This Sunday, when you show up to the theater, you will be greeted on the patio area. All you do is pick up one of the EYH Challenge cards and follow the directions. So in place of the hour you would normally spend sitting in the service, you’ll be challenged to love and serve our community in some very specific ways.
When your challenge is over – we ask that you send in a story of what happened (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can share with everyone else.
See you Sunday. Take the challenge!Print This Post
There are enough question marks over the Christmas story for dogmatic sceptics to have a field day at this time of year, but the core historical realities are not easily swept away.
It is common at Christmas to hear experts questioning the Gospel accounts. Writers such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Michel Onfray and Bishop John Shelby Spong make their pronouncements with something approaching glee: there is not a skerrick of evidence outside the Gospel of Luke for a census at the time of Jesus's birth; Matthew's hovering star over Bethlehem is a fiction; and the virgin birth is the neurotic invention of a church trying to distance the Son of God from any association with sex.
Then there are questions about the date of Jesus' supposed birth. December 25 was a pagan festival until it was hijacked, we are told, by a church desperate for relevance. Evidence that the starting point of the Western calendar, AD1, cannot have been the year of Jesus's nativity helps the sceptics' case, and we are left with the impression that perhaps Jesus never lived at all. Maybe the whole thing is a fable with no more credibility than Santa Claus. And, like that story, thinking adults ought to grow out of it.
But while much of this is factually correct, it is ultimately wrong. Take the absence of corroborating evidence for the Roman census, the visit of foreign Magi or the great star. The sceptics would have us think, if these things really did take place, there would be mention of them in other sources. But scholars of antiquity often note we probably have in our possession less than 1 per cent of the literary works that existed in the first century. Ninety-nine per cent of our evidence is lost.
''As every student of ancient history is aware,'' Professor Graham Stanton of Cambridge University writes, ''it is an elementary error to suppose that the unmentioned did not exist.'' With only 1 per cent of the evidence to hand, it is foolhardy to deny something just because it appears in a single source.
As recently as June 2004, a large public pool mentioned only in John's Gospel - and so doubted by some - was uncovered during sewerage works in Jerusalem.
It is true there is no corroborating evidence for the finer details of the Christmas story but it is wrong, and wrong-headed, to turn this into evidence that they are untrue. People are free not to trust what the Gospels report, but this is a choice based on a preference, not an argument arising from evidence.
What, then, of the problems with dating Christmas? It is true December 25 marked the recovery of the Invincible Sun for ancient pagans, and about AD330 this date was adopted by the Roman church as a celebration of Christ's nativity.
Christianity was fast becoming the dominant faith in this period and so, rather than cancel a happy festival, Christians decided to transpose it into a more appropriate religious key. In any case, when this date was adopted there was no suggestion that Jesus was actually born on December 25, any more than it is now believed all horses are born on August 1.
The year of Jesus' birth is a little more complicated but no more suspicious. According to Matthew and Luke - Gospels written independently - Herod was still alive at the time of Jesus' birth. From firm dates provided by the first century writer Josephus, we know Herod died in early 4BC. This means Jesus was born some time before that - between 6BC and 4BC.
The man who gave us the calendar distinction between BC and AD, an Italian mathematician and archivist named Denis the Little, got the calculation slightly wrong. In AD525 Pope St John asked Denis to sift through the available sources and propose the most likely anno Domini, or ''year of the Lord''. He missed the mark by about five years - not bad considering his limited resources.
We now know the exact dates for figures such as Herod, so can more accurately date Jesus' birth.
But none of this should add to the repertoire of reasons to be suspicious about the Jesus story. After all, there is a larger point which seems to be lost on some sceptics.
Historians agree there really was a ''first Noel'', a date somewhere between 6BC and 4BC when a famed teacher and healer named Jesus (soon to be hailed Messiah) was born in humble circumstances. Only an arbitrary kind of scepticism can deny this.
