Bible Reading Can Make You a Liberal. Religious Trends, Steve Jobs and Twitter

"The research shows that when pastors evaluate the success of their church, they measure attendance, dollars raised, number of staff, number of programs and square footage. All of those are logical measures to explore. The only problem is that Jesus did not die a horrible and unjust death on the cross to fill sanctuaries, generate cash, populate programs, hire religious professionals or build out campuses."   -George Barna


Let There Be Light

courtesy of NASA




The Wartburg Watch unveils a new service for our readers. We now have a Twitter account called “wartwatch.

We plan to use this to give quick updates to our readers about breaking news, plans for upcoming posts or to provide an interesting link. You can follow those tweets on the blog itself in the first right hand column, located above the archives.

We do not anticipate using this more than 2-3 times per seek. If you are interested here is what you need to do. This explanation is provided for those who, like us, have never used Twitter.

On your cell phone, text the following message: Follow wartwatch to the following number 404-04
You will receive a message, within a minute, that you are now following our tweets. Our tweets, which are limited to 140 characters (this means they are brief), will show up on your cell as a text message.


Barna Examines Religious Trends

In July of this year, George Barna, released the first in a series of assessments of how America’s faith has shifted in the past 20 years on 14 religious variables. Here are four of the more interesting findings.

  • "Bible reading undertaken during the course of a typical week, other than passages read while attending church events, has declined by five percentage points. Currently an estimated 40% of adults read the Bible during a typical week.

  •  Adult Sunday school attendance has also diminished by eight percentage points over the past two decades. On any given Sunday, about 15% of adults can be expected to show up in a Sunday school class.

  • The most carefully watched church-related statistic is adult attendance. Since 1991, attendance has receded by nine percentage points, dropping from 49% in 1991 to 40% in 2011.

  • The most prolific change in religious behavior among those measured has been the increase in the percentage of adults categorized as unchurched. The Barna Group definition includes all adults who have not attended any religious events at a church, other than special ceremonies such as a wedding or funeral, during the prior six month period. In 1991, just one-quarter of adults (24%) were unchurched. That figure has ballooned by more than 50%, to 37% today."

This summary alos included eight beliefs that have been tracked since 1991. Here are the three beliefs that showed a major shift.

  • The percentage of adults who can be classified as born again Christians, based on their belief that they will experience eternal salvation based on their commitment to Jesus Christ, personal confession of sins, and acceptance of Christ as their savior, has risen by five percentage points to 40%.
  • The proportion of respondees,who believe that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules the world today,” currently stands at 67%. That represents a seven point drop from the 1991 level.

  • The biggest shift has been in people’s perceptions of the Bible. In 1991, 46% of adults strongly affirmed that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.” That has slumped to just 38% who offer the same affirmation today.

Barna provides his take on the results

George Barna, in a separate news release, and on his website,  provides some commentary for these discoveries.

  • “First, beliefs did not change much. Behavior, however, changed substantially. Because we know that behavior follows beliefs, we could have anticipated the behavioral changes three and four decades ago, when there was major upheaval in our belief systems. The seeds that were sown in the Sixties have now borne their fruit: decreases in church attendance, Sunday school participation, Bible reading, and church volunteerism.
  • Second, a deeper examination of the data revealed that there is a huge degree of behavioral and belief shifting taking place at a sub-national level. In other words, there is a lot of change that gets canceled out when you simply look at the net statistic for a specific factor. For instance, the percentage of adults who consider themselves to be Christian appeared to stay relatively unchanged over the 20 years in question. That suggests there has been little ferment on this matter. However, that national average masks the fact that in the Northeast, of all places, the proportion of self-identified Christians rose by ten points at the same time that it dropped by seven.
  • Third, notice that as alarming as a nine percentage point drop in average weekly church attendance is, a companion statistic is equally as alarming: the 13-point increase in those who are now unchurched. Some church analysts have claimed – incorrectly, as it turns out – that the ranks of the unchurched are swelling because younger adults have stopped attending church. In truth, the biggest decline of all has occurred among Baby Boomers (an 18-point dip).”

Barna then goes on to make a disconcerting prediction.

“We will likely see an increase in the numbers of people who do not accept a conventional definition of God’s character and those who reject the accuracy of the principles taught in the scriptures. Adult Sunday school could easily go the way of the all-but-forgotten midweek service. The percentage of unchurched people will probably continue to climb as the percentage of adults attending church services remains on the downward slope.”


Frequent Bible readers tend to be more liberal?

