Nov. 20, 2006
November 20, 2006
ADONAI MAKING GAINS
Over the weekend here, I pointed readers to a story suggesting religion was making a rebound on campuses in England. Well, it also appears to be making a rebound among Jews in Israel, who increasingly say they believe in God, it's reported. Sort of makes you wonder who God's Karl Rove is and why he's doing better than the president's.
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THE VARIETIES OF EVANGELICALS
In September, Baylor University released its latest religion survey, called "American Piety in the 21st Century."
As you will see, if you click the link in the previous sentence and look at the study, it runs 74 pages. Which means that sometimes it takes scholars and other analysts time to digest everything that's there.
One of the findings that is becoming clearer as people look over the data is that American evangelical Christians are a pretty varied lot. It's one reason religious scholar Martin Marty argues against using the term evangelical to lump together everyone who is even vaguely conservative theologically.
The Baylor findings show that even though evangelicals tend to hold so-called conservative views on such social issues as abortion, gay marriage and prayer in public schools, they often hold more liberal positions on protecting the environment and distributing wealth more equitably.
It's another example of something I've said in print a hundredyskillion times -- labels usually hide more than they reveal. Labels can be helpful short-hand ways of referring to groups of people but we must always recognize that the people we're labeling won't always speak with one voice.
The Baylor survey found, for instance, that 40 percent of evangelical supporters of President Bush believe that the government should do more to achieve economic justice for people at the lower end of the income scale. Most scholars would label that a liberal view.
On the other hand, some evangelical positions tend to fit the stereotype. For instance, the Baylor survey found that 39 percent of them think the government should "advocate" Christian values while 52 percent said it should "protect" Christian values. And 64 percent said the government should allow prayer in public schools. (Well, such prayer already is allowed -- just not the organized variety, and presumably that's what folks responding the survey want.)
So when thinking about any faith community, remember the nuances, the variations. It will remind us of all the grays in a world we often see as black and white.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
P.S.: Thanks again to the commenters on this blog who help us, well, ketchup on various things, as many of them might have said over the weekend.
"Labels can be helpful short-hand ways of referring to groups of people but we must always recognize that the people we're labeling won't always speak with one voice...So when thinking about any faith community, remember the nuances, the variations. It will remind us of all the grays in a world we often see as black and white." We could have this posted on our computer desktops to check daily, Or needlepointed into a pillow (any other ideas?) The older I get the more the questions are more interesting than the (simplistic) answers. "A writer has to have a strong enough ego to live with ambiguity." (can't remember who said that). I think that goes for Non-writers, too.
Posted by: Mary Behr | November 20, 2006 at 05:54 AM
Bill, interesting question on Rove. Perhaps God's Rove is doing better because s/he DOES rove. (bad pun)
I appreciate the comment concerning labels. I really do dislike media-bashing as an excuse, but the media is used frequently by advocates of all types in naming and shaping labels, which then shapes perceptions of issues.
Years ago, abortion opponents successfully changed their common label in the media from "anti-abortion" to "pro-life". While I understand opponents' desire to wear a more positive-sounding label, I think the change in some ways masked the core issue.
In the same way, "Jewish," "Christian," and "Moslem" need to be used with care. Sometimes the terms are accurate. Sometimes they are used in contexts to paint all with the same broad brush that is accurate in describing only a few.
Posted by: keith | November 20, 2006 at 06:15 AM
Posted by: keith | November 20, 2006 at 06:27 AM
(Keith bangs his head on the desk. M-u-s-l-i-m. M-u-s-l-i-m. M-u-s-l-i-m. Resolves to ketchup on proper spelling.)
Posted by: keith | November 20, 2006 at 06:40 AM
Although I am theologically evangelical (mostly) I usually don't like to identify myself as one because of the identification it brings with fundamentalists like Falwell, Robertson and Dobson.
The big "E" tent is a large one with fundamentalists like these guys at one end of the tent and progressives like Tony Compolo and Adam Hamilton at the other end.