The Virgin Birth, of course, cannot be decided by historical argument. This one involves philosophical assumptions. If you hold that the laws of nature are the only things regulating the universe, then no amount of evidence could convince you that Mary conceived ''of the Holy Spirit''.
If, however, like most Australians, you accept there probably is a law-giver behind those natural laws, then such an idea is not philosophically insurmountable. After creating a universe, fashioning another 23 chromosomes would be a walk in the park for the Almighty.
What the historian can confidently say about this strange claim in Matthew and Luke is that, whatever inspired it, it certainly had nothing to do with an awkwardness about sex. Ancient Judaism, from which the Gospels drew their influence, celebrated sex. The Jews wrote a whole book of the Bible about it (Song of Songs). The curiosity for the historian is that, in a culture comfortable with the idea of ''sacred seed'', the Gospels say Jesus was born without it.
Sceptics will continue to mock. That's their right and preference. But such cynicism is not a natural consequence of a sober examination of the historical realities. The traditional Christmas story won't be going away. It will continue to be a source of wonder and hope for millions of believers and curious alike.
John Dickson is director of the Centre for Public Christianity.
By Diaa Hadid, Associated Press
Nazareth, Israel (AP) - Days before Christmas, archeologists on Monday unveiled what they said were the remains of the first dwelling in Nazareth that can be dated back to the time of Jesus -- a find that could shed new light on what the hamlet was like during the period the New Testament says Jesus lived there as a boy.
The dwelling and older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves suggest that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of about four acres (1.6 hectares). It was evidently populated by Jews of modest means who kept camouflaged grottos to hide from Roman invaders, said archaeologist Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Based on clay and chalk shards found at the site, the dwelling appeared to house a "simple Jewish family," Alexandre added, as workers at the site carefully chipped away at mud with small pickaxes to reveal stone walls.
Nazareth holds a cherished place in Christianity. It is believed to be the town where Christian tradition says Jesus grew up and where an angel told Mary she would bear the child of God.
"This may well have been a place that Jesus and his contemporaries were familiar with," Alexandre said. A young Jesus may have played around the house with his cousins and friends, she said. "It's a logical suggestion."
The discovery so close to Christmas has pleased local Christians.
"They say if the people do not speak, the stones will speak," said a smiling Father Jack Karam of the nearby Basilica of the Annunciation, the site where Christian tradition says Mary received the angel's word.
Alexandre's team found remains of a wall, a hideout, a courtyard and a water system that appeared to collect water from the roof and supply it to the home. The discovery was made when builders dug up the courtyard of a former convent to make room for a new Christian center, just yards (meters) away from the Basilica.
It is not clear how big the dwelling is -- Alexandre's team have uncovered about 900 square feet (85 square meters) of the house, but it may have been for an extended family and could be much larger, she said.
Alexandre said her team also found a camouflaged entry way into a grotto, which she believes was used by Jews at the time to hide from Roman soldiers who were battling Jewish rebels at the time for control of the area.
The grotto would have hid around six people for a few hours, she said.
However, Roman soldiers did not end up battling Nazareth's Jews because the hamlet had little strategic value at the time. The Roman army was more interested in larger towns and strategic hilltop communities, she said.
Alexandre said similar camouflaged grottos were found in other ancient Jewish communities of the lower Galilee such as the nearby Biblical village of Cana, which did witness battle between Jews and Romans.
At the site, Alexandre told reporters that archaeologists also found clay and chalk vessels which were likely used by Galilean Jews of the time. The scientists concluded a Jewish family lived there because of the chalk, which was used by Jews at the time to ensure the purity of the food and water kept inside the vessels.
The shards also date back to the time of Jesus, which includes the late Hellenic, early Roman period that ranges from around 100 B.C. to 100 A.D., Alexandre said.
The absence of any remains of glass vessels or imported products suggested the family who lived in the dwelling were "simple," but Alexandre said the remains did not indicate whether they were traders or farmers.
The only other artifacts that archeologists have found in the Nazareth area from the time of Jesus are ancient burial caves outside the hamlet, providing a rough idea of the village's population at the time, Alexandre said.
