Monday, June 30, 2008

Review of UnChristian: Comparing the image of Christianity to other groups II

(Part 8 in a series)

UnChristian claims that American Christianity has an image problem, especially among young, non-believers.

As part of investigating this claim, I have presented some data that compares the images of different religions in America. My thinking is that "problem" is a comparative term, and that if indeed Christianity has an image problem, it would be thought of more negatively than other religions.

Here are more data suggesting this probably isn't the case. They come from the Mosaic Study

The first survey question represents a measure of public acceptance and trust. It asks: "For each [group], please tell me how much you think people in this group agree with YOUR vision of American society. Below is a graph indicating the percentage of respondents reporting that the group did "not at all" match the respondents vision of America.

As you can see, the groups seen as most outside the American way are atheists and Muslims. Note: The question asks about "conservative" Christians, and that adjective alone should be enough to gain the disfavor of some people. (E.g., Q=Would you like a conservative $100 bill? A=get lost).

conducted by the University of Minnesota Sociology Department. (To be clear, these data bear upon the image of Christianity among the general populace, not just young people outside of the church.)

In another question, the Mosaic project asks about public trust and acceptance. Specifically, would the respondent disapprove if their son or daughter married someone from a particular group.

As shown again, it's atheists and Muslims who are not accepted, presumably due to part to what UnChristian would label an "image problem" (which could also be termed prejudice or stereotypes).

Source of data: Edgell, Gerteis, and Hartmann, American Sociological Review, April 2006

Thanks Edward for reminding me about these data.

Part 9 in the series.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Saturday stuff

A good weekend by the numbers:

1 pool party with neighbors
1 risk game won by me (against the boys--yeah, I've still got it)

4 boys taken to Six Flags New England
30 mile bike ride this morning
88 degrees outside
240 pounds of cement bought for new stone wall
460 pounds gravel for new stone wall
600 pounds or so of granite picked up from construction site, for wall

Friday, June 27, 2008

Review of UnChristian: Comparing the image of Christianity to other groups I

(Part 7 in a series)

This post follows-up on yesterday's by comparing attitudes toward Christianity with those of other religions, i.e., adding a comparison group.

UnChristian states that Christianity has an image problem, especially, but not exclusively, among young people outside of the church.

There are various ways of examining this issue using existing data. If indeed Christianity has an image problem, then we would expect it to be thought of less well than other religions.

One source of data comparing attitudes toward religions comes from studies of prejudice. If we think of prejudice as having negative attitudes toward a group and its members, than data about religious prejudice captures negative images of religion.

Here are data from two different studies on this issue, and generalizing from them,
Muslims and Atheists have much worse "image problems" in American than do Christians.

1) Political support and religion.

Given that this is an election year, here are some data about religion in politics.

If American Christianity has an image problem, we might expect that this would translate into less support of a candidate with Christian beliefs.

A 2007 study by Pew asked respondents if they would more or less willing to support a presidential candidate based on the candidate's religious beliefs. The chart below indicates what percentage of the sample would be *less* likely to support a presidential candidate of that religion. (E.g., 61% were less likely to support a candidate if that candidate was an atheist).

2) Religion and dating.

Another way that negative attitudes toward religions manifests itself is in attitudes toward social closeness and intimacy. Zogby, in their July 2007 report "American Prejudice" asked a question that echoes classic measures of prejudice. It asks that if your child were dating someone from a religious group different than yours, which would concern you most?

Obviously most the respondents are Christian, so they will name a non-Christian religion. Still, most Americans are Christian, and this affects attitudes toward religion in America.

Next: More comparing the image of Christianity to other groups

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Review of UnChristian: Do Christians have an image problem? Compared to whom?

(Part 6 in a series)

The first line of UnChristian aptly summarizes the book--"Christianity has an image problem." The book goes on to describe the content of this image problem, especially as it exists among young people outside of the church. For example, on page 25, 38% of the young "outsiders" in the sample have a bad impression about Christianity, 49% have a bad impression about evangelical Christians, and 35% have it of born-again Christians. (Technical digression: These percentages refer to those young outsiders aware of each of these three groups. If any of them are not aware of these Christian groups, the percentage with a bad impression is lower).

