Thursday, October 18, 2007

Young People See Christianity as Judgmental, Anti-gay

Study: Young people see Christianity as judgmental, anti-gay

Written by Religion News ServiceOctober 8, 2007
Young people have graded Christianity, and so far, the report card doesn't look good.
Majorities of young people in America describe modern-day Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay. What's more, many Christians don't even want to call themselves "Christian" because of the baggage that accompanies the label.
A new book based on research by the California-based research firm The Barna Group found that church attitudes about people in general and gays in particular are driving a negative image of the Christian faith among people ages 16-29.
"The Christian community's ability to take the high road and help to deal with some of the challenges that this (anti-gay) perception represents may be the ... defining response of the Christian church in the next decade," said David Kinnaman, Barna Group president and author of the book, "UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity."
"The anti-homosexual perception has now become sort of the Geiger counter of Christians' ability to love and work with people."
The findings were based on surveys of a sample of 867 young people. From that total, researchers reported responses from 440 non-Christians and 305 active churchgoers.
The vast majority of non-Christians -- 91 percent -- said Christianity had an anti-gay image, followed by 87 percent who said it was judgmental and 85 percent who said it was hypocritical.
Such views were held by smaller percentages of the active churchgoers, but the faith still did not fare well: 80 percent agreed with the anti-gay label, 52 percent said Christianity is judgmental, and 47 percent declared it hypocritical.
Kinnaman said one of the biggest surprises for researchers was the extent to which respondents -- one in four non-Christians -- said that modern-day Christianity was no longer like Jesus.
"It started to become more clear to us that what they're experiencing related to Christianity is some of the very things that Jesus warned religious people about," he said. "Which is, avoiding removing the log from your own eye before trying to take the speck outof someone else's."
Kinnaman said some Christians -- including those in the entertainment industry -- preferred to call themselves "followers of Jesus" or "apprentices of Christ" because the word "Christian" could limit their ability to relate to people. Even Kinnaman, 33, described himself as "a committed Christ follower," though he has called himself a Christian in the past.
In addition to reporting on the negative statistics, Kinnaman used the book to also give advice -- from himself and more than two dozenChristian leaders -- on new approaches.
"Our goal wasn't simply to say here's all the problems, but to hopefully point a way forward," Kinnaman said. "When Jesus pursued people, he was much more critical of pride and much more critical of spiritual arrogance than he was of people who were sinful. And today's Christians, if you spend enough time looking at their attitudes and actions, really are not like Jesus when it comes to that."
Megachurch pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., used the book to say he hopes the church will become "known more by what it is for than what it is against.
"For some time now, the hands and feet of the body of Christ have been amputated, and we've been pretty much reduced to a big mouth,"Warren wrote. "We talk more than we do. It's time to reattach the limbs and let the church be the church in the 21st century."
Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, suggested that churches should not focus solely on converting people, ashas been the emphasis for generations.
"If we were able to rewrite the script for the reputation of Christianity, I think we would put the emphasis on developing relationships with nonbelievers, serving them, loving them, and making them feel accepted," he wrote. "Only then would we earn the right to share the gospel."
The research reported in "UnChristian" reflected larger Barna Group studies with about 1,000 respondents as well as the specific study of young people. The sample of 440 non-Christians had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points and the sample of 305 active churchgoers had a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I’m tired. I’m worn out. I’m run down, and I’m stressed out. And I’m sure I’m not alone. Just as an example from my life, in the last two weeks I’ve had a friend in ICU, another friend total her car, two prayer groups, directory pictures at my church in Lexington, 15 hours of work at the daycare, countless hours of work at the church, put together 4 bulletins for the month of October, sat in class for 21 hours, been to chapel twice, studied for and taken one mid-term exam, written 5 papers, been to two elders bible studies, sat through a deacon and elders meeting, spent time with my spiritual group, had 7 class group meetings, been to a bachelorette party, sat in on a two day preaching conference, babysat my professor’s daughter, been on two plane rides, met with my field education supervisor, done 7 loads of laundry and written a sermon.