Interestingly, in 2007, the Baylor Religious Survey analyzed certain beliefs professed by Christians based on how frequently the respondent read the Bible in a given week. The 5 point scale ranged from “never (1)” to “several times a week(5).” The results were reviewed in the October 2011 edition of Christianity Today in an article titled A Left-Leaning Text by Aaron Franzen.

Frequent Bible reading appears linked to opposition to abortion and homosexual marriage. “It also boosts a belief that science helps reveal God’s glory” and it “diminishes hopes that science will eventually solve humanity’s problems.” But, what comes next might shock a few of our readers. It appears that frequent Bible reading may make us,( get ready, take a deep breath), more liberal in social justice issues!

Here are a few of the very surprising findings.

As Bible reading frequency increased the following was observed:

  • "There was a 13% decline, at each point level, in support for the Patriot Act (to expand the federal government’s authority to fight terrorism).
  • There was a 45% increase, at each point level, in support for abolishing the death penalty.
  • In response to the statement “The government should punish criminals more harshly”, the higher the point level, the more prone they are to disagree with the statement.
  • The higher the point level, the more likely people believe that science and religion are compatible.
  • In response to the question “How important is it to actively seek social and economic justice in order to be a good person?”, at each point level, 35% more agree with that statement."

Here is Franzen’s perceptive closing statement. “In short, sometimes reading the Bible can change views and attitudes because readers are surprised by what’s in it. Other times, it’s just a matter of discipleship.”

So, next times someone nags you about your support for abolishing the death penalty, I suggest the following rejoinder. “Are you reading your Bible?”


Steve Jobs

As most of our readers know, Steven Jobs passed away yesterday at the age of 56. Jobs, from all accounts, was not a Christian. Some reports seem to indicate that he practiced Buddhism and believed that LSD usage, in his younger years, contributed to his vision.

However, Jobs was given an incredible mind and vision by the Creator that he did not know and used it to transform how the world does business.

Three years ago, when I contemplated starting a blog, my husband bought me my first Mac product, a computer. I objected since I had become used to my cumbersome Dell. However, within two weeks I was a convert, and have gone on to use both the I Phone and an I Pad. Apple (reportedly named for Jobs' adherence to a healthy diet) transformed this techno-peasant into someone who cruises the web with ease.

So, to the Jobs family, I send my condolences for their loss along with my gratitude for the life of Steve Jobs. The Wartburg Watch exists, in a small way, because of his genius.

Many people are not aware that Jobs developed the incredible animation company named Pixar, home to Toy Story. In memory of Jobs, enjoy, once again, a scene from Toy Story.



Lydia's Corner: 1 Chronicles 22:1-23:32 Romans 3:9-31 Psalm 12:1-8 Proverbs 19:13-14


Bible Reading Can Make You a Liberal. Religious Trends, Steve Jobs and Twitter — 51 Comments

  1. Dee

    Thanks for posting this. One of my arguments is that too few people actually read the Bible and study it as they would a college text or other treatise. By study, I mean looking up the alternate meanings of the words and phrases, gaining at least a little understanding of the differences in Greek or Hebrew usages and modern English (e.g., head meaning source not boss, all multi-gender plurals are male forms so the inclusion of females must be assumed unless the context indicates otherwise), reading multiple modern translations and understanding the biases of the translators (e.g., “when multiple options for a meaning exist with no real reason to choose, use the one most consistent with the KJV” which perpetuates the patriarchal and hierarchical biases of the KJV and its sponsor), etc.

    Use multiple commentaries, choosing at least one of each side of any controversial issue (e.g., is the Matthew 25 command to feed the poor, etc., applicable only to individuals or to the society as well — cf the OT writers on that topic as well). Do not reject a translation or commentary out of hand just because it does not agree with your preconceived notions (or those of your pastor!!!)

    In other words, study, study, study.

    Sometimes I get accused of being a liberal, and on a few issues I am. But I started out fairly conservative and still hold to some very conservative principles. However, on other issues, after in depth study of the Bible, I came to a different conclusion. I do not proof-text — and I do not agree with positions that are only supported by proof-texting — it is a very poor form of exegesis and bespeaks of people citing from someone else’s inadequate work, whether literally or from too long exposure to a faith based on proof-texts.

  2. Arce said:

    Sometimes I get accused of being a liberal, and on a few issues I am. But I started out fairly conservative and still hold to some very conservative principles. However, on other issues, after in depth study of the Bible, I came to a different conclusion.

    Same with me, and I thank God for the power that is contained in His word to shine His light upon our paths and lead us to freedom!