Work is now taking place to clear newer ruins built above the dwelling, which will be preserved. The dwelling will become a part of a new international Christian center being constructed close to the site and funded by a French Roman Catholic group, said Marc Hodara of the Chemin Neuf Community overseeing construction.
Alexandre said limited space and population density in Nazareth means it is unlikely that archeologists can carry out any further excavations in the area, leaving this dwelling to tell the story of what Jesus' boyhood home may have looked like.
The discovery at "this time, this period, is very interesting, especially as a Christian," Karam said. "For me it is a great gift."
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Stuff Christians Like has a great post about unsuccessfully trying to compartmentalize our sin.Print This Post
By Jay Reeves, Associated Press
Birmingham, Ala. (AP) - Christian stores have just the Christmas gift for Facebook fans: A "Jesus Christ wants to be your friend" T-shirt that mimics the design of the popular social networking site.
Do you like shirts from teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch? How about a Christian copycat that transforms the chain's name to "Abreadcrumb & Fish," a reference to the biblical story of Jesus miraculously feeding the multitudes with bread and a few fish?
American retailers sell about $4.6 billion worth of Christian products annually, and some are spoofs or spinoffs of commercial logos or brand names. Many such goods are illegal, trademark attorneys say, but companies often are unaware their names are being copied or don't put up a fight for fear of being labeled anti-faith.
There are "iPray" hats to wear while listening to your iPod, and the logo for the popular "Rock Band" video game was tweaked for a Christian necklace with a pendant shaped like a guitar pick. Preachers are even in on the act: They can buy materials for sermons based on popular TV shows including "Lost" and "Survivor."
Imitators include Christian versions of the Subway restaurant logo, the "got milk?" advertising campaign, and the "intel inside" sticker that's on millions of computers.
The "HOPE" poster from Barack Obama's presidential campaign -- which itself was the subject of a copyright fight between an artist and The Associated Press over the use of an Obama photo -- was Christianized, with an image of Jesus replacing the president.
Church marketing consultant Brad Abare has seen tons of such stuff and doesn't like it. He's even come up with a name for some of it: "Jesus Junk."
"We think it's just dumb. It's not a true reflection of creativity," said Abare, of the nonprofit Center for Church Communication in Los Angeles.
Trademark attorney Michael G. Atkins of Seattle said legal parodies of commercial trademarks are protected under the First Amendment, but such religious products generally don't fall into that category.
"You could take Microsoft and change their logo around to make fun of Microsoft, and that would be legal," he said. "But I can't use the Microsoft logo to promote my Christian theme because there's no real connection there. That's illegal."
Marjorie Koval of the Association for Christian Retail said it's hard to say how much of the Christian merchandise market is made up of parody items. The gift and specialty sector, which includes apparel, comprises about one-third of the industry's total sales, she said.
It's also impossible to say how many manufacturers produce such merchandise: Anyone with a screen printing machine and a computer can make a T-shirt design. Atkins said that's one reason companies have such a hard time policing their brands.
But there are a few major players in the Christian merchandise industry.
Based in Berryville, Ark., Kerusso sells Christian-themed items including T-shirts, dolls and jewelry, and it asks customers to report anyone that rips off their designs, many of which are original. Its products are available in more than 7,000 stores nationwide.
Yet some of Kerusso's popular products are copycats of corporate brands and logos known worldwide.
The company makes the Facebook shirt for $17.99, plus one where Apple's iPod is tweaked into "iPray." For the same price you can buy an "Amazing Grace" shirt that resembles the "American Idol" TV logo. Kerusso's Abercrombie & Fitch copycat is labeled a "classic" on its Web site.
Kerusso CEO Vic Kennett said he occasionally gets complaints from companies whose logos are parodied, and Kerusso generally changes those designs or discontinues merchandise. Kerusso altered its red "Jesus Christ -- Eternally Refreshing" T-shirt after Coca-Cola complained the design too closely resembled its well-known script logo.
