ONE WAY & Robert Jeffress on the Exclusivity of Jesus

by Matthew Haag, New York Times, 4/18/18.

Mr. Jeffress, who leads one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the country, suggested in a 2010 interview with the Trinity Broadcasting Network that some churches might shy away from saying “anything that’s going to offend people” to try to grow their congregations. He made it clear he was going to preach what he believes the Bible says.

He added: “Judaism — you can’t be saved being a Jew. You know who said that, by the way? The three greatest Jews in the New Testament: Peter, Paul and Jesus Christ. They all said Judaism won’t do it. It’s faith in Jesus Christ.”

In the past decade, Mr. Jeffress has assumed a prominent role in conservative politics, appearing frequently on Fox News and urging in sermons and on television to elect a Christian as president. Non-Christian religions are sending their followers to hell, he preached in a September 2008 sermon.

“Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism — not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” Mr. Jeffress said. “Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.”

Read more at … https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/14/world/middleeast/robert-jeffress-embassy-jerusalem-us.html?module=inline

COMMUNICATION & Researchers find it’s getting harder to talk about God #NewYorkTimes

by Jonathan Merritt, New York Times, 10/21/18.

More than 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to them. An overwhelming majority of people now say they don’t feel comfortable speaking about faith, most of the time.

… More than one-fifth of respondents admit they have not had a spiritual conversation at all in the past year. Six in 10 say they had a spiritual conversation only on rare occasions — either “once or twice” (29 percent) or “several times” (29 percent) in the past year. A paltry 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly.

But here’s the real shocker: Practicing Christians who attend church regularly aren’t faring much better. A mere 13 percent had a spiritual conversation once a week.

According to my survey, a range of internal conflicts is driving Americans from God-talk. Some said these types of conversations create tension or arguments (28 percent); others feel put off by how religion has been politicized (17 percent); others report not wanting to appear religious (7 percent), sound weird (6 percent) or seem extremist (5 percent). Whatever the reason, for most of us in this majority-Christian nation, our conversations almost never address the spirituality we claim is important.

A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology analyzed 50 terms associated with moral virtue. Language about the virtues Christians call the fruit of the spirit — words like “love,” “patience,” “gentleness” and “faithfulness” — has become much rarer. Humility words, like “modesty,” fell 52 percent. Compassion words, like “kindness,” dropped by 56 percent. Gratitude words, like “thankfulness,” declined 49 percent.

A decline in religious language and a decrease in spiritual conversation does not necessarily mean that we are in crisis, of course. But when you combine the data about the decline in religious rhetoric with an emerging body of research that reveals how much our linguistic landscape both reflects and affects our views, it provides ample cause for alarm.

Read more in the Dallas News reprint of the New York Times article here … https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/10/21/getting-harder-talk-god

STRANGE BUT TRUE & Most Americans choose a political party before choosing whether to join a religious community or how often to attend religious services. #NewYorkTimes

“When Politicians Determine Your Religious Beliefs” by Michele Margolis, New York Times, 7/11/18.

Michele Margolis is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship and the Political Environment Shape Religious Identity.”

… a key fact: Most Americans choose a political party before choosing whether to join a religious community or how often to attend religious services.

Faith often becomes a peripheral concern in adolescence and young adulthood — precisely the years when we tend to form stable partisan attachments. Religion typically becomes relevant again later, after we have children and start to think about their religious upbringings. By that time, our political views are set, ready to guide our religious values and decisions.

…I find that twentysomething Democrats and Republicans were equally secular: Most had pulled away from religion after high school, and Democrats and Republicans did so at similar rates. But nine years later, Republicans had become much more likely to attend church than their Democratic counterparts. In contrast, even those who bucked the secular trend and remained religious in their 20s were no more likely than less religious members of their cohort to join the Republican ranks in their 30s.

…In other words, those who were already Republican sought out kindred political spirits at church, while Democrats opted to spend their Sundays elsewhere.

Read more at … https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/11/opinion/religion-republican-democrat.html

WEALTH & Rich People Just Care Less? Yes, says research. Here’s why… #NewYorkTimes #research

“Those with the most power in society seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power.”

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at Berkeley, and Michael W. Kraus, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have done much of the research on social power and the attention deficit.

Mr. Keltner suggests that, in general, we focus the most on those we value most.

While the wealthy can hire help, those with few material assets are more likely to value their social assets: like the neighbor who will keep an eye on your child from the time she gets home from school until the time you get home from work.

The financial difference ends up creating a behavioral difference.

Poor people are better attuned to interpersonal relations — with those of the same strata, and the more powerful — than the rich are, because they have to be.

While Mr. Keltner’s research finds that the poor, compared with the wealthy, have keenly attuned interpersonal attention in all directions,

in general, those with the most power in society seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power.

To be sure, high-status people do attend to those of equal rank — but not as well as those low of status do.

This has profound implications for societal behavior and government policy. Tuning in to the needs and feelings of another person is a prerequisite to empathy, which in turn can lead to understanding, concern and, if the circumstances are right, compassionate action.

Read more at … https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/rich-people-just-care-less/?_r=0

EQ IQ emotional intelligence

SEEKERS & Data That Suggests They are Turning Away from Churches for Help: Googling for God

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This morning’s New York Times article points out that Google searches for God’s existence are up in the first half of this decade. But Google searches for churches are down 15% in the same period. Seems like seekers are turning away from our churches as a place to find help. Take notice!
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Googling for God

by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, New York Times, 9/18/15.

IT has been a bad decade for God, at least so far. Despite the rising popularity of Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, Google searches for churches are 15 percent lower in the first half of this decade than they were during the last half of the previous one. Searches questioning God’s existence are up. Many behaviors that he supposedly abhors have skyrocketed. Porn searches are up 83 percent. For heroin, it’s 32 percent.

How are the Ten Commandments doing? Not well. “Love thy neighbor” is the most common search with the word “neighbor” in it, but right behind at No. 2 is “neighbor porn.” The top Google search including the word “God” is “God of War,” a video game, with more than 700,000 searches per year. The No. 1 search that includes “how to” and “Walmart” is “how to steal from Walmart,” beating all questions related to coupons, price-matching or applying for a job…

Read more at … http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/opinion/sunday/seth-stephens-davidowitz-googling-for-god.html?_r=0&referrer=

ISLAM & Patricia Crone, Questioning Scholar of Islamic History, Dies at 70 #NYTimes

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel; “Patricia Crone was one of the most impactful historians to study the rise of Islam. To understand the beginning of this religion including the reason for its internal conflicts read this New York Times overview.”

By Sam Roberts, The New York Times, 7/22/15.

… Fred M. Donner, a professor of Near Eastern history at the University of Chicago, said Professor Crone had “made it clear that historians of early Islam had failed to really behave as historians — that is, had failed to challenge the validity of their sources, but rather had accepted complacently what I call the ‘traditional origins narrative’ created by the Islamic tradition itself.”

As a result, in books like “Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World” (1977, written with Michael Cook), she disputed assumptions that Islam had been transmitted by trade from Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia, suggesting that it had been spread by conquest instead. She also identified how indigenous rural prophets in what is now Iran had defied conquering Arabs and helped shape Islamic culture, setting the stage for conflicts within Islam that endure today.

Current events frequently intruded on Professor Crone’s scholarship on historic divisions in the Middle East between secularism and Islamic orthodoxy, and between the Arab world and the West. Writing about present-day Muslims on the website openDemocracy in 2007, she said, “Wherever they look, they are being invaded by