Saturday, July 31, 2010

Should survey researchers of religion go to seminary?

Here's an interesting idea: Religious survey researchers should go to seminary to increase the accuracy and usefulness of their survey questions. This idea is put forth in an article by Pete Enns, discussed on Scot McKnight's blog.

Now, after 5 years undergrad, 7 years grad, and 2 years post-doc, there's no way I'm going back to school, but the article makes a good point. My neighbor, who is a retired pastor, has pointed out a couple of theological ambiguities in my book, and it would have been better for me to have known about them.

Maybe there's a market for MDiv consultants in survey research?

(Thanks Ed)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Christian Post article about my book

Here's an article in yesterday's Christian Post that does a good job of describing my book. The writer, Lillian Kwon, did well at describing its main themes and capturing the spirit of it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hi, I'm Brad and I'm a conehead

There's a reason why we should be patient with others... it helps keep us from looking really stupid.

Several times a week I go to the gym at our town's community center. In front of the center is a fire lane and about 20 feet further a loading zone. Drivers regularly stop in the fire lane to let people out or wait for them, but this blocks traffic and can be dangerous. This has bugged me for awhile now, especially since the official loading zone just yards away.

Earlier this week, I went to the center and, sure enough, a van was parked in the fire lane, making it hard to get into a couple parking spaces. The driver came around the back of the van, and I asked in a polite but firm voice that she not park in the fire lane. She responded kindly and said she would be done quickly, as soon as the gentleman she was dropping off got going. I looked, and saw a very old, disabled man struggling with his walker toward the front door. The exact kind of person who should be let off as close as possible.

I felt so, so dumb (a place that I have been before), and I apologized to the driver. Doh-h-h-h.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Evangelicals vs. Mainline Churches and youth ministry

Mark Chaves, a professor at Duke, studies American churches. He recently wrote about Evangelical vs. Mainline churches in their ability to keep young people in the church, and he found that Evangelicals do a better job, in part due their investing more money and effort into youth ministry.

He also summarized work by James Wellman on different expectations of the church. "For evangelicals, if children and youth are not enjoying church, it is the church's fault and evangelical parents either find a new church or try to improve their youth ministry," Wellman said. "For liberals, the tendency is the reverse; if youth do not find church interesting it is their problem. Evangelicals are simply more interested and invested in reproducing the faith in their children and youth and their churches reflect this priority."


(Thanks Mike)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The moneymaker water pump

Also from Michael Kruse's blog: a fascinating report about an engineer who is trying to help poor people in Africa by selling, and not giving away, water pumps.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Research on religion podcasts

In case you didn't know of it already, there's a great new website,, that podcasts of religion scholars discussing their research. It's run by Tony Gill, a political scientist at U. Washington, and it has some very interesting speakers on it, including Rodney Stark. The most recent podcast, for example, covers religion and health. Cool!

Tony kindly interviewed me for an upcoming podcast, and I hope that I don't pull down the curve too much.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One of these things is not like the other....

Do you remember the Sesame Street song... "One of these things is not like the other" in which multiple objects are presented with one being different in some way.

Well, let's play that game now. Here's a picture from the recent Leadership Network newsletter. Which one of these things just doesn't belong.

(Hint: Three of the books are written by famous, clean-cut Christian leaders who remember when they're supposed to be somewhere)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Stupid subconscious!

This week I start teaching a summer school class on social psychology--one of my favorite classes to teach.

Earlier this summer, however, I had a number of dreams about the class, and in all of them I just showed up at class, completely unprepared, not ready to teach it, and otherwise confused. I would wake up from these dreams bewildered because why would I stress out about a small summer school class that I've taught several times before?

Well, I had written down that it's a Tuesday-Thursday class. It's not. It's Monday Wednesday. So, today, about 1:30, I got a call from the department secretary asking why I wasn't in my 1:00 class (a student had called her). I had been outside, so I threw a shirt on, got a quick ride to the classroom, and at 1:40 I was standing in front of the class completely unprepared, not ready to teach it, and otherwise confused. No syllabus, no lecture outlines (which I was going to do tomorrow)--all from memory.

So, I guess that my subconscious was trying to tell me something after all. I figure that it should either speak loud enough to be heard or just let me sleep peacefully.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Guns in church?

Louisiana recently passed a law allowing guns in church.

I suppose, if nothing else, this will keep sermons from going on too long...

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A hypocrite comment....

A friend and neighbor of mine, a retired pastor, read my book, and he told me a story about the use of the term "hypocrite" that puts it into good perspective. He wrote:

Over the years I have called on more than one unaffiliated couple who have claimed that my church was full of hypocrites. I have always been tempted but have never replied: "We always have room for one more."

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Thoughts from Ortberg

Also from John Ortberg, more ideas of how to do Christianity.

"Instead of making vows about how my spiritual life will be perfectly well organized until I die, I seek to surrender my will for just this day. I look for small graces. I try to engage in little acts of service. I pray briefly to accommodate my limited attention span. I look for ways of being with God that I already enjoy. I try to go for half an hour without complaining. I try to say something encouraging to three people in a row. I put twenty dollars in my pocket that I will give away during the day. I take a five-minute break to read a page of great thoughts." (P. 71).


Saturday, July 03, 2010

The best laid plans...

This evening I was working hard getting ready for our big fourth of July pool party tomorrow, and at one point I was carrying an old clay pot.  It shattered, and cut my thumb quite well.  Off the emergency room to have it sewn up, and the doctor's instruction: no swimming for a week.  :-(

So, tomorrow, I will watch others enjoy the pool that I got ready....  (I suppose that it would be small of me to cancel the whole party).

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Henri Nouwen

Something that I like about Christianity is that it turns people's priorities upside down. From John Ortberg's great book, Me, becoming God's best version of you, here's info about Catholic priest and writer Henri Nouwen:

"Henri Nouwen, a priest and teacher who moved in the exalted circles of Harvard and Yale and Notre Dame, came to believe that those settings did not--for him--call forth the person God intended him to be. So this famous writer spent the last decade of his life caring for physically and mentally challenged residents of a small community called L'Arche."

Very cool (and much easier to appreciate in abstract than to do something like that myself).