Where does the time go? Where do I fit in anything else? Where do any of us fit in anything else into our lives? Soccer practice, board meetings, bath time, kitchen remodeling, rush hour traffic, doctors visits, countless emails, deadlines, homework, business trips, dining out, selling or buying new homes, and the constant nag of our cell phones, PDA’s and Blackberries…

Not only do these things stress us out, wear us out and tire us out. But, these things also leave us all broken…out of order….defeated…. and hungering for wholeness, as still more is demanded of us and still more pulls us apart in different directions.

On average, parents are working longer hours, for less pay, than 20 years ago and the absence of family life, exhaustion, and anxiety about money is taking a toll on all our lives. We have trouble showing self-restraint, forgetting the ever so important word…NNNNOOOO… and we have trouble prioritizing our time and lives on what WE really need, rather than responding to what society is telling us we need, or need to do.

Where do we find rest? Where do we find our refuge? How do we maintain balance?

Yoga? Reading a favorite novel? Time with family? Taking a nap? Meditation? Time in prayer?

When do we find time to recover from the week? Or make ourselves ready for the next week?

We meet up with our scripture lesson for this week, in the book of Matthew, in the chapters of Matthew that specifically focus on conflict. The stories in chapters 11 and 12 focus on, and teach about CONLICT WITH THE KINGDOM OF THIS AGE. And more importantly, they focus on the radical reorientation of the lives of the disciples, and the radical reorientation of our lives, to which Jesus calls us all, in response to the conflict with the “kingdom” of this age.

The story depicts a conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees: the Pharisees were concerned with what Jesus’ disciples were doing on the Sabbath…the Pharisees were concerned with the outward things –such as not healing a man on the Sabbath – and Jesus is concerned with the heart. We have to be careful in looking at this text though. It is misleading, superficial and too simplistic to try and understand this text in terms of a conflict between Jewish legalism and Jesus, or the church’s freedom from the Law of the Old Testament. So in order to try and avoid these mistakes of treating this text superficially or simplistically, we must first get a good sense of the meaning of “Sabbath,” from where it was first used and understood.

Now at this point, I could bore you all to tears with an epistemology of the word “Sabbath” in both Greek and Hebrew, citing their first uses, root words, and various conjugations, and show you how much I’ve been studying! But something tells me that you all might be asleep by the time I am finished.

Instead, let’s just think to two very important uses of the word Sabbath, two stories that we are all aware of, that we all know, and that both have very significant implications on this story in Matthew. Observing a Sabbath day was not only commanded by God as part of the Ten Commandments, the fundamental, covenantal law of the Hebrew people, but was also observed and blessed by God at the beginning of creation. And in this sense, keeping the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath was not, and still is not a superficial or casual thing. In times of duress, faithful Hebrew people would rather die than break God’s law by misusing the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a joy, a delight, and a pleasure, not a burden.

And even still, when the Sabbath is mentioned in the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath has an ingredient, and aspect of social justice expressed in it. Servants and slaves of the day received a much needed rest, of which they could not be deprived, because it was commanded by God, and the poor and the hungry joined in eating and drinking, because a feast of eating and drinking was a huge part of observing the Sabbath. The Sabbath was just, and it was divine. Sabbath was supposed to be a radical reorientation of people’s lives. It was supposed to reorientate ALL people towards rest and rejuventation, re-creation of themselves really.

Sabbath is divine, because not only did God command that we observe the Sabbath, but because God also observed Sabbath. And we don’t observe it just because God did, on that seventh day of creation… monkey see monkey do. We don’t do it, simply because we SEE it being done. But instead we do it, we also observe Sabbath, or NEED to observe Sabbath, because we are created in the image of God. Because in God’s very image, we are created and made, and as creatures of God’s image, we too need that chance of respit. We need that chance to practice self-preservation, to say NO, to slow down and refocus ourselves. We need that chance to rebel against what the rest of society is telling us, to ignore Sunday as any other day, and to practice this thing we call… wait, what is it? This thing called….rest.

