Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Jerk Club

Someone very close to me inadvertently joined the jerk club. You see, she was trying to submit a book order to a person at the campus where she works. The fellow did not respond, so she sent another order. Still no response. Finally, upset about the problems that it would cause she sent a strongly-worded message insisting that he get back to her.

She learned a few days later that he had passed away a couple months ago. Oops....

She told this to a colleague, and the colleague welcomed her to the "jerk" club for chewing out a dead guy.

This colleague then told her of other inductees, and, well, there are good stories of dumb things people do on campus.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Today's obscure religous metaphore

"Go to heaven in a wheelbarrow" To be damned to eternal suffering; to go to hell. This obsolete expression has been traced to a window in Gloucestershire, England, depicting Satan wheeling away a termagant woman in a wheelbarrow.

This oppressor must needs go to heaven, … But it will be, as the by-word is, in a Wheel-barrow; the fiends, and not the Angels will take hold on him. (Thomas Adams, Gods Bounty, 1618)


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thoughts about the Vineyard Denomination

Yesterday I received and e-mail that was encouraging and depressing at the same time. It was from a member of the Vineyard denomination, and noted that my book contains a story about the Vineyard, and he wondered, with concern, if I had had a bad experience with the Vineyard.

In the story, I tell of going to a healing meeting held by some friends at college who had gotten involved with the Vineyard. At my first meeting, I was all ready to receive the spirit, and during worship I felt a warm tingling feeling on my arm, and, to make a long story short, it was just the heating vent on the floor.

I meant the story as simply another "foolish me" story (and there are a lot of them), not at all a critique of the Vineyard. I actually was profoundly influenced by my friends' services such that I started attending Vineyard Conferences, and, upon graduating from college, moved to SoCal to be involved in a Vineyard for several years. Much of how I understand Christianity now was shaped by the teachings and my experiences with the Vineyard, and I have nothing but appreciation for the Vineyard and the people that I knew. 

So, I was depressed that I had communicated poorly, but I was very encouraged that the Vineyard person handled the situation so well. He wrote with concern and clarification--just like a Christian should. I suppose that fits with the theme of the book--that Christians very often act as they should. Well done Vineyard!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Friday, October 01, 2010

Is it true? Atheists know more about religion than Christians

Periodically I get e-mails regarding a statistic that has recently come out regarding Christianity. I appreciate these e-mails, and I got a bunch this week regarding a study recently released by Pew. In this study, Pew administered a 32 question test about different world religions to 3,400 Americans, and when the results were tallied, it turns out that Atheists, Jews, and Mormons scored the highest. Black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics the lowest, White Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mainline Protestants in the middle. Here's the table from Pew:

In response, some Atheists have crowed about their knowledge, implying this survey supports the wisdom of their position. From the New York Times, the president of the American Atheists said: “I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people.... Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”

My thoughts about this study? Well, first of all Pew is a very reputable source of information about religion in America, and I frequently use their data in my own research. They have solid methods and present the material with a minimum of sensationalism.

For me, the more interesting data comes in the reports next table, presented here:

When broken down by type of question, it turns out that atheists and agnostics know more about other religions, but some types of Christians know more about Christianity.  Evangelicals, for example, score higher (though I'm not sure about the statistical significance of this difference).  In fact, for me the big surprise of the report was that Evangelicals scored higher than mainline Protestants (though I'm not sure why I would have expected otherwise).  This goes against the argument that atheists/agnostics reject Christianity because they have learned so much about it. As such, it might be more accurate to say that they know more about "religions" than "religion" per se.

I make this distinction because this test asks basic historical, biographical, and theological questions about religion. However, for many people, including myself, my interest in Christianity isn't one of detached fact-collecting, rather it's the practice of it. So, knowing about Jonathan Edwards, a cool 18th century Christian theologian, may be interesting, but it's not that important for me to know as a Christian.

I certainly don't fault Pew for this test... it's interesting for what it is. To illustrate what it doesn't do, imagine a test that describes various life situations and asks what a Christian should do (e.g., love your enemy, serve the poor, have faith in God, etc...). This type of test would get at the essence of Christianity in a way that factoids do not.