    “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” 1 Cor 13:11

  3. Evie,

    Just think of us as a couple of worry warts. We’re monitoring the trends we see in Christendom and blowing the whistle when we feel it’s necessary.

  4. This stuff is fascinating from an international perspective. Here in Australia the latest church attendance figure I can find on a quick search is 8.8% (2001) This includes Catholics, so the Protestant figures on their own would be considerably lower. This is a culture where most churches have never heard of adult Sunday Schools (never been part of our culture, Sunday School is for kids here)

    But the most interesting difference is that we have nothing equivalent to the American Christian Right. There are a couple of “Christian” parties, but even many Christians don’t vote for them, considering them to be concerned with far too narrow a range of issues. to give you some idea, in our own church a few years ago, 2 of our members (both women) were standing for state parliament. One was for a very right wing minority party, the other for a fairly left wing one (VERY left wing by American standards). This was considered perfectly normal by everyone, and the two would often be seen at morning tea after the service having a friendly chat to commiserate about the difficulties of campaigning!

    I think a sizable chunk of Australian Christians (not all, of course) would consider social justice to be something God requires of us as well as sharing the gospel (believing it and doing it are, of course, two very different things)

  5. Lynne

    Your comment is fascinating and so informative. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    We American Christians often see the faith through the biases of our culture. We often forget that we follow a faith born in the Middle East in a culture far removed from our own. This faith was then accepted into cultures and customs all over the world.

    Sometimes, we Americans wrap the Gospel in the American flag and apple pie, forgetting that Jesus spent more time critiquing those in power and advocating for a very different type of kingdom.

  6. Arce

    I had a feeling you would find this study fascinating. Kudos to Baylor for uncovering these interesting, and challenging, statistics.

  7. I wonder if Barna has data on people who’ve left abusive churches… no doubt a high percentage of “unchurched” people (of all ages) are in that category.

  8. “I wonder if Barna data on people who’ve left abusive churches… no doubt a high percentage of “unchurched” people (of all ages) are in that category.”

    I had that exact thought as I read this post. Anecdotally, I know a large number of people (myself included, at the moment, though I hope that one day that will change) who would fit in that category for that very reason.

    “It appears that frequent Bible reading may make us,( get ready, take a deep breath), more liberal in social justice issues!”

    And a hearty “duh!” from those of us who’ve done just that. 😉

  9. This is such a terrific post!

    “I wonder if Barna data on people who’ve left abusive churches…no doubt a high percentage of ‘unchurched’ people (of all ages) are in that category.”

    I had the same thought too. Until recently, my husband and I (and our children) were unchurched for a year after dealing with church abuse. We’ve heard that 12 others have left the church, and some of those are unchurched now.

    “It appears that frequent Bible reading may make us (get ready, take a deep breath) more liberal in social justice issues!”

    My favorite part of this post!! I don’t know if I’m paying more attention or if it’s a current trend, but I’ve noticed in the last few years that the conservative Christians around me (and I consider myself a conservative Christian) are becoming more political and indignant about their rights, their property, and what’s “mine” – what belongs to THEM. They sometimes remind me of 2-year olds who say “Mine! Mine! Mine!” They are resentful about taxes and government entitlement programs (including what they call “government schools” or “government indoctrination centers”), and yet they come across as arrogant and entitled themselves. I’ve wondered many times if they’re reading their Bible. Maybe they skip over (or rationalize to fit their beliefs) the social and economic justice passages.

  10. Wendy,

    Exactly! I have had home schooled upstarts claiming that taxes are government theft. Seriously, they accuse the government (which grants them rights and privileges and provides the infrastructure they depend on everyday) of stealing the fruits of their labor!!!

    They also declare that any program the government administers that they do not personally endorse is coercive. As in, “I could care less if inner-city children eat lunch or not, so the school lunch program funded from tax money is coercing me to support things I don’t believe in!”

    They have made a strange mix of social Darwinism (every man for himself, the strongest will survive and the rest don’t belong in the gene pool) and Biblianity. They call it Christianity, but I don’t see Jesus in their rhetoric anywhere. 🙁

  11. “…They also declare that any program the government administers that they do not personally endorse is coercive. As in, “I could care less if inner-city children eat lunch or not, so the school lunch program funded from tax money is coercing me to support things I don’t believe in!…”

    One thing you will never hear them utter a peep about is the 3.6 billion dollars a month poured down the rathole that is Afghanistan. In that case, it’s the price of liberty and keeping America exceptional and free. Only a God & America hating liberal would dare to disagree.