Now, as we return to the story in Matthew, we see that the religious system of that day had mainly become concerned with measuring up to a bunch of external criteria – a very long list of things to do and things not to do. The laws surrounding the keeping of the Sabbath had become extremely burdensome, and time-consuming with explicit rules about how far you were allowed to walk, what you were allowed to do around the house, even what help you were allowed to offer someone in need. They had even made a rule that you could provide aid to save someone’s life, but anything less than imminent death had to wait until the Sabbath was over. This man in Matthew with the shriveled hand was not in immediate danger, so Jesus’ healing him was a violation of the Sabbath laws.

What this tells me about this time period, is that the religious leaders had lost touch with the original purpose and calling of the Sabbath. They had become preoccupied with outward adherence to the requirements of the law without regard for the heart. Obedience to the forms of religion had become the most important thing, and the heart of the people didn’t matter. THIS is what we see Jesus confronting. God’s will in observing the Sabbath is that human good, and human mercy, is to take precedence over laws, even over those laws that concern God’s honor. In fact, setting aside these laws that concern God’s honor, in order to show human compassion and mercy, is even a way of honor God.

But, just like the Pharisees, we too are in danger of missing this purpose, the initial will of God for observing the Sabbath. There is a danger that we come to a point of just going through the motions – showing up at church week after week, singing the songs, sleeping through the sermon – without putting any heart into it without putting any thought into how this is affecting our own relationship with God. We can get lazy, take our focus off God and onto the details of our lives, and forget what it is we are really doing and why we are doing it. We sing instead of worshipping. We day-dream instead of praying. We just write a check instead of focusing on our tithing. We listen to be entertained rather than to understand and experience God. We look for “Jesus-tainment” that makes us feel good and happy, warm and fuzzy inside. And we become afraid of hearing a prophetic word about what it is that God is asking us to do in our lives and in this world. There is a danger of our relationship with God becoming nothing more than routine. We get so caught up in this routine, that we fear God breaking us out of this routine, and asking us to love God’s children, asking us to show mercy and compassion to ALL God’s children, and to do more within this community of Christ, than just coming to church once a week.

On February 11, 1962, Parade Magazine published a brief story, titled: “Still Munching Candy.” It says…
At the village church in Kalonovka, Russia, attendance at Sunday school picked up after the priest started handing out candy to the peasant children. One of the most faithful children was a pug-nosed, aggressive boy who recited his Scriptures with proper piety, pocketed his reward, then fled into the fields to munch on it. The priest took a liking to the boy, and persuaded him to attend church school. And this was preferable to doing household chores from which his devout parents excused him. By offering other incentives, the priest managed to teach the boy the four Gospels. In fact, he won a special prize for learning all four by heart and reciting them nonstop in church. Now, 60 years later, he still likes to recite Scriptures, but in a context that would horrify the old priest. For this prize pupil, who memorized so much of the Bible, is Nikita Khrushchev, the former Communist czar. Nikita Khrushchev who lightly mouthed God’s Word as a child, later declared God to be nonexistent -- because the cosmonauts had not seen God in their journeys through space. Khrushchev memorized the Scriptures for the candy, the rewards, and the bribes, rather than for the meaning it had for his life. He knew the words, but knew nothing of their meaning or of the life that comes through knowing God.

Jesus confronts that exact attitude in this story. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus gets in the face of the religious leaders, and says in verse 12 that doing good is lawful on the Sabbath. Caring for a fellow human being, actually caring and ministering to their needs, is more important that living up to some external requirements of the law.

Yet among all of this, we want to make sure and emphasize again, it would be superficial and simplistic of us to understand this conflict in terms of Jesus versus Jewish legalism. It would shallow of us to pin humanitarianism against ritual. We are doing no such thing. In the same way that the Pharisees simply needed help, and further understanding of God’s covenant, of God’s commandment, we too need that reminder. There is nothing wrong with the laws of God’s covenant, rather what is wrong is us. The problem is when we get caught up in the rules and the regulations, rather than the meaning behind them.