I suppose my first reaction to these data is to ask "compared to whom?" That is, relative to which groups does Christianity have an image problem? Unfortunately, UnChristian does not publish any data regarding attitudes toward other religious and social groups. However, the issue of comparison groups matters because with making an explicit comparison, it's difficult, if not impossible, to know if in fact Christianity really does have an image problem.

Comparison groups provide a standard by which to judge information. Image getting a physical and your doctor reports that in your bloodwork, you have some level of an enzyme. Your first question would probably be whether that is good or bad; i.e., what is considered "normal" based on what other people have. Just the number itself is relatively uninformative.

There are at least five possible comparisons that could be made.

1) Other religions. The most obvious comparison groups for American Christianity would be other religious-belief groups in America. This would include Jews, Muslims, Mormons (for those who don't define Mormonism as a Christian religion), and Atheists. Does UnChristian imply that these other groups have better images than Christianity? It's implied, perhaps, but it doesn't seem likely (and it's something that I'll present data on later in this series).

2) Other social groups. Maybe Christianity should be compared to other American groups, institutions, and identities. E.g., does Christianity have an image problem relative to political parties? Large companies? Various races and ethnicities? These comparisons would be interesting, but I don't think they were the emphasis of UnChristian.

3) American Christianity in recent decades. The closest that UnChristian comes to an explicit comparison is to compare the image of American Christianity today with its image in previous years. Basically, according to the authors, things are getting much worse for Christianity.

They write of a "growing hostility toward Christianity" over time (p. 26).

"Modern-day Christianity no longer seems Christian" (p. 29).

"Just a decade ago the Christian faith was not generating the intense hostility that it is today" (p. 38).

Most explicitly, the refer to a 1996 Barna study entitled "Christianity has strong positive image despite fewer active participants." It found that 85% of non-Christians "were favorable toward Christianity's role in society" (page 24). I wasn't able to find this report on Barna's website, but it sounds like it was asking different questions than those contained in UnChristian. If so, this comparison might be apples and oranges.

Maybe I'm just getting old (okay, I am getting old--all too fast), but I don't remember great society enthusiasm for Christianity, especially Evangelical Christianity, in the past.

The 1980s? There was a lot of animosity toward Christians as represented by the Jerry Falwell and the religious right. That was also the time of Jim and Tammy Baker's fall.

The 1960s? That was a very different time from now, and young people were much less trusting of any social institution, including religion. Peace, love, and the communion of the saints? Doesn't sound right.

In short, it's difficult for me to believe that the popular image of Christianity is in the free fall that UnChristian speaks of.

4) The early church? Maybe we should compare the modern Church in America with the early church written of in the New Testament. Now that was a group with an image problem. They were thought of so poorly that they were routinely imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Some of the people that Jesus was reaching out to spoke of him as the devil. Now that's an image problem.

5) Perfection. I wonder if perfection or complete acceptance is the implicit standard held by many readers of UnChristian. That is, we should have a very positive image in society, and any negativity toward us is a cause for concern. I can understand the sentiments behind such a standard, if in fact anyone holds it, but it's hard to see any historical or Biblical precedent for it.

Next: Comparing the image of Christianity to other groups

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Review of UnChristian: Critiquing research about Christianity

(Part 5 in a series)

In writing a critique of UnChristian, and let me preface it by saying that I am mildly uncomfortable doing so. Not because of the book itself, but because I get no particular joy out of pointing out the shortcomings and limitations of other peoples’ research. I certainly have plenty in my own research to worry about, so why should I bother with other peoples’ research?

A somewhat unique situation has arisen in American Christianity in which much of the data we get about the Church comes from organizations that, to my knowledge, don’t go through any peer-review process. With academic journals, in contrast, when I submit a paper for publication, they send it to several reviewers. These anonymous reviewers, fellow experts in the field, read the manuscript and suggest improvements as well as make recommendations for publication. (They always find a lot to fix with my research.) Certainly the anonymous review system has its own problems, but any academic journal article has been vetted by at least several researchers.

I don’t think that this is the case with research such as published by Barna, Reveal, Lifeway, and various other popular Christian data sources. Instead, there’s an element of “trust us” in accepting their material. I have no doubt that these organizations seek to be as honest and rigorous as possible with their data, but that doesn’t mean that they (or anyone) always get it right. This is confounded by what seems to be a general reluctance to publish the specific methods of their research. When reading material from these sources, I rarely find the survey instrument itself or basic methodological information such as response rates. On top of this, these organizations rarely share their data with others, which makes their analyses difficult to replicate.