  12. @ Wnedy: I think that sense of entitlement has been there for a long time; maybe what you’re seeing is that people around you are becoming more obvious and vocal about it?

    fwiw, I think that the whole “entitlement” thing is a problem in society as a whole, not just in evangelical/charismatic and/or fundamentalist circles…

    As for being “unchurched” post-encounter with abusive churches, I’m in that number, too. (Though I am officially a member of one of the Lutheran Church’s synods – and thus, a local church – due to baptism and confirmation. Am calling myself Lutheran these days, though I am probably leaning more toward certain Anglican views that are slightly at odds with Lutheranism… but then, I can honestly say that I doubt I’d ever be chucked for having “eclectic” beliefs. ;))

  13. So interesting. It all has sparked many thoughts.

    My 1st thought was that it can’t be fair or reasonable to put such blame on the “1960s”. I was born in the ’60s, but haven’t done a thorough study of all the factors going in to it and coming out of it. But my view is that it was bound to happen some time, and that a lot of good came out of that era — honesty being a big one.


    Church attendance being in decline is viewed as alarming. But I can’t help but wonder… I can’t help but have this pebble-in-the-shoe nagging feeling, that, by & large, the concern is REALLY about the “institution of church” itself.

    After all, what’s the point of having all these expensive buildings on expensive land if there aren’t people to put in them? And then $ from said people to pay the carpet cleaner, pay the gardener, pay the heating, the water, pay the salaries? What’s the point of paid staff if there aren’t people so the staff can have something to do? What’s the point of the years spent in seminary, books read, papers written, if there aren’t people to use it on?

    I can’t help but have the feeling that the concern is more about the fear of these buildings and heavily-invested careers (that don’t tranfer well into other kinds of careers) becoming obsolete.

    And perhaps a concern motivated out of sentimentality. A love of church because of what it means to oneself – a place of belonging, a place of friends and family, a place where important life events have happened, a place where wonderful experiences have happened, and of course a place accociated with God and God’s assumed presence. (and now the tangent that wasn’t: But isn’t God present in me, upon my invitation? What’s the deal with buildings and “pastors”? Tangent terminated)

    So I wonder… what is truly behind the alarming concern? And I have my doubts that it is TRULY about knowing God.

    And I think of someone like Noah, & someone like Abraham. How in the world did they get to know God? Afterall, they didn’t have a building to attend once a week with lots of other people with a man called a pastor, another man called an associate pastor, another man called an executive pastor, another man called the worship pastor, another man called the small group pastor, another man called the discipleship pastor… And yet they knew God.


    So, I think, if one is going to be totally honest, a very good-sized portion of the reason for “Church” is perpetuating church itself. Keeping the machine running.

  14. I think the whole issue is the mega-fying of the church, with the excuse of the size of the operation undergirding the excessive salaries and perks of the staff.

    In the late 50s and 60s, there was a discussion in our church as to whether we should pay the organist and pianist, if that was their service to the church. The song leader was volunteer, as was the choir leader. Prior to that, the only paid positions were the pastor and the church secretary. What a difference and I think it is negative.

  15. Hmmm. Around 70 through 72 I was a hired musician for the local Episcopal churches Christmas program. There were about 5 of us who got hired each year until we all graduated from high school.

    If you have the regular income and the time AND the desire I can see being a volunteer organist or other similar position. But In a church of much any size with signing much more than the “standard 20 or so” from the hymnal, it can take a lot of time. So should organist be rich also so they don’t have to work or raise kids during all the time required? And to some degree this gets to maybe why women dominate this position. They “don’t have to work”, their husbands earn the living.

    Maybe one way to tell if a church needs to split into two smaller churches is by the head count on a payroll.

    Getting back to the time commitment, my father lead the building committee to replace our church building when the original one burned in 1967. This was a $1 million construction project at that time. He had also just gotten a big promotion at his job that required him to go back on a swing shift to run a very large chemical process line. And we were subdividing some land and building houses one at a time to earn extra family income. He said it was the hardest 2 or 3 years of his life. Should he have been paid for the 5 to 20 hours a week of that service? Personally I can argue either side of the position.

  16. Like Elastigirl, I’m suspicious of the way blame is attached to “the 60s.” for one thing, a lot of good things happened then – many of them quite difficult, but necessary (like the passage of Civil Rights legislation and the beginnings of its enforcement).

    I live in a rural area, and it seems that people have deserted the small country churches for the local version of a mega-church. It’s very sad… in many cases, there are only 10-15 active members in what used to be large congregations.