I think that, generally speaking, this diversity is good ... if only the media (hello Bill) would help and bring the sanity of the progressives into the arena a bit more :)
Posted by: Kansas Bob | November 20, 2006 at 07:34 AM
I feel your pain, KansasBob! The downside of simple labels is stereotyping, where everyone gets thrown into the same tent. This can be accurate-I speak as a Jew, you speak as a Christian. It can also be inaccurate: I don't speak for ALL Jews, perhaps not many.
We haven't touched the hearing aid preconceptions thru which the listener filters our words.
Posted by: keith | November 20, 2006 at 08:09 AM
I guess that I am shocked that ONLY two-thirds of the population of Israel believe in God. I mean, I think of Israel as being a Jewish state. Don't you HAVE to believe in God in order to be Jewish? KEITH!!!!!
There seems to be a wide variety of conservative Christianity that gets lumped together. So what should we do? I often pause and normally end up with, "some conservative Christians".
Do you think, Kansas Bob, that the progressive Evangelicals are as large a group as the conservative? Not as vocal? And how do you prefer your demographic be described?
It has become equally confusing for an "outsider" to define the doctrine and practices of mainline religions. They seem also to be splintered. Look at the range of Lutheranism on this blog.
It stills stymies me how James Kennedy can be Presbyterian. And speaking of conservative Presbyterianism, what's the deal with the minister having her ordination threatened over marrying two lesbians?
Posted by: Patricia | November 20, 2006 at 08:19 AM
"Years ago, abortion opponents successfully changed their common label in the media from "anti-abortion" to "pro-life"."
At about the same time, they were changing MY label from pro-choice to pro-abortion. It's not the same.
Which segways nicely into the question of who God's Karl Rove might be.
One answer might be that war and major events like 9/11 are powerful motivators to get people back to God. So is recognizing that there is a power block of Islam out there. It tends to make people come to grips with their own beliefs.
Key Evangelicals like Pat Robertson and Falwell really get a lot of credit for growing the movement. Robertson's media conglom is tremendously persuasive. Falwell is concentrating on education. Both are locked into the political system.
Whoever the Rovian powers-that-be are, they've shaped their message into simple terms and then employed sophisticated sales and PR techniques to get it across.
Mainliners are back thinking this is all about God and spirituality. It isn't.
Posted by: Patricia | November 20, 2006 at 08:39 AM
Now, the thing I want most of all is the change the labels for females. From Inequality to Equality with Males.
Mis-bred genetic reproduction, was athe cause of the female being put under the controls of males, and they had to bear the child in pain. With the first Mis-bred Children, rules were then made to make the male responsible for the female and child. So both male and female were losers.
Now that we are back to the High Tech Science Knowledge that Humans can be reproduced in a High Tech Womb, why not let the female return to the Equality Adam ad Eve had 'in the beginning'?
We have the High Tech Science to correct some of the MIs-bred genetics in a dish and insert it into the female womb. Why not insert it into the High Tech Womb and make Pure-bred Humans again.
Why keep making all the birth defects, multi-births, child abuse, orphans, woman abuse, and all the problems caused by Heterosexual Body Birth?
Why not use all the resources for making weapons of destruction and the cost of wars, to use our High Tech Knowledge for the Good for Man instead of for the Evil for Man.
It is Time to at least acknowledge that Humans can be reproduced by two methods, One for Eternal Genetic Pure-bred Physical Life, with Equal Sharing and Asexual Agape Love for All.
And, One for Genetic Mis-bred Genetic Physical Life that has Hate, Greed, Inequality, Inhumanity, Killing, War and Death for All.
The One GOD of the Universes does join the seed of Man in both processes.
The Only Way to change Man's Lifestyle from Sin and Death, is through 'regeneration' of the Mis-bred Physical Body with High Tech Science, and the return to the Eternal Pure-bred Asexual Physical Lifestyle of our HTA and Jesus.
It is Time to know the reason Death is on Earth, and hope it is Time for Man to Unite in their breeding process, and have Peace on Earth.
Peace and Asexual Agape Love.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | November 20, 2006 at 09:14 AM
Pro-Life can really mean being for Life, Eternal Life, when it is used for more than abortion.
I am Pro-Life or against all Killing on Earth, which is more important than abortion.