And this challenge is still here for us today.

Are we just going through the motions? Did we come to church today just because that is what you do on Sunday morning? Did you show up just so that others would look at you and think you are doing the right thing, that you are a moral person, when really you have spent the rest of the week doing things that you know are wrong? Have we come to practice the ritual, while forgetting the mercy we are called to embrace every day of the week? Have we come on Sunday to make up for not remembering the compassion we are called to Monday through Sunday?

Let me turn that around and phrase it positively. Did we come to worship God today?

Now like I said, one of the many things I did this week was attend a preaching conference for two days at the seminary. If you can imagine “rock stars” of preaching, then this was it. The celebrities of preaching, on America’s Preaching Idol. We jokingly called these men, the “Fab 5.” And while offering amazing insights on preaching, it was a story from one of them that stuck with me the most. As has happened many times before, this “celebrity preacher” had been “booked” to preach in a local church, and had brought out huge crowds. Hundreds had come to see their favorite celebrity preacher at this particular church service one Sunday morning. However, this celebrity preacher was unable to make it. He had been detained by some airline issues and some flights. And after realizing that he was not going to show up, one of the local ministers was going to have to announce this to “the crowds” and let them know this celebrity would be unable to make it. Of course, it was the new student minister at this local church that would draw the short stick, and was picked to announce in front of the congregation that the preacher in the bulletin would not be preaching this morning, but that worship would go on as usual. This student minister steps up into the pulpit, something she was fearful of doing in the first place, and says, “I am sorry to say that (your celebrity preacher) will not be able to be here this morning. However if you have come to worship God, worship will still begin at 10:30am. Thank you.”

Did you come because you love God, and couldn’t imagine letting an opportunity to bring the Almighty an offering of worship slip by without taking advantage of it?

Or did you come because you are hurting, and you knew that by bringing yourself here you would find strength, encouragement, and power to change the hurt into healing?

Maybe you came to dive into God’s Word, to see what message might be provided for you today?

Did you come out of love, for God and for all God’s people that are gathered here? Did you come to serve God, sharing the gifts, given to you, to share with the rest?

Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea in verse 7, saying “If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent,” Jesus reminds the Pharisees, and us of where God had expressly told the Israelites that mercy – an action which flows out of a heart of love – is what God desires far more than an empty sacrifice. Compassion for God’s children is what God desires more than ceremonial worship. God wants our hearts. God wants mercy for fellow children of God. God wants love, regardless of race, creed, sexual persuasion, gender, age, economic standing, or doctrine. God wants forgiveness, even if it means forgoing a commandment which honors God. God wants us, when we come to worship, when we come to the Sabbath, God wants us to truly understand the words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

For some of us, our experience of church, our upbringing, our encounters with Christianity in general have been very much like the Pharisees – lists of rules and expectations pushed upon us, which sometimes we accepted just to please those around us, with understanding them or seeking understanding of them. But that isn’t what God is asking. That is not God’s desire. God wants our love. God wants our worship as a response to God’s grace, as a result of what God has done for us. We run the risk of “cramming” God into those busy lives of ours, because it is something that must be done, just something that we have to do. But God does not want emply presence, nor an empty, meaningless slavery to ritual. Rather God wants a relationship where we interact with Him on a personal level, because we have been invited to do so on a special day, on this our Sabbath day.


I hate it.... I stopped trusting you becasue of it. I don't know that you are honest with me because of it. I can't tell anymore. I put up a humongous wall because of it. You used it, and you had me. I was waiting for you, but you turned to that instead. I don't know what to do anymore. You have to earn a lot of trust back, but you're not putting in the effort. You're not trying to earn the trust back, because... I think you think I am over-reacting about it. And maybe I am in your eyes. But to me, it really hurt me. I think it's what "tipped the scales," and now you have to do all the work to tip them back. Why should I have to work at it? Why should I be feeling bad about something you did that lost my trust? Why should I feel bad about not trusting you?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Religious Illiteracy and Ann Coulter

Wow.... I can't even explain all the feelings I have about this article right now.... I can't even write them all down... but I have one thing to say.... to ann coulter... and to anyone else...

