Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. – Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

America is no longer as evangelical as it was


Amid Evangelical decline, growing split between young Christians and church eldersThe number of white evangelical Protestants fell from about 23 percent of the US population in 2006 to 17 percent in 2016, and only 11 percent are under 30, according to a survey of more than 100,000 Americans. | Christian Science Monitor

America is no longer as evangelical as
it was -- and here's why

Opinion by Diana Butler Bass
July 11, 2021

Diana Butler Bass (@DianaButlerBass) is the author of 11 books on American religion and cultural trends, including her most recent, "Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way and Presence." She was a member of the Public Religion Research Institute board from 2008 to 2018. The views expressed here are hers. Read more opinion on CNN.

In 1994, I quit.

Twenty years earlier, I'd been born again. I had grown up in a liberal Methodist church but started going to a nondenominational church with high school friends. When I told my friends that I'd given my life to Jesus, there were hugs and tears. Jesus embraced me, and so did they. I had a new family -- and everything changed.

Diana Butler Bass

I had not only converted to Jesus, but I'd entered another world, one with its own language, practices, ethics and expectations. I learned this sort of Christianity had a name: "Evangelical" meaning "good news." And it seemed very good to me. Evangelical faith was warm, assuring, enthusiastic, serious and deeply pious. I attended an evangelical college, graduated from an evangelical seminary and did doctoral work with a leading evangelical scholar. I was proud to be evangelical.
Evangelical Christianity was everything to me back then: faith, work, friends, life. It stayed that way until my questions started. Evangelicalism became the religious right, it became obvious that women would never be accepted as leaders, and closeted gay evangelical friends died of AIDS.

After a protracted internal struggle, I couldn't do it anymore. I joined a liberal Episcopal church, returning to the kind of mainline Protestantism I'd known before being born again.

It was hard leaving evangelical Christianity. Through the years, I'd occasionally meet someone who had a similar experience, but such encounters were often random, or felt furtive. Mostly, when it came to my spiritual journey, I've felt alone. Until this week.

On July 8, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released its American Religious Landscape survey for 2020. The report resembled those of recent years, affirming now-familiar trends shaping 21st century American religion: increasing racial diversity in Christian communities, the sizable presence of world religions other than Christianity and the explosive growth of those who are religiously unaffiliated.

In other words, there were no major surprises -- except one. Unlike previous surveys, this one showed that the decline among White Christians has slowed. Indeed, the percentage of White Christians actually rose slightly due to growth in an unlikely category -- an increase among white mainline Protestants, "an uptick" of 3.5% in their proportion of the American population.

This uptick is especially surprising when compared to the drop in White evangelical Protestantism. The report pointedly states: "Since 2006, white evangelical Protestants have experienced the most precipitous drop in affiliation, shrinking from 23% of Americans in 2006 to 14% in 2020."

White mainline Protestantism is growing; White evangelicalism is declining. And that is big news.

Most researchers divide White American Protestantism into two large families: Evangelical and mainline. Evangelicalism comprises a multitude of theologically conservative Protestants who typically belong to groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God or to independent, nondenominational mega-church congregations.

Mainline Protestantism (sometimes referred to as "old-line," "mainstream," or "ecumenical") is an umbrella designation for those more theologically moderate and liberal Protestants who identify with the Episcopal Church (TEC), Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA), United Methodist Church (UMC), United Church of Christ (UCC) or the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Chances are that if you grew up Protestant and attending church in America, you worshipped on one side of this divide or the other, even if you did not know this history or which camp your church was in. Or, like me, you moved between them, as I was first mainline, then evangelical, and then mainline again.

PRRI indicates that the mainline rebound is significant: "The slight increase in white Christians between 2018 and 2020 was driven primarily by an uptick in the proportion of white mainline (non-evangelical) Protestants... Since 2007, white mainline (non-evangelical) Protestants have declined from 19% of the population to a low of 13% in 2016, but the last three years have seen small but steady increases, up to 16% in 2020."