The end result is almost a blind faith in the quality of the analyses being presented. Certainly these researchers are devout Christians dedicated to advancing the Kingdom (of that there is no doubt), and their work is often cited by experts, so shouldn’t we just accept what they say at face value? It feels like bad form to question or critique what they are doing—as if we’re hindering someone else’s ministry.

Instead of faith, I would like to promote a model of informed consumption of research about Christianity. Some of it is outstanding, some of it is off the mark, and there’s a lot in between. As readers of it, we should critically evaluate it. Rather than having faith in all data about Christianity, we should first separate the wheat from the chaff.

Ultimately, a more critical engagement of Christian statistics should identify those findings from which the church has the most to learn, that can best guide us in advancing the Kingdom.

Next: Compared to whom?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Review of UnChristian: What works well

(Part 4 in a series)

There are some things to like about UnChristian, things that help account for its popularity and wide reception in the Evangelical Christian community.

To begin with, Kinnaman and Lyons ask an interesting question. I suppose that just like any individual wants to know what others think of them, so does any organization or institution. Furthermore, as they argue, this knowledge may have practical applications in advancing the mission of the institution.

More generally, it gets Christians thinking about how the world perceives them and how their behavior might affect this. There are various lines of theory in sociology that emphasize how we understand ourselves as being affected by how we perceive others understanding us. This book fits right into this approach, so it makes sense that we would ask such questions in understanding who we are as a group. It also warns that our bad behavior can come back to haunt us as it is incorporated into general attitudes about us.

UnChristian generates six specific stereotypes about Christians that they found--hypocritical, focused on conversion, antihomosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental. While I'm not sure that I would take Kinnaman and Lyon's conclusions about these stereotypes as far as they do, it seems reasonable to place these particular issues would make a short list of modern concerns about Christians and Christianity.

Finally, they intersperse writings from some very wise Christian leaders through the book. These are great, and they could stand on their own, without the data provided by Kinnaman and Lyons. For example, Mark Batterson, of National Christian Church, writes about being an apolitical church located in Washington D.C. (p. 174). This very day in the news, James Dobson called out Barak Obama for pushing a "distorting the Bible" and offering a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution. I've got to tell you, I think there's a lot more wisdom in Batterson's approach than Dobson's.

Next: Critiquing research on Christianity

Monday, June 23, 2008

U.S. Religious Landscape Survey

The Pew Foundation published the second report from its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey today, and it provides a thorough, interesting description of religion in America. After a quick pass through it, I'm struck by how very religious this country is. As shown in this table, 3 out of 4 Americans define themselves as Protestant or Catholic.
In addition, 61% are formal members of a church.

84% say that religion is somewhat or very important to them.

The report also documents the relationship between religion and various political and social issues. No real surprises, but an affirmation of the role that religion plays in so many aspects of American life.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Graphing work-life balance

I'm a sucker for a good pie chart (good pie too, for that matter).

Here's one that graphs out how much time we spend with various activities in our lives.

Thanks Ken!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday stuff

Well, Gus finished 9th grade this week, and he had a pool party to celebrate. He invited over a group of 12 friends who included.... girls. Yep, he invited girls to all his parties through about 5th grade, but then something happened. I think they got cooties, but I'm not sure. Well, they seem to have recovered and are now on the friend list again.

Cathy pointed out the significance of this in our party planning--we needed to buy veggies and dip, not just the usual junk. We also had to order a cheese pizza to go along with the usual meat-lovers.

Gus is now a sophomore. Ugh... I can remember my sophomore year--all too well.

Floyd watched a film involving someone who is homeless. He thought about it, and then declared that if he was homeless and really hungry, he might have to eat rotten raccoon. (I'm not sure where this reference came from, but I'm worried that it's code for my cooking.)

I got a new computer at work, an iMac, and it's really fun. The difference between Macs and PCs isn't that great anymore (compared to the original mac vs. ms-dos), but it's still fun to use.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Review of UnChristian: Reaction to it

(Part 3 in a series)

The book UnChristian was realized at the end of 2007, and it has already generated its a lot of attention.