But other designs that might raise lawyers' eyebrows actually are legal. Kerusso licensed the "iPray" design from a Chicago organization that sought and received a trademark for the word, he said.
Kinnett views the commercial spoofs -- which only make up 15 percent or so of Kerusso's merchandise -- as modern-day parables.
"If Jesus were here today would he make parody T-shirts? I doubt it," Kinnett said. "But in his day, he did use parables. He used things that were common and recognized in everyday life to make a point or say something with a deeper meaning."
Perhaps. But Abercrombie & Fitch attorney Reid Wilson said the "Abreadcrumb & Fish" design is a blatant trademark ripoff, and the clothing chain sends cease-and-desist letters anytime such products show up.
"We view that type of use of our trademark as an absolute infringement," he said.
Atkins, the trademark expert, said few companies are willing to make a stink over the issue.
"I think you have a real tension between the legal department and the PR department," he said. "(Large companies) are very sensitive to looking like they are anti-Christian, so they are very restrained in going after the wrongdoers."
Baxter Chism, a United Methodist pastor in Dadeville, Ala., understands the idea of Christians using pop culture references to be relevant, even if he doesn't always think of it that way. He bought a shirt that pictures Jesus dressed as a hockey goalie with the words "Jesus Saves!" because it was funny, not to be hip.
Children are bombarded by advertising from a young age, he said, and many adults can quote from commercials far easier than from the Bible.
"I consider this a window of opportunity to proclaim Christ to people by using a topic they understand," he said. "Jesus spoke to us in stories that were culturally relevant to those listening."
Abare, the church marketing consultant, just wishes Christians would pay more attention to the commandment "Thou shall not steal."
"The whole claim for Christians in general is that God is the source of all creativity," he said. "I think there's something to being original that will speak to people in a way that we don't have to copy."Print This Post
This is a post from last December. I just thought that it was a good one to post again for this week.
Do any of you make checklists? Our family does. We make a list of tasks and when they get finished we check them off. Once a year, we make the Christmas checklist. It covers a lot of things.
- Gift shopping
- The tree(s)?
- Christmas Cards
Jesus said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
Shouldn't that be at the very top of our checklist?
Shouldn't we go with Jesus to a quiet place and thank Him?
When the fast pace of the Christmas checklist wears us thin, shouldn't we go with Jesus and get some rest?
My prayer for all of us this Christmas is that we place Jesus at the the top and include Him in accomplishing the rest of the list.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Court officials say a Birmingham woman who changed her name to Jesus Christ didn't live up to it when she reported for jury duty this week. The woman, previously named Dorothy Lola Killingworth, was sent to Judge Clyde Jones's courtroom for a criminal case Monday.
Court officials told The Birmingham News Tuesday that the 59-year-old was excused because she was disruptive and kept asking questions instead of answering them.
Efforts to reach Christ for comment were unsuccessful.
Court administrator Sandra Turner said people there were shocked when the woman insisted her name was Jesus Christ and some potential jurors laughed out loud when her name was called.
But Turner said unlike some Jefferson County residents, Christ didn't try to get out of jury duty and was "perfectly happy to serve."Print This Post
LINFEN, China — Towering eight stories over wheat fields, the Golden Lamp Church was built to serve nearly 50,000 worshippers in the gritty heart of China's coal country.
But that was before hundreds of police and hired thugs descended on the mega-church, smashing doors and windows, seizing Bibles and sending dozens of worshippers to hospitals with serious injuries, members and activists say.
Today, the church's co-pastors are in jail. The gates to the church complex in the northern province of Shanxi are locked and a police armored personnel vehicle sits outside.
The closure of what may be China's first mega-church is the most visible sign that the communist government is determined to rein in the rapid spread of Christianity, with a crackdown in recent months that church leaders call the harshest in years.
Authorities describe the actions against churches as stemming from land disputes, but the congregations under attack are among the most successful in China's growing "house church" movement, which rejects the state-controlled church in favor of liturgical independence and a more passionate, evangelical outlook.