For several years, observers have noted the decline of White evangelicalism. As white evangelical numbers declined, the percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans went up. There appeared to be a correlation between the two -- ex-evangelicals moved to the "none" category. Over the last three years, however, the unaffiliated category has stabilized while the white evangelical exodus continued. At the same time, the white mainline category has risen.

This shift suggests that some portion of ex-evangelicals are finding their way toward mainline or another non-evangelical Protestant sense of identity.

This doesn't mean that Americans are necessarily returning to mainline churches in droves. The PRRI study is not about church attendance or membership. It isn't about what people do. It is about identity - labels people use to describe their religious lives. The data suggests that White Protestants are distancing themselves from "evangelical." Many apparently leave religion altogether. But others -- whose numbers might be that modest "uptick" -- may be reacquainting themselves with mainline Protestantism.

Dividing Protestants into two categories goes back to the early 20th century when the two groups were called "fundamentalists" and "modernists." In the 1920s, Protestants quarreled over the Bible and evolution, their churches and seminaries split. The two factions largely went their separate ways, eventually morphing into "evangelicals" and "mainliners" as they are called today.

In the middle decades of the 20th century, mainline Protestants held more cultural and political power. By the mid-1970s, however, their numbers -- and influence -- began a rapid decline.

As the mainline went into a demographic tailspin, evangelicals fought for greater recognition in politics and culture, surprising nearly everyone with the size of their churches, the energy of their organizations and a kind of expressive spirituality. Their robust ascent into the public conversation, their political acumen and their fundraising prowess, transformed American politics and church life seemingly overnight.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, mainline Protestantism faded from public view. "Evangelical" became coterminous with "Protestant." If one was born after 1980, it was hard to know that mainline Protestantism even existed.

Pendulums do, however, swing. And it could be that this is the historical moment when America's Protestant pendulum is moving away from its evangelical side to its more liberal one once again.

What is certain is that America is no longer as evangelical as it was. But it is not as mainline as it was in the mid-20th century either. Both terms used to describe American Protestantism are more fluid than most people know, and both "evangelical" and "mainline" are undergoing changes. This may lead to a genuine renewal of the old mainline Protestant denominations -- it is too early to tell. This shift, however, will have political and social consequences.

Ultimately, data is about stories. This recent PRRI poll suggests a new one may be unfolding.

Beyond scholarly speculation, analytical research and historical theories, however, numbers also quantify the experiences of real people. There are millions of stories -- enough to now show up as data -- of spiritual journeys of those who have left evangelicalism and are searching for a new sense of identity, deeper meaning and a place to call home.

- DBB
[RNS] The ‘nones’ are growing — and growing more diverse
Religious disaffiliation has risen in every generation, including even older Americans, though the sharpest spike in nones is occurring with the millennials.




Winner of the 2019 Grawemeyer Award in Religion

Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, spells out the profound political and cultural consequences of a new reality—that America is no longer a majority white Christian nation. “Quite possibly the most illuminating text for this election year” (The New York Times Book Review).

For most of our nation’s history, White Christian America (WCA) set the tone for our national policy and shaped American ideals. But especially since the 1990s, WCA has steadily lost influence, following declines within both its mainline and evangelical branches. Today, America is no longer demographically or culturally a majority white, Christian nation.

Drawing on more than four decades of polling data, The End of White Christian America explains and analyzes the waning vitality of WCA. Robert P. Jones argues that the visceral nature of today’s most heated issues—the vociferous arguments around same-sex marriage and religious and sexual liberty, the rise of the Tea Party following the election of our first black president, and stark disagreements between black and white Americans over the fairness of the criminal justice system—can only be understood against the backdrop of white Christians’ anxieties as America’s racial and religious topography shifts around them.

Beyond 2016, the descendants of WCA will lack the political power they once had to set the terms of the nation’s debate over values and morals and to determine election outcomes. Looking ahead, Jones forecasts the ways that they might adjust to find their place in the new America—and the consequences for us all if they don’t. “Jones’s analysis is an insightful combination of history, sociology, religious studies, and political science….This book will be of interest to a wide range of readers across the political spectrum” (Library Journal).