    But I think… we are less social than we used to be, on the whole. I was born in the mid-50s and grew up when porch-sitting and related neighborhood visiting were the norm during mild weather.

    How many houses today have actual porches? It’s something that’s been lost; gone the way of neighborhood churches, I think.

    I really don’t want to sound like I’m lamenting the overall state of society today – that’s not my intention at all. But we have lost some good things along the way, over the past 20-30 years, I think.

  17. The mega allows people to go, feel religious, and be relatively anonymous! Less social commitment that way.

  18. ‘I have had home schooled upstarts claiming that taxes are government theft. Seriously, they accuse the government (which grants them rights and privileges ”

    The “government” grants us rights and privileges? This was King George’s position before the Revolutionary war. :o)

  19. Arce

    I agree. The attitude of some is this. I went to church, tipped my hat to God, threw a few bucks in the plate and went onto the football game and life. Where is the radical turning in their lives?

  20. Dee —

    had a thought re: (“I went to church, tipped my hat to God, threw a few bucks in the plate and went onto the football game and life. Where is the radical turning in their lives?”)

    If the radical turning is something that happens privately in the individuals’ hearts & minds, perhaps we could say that the outward working of it happens where the individual lives out their lives — at work, at home, at other activities (church & other).

    What I’m trying to get at is that since life is more complicated & busy & involved, people spend less time at church (in fact, less time plunked down at any given place / activity) — but that’s not to say God isn’t doing some big moving & shaking in their lives. The outworkings of it happen where they live their lives.

    Since there isn’t time or energy to invest a LOT in any one place or activity, people move around more quickly throughout their day / week. It’s not necessarily a snub at church, it’s just the way life is. And since people are at church less (less visits, and when there less minutes), we don’t have the opportunity to see the outworkings of what God is doing. But that doesn’t mean He’s not doing big things in a person’s life.

    And big things by God naturally lead to good lifestyle changes, better choices in activities. Such as reaching out to people in need. Typically, the church has been the main galvanizer & organizer of such things. But perhaps that’s not the case anymore.

    For example: families at my kid’s public school are doing all kinds of things to reach out to people in need (drives for collecting shoes for Haiti, for collecting stuffed animals for kids and adults who are criticially ill, clothes for those in our community who are in hard times). The school isn’t initiating these things — the parents are. Businesses do the same kinds of things.

    Just because the activity isn’t emblazoned with christian branding doesn’t mean God is not at the helm. And it certainly doesn’t devalue it IN THE SLIGHTEST.

    The outworkings of the big things God is doing inwardly in an individual are seen where the person lives their life. And wherever it happens to be, GREAT!

    I’ve totally repeated myself here — but i hope it wasn’t a pain to read.

  21. Let me take another stab at it. The church has traditionally been the seat of charity, community support, community outreach. People went to church to lend their energy to such projects.

    Perhaps this isn’t so much the case anymore. People are taking these functions into their microcommunities (their places of work, their kids’ schools, their neighborhoods, their neighbors).

    Perhaps “the church” doesn’t have the corner on these things anymore. The church isn’t so exclusive anymore in these activities. People don’t see the church as the only place they can be active in influencing their community / the world for the better.

    In fact, it can be so much easier to just get something done, bypassing the many rules, beauocracy, and opinionated craziness that can exist in church environments.

  22. Elastigirl

    I do not think of the church as a building that I report to on Sunday morning. For me, the church is the gathering of a fellowship of believers. They gather for worship, mutual support, prayer, etc. So, one gathering that I attend is my dear Bible study made up of a group of men and women who have known each other over a long period of time. We have ministered together and stood up against a church community that had “gone wrong.” We meet for Bible study twice a month and tonight we are celebrating the birthday of our intrepid leader which will include a square dance.

    The Christians to which I was referring are the ones who do not have a commitment to the fellowship of believers, however their corporate identity is expressed. These folks show up, have little to no relationship to a core of believers and act as independent agents outside of the Body. My faith in Jesus is expressed, at times, through my relationship to these believers who function as an organic body-strengthening me when weak, offering to help in my projects, supporting a couple through the cancer and death of the husband, and celebrating birthdays as if they really care that each of us exist. I hope this makes sense.

  23. RE: dee on Sat, Oct 08 2011 at 05:11 pm:

    Sounds alot like the small ELCA (Lutheran) church in my area. They’re supportive of each other much as you’ve described. They believe in sustainability and community.