All Christians at least, the ones that follow Jesus, should be Pro-Life in all ways.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | November 20, 2006 at 09:22 AM
Darn it, Patricia. I suppose I'm now stuck with trying to explain the quandary of a third of Israelis having little or no belief in God, and who is a Jew.
There may not be enough room to discuss who is a Jew here. But you also need to remember that there are Christian Israelis and Muslim Israelis. Even in Israel the whole world isn't Jewish.
Part of the survey reflects that the "progressive" branches of Judaism barely exist in Israel on an organized basis, and the Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox totally dominate religious questions within the political state. This is by design, one of the compromises made as Israel became a nation.
Posted by: keith | November 20, 2006 at 09:48 AM
I am troubled by labels, too. For example, I wanted to contact the Ketchup Advisory Board, and became deeply saddened that there is no standard spelling for Ketchup. So far I've found all of these on the website: Ketchup, Catsup, Ketchip, Catchup and I'm sure there are others.
I feel certain that there is only one correct spelling, but I have no way to contact the Catsip Advisory Board without knowing that spelling. If the Lutherans were running the show, then this would not happen.
Perhaps we could at least ask the Board to eliminate certain spellings. I've never seen anything like this chaos and I'm having trouble coping. Maybe all things in life are really metaphors for Katsup. But I think it's more likely that I'm just not getting enough Kitchip in my diet.
Where are the Lutherans when you need them? And we do need them, just like we need Ketchup. There is nothing like a good meal with all the brothers and sisters in Ketchp. FOOD FIGHT!
Posted by: Just Thinking | November 20, 2006 at 10:59 AM
JT, the ELCAs and the WELS are brawling with the LCMSs ELS at the edge of the mud pit...looks like a scene from a John Wayne's McClintock movie.
As you can see, I'm trying to catchup on my movie references.
Posted by: keith | November 20, 2006 at 11:21 AM
I do not think we Lutherans brawl - not the ACLE, SMCL, SLEW, or even the SLE - we just disagree.
Kennedy is a Presbyterian - a pastor in the ACP instead of the ASUCP - it is a Presbyterian Church that is a little more traditional in flare, but perhaps in some cases, more evangelical in style.
Posted by: Michael | November 20, 2006 at 11:58 AM
"Mainliners are back thinking this is all about God and spirituality. It isn't."
Speaking of labels, spirituality is another word that is frequently mis-used. It's become sort of a nebulous, catch-all word for anyone who believes just about anything regarding a higher power. In fact, most people today who claim to be "spiritual" usually use the word to differentiate themselves from anyone who is "religious." Most people who claim to be spiritual quickly add they certainly aren't religious.
Personally, I consider myself religious, not spiritual. The latter is just too "new age" for my taste.
Posted by: Ron | November 20, 2006 at 12:25 PM
You've heard of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD)? Michael, there's another organization that can help you with your acronyms. It's called Mothers Against Dyslexia (DAM). It definitely appears that you could use some DAM help.
Posted by: Just Thinking | November 20, 2006 at 12:28 PM
"Personally, I consider myself religious, not spiritual. The latter is just too "new age" for my taste."
The word 'spirituality' comes from the Latin root meaning "to breathe".
The word 'religious' comes from the Latin root ligo, comes religo, ligo, comes religo, means to tie or bind over again, to make more fast.
To me, spirituality means something that is deeper within and very personal. Like breath itself and a part of being or soul.
Religious carries more of a sense of the ties to church, a manmade institution, although I know that the bondage can be to God.
I think that the reason that you may consider sprirituality New Age,(although it's not) is because it can clearly exist outside of a specific religion or church.
Is that such a bad thing?
Posted by: Patricia | November 20, 2006 at 02:33 PM
Now, the thing I want most of all is the change the labels for females. From Inequality to Equality with Males."
Why Dolores, if you leave out the asexual part, I would think you were really Gloria Steinem blogging under a pseudonym.
Amen for equality, Sister.
Posted by: Patricia | November 20, 2006 at 02:39 PM
"But you also need to remember that there are Christian Israelis and Muslim Israelis. Even in Israel the whole world isn't Jewish."