The book has been noticed in the mainstream media. Here's an interview with Gabe Lyons on CNN news, which calls the book a "wake-up call to a lot of pastors around the country when they want to reach young people."

Throughout the blogsphere, writers have testified to its impact on them. It:
- is life changing.
- has caused them lose sleep.
- is a wake-up call to Christians.
- is a prophetic call to the church.
- causes self-examination.
- is provocative and impressive
- is challenging

Why, the book even has its own website now.

Given the amount of attention that it has garnered, it's worth asking if it's right? Does Christianity have an image problem with non-believers?

Next: What works well

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Review of UnChristian: Summary of findings

(Part 2 in a series)

It seems that many of the statistics discussed by Christians revolve around one of two issues:

1) Christians are not very Christian (an example)

2) The Church is rapidly declining (an example)

This book, UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons is a variation on the first theme. It holds that people outside of the church, especially young people, view Christians as acting in an unChristian manner. They write that "Christianity has an image problem," and this book details the specifics of this problem.

The authors base their study on data collected by the Barna Group, which Kinnaman heads. They don't give a lot of details about how they collected their data, but they appear to have collected a nationwide phone survey that included 440 respondents who did not fit Barna's definition of being a born-again Christian. As I've discussed elsewhere, this definition includes people who agree with a couple of theological statements, regardless of whether they define themselves as Christian or whether they attend a church. This definition excludes people not affiliated with a religion, affiliated with non-Christian religions, and many non-Evangelical Christians, including Catholics and mainline Protestants.

Based on interviewing these 440 non-Evangelicals, the authors conclude that the Evangelical church and its members are thought of very poorly. One-third to one-half of the sample had a bad impression of Christianity, Evangelical Christians, and Born-Again Christians (p. 25). These apparent bad feelings stem from six broad impressions about Christians (p. 29).

The 440 respondents identified Christians as:
- Hypocritical (saying one thing and doing another)
- Too focused on getting converts (viewing people as targets)
- Antihomosexual (bigoted)
- Sheltered (old fashioned, boring, and out of touch with reality)
- Too political (motivated by conservative political agenda)
- Judgmental (quick to judge others)

These negative perceptions alter how people interact with Christians and their willingness to become Christians themselves (p. 11).

The majority of the book unpacks these themes, addressing one per chapter. It also uses the insights of the authors as well as various Christian leaders in how Christians can get these perceptions.

Next: Reactions to UnChristian.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why do prisoners convert to Christianity?

I came across an article "Why God Is Often Found Behind Bars: Prison Conversions and the Crisis of Self-Narrative." (Citation)

The authors interviewed 75 prisoners who had converted to religion in prison, and the resulting narratives had several themes:.

As summarized in the abstract, prisoners converted because:
- creates a new social identity to replace the label of prisoner or criminal,
- imbues the experience of imprisonment with purpose and meaning,
- empowers the largely powerless prisoner by turning him into an agent of God,
- provides the prisoner with a language and framework for forgiveness, and
- allows a sense of control over an unknown future.

Interesting. Some of them are similar to conversion narratives from the general population. The one about forgiveness seems particularly suited for the prison situation.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Review of unChristian:What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

Part 1 in a multipart review

Today I’m starting a review of David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon’s book,
UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters.

Kinneman is the president of the Barna Group, whose research I have blogged about before. Lyons is the head of the Fermi Project, a group dedicated to “working together to make positive contributions to culture.” (Hard to argue with that).

I’ve had several readers of this blog suggest reviewing this book because it’s had a high profile in the Evangelical world, and it relies heavily on survey data, something I that frequently write about.

In engaging this book, I will focus mostly on the question of whether we can believe its findings. An alternative approach, taken elsewhere, assumes the findings to be accurate and focuses on their implications. I’ll leave that question to Church leaders, and I’ll simply take a more-fundamental research-methods approach to critiquing this book.

I offer my standard disclaimer about cultural norms in academia regarding critiques. For whatever reason, academics view critical attention as something to be valued, and so our offering it, as I do here, represents appreciation for the work in question. Put differently, if I didn’t think that this book had any value, I probably wouldn’t bother writing about it.

My hope is that after this series, readers of unChristian will have a better sense of what they can and can't learn from it.

I'll also use this review as occasion to look more generally at perceptions of Christianity, using data available in various data sets.

Let me know if you have any specific questions about the book--I'll see if I can answer them.