    The mega-biggie down the street is run like one of Pat Robertson’s diamond mines in Zaire. They are more concerned with ideological purity rather than a shared and common humanity. They recently had a purge of their K-12 private school faculty over such infractions as having not been baptized by full immersion. Some teachers who had been teaching at the school for as long as 22 yrs. were summarily fired.

    What is it that makes people want to submit to these kinds of religious regimes? Is it just fear-based group herding instinct?

  24. Hi, Dee. I love how you described the bible study group you’re a part of. I think it’s great. Those kinds of relationships are what everyone wants.

    What’s motivating my thoughts on this part of the conversation is what I’ve observed in “church” in general, and “Evangelicalism” (my most loathed word) — almost an arrogance in how it views itself. Like everyone else outside of “church” are inferior do-gooders who might mean well (or who knows, really), but any charity or outreach or positive thing they might do pales in comparison to what the church is doing. And besides, it’s mere good deeds that don’t count anyway. No, WE the church are the real deal, we’re where it’s at. People, don’t waste your time with anyone else. And furthermore, your 1st allegiance is to us.

    I find it so offensive.


    For 5 years i was someone who sat in the back (of a large church that was new to me, after leaving the turmoil & dysfunction of a previous one), smiled but didn’t engage in conversation, and left pretty quickly when it was over. It was enough that I was willing to attend anywhere. To observers, I probably appeared to be a casual attender, checking out church, consuming what was nice and good and then when I got my fill just leaving. Like going to the movies. But actually major overhaul and rebuilding was taking place inside. And i found my abilities, spiritual aptitudes, and the desire to use them being stirred up. It was like seltzer water in my soul. So I began to make myself useful and available to God, & just got busy in my community (kid’s school, starting a Moms In Touch prayer group in our neighborhood, etc.). It wasn’t “in church” — while an established church can be a good thing, it’s not the quintessential, all-important bastion of the kingdom of God that it seems to think it is. When I meet with the other moms in our Moms In Touch Group, the Kingdom of God is in my living room — we moms are the Kingdom of God, furthering it in our pocket of the world.

  25. Elastigirl: what you said!

    Another thought on the self-description that Barna uses (“born again”) is that an awful lot of truly devout Christians would never think to use that term in reference to themselves, because they were/are not evangelicals and use different terms for many similar things. (I hesitate to say “the same things” because there are so many different theological takes under that non-evangelical umbrella.)

    I dunno… even for me, “evangelical” is still a whole different kettle of fish to what I grew up with, and bridging the gap isn’t always easy. (Especially since I abandoned evangelical-speak – if we use jargon that isn’t easily comprehensible to “outsiders,” we end up alienating them – and i think that happens a *lot,* for cultural reasons if nothing else.)

  26. Take the word “saved,” for example… yes, all Christians speak of God’s salvation, but the only ones I’ve ever met who use the term “saved” to mean is he/she Christian? are… evangelicals, charismatics (of various stripes) and Pentecostals.

  27. Numo

    The Internet Monk used the term “post-evangelical.” I like this term because it encompasses a whole range of folks who do not fit the word “evangelical” as it was used in the past 50 years.The faith has fractured in the US and everybody is doing their own thing.

  28. I wonder… perhaps nothing has “fractured.” Maybe change is inevitable? 😉

    Not joking; living things aren’t static.

  29. Numo, Dee,

    Yesterday I almost commented thusly:

    The only constant in life is change, a quote by greek philosopher Heraclitus (not that i know anything about him).

    Since change is inevitable, and seems to happen faster than it used to, we’ll be stress cases and overly vexed & conflicted if we don’t curb the reflex to be afraid of it.

  30. Re: “evangelical-speak”, “christianese”:

    I think it’s major sloppy communication. I think most people don’t even know the meanings of the words they’re saying. Not really, at least. Tell ya what, we could have a rousing game of BS Bingo in any church service on any given Sunday. I’d win — I’ll be catching them all.

  31. Agreed on sloppy communication!

    Also on trying to stop change… kinda like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, attempting to hold back the sea.

  32. Elastigirl

    There are a few of us that could play your game as well. i have had this long term desire to go to an SBC convention and do a man on the street interview with the attendees regarding basic doctrines and why we have them. i have a standing bet that we would hear more baloney than some might expect. Hmmm…interesting thought…

  33. Dee — why dont’cha. Bring a cameraperson with video camera, create a free publicity courtesy of WTWW channel 4 news at 6 o’clock, and then ask away. Interesting indeed!