While the Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of religion, Christians are required to worship in churches run by state-controlled organizations: The Three-Self Patriotic Movement for Protestants and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association for Roman Catholics.
But more and more Chinese are opting to choose their own churches, despite them being technically illegal and subject to police harassment. Christians worshipping in China's independent churches are believed to number upwards of 60 million, compared to about 20 million who worship in the state church, according to numbers provided by scholars and church activists.
House churches have been around for decades, but their growth has accelerated in recent decades, producing larger and larger congregations that are far more conspicuous than the small groups of friends and neighbors that used to worship in private homes, giving the movement its name.
Their expansion and growing influence has deeply unsettled China's rulers, always suspicious of any independent social group that could challenge communist authority. Fears that Tibetan Buddhism and Islam promote separatism among Tibetans and Uighurs also drive restrictions on those religions.
"They are so afraid of rallying points developing for gathering of elements of civil society," said Daniel Bays, who follows Chinese Christianity at Calvin College, a religious school in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
While house churches have faced varying degrees of repression depending on the region and political climate, the latest crackdown appears to specifically target the largest congregations.
Authorities want to dismantle large churches "before they grow out of total control," said Bob Fu, a former Communist Party researcher in Beijing who now heads the China Aid Association, a Texas-based church monitoring group.
At least two other large churches have recently faced similar crackdowns.
In Beijing in October, authorities locked parishioners of Shouwang house church out of the space they had rented to worship in. In Shanghai, the Wangbang congregation faced a similar lockout. Both congregations had grown to more than 1,000 members.
Shouwang and Wangbang church leaders have not been detained, but activists fear further arrests are coming.
In a brief phone conversation, Wangbang's pastor Cui Quan said worship continued in small groups while he fought to have their lease restored. He declined to give other details.
Christianity was long associated with foreign interference in traditionally Buddhist and Taoist China, and came under heavy attack after the 1949 Communist revolution.
The most onerous restrictions were lifted after the death of communist leader Mao Zedong in 1976. Although Christians still account for a less than 10 percent of China's 1.3 billion people, recent years have seen rapid growth in house churches in both cities and rural areas,
Adding to official concerns about their numbers, house-church Christians also emphasize missionary work — illegal in China — and some have even operated an underground network to help smuggle North Korean refugees and Uighurs out of China in defiance of the security forces.
The Golden Lamp Church was built by husband and wife evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli as a permanent home for their followers, whose numbers had soared to more than 50,000.
The couple, administrators at the provincial teachers' college, had been preaching in the region around the city of Linfen since 1992, establishing a network of three dozen communities meeting in improvised spaces such as factory dormitories and greenhouses. They also attracted thousands to tent revival meetings.
According to Bob Fu, Shanxi authorities grumbled as the church was being built last year, but did not try to stop work and offered few, if any, signs that an impending crackdown.
On a rainy Sunday in mid-September, some 400 police officers and hired thugs descended on more than a dozen church properties around Linfen, smashing doors and windows and hauling off computers, Bibles, and church funds, according to accounts posted online by church members and their allies.
Those accounts said worshippers who resisted were beaten, with dozens hospitalized with serious injuries.
Wang, Yang, and three other church leaders were convicted on Nov. 25 on charges including illegally occupying agricultural land and assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic. Yang, 51, received a seven-year sentence, while Wang, 56, and the others received terms of three to four years. Five others were sentenced without trial to two years in a labor camp.
Other church leaders have gone into hiding.
Courts, police and government officials in Linfen refused to comment on the claims of violence and persecution. A local Communist Party spokesman said only that the case centered on the mega-church's lack of planning approval.
"We have always supported and allowed everybody to believe in religion. But the church itself is an illegally constructed building," said the spokesman, who would give only his surname, Wang.
A lawyer for Wang and Yang, Li Fangping, said the church had applied for permits to build the church from the local religious affairs bureau and the land use authority, but received no reply.