Next: Methods & findings

Friday, June 13, 2008

Gender and sailing

Floyd, being a Cub Scout, is taking part in a sailing regatta. This involves building a small, wooden sailboat and letting it float around a pond with other boats.

Well, in building it, Floyd took several minutes to put it together, but he then took a long time in sharpening the front of the boat. He sanded the wood very carefully to get it "razor sharp", in his words.

Cathy and I were sitting there when he announced what he was doing. We both saw only one possible explanation for it, and our explanations were different.

Cathy thought Floyd was sharpening the bow so that the boat could move through the water more efficiently.

I thought he was sharpening it so that it could properly ram other boats.

Guess who was right? :-)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Graphic hang gliding footage (vid)

My brother was up for the weekend hang gliding, and he put together this video of his flying.

I spent the time as "ground crew" since I don't have my own glider yet. That's me holding on to the glider as we drive up the hill.

Somehow my brother has become a really good videographer in addition to hang glider pilot...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Man slain in spirit, falls, and sues


JUNE 5--Last June, Matthew Lincoln was attending an evening service at his nondenominational Tennessee church when he approached the altar where a visiting minister was offering individual prayers for parishioners. Assigned "catchers" were present on the altar in case congregants fainted, fell, or otherwise lost control. When the minister, Robert Lavala, slightly touched his forehead, the Knoxville-area man "received the spirit and fell backwards." Except nobody was there to catch him, Lincoln charges in a $2.5 million lawsuit filed yesterday against Lakewind Church and its pastors. Lincoln, 58, claims that he fell backwards, striking his head against the "carpet-covered cement floor," according to the Circuit Court complaint, which was first reported by Courthouse News Service. A copy of Lincoln's lawsuit can be found below. Since he already suffered from a "degenerative disc disease of his neck and back," Lincoln, a former church board member, contends the fall exacerbated the pre-existing condition and has caused him "severe and permanent" injuries. As a result of the fall, Lincoln, a recording engineer, claims that he is no longer able to care for his disabled daughter. Lincoln alleges that Lakewind and its pastors were "negligent in not supervising the catchers to be sure that they stood behind the person being prayed for...should they have a dizzying, fainting, or falling in the spirit as had occurred on many occasions before." Lincoln's lawyer, J.D. Lee, told TSG that the church's insurer, Zurich of North America, rejected an insurance claim, asserting that Lincoln should have realized that no catchers were situated behind him. (5 pages).


Believe it or not, I've actually wondered what would happen in situations like this. I suppose that churches should start offering legal representation for healing services...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Saturday stuff

No Saturday stuff this week because I'm up in New Hampshire with my brother hang gliding...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Um, I think that you have something to tell me, part II

Last week I posted about a terrifyingly effective method of obtaining confessions in romantic relationships.

Well... it gets worse. Law enforcement officials have discovered this method too.

Earlier this week I was driving up to New Hampshire to go hang gliding. It's about 2.5 hours away, and within a couple miles of the hill, I passed a very slow driver in a double-yellow-line section of the road. I looked up to see a police car with its lights on several cars behind me, and I knew I was busted.

I pulled over, the police officer came to the window, and what did he ask? "Do you know why I pulled you over?" Yes, an ambiguous prompting to confession, just like "um, I think that you have something to tell me." And it worked well, very well.

I laughed and said that I passed a car on a double-yellow line. He agreed and turned to go back to his car, but I wasn't done confessing.

I told him that I was also driving too fast, and that I passed that car because I was approaching it too quickly and didn't want to slam on my brakes.

He grunted and went back to his car, probably hoping that that would stop the confessions.

When he came back, returning my license and registration, he said that "driving too fast is always the wrong answer" but that he appreciated my honesty, so he was just giving me a warning.

For once my utter inability to keep a secret worked out well....

Thursday, June 05, 2008

More on religion and giving

Michael Kruse posted an interesting review of Who Really Cares by Arthur Brooks regarding Christian giving, and he wrote the following in a comment of a previous post of mine. As usual, Micheal is saying good things:

Arthur Brooks wrote: "First, imagine two people: One goes to church every week and strongly rejects the idea that it is government’s responsibility to redistribute income between people who have a lot of money and people who don’t. The other person never attends a house of worship, and strongly believes that the government should reduce income differences. Knowing only these things, the data tell us that the first person will be roughly twice as likely as the second to give money to charities in a given year, and will give away more than one hundred times as much money per year (as well as fifty times more to explicitly nonreligious causes).