  34. Numo, Muff Potter, Shadowspring,

    Perhaps it’s true that we live in an entitled society at large, and the conservative Christians around me are becoming more vocal about their property and their rights and the loathing of everything government – except the military and their political candidates of course. I simply don’t remember (or wasn’t paying attention to) conservative Christians being this arrogant, entitled, and angry until the last few years.

    Again, I consider myself a spiritual and political “conservative” (although I’m not entirely sure what that even means anymore). I have much respect for our military. I have several family members, including a wonderful brother, who serves in our military. But I hear you, Muff. If we don’t agree with everything they’re doing and the money they’re spending, we’re labeled “God and America hating liberals”. When did “conservative” Christians become so political and militaristic? Have I been missing something the last 42 years of my life in conservative churches and circles? I got my masters at Liberty University, and I’m aware of the Christian Coalition and Falwell’s political ties and endorsements. But back then, we all sort of laughed off a lot of that. No, the purple Teletubby is NOT a homosexual.

    Today, it’s impossible to even have a conversation with one of these folks without some of these heated topics coming up – and the attacks are getting really personal (such as their not-so-subtle expressions that Christian parents are doing the wrong thing by sending their children to “government indoctrination centers”). And God forbid that you want the government to continue their entitlement programs to feed, clothe, and house the poor. They claim that is the Church’s job and Christians have a RIGHT to CHOOSE who they want to help. The problem is this – it is well-documented that the Church cannot care for all of our country’s poor. The Church simply cannot (or maybe will not) meet all of the needs around us. In fact, MANY privately run programs that help meet these needs rely on some level of government funding. It irks me to no end to hear conservative Christians harp on abortion (which I am against too) and then want to take away the very programs that girls and women need to sustain themselves and the babies they did NOT abort. DON’T get an abortion, but don’t expect any help when you have trouble taking care of the baby you didn’t abort.

  35. Wendy,

    Southern Calif. is arguably the Bible belt West. One local Christian radio jock is the Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck of Christian talk radio. His fan base hangs on his every word as if it were Holy Writ.

    He spins his air time so that there can be only one true “Christian World View”, and if you disagree? You are obviously not a true Bible-believing Christian.

  36. Muff Potter,

    There seem to be a lot of folks with the “one true Christian worldview”. You must endorse certain political candidates, vote a certain way, despise most or all social programs, hate Obama (forget about respecting and submitting to government authority, as the Bible says), school your children a certain way, routinely get on your high horse about your property and your rights and “taking America back”, discuss the “Christian” values of our founding fathers (many of whom weren’t Christian), and hang on the words of any political figure or Christian leader who believes (or say they believe) the same. Within the past year, I have had several such folks tell me, in defense of their beliefs, that “the Bible says there will always be poor among us” – we have to accept that and realize we can’t meet everyone’s needs. This is something they LOVE to say.

  37. Wendy

    Christ also said that if we didn’t care for the poor, we wouldn’t get into heaven. This is the meaning of perseverance-caring for the poor, knowing that there will always be poor. So, anyone who treats the poor lightly better do a heart check.

  38. Hi, Wendy. I thought so, too — but in the last year I’ve found many, many on-fire christians who lean otherways & otherwise. It’s been a wonderful discovery. Deeply settling, relieving, and peace-bringing.

  39. Elastigirl/Wendy/Numo

    Did the early Christians spend a lot of time worrying about their possessions and the political climate? I am not saying that being involved in politics is wrong. What I am saying is that the kingdom of God is not of this world. God has not registered with one party or another.

  40. I have acquaintances who say one cannot be a Christian and vote Republican and others who say one cannot be a Christian and vote Democratic. And I know rock-ribbed affiliates of both parties who are dedicated Christians for whom serving Christ is of utmost importance and who are generous with their faith, their time and their finances for those Jesus loves.

    The Bible speaks more against greed and economic sins than against sexual immorality, but the church does not. Until the church gets to preaching what the Bible actually teaches, instead of preaching politics, pastors, except those who are hypocrites, should keep quiet about political parties and candidates.

  41. Hi, Dee.

    Yeah, God is neither red nor blue, elephant nor donkey. (Nor pink or blue, for that matter).

    I just love the fact that I can think and act according to MY conscience, not someone else’s, and that I’m not alone.

    My great rollicking storm inside has been due to the “right-wing loudmouths” (even at our christmas dinner table!) who, as others here have made reference to, presume to define the terms (all ideological) for being welcomed and accepted into God’s community.

    With what comes across as arrogance and hatefulness, i might add.