"No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of the burning children."

Until you have stood in a gas chamber, or seen the grass grow a different color green because there are ashes of human beings burried underneath.... or stared at a pile of human ashes the size of a football field... or felt the overwhelming, heavy, burden of simply walking into a concentration camp.... just please stop talking ann.... I beg you.

Ann Coulter on CNBC Show: Jews Need 'Perfecting'
By E&P Staff
Published: October 11, 2007 12:15 AM ET
updated 1:30 PM ET

Appearing on Donny Deutsch's CNBC show, "The Big Idea," on Monday night, columnist/author Ann Coulter suggested that the U.S. would be a better place if there weren't any Jewish people and that they needed to "perfect" themselves into -- Christians.
It led Deutsch to suggest that surely she couldn't mean that, and when she insisted she did, he said this sounded "anti-Semitic."
Asked by Deutsch whether she wanted to be like "the head of Iran" and "wipe Israel off the Earth," Coulter stated: "No, we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say. ... That's what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament."
Deutsch told E&P's sibling magazine, Adweek, today, "I was offended. And then, and this was interesting, she started to back off and seemed a little upset."
Asked to gauge her reaction, Deutsch said, "I think she got frightened that maybe she had crossed a line, that this was maybe a faux pas of great proportions. I mean, did it show ignorance? Anti-Semitism? It wasn't just one of those silly things."
A transcript, provided by Media Matters, follows.
DEUTSCH: Christian -- so we should be Christian? It would be better if we were all Christian?
DEUTSCH: We should all be Christian?
COULTER: Yes. Would you like to come to church with me, Donny?
DEUTSCH: So I should not be a Jew, I should be a Christian, and this would be a better place?
COULTER: Well, you could be a practicing Jew, but you're not.
DEUTSCH: I actually am. That's not true. I really am. But -- so we would be better if we were - if people -- if there were no Jews, no Buddhists --
COULTER: Whenever I'm harangued by --
DEUTSCH: -- in this country? You can't believe that.
COULTER: -- you know, liberals on diversity --
DEUTSCH: Here you go again.
COULTER: No, it's true. I give all of these speeches at megachurches across America, and the one thing that's really striking about it is how utterly, completely diverse they are, and completely unself-consciously. You walk past a mixed-race couple in New York, and it's like they have a chip on their shoulder. They're just waiting for somebody to say something, as if anybody would. And --
DEUTSCH: I don't agree with that. I don't agree with that at all. Maybe you have the chip looking at them. I see a lot of interracial couples, and I don't see any more or less chips there either way. That's erroneous.
COULTER: No. In fact, there was an entire Seinfeld episode about Elaine and her boyfriend dating because they wanted to be a mixed-race couple, so you're lying.
DEUTSCH: Oh, because of some Seinfeld episode? OK.
COULTER: But yeah, I think that's reflective of what's going on in the culture, but it is completely striking that at these huge megachurches -- the idea that, you know, the more Christian you are, the less tolerant you would be is preposterous.
DEUTSCH: That isn't what I said, but you said I should not -- we should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians, then, or --
DEUTSCH: Really?
COULTER: Well, it's a lot easier. It's kind of a fast track.
DEUTSCH: Really?
COULTER: Yeah. You have to obey.
DEUTSCH: You can't possibly believe that.
DEUTSCH: You can't possibly -- you're too educated, you can't -- you're like my friend in -
COULTER: Do you know what Christianity is? We believe your religion, but you have to obey.
DEUTSCH: No, no, no, but I mean --
COULTER: We have the fast-track program.
DEUTSCH: Why don't I put you with the head of Iran? I mean, come on. You can't believe that.
COULTER: The head of Iran is not a Christian.
DEUTSCH: No, but in fact, "Let's wipe Israel" --
COULTER: I don't know if you've been paying attention.
DEUTSCH: "Let's wipe Israel off the earth." I mean, what, no Jews?
COULTER: No, we think -- we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.
DEUTSCH: Wow, you didn't really say that, did you?
COULTER: Yes. That is what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws. We know we're all sinners --
DEUTSCH: In my old days, I would have argued -- when you say something absurd like that, there's no --
COULTER: What's absurd?
DEUTSCH: Jews are going to be perfected. I'm going to go off and try to perfect myself -
COULTER: Well, that's what the New Testament says.
DEUTSCH: Ann Coulter, author of If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans, and if Ann Coulter had any brains, she would not say Jews need to be perfected. I'm offended by that personally. And we'll have more Big Idea when we come back.
DEUTSCH: Welcome back to The Big Idea. During the break, Ann said she wanted to explain her last comment. So I'm going to give her a chance. So you don't think that was offensive?
COULTER: No. I'm sorry. It is not intended to be. I don't think you should take it that way, but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews. We believe the Old Testament. As you know from the Old Testament, God was constantly getting fed up with humans for not being able to, you know, live up to all the laws. What Christians believe -- this is just a statement of what the New Testament is -- is that that's why Christ came and died for our sins. Christians believe the Old Testament. You don't believe our testament.
DEUTSCH: You said -- your exact words were, "Jews need to be perfected." Those are the words out of your mouth.
COULTER: No, I'm saying that's what a Christian is.
DEUTSCH: But that's what you said -- don't you see how hateful, how anti-Semitic -?
DEUTSCH: How do you not see? You're an educated woman. How do you not see that?
COULTER: That isn't hateful at all.
DEUTSCH: But that's even a scarier thought.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Religious Illiteracy