Forgive me, but if it's hard to believe that there are that many Jews who don't believe in God, it is harder for me to believe that even a part of them are Muslims who don't believe in God. Now, Christians.....
For whatever reason, we are fast to unChristian a Christian once they stop believing. A Christian can become an atheist or agnostic or secular humanist in the bat of an eye.
Not the same for unJewing a Jew for many people. I've never understood this, but I guess my question to you is, "If you, Keith, stopped believing in God tomorrow, would you still consider yourself a Jew?
Posted by: Patricia | November 20, 2006 at 02:45 PM
Oh, heavens, Patricia! Only YOU would write about unChristianing a Christian and unJewing a Jew! I'm chuckling as I contemplate an evening post. Just remember, you ASKED.
Posted by: keith | November 20, 2006 at 03:39 PM
Especially for Patricia:
I SPEAK ONLY FOR MYSELF, AND OF MY OWN PERSONAL BELIEFS, OPINIONS AND OBSERVATIONS. I WAS RAISED IN A MORE LIBERAL OF CONSERVATIVE CONGREGATIONS, BUT IN MY ADULTHOOD BELONG TO A REFORM CONGREGATION.
In partial answer to your questions, let me say that on my worst days, when my faith has been most tested, when agnosticism or even atheism have beckoned, I was and am always a Jew until I would renounce it. But I am also a Jew by my parentage, upbringing, education, heritage, learned practice, community and culture. That I am a good, average, poor, or pitiful example of a Jew, practicing or not, is almost immaterial.
I've never seen anyone asked to leave a synogogue because they were no longer a Jew or a "good" Jew. I've never heard of anyone being told, "You can't call yourself a Jew anymore, so don't come back here."
The survey of Israelis Bill cited is an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Because of the political power of Orthodox Judaism in Israeli government and therefore in Israeli society, Conservative and Reform Judaism struggle for a foothold. This causes a breakdown in Israeli society because it limits the structures less traditional Judaism can offer to its followers, and tends to leave the non-Orthodox adrift.
I'm thinking that's part of what you see in the survey.
On a lighter note, I would think that the only way to unJew a Jew would be to overpay her. <---bad religious joke
Posted by: Keith | November 20, 2006 at 07:01 PM
Let me begin with a groan. You're right. Bad religious joke. Thanks, I enjoyed it.
So you are saying that your Judaism is much more than a religion. It's a culture? Do you believe that it's also a race?
I just Googled it, incidentally, and just from a scan, I realize that how complex this is. I'm getting reformed vs. orthodox positions, etc.
One interesting thing is that under U.S. law, Jews are a race (and this is controversial). This is for the purpose of antidiscrimination laws. Got it from this website, which seems pretty informative. http://www.jewfaq.org/judaism.htm
The other thing about Bill's article that really surprised me is that Zionism is described as secular and a reason for the lower "believe in God" statistics. I had always thought that Zionism was a fairly radical and orthodox component of Judaism. So. I am learning.
Posted by: Patricia | November 20, 2006 at 07:29 PM
JT, your ketchup post is witty. You have a talent. Thanks for sharing it.
Posted by: Patricia | November 20, 2006 at 07:32 PM
Keith, do reform Jews trace the beginning of their faith to a particular moment in time? Did some event happen that created some sort of "new" Old Testament, some particular revelation or document or reformer? Or, are the beliefs of reform Judiasm something that sort of gradually developed over time?
Posted by: Ron | November 20, 2006 at 07:52 PM
Ron, it's really more of an accomodation to the world in which we live.
Example: A devout Orthodox Jew will live within walking distance of his synogogue. It would be seen as a violation of "doing work" on the Sabbath to drive a car. Or, for that matter, to turn on a light switch. The Reform branch of Judaism denies the "work" catagorization of driving a car or turning on a light switch.
Perhaps an even better example would be the service itself. An Orthodox service (aside from a sermon and announcements) would be almost entirely in Hebrew. A Reform service will be perhaps half in English, half in Hebrew. A stuggle the Catholic Church currently faces, too, in the debate over whether to conduct mass in Latin or the local language.
Posted by: Keith | November 20, 2006 at 08:16 PM