  42. “Perhaps it’s true that we live in an entitled society at large, and the conservative Christians around me are becoming more vocal about their property and their rights and the loathing of everything government – except the military and their political candidates of course. I simply don’t remember (or wasn’t paying attention to) conservative Christians being this arrogant, entitled, and angry until the last few years.”

    There’s a lot that went on during the 50s through the 70s that turns the conservative Christian world upside down. And they (we) still aren’t fully adjusted.

    A somewhat jumbled view of some things.

    Segregation and the Democratic party.
    Evangelicals were mostly southern, maybe mostly SBC, for a long time. They were also registered democrats and segregationists. Not overtly but everyone should know and respect there place in the world.

    If you grew up on the south prior to the 70s you registered D. Only a few die hard conservatives registered R. The ratios were something like 9 to 1 where I grew up. So if you were not registered as a D and thus didn’t get to vote in the primary your vote for much of anything but the governor and president and maybe a senator didn’t count. Because the D primary winner was usually the only one of the fall ballot. This D orientation was a hold over from the civil war. Truly a long reach that Lincoln had.

    Then came desegregation. While the north had the riots, South Boston and other places, the south just vowed to get even. Since desegregation was a democratic party thing southern democrats started switching. By the mid 70s or so the south was no longer solidly D. And after Reagan it became more and more solidly R. And there’s still a large number of folks in the south, especially over the age of 65 who are looking for a hero to roll back desegregation.

    Then came the Vietnam War. And when Johnson bowed out and Humphrey became the D standard bearer, more D in the south switch to R.

    Ditto abortion.

    So there are a lot of mad white conservatives. The don’t necessarily want segregation back but they want back the certainty of life. And simpler times. When Ds and Rs got along. (But that was because many Ds were closet Rs.) They want hip hop and gangster rap to go away but not Led Zeplin, the Rolling Stones, or Elvis. Not understanding they all come from the same racial underclass. They want to go to a nice restaurant and not have to see someone else body art. They want to run their schools they way they used to be run back when “those folks” were not around.

    The problem with many conservative evangelicals is they want things to go back to a time when everything was perfect. Except it wasn’t.

    Time to stop rambling now.

  43. Dee,

    “This is the meaning of perserverance-caring for the poor, knowing that there will always be poor.” Thank you for clarifying the meaning of that verse. I have never understood how that verse fit with the multitude of other verses in the Bible about Christ’s command to care for the poor. That verse and the “if any would not work, neither should he eat” verse (which I think is also taken out of context) is their justification for not supporting social programs that care for the poor. If the Church could meet all of the needs that social programs do, perhaps it wouldn’t be an issue. This would require the Church to insure all the poor or provide all of their medical care, feed all the poor, house all the poor, take care of all the physically, mentally, and emotionally disabled, the widowed, and the fatherless. As a former social worker, I can attest to the fact that churches and Christian organizations provide many wonderful services to the poor, disabled, and needy. Our communities would be lost without what they do. However, they will be the first to tell you that government agencies/programs are at the top of their referral list for their clients. It is a partnership. I worked in the social work and mental health fields for many years, until I became a community college instructor. I worked for the state in two of my jobs, but the rest of my work was in private and/or non-profit agencies/hospitals. Without that collaboration between the state and the community (church/private/non-profits), it would have been impossible to meet all of the needs of my clients. And in many cases, it was the state meeting ALL of the needs. This is the reason why the rhetoric I hear from many conservative Christians around me is so troublesome. Honestly, I see both sides of the argument. I know we must be fiscally responsible, and there is no denying our country has serious economic woes. But the spiritual arrogance, entitlement, and anger some conservatives display is worse than any entitlement I’ve ever seen in my social work.

  44. Wendy

    It is your life’s work that influences your thinking in this area. In fact, I believe that many people who have not worked in the community have no idea how there is synergy between the government, the church, and other para-church organizations.

    I spent two years working as a public health nurse on the Navajo Reservation. I also spent a number of years as a public health nurse working in some of the tougher areas of the community is various cities. These experiences profoundly changed my perspective on the various reasons that we have poverty in the world.

    In fact, I believe that God uses the poor to convict us about our lack of compassion. Not only that, but I believe the poor are a living example of how poor we can be in spirit as well.Many people I know will not step foot in the “bad” sections of town. Even our churches are divided. There are the poor churches on the bus lines and threr are the rich churches with the Mercedes. Somehow, I do not believe that this is a good example of Christian unity.

    I know many churches which do inner city missions. But, I think there is far more to be done.

    Keep doing what you are doing. You are seeing things that many people refuse to see because it is too hard.