Does process theology have something to say about political and social issues and our response to them?

In this short book, Bruce Epperly says that it has much to say, and can shape not just the ethics and policies of a better world, but also the way in which we debate and decide those policies. Process theology invites discussion and even guides us toward acceptable and positive compromises.

No major political issue of the western world is excluded from this discussion. From immigration to criminal justice, from abortion to reproductive health, from the environment to economic development, process thinking can help guide examination, shaping, and implementation of solutions for a troubled world.

This book is suitable for individual reading by anyone who wants to take a fresh look at policy from an open-minded, progressive point of view. It can also be helpful in group studies for those who want to study how to apply prophetic proclamation to daily living.



President Barack Obama - Summer Reads 2021

 

Former President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally On October 31, 2020, at Northwestern High School in Flint, Michigan.


The 11 books former President Barack
Obama recommends you read this summer

by Rachel Janfaza
July 10, 2021

"While we were still in the White House, I began sharing my summer favorites -- and now, it's become a little tradition that I look forward to sharing with you all. So here's this year's offering. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did," Obama said on multiple social platforms.

Here are the 11 books Obama recommends people read this summer:

"At Night All Blood Is Black" by David Diop

The historic fiction novel details the dark tale of a Senegalese soldier's experience fighting for the French during World War I. The story -- originally written in French -- was translated to English by Anna Moschovakis and won the 2021 International Booker Prize.

"Land of Big Numbers"
by Te-Ping Chen

"Land of Big Numbers" is a 10-part short story series -- set in and out of China -- about the diverse lives of a set of Chinese people. The collection is the debut series of Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen, who was formerly a correspondent in Beijing.

"Empire Of Pain"
by Patrick Radden Keefe

The New York Times bestseller details the lives of three generations of the Sackler family, the American family whose members founded pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma.

"Project Hail Mary"
by Andy Weir

"Project Hail Mary" takes readers along the survival mission of a biologist turned middle school science teacher who -- from a ship in outer space -- is tasked with saving Earth from destruction. The science fiction novel is the latest from Weir, who also wrote "The Martian."

"When We Cease to Understand the World"
by Benjamín Labatut

The fictional tale "When We Cease To Understand The World" tells stories of scientists and mathematicians throughout history -- such as Albert Einstein, Fritz Haber and Alexander Grothendieck -- who shaped the world through their findings.

"Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future"
by Elizabeth Kolbert

In "Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future," Pulitzer Prize-winning author Kolbert examines the way humankind has impacted Earth and raises questions about how and if nature can be saved.

"Things We Lost to the Water"
by Eric Nguyen

Nguyen's debut novel, "Things We Lost to the Water," tells the story of an Vietnamese immigrant who moves to New Orleans with her two sons while her husband stays in Vietnam.

"Leave the World Behind"
by Rumaan Alam

"Leave the World Behind" is a story about two families -- one Black and one White -- who meet in the context of looming disaster. The novel explores race, class and familial dynamics.


"Klara and the Sun"
by Kazuo Ishiguro

"Klara and the Sun" explores the world of artificial intelligence through the eyes of the main character -- an Artificial Friend -- who sits in a store window anticipating that one day she will be chosen by a customer. In 2017, Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

"The Sweetness of Water"
by Nathan Harris

The historical fiction novel details life in America at the end of the Civil War for two distinct pairs of characters -- the first, two emancipated brothers, and the other, a couple of Confederate soldiers deeply in love. "The Sweetness of Water" was an Oprah Book Club selection.

"Intimacies"
by Katie Kitamura

"Intimacies" tells the story of woman who, looking to chart a new path, travels to The Hague and starts work as an interpreter at the International Court. Through her role as an interpreter, the woman becomes immersed in the international lives and complex sagas of those who share their stories with her.

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Obama's 2021 summer reading list comes just months after he shared his favorite books from 2020, which in December highlighted 17 titles -- including Isabel Wilkerson's "Caste," Brit Bennett's "The Vanishing Half" and C Pam Zhang's "How Much of These Hills is Gold."