Or take two other people who are identical with respect to household incomes, education, age, sex, and race. One receives assistance from the government in the form of housing support, welfare payments, or food stamps; does not belong to a house of worship; and is a single parent. The second is a working poor person (although his or her total household income is just as low as the first person’s, he or she does not receive government assistance), belongs to a house of worship, and is a married parent. According to the data, the second person will be, on average, more than seven times as likely to make a donation to charity each year." (10-11)

Michael Kruse wrote: "Brooks reports that the key indicator of giving is not political affliation but weekly attendance at worship. Conservative and liberal weekly attenders are the highest givers although conservatives give slightly more.

The thesis that conservatives are so other worldly they don't give doesn't hold up in his analysis. In fact, I'd suggest the operative issue might be that liberals believe it is government's role to provide for the poor so they don't believe they should have to give. Justice and benevolence toward the poor is expressed through collective taxation rather than personal giving."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Passing the Plate, a book preview

Christian Smith is coming out with what sounds like a fascinating book on Christian giving. Here's the summary from Amazon (I don't know the release date). Sounds like it takes an almost applied approach to why Christians don't give more money, pointing out all the good that can be done if they did and suggesting ways of increasing it.

From an applied perspective, the question of "why don't Christians give more" is more interesting than "do they give more than other groups."

"Passing the Plate shows that few American Christians donate generously to religious and charitable causes--a parsimony that seriously undermines the work of churches and ministries. Far from the 10 percent of one's income that tithing requires, American Christians' financial giving typically amounts, by some measures, to less than one percent of annual earnings. And a startling one out of five self-identified Christians gives nothing at all.

This eye-opening book explores the reasons behind such ungenerous giving, the potential world-changing benefits of greater financial giving, and what can be done to improve matters. If American Christians gave more generously, say the authors, any number of worthy projects--from the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS to the promotion of inter-religious understanding to the upgrading of world missions--could be funded at astounding levels.

Analyzing a wide range of social surveys and government and denominational statistical datasets and drawing on in-depth interviews with Christian pastors and church members in seven different states, the book identifies a crucial set of factors that appear to depress religious financial support--among them the powerful allure of a mass-consumerist culture and its impact on Americans' priorities, parishioners' suspicions of waste and abuse by nonprofit administrators, clergy hesitations to boldly ask for money, and the lack of structure and routine in the way most American Christians give away money.

In their conclusion, the authors suggest practical steps that clergy and lay leaders might take to counteract these tendencies and better educate their congregations about the transformative effects of generous giving.

By illuminating the social and psychological forces that shape charitable giving, Passing the Plate is sure to spark a much-needed debate on a critical issue."

Thanks Jeremy for the heads-up.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Does religion make you happier?

Here is an interesting thread of discussion about religion and happiness (sent to me by David... Thanks!).

Arthur Brooks, in his book Gross National Happiness, makes the empirical observation that in the U.S. there is a positive correlation between religious involvement and happiness.

Will Wilkinson in a review says that's true, but the religion-happiness link is not universal. In Europe there is no correlation.

Ross Douthat, of the Atlantic, frames the issue as one of religious culture. The U.S. has a stronger religious culture, and so being outside of it causes alienation and less happiness. Not so in Europe.

I don't know the literature well enough to evaluate this discussion, but it raises interesting issues about the effects of religion and how it might vary by culture.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Don't play at church

It's official. If you're going to do church, don't just play at it. Someone could get hurt!

(Thanks Jay!)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A story about Christian giving

Here's a story that more accurately reflects my approach to giving...

Preacher:" Brother Brown,I want to make sure you understood my sermon on charity today. If you had two farms, and Brother White had no means of support, wouldn't you give him one of your farms?"

Brother Brown: "I most certainly would."

Preacher: "What if you had two tractors, and Brother White had no way to harvest his crop. Wouldn't you give him one of your tractors?"

Brother Brown: "Why, sure I would."

Preacher: "What if you had two horses and Brother White's only horse died. Wouldn't you give him one of your horses?"

Brother Brown: "Well, no. You see, I have two horses."

(from Dahl and Ransom)