particular convictions that some Christians emphasize. After all, Dr. King’s faith commitments were at least as encompassing in their scope, as universal in their claims, as publicly political as Rick Perry’s — and make no mistake, it was that faith that drove and anchored Dr. King, and Fannie Lou Hamer, and John Perkins, and many of the other heroes of the Civil Rights movement. So maybe, just maybe, it’s not an utterly privatized and “libertarian” Christianity that we need but rather one that reads the Bible better. But if that’s true then the term “Christianism” is vacuous and misleading, and Andrew needs to step back and start over.)
I agree with Alan Jacobs on this one. If we establish a principle that rules out religious appeals in political debates, then we rule out the Civil Rights Movement. And any principle that rules out the Civil Rights Movement is a bad principle.
THE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DEBATE: “We’re Arguing Definitions, Not Rights.”
So the question is, which definition should we use? It’s fine for you to argue that your definition of “two people who love each other” is better than my definition of “one man, one woman,” or someone else’s definition of “one man, multiple women,” but we need to start off by understanding that we’re arguing definitions, not rights.
It’s not unconstitutional to adopt either my or your definition, as long as it’s applied equally to every individual. Remember that the Constitution doesn’t recognize rights for combinations of people; rights only belong to individuals. So one can’t say that a man and five women have a right to get married; one can only say that each individual man or woman has the right to enter into marriage (no individual is excluded). This right is then acted upon according to the boundaries set by the state’s definition of what marriage is—boundaries which are equally applied to every individual. You would like to equally apply the boundary of “two people who love each other” (excluding some other combinations), and I would like to apply the boundary of “one man, one woman” to each individual equally.
But I agree that the boundaries we place on marriage need to be relevant to the institution of marriage in order to be legitimate, so why don’t we sit down and talk about the reasons why we each think the country should use our definition?
HOPE AND CHANGE? “Mormonism and Mitt Romney’s ‘Weirdness.’”
Thanks to the current spate of awful economic news, we pretty much know what kind of re-election campaign Barack Obama is going to wage: A relentlessly negative one, which, like George W. Bush’s re-election campaign against John Kerry, will focus almost exclusively on making the challenger seem unacceptable rather than defending the sitting president’s accomplishments. Thanks to Ben Smith at Politico, we also know roughly how the White House plans to “destroy Mitt Romney,” if he turns out to be that challenger: By “attacking him as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, ‘weird.’”
YES, BUT… “Rick Perry’s Political Theology.” David Sessions makes some good points in this column, but this paragraph is a howler.
The founders of the United States were part of the Enlightenment tradition that, responding in horror to the bloody religious wars of medieval Europe, had conceived of a new kind of politics where divine appeals would be seen as illegitimate. Enlightenment thinkers disagreed on just how darkly to view religion, but most agreed that unreformed religious passions led to violence and tyranny. Their work reoriented thinking about religion toward what men and women can observe directly and demonstrate conclusively. Their materialist vision of the political state echoes in the U.S. Constitution, with its prohibitions against federal establishment of religion.
And yet, the Declaration of Independence (by that arch-Enlightenment revolutionary, Thomas Jefferson) appealed to “Nature’s God” and “their Creator.” Moreover, the Constitution did not prohibit the establishment of religion at the state level. In reality, the Founders freely mixed classical republicanism, Enlightenment liberalism, and Protestant Christianity in their political ideology, as Jeffry H. Morrison demonstrates in his book, The Political Philosophy of George Washington (which I’m reading and will review.) You might also want to check out John Fea’s Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?, which provides a complex yes/no/depends answer to that question.
I LIKE JP2 AND ALL, BUT THIS IS A LITTLE CREEPY: “Capsule containing Pope John Paul II’s blood heading to Mexico.”
“In the perception of a Mexico plunged into terror, pain, hopelessness, anguish, vengeance and rancor as a result of insecurity and violence … the veneration of the relics will be an opportunity for the baptized and people of good will to turn their eyes to God,” the Rev. Manuel Corral, the council’s public relations secretary, told reporters.
LOVE YOUR ENEMY? “Air Force’s use of Christian messages extends to ROTC.”
In a lesson designed to teach the Air Force’s core values to ROTC cadets, Christian beliefs such as the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Golden Rule are used as examples of ethical values, CNN has learned.
I understand why the military might use the 10 Commandments and Golden Rule to teach ethics, but the Sermon on the Mount? Have they actually read the Sermon? “Blessed are the peacemakers,” “turn to them the other cheek also,” and “love your enemies” aren’t exactly war-friendly verses.
APPLIES TO PROTESTANTS TOO: In “Making the Gospel ‘go viral,’” Phil Lawler offers two propositions: (1) “We are about to begin an era of explosive growth in Catholic evangelization.” (2) “If we don’t see explosive growth in evangelization, it will be our own fault.” To which all I can say is, “Yep.”
HALAL IS KOSHER. “Whole Foods denies canceling Ramadan promotion.”
ATHEISM AND MISOTHEISM: “Doubting God’s Existence, But Angry Nonetheless.”
BUT DOES JESUS LOVE JUSTIN BIEBER? “Justin Bieber Loves Jesus.”