Almost three months after the crackdown, people in and around Linfen refuse to discuss the church, and police vehicles remain parked on virtually every corner of the neighborhood where the Golden Lamp is located.Print This Post
The chances are that one in five of the people there finds "spiritual energy" in mountains or trees, and one in six believes in the "evil eye," that certain people can cast curses with a look — beliefs your Christian pastor doesn't preach.
In a Catholic church? Chances are that one in five members believes in reincarnation in a way never taught in catechism class — that you'll be reborn in this world again and again.
Elements of Eastern faiths and New Age thinking have been widely adopted by 65% of U.S. adults, including many who call themselves Protestants and Catholics, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, released Wednesday.
Syncretism — mashing up contradictory beliefs like Catholic rocker Madonna's devotion to a Kabbalah-light version of Jewish mysticism — appears on the rise.
And, according to the survey's other major finding, devotion to one clear faith is fading.
Of the 72% of Americans who attend religious services at least once a year (excluding holidays, weddings and funerals), 35% say they attend in multiple places, often hop-scotching across denominations.
They are like President Obama, who currently has no home church. He has worshipped at a Baptist Church, an Episcopal one, and the non-denominational chapel at Camp David.
"Mixing and matching practices and beliefs is as much the norm as it is the exception. Are they grazing, sampling, just curious? We really don't know," says Pew's Alan Cooperman.
Even so, says Greg Smith, senior researcher on the survey, "these findings all point toward a spiritual and religious openness — not necessarily a lack of seriousness."
Among the survey's findings:
•26% of those who attend religious services say they do so at more than one place occasionally, and another 9% roam regularly from their home church for services.
•28% of people who attend church at least weekly say they visit multiple churches outside their own tradition.
•59% of less frequent church attendees say they attend worship at multiple places.
The survey of 2,003 adults, conducted Aug. 11-27, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. It measures Protestants, Catholics and the unaffiliated; there were not enough people of other faiths surveyed for analysis.
"For an extremely long time most of us thought belonging or membership or home church was monogamous, even if it was serial monogamy, because we all know about church-switching," says sociologist of religion Scott Thumma, a professor at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Hartford, Conn.
"Today, the individual rarely finds all their spiritual needs met in one congregation or one religion."
In the 1980s, Albert Mohler and Julia Jarvis were in graduate school together at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville.
Today, Mohler is president of the seminary and a leading voice for Baptist orthodoxy. He sees a "rampant confusion" about faith revealed in the Pew findings.
"This is a failure of the pulpit as much as of the pew to be clear about what is and is not compatible with Christianity and belief in salvation only through Christ," Mohler says.
Pew says two in three adults believe in or cite an experience with at least one supernatural phenomenon, including:
•26% find "spiritual energy" in physical things.
•25% believe in astrology.
•24% say people will be reborn in this world again and again.
•23% say yoga is a "spiritual practice."
Mohler calls these "the au courant confusions," attachments to the latest fashionable free-floating beliefs.
"One hundred years ago it would have been 'spiritualism.' They wouldn't have known what yoga was but might have been attracted to the 'New Thought' of the time," Mohler says.
His former classmate giggles at that. She's an ordained minister in the progressive United Church of Christ and leads the Interfaith Family Project, which meets for weekly worship at a Silver Spring, Md., high school.
Jarvis, of Takoma Park, Md., also studies with Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, and finds a spiritual dimension in yoga.
"I don't do astrology but my mother, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and was a staunch Baptist all her life, looked at her horoscope daily and totally believed it," Jarvis says.
Jarvis says her late mother, like 49% of adults in the Pew survey, also had a moment of "religious or spiritual awakening."
"My mother feared for years that I was no longer saved, but just two days before she died, she had an epiphany," Jarvis says. "She said she was 'told' in a spiritual experience to put aside all religious and political differences and just love each other. That was her blessing to me and that's what I'm doing."
Regina Roman, of Alexandria, Va., calls herself "a very grounded Episcopalian" who's active in her church. But, she says, "I'm also stretching the boundaries of how we are to be here and now in this day, age and culture."