I want to start out by quoting a fantastic preacher named Fred Craddock... "The American people have more knowledge of and exposure to Britney Spears' navel than to the 13 million children who go to bed hungry each night."

This is sad but true.... what do we pride ourselves on knowing these days? People make millions off TV Shows that capitalize on the fact that the American public is becoming among the stupidest individuals in the world. Not for lack of resources, but for lack of trying to stretch beyond the crap that plays in front of our eyes on our nightly televisions. Because we are fed crap each night by media that dictates what we are and are not supposed to know. And this "epidemic" is not simply going on in "typical" America. Even our presidential candidates don't know that we were founded on the standards that no one should have to suffer religious persecution. Nor does he apparently know that Barack Obama is in fact a member of the United Church of Christ.... a CHRISTIAN church Mr. McCain....

McCain: I'd prefer Christian president
Presidential hopeful says nation was founded on ‘Christian principles.’

WASHINGTON - Sen. John McCain said in an interview published Saturday that he would prefer a Christian president over someone of a different faith, calling it "an important part of our qualifications to lead."
In an interview with Beliefnet, a multi-denominational Web site that covers religion and spirituality, the Republican presidential hopeful was asked if a Muslim candidate could be a good president.
"I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles ... personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith," McCain said. "But that doesn't mean that I'm sure that someone who is Muslim would not make a good president."
Later, McCain said, "I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values."
Asked about Republican rivals Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, McCain said, "I think that Governor Romney's religion should not, absolutely not, be a disqualifying factor when people consider his candidacy for president of the United States."
The National Jewish Democratic Council called the Arizona senator's comments repugnant.
The American Jewish Committee issued a statement saying that McCain should know the United States is a democratic society without a religious test for public office.
Amid the criticism, McCain has sought to clarify his remarks. In New Hampshire Sunday, he said the most qualified person could be president, regardless of his or her religion.
The Arizona senator was also asked about the confusion over which Christian denomination he belongs to. "I was raised Episcopalian, I have attended the North Phoenix Baptist Church for many years and I am a Christian," McCain said. He added that he has considered being baptized in the Baptist church, but he does not want to do it during the presidential race because "it might appear as if I was doing something that I otherwise wouldn't do."

I want to end by again quoting a fantastic preacher named Fred Craddock... "The American people have more knowledge of and exposure to Britney Spears' navel than to the 13 million children who go to bed hungry each night." What are you going to read/watch tonight?