She leads pilgrimages to Egypt, New Mexico and Ireland to help travelers discover the truths and visions in Coptic, Native American and Celtic traditions. Roman celebrated the winter solstice with a home ceremony for guests to delight in sun's gifts.
"We are all in relationship with the cosmos. We need to honor that," says Roman, who doesn't see herself crossing barriers but rather "coming full circle," with ancient ideas.
"People have always mixed religions, either in ignorance or willfully," says Stephen Prothero, director of the Graduate Division of Religious and Theological Studies at Boston University.
Despite the late Pope John Paul II's warnings to explicitly avoid Buddhist and Hindu practices, Prothero says, "American Catholics are so used to not caring what the official church tells them on birth control, divorce, premarital sex and other points that they don't think they are unCatholic when they believe and do what they please."
The growth of mixing
Prothero sees a similar trend among Protestants, a "resistance to being told what to think.
"Even people who call themselves by denominational tags don't really feel the identity attachment to them as they once did. And without that identity marker, what's to prevent you from checking out some other church? Nothing much," he says.
Cooperman notes that the new survey is measuring a phenomenon that may have been going on for decades. His unanswered questions: "Did we just assume things were more settled and stable in 1950s, '60s and '70s or are we just asking more questions today? Or is there really more of this mixing now?"
Also, the survey does not clearly establish how much of the mixing is due to interfaith relationships, married or unmarried, or between generations.
A new study from InterfaithFamily.com, which encourages Jewish-Christian couples to raise their kids as Jews, looks specifically at the Christmas/Hanukkah season. The findings are not scientific but give an indication that in intermarried couples rearing their children as Jews, most will celebrate Hanukkah — which begins on Friday night this year — at home. Less than 48% will celebrate Christmas, and largely in a secular fashion.
Pew specifically excludes the major holidays and life-cycle events to focus on ordinary worship practices. Its report says the findings on interfaith couples are "complex," in part because people in mixed marriages attend worship less frequently than those with a same-faith spouse.
The mixing trend has been building; an array of other surveys in the last two years have touched on the swirling, unbounded paths of believers:
•Between 47% and 59% of Americans have changed religions at least once, found a Pew survey in April. The top reasons for most: Their spiritual needs weren't being met or they liked another faith more or changed religious or moral beliefs.
•The percentage of people who call themselves Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation and so many people declined any religious label that the so-called "Nones," now 15% of the USA, are the third-largest "religious" group after Catholics and Baptists, according to the latest American Religious Identification Survey, in March 2009.
•Despite Americans' overwhelming allegiance to someone they call God (92%), in Pew's 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey 70% said "many religions can lead to eternal life" and 68% said "there's more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion."
•Most (55%) say a guardian angel has protected them from harm and 52% believe in prophetic dreams, according to surveys by Baylor University released in 2006 and 2008.
In short, we believe our own experiences are authentic, and no "authority" can say otherwise.
That's a very "Eastern" notion, says Jim Todhunter of Bethesda, Md.. Retired after three decades leading United Church of Christ congregations, he has studied in a Hindu ashram in India and practices Zen meditation and Christian contemplative prayer.
"In the Western religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — the focus is: 'What do you believe?' There is always a tremendous focus on doctrine and teachings," he says. "In the East, Buddhism and Hinduism in particular, the leading question is, 'Do you know God?' It's much more experience-based."
Either way, he adds, "however you meet God is wonderful."Print This Post
Chatty Daniels sent us a video message from Karibu, Kenya. In case you missed it Sunday or want to watch it again, here you go.Print This Post
This Sunday is the first week of our special Christmas offering which is above and beyond our normal giving. The bulk of the offering will go towards the purchase of a 4X4 vehicle for Chatty Daniels in Kenya. This week also marks the beginning of the "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" series with "How Greed Stole Christmas". We hope that you can join us this Sunday and help to make a difference in the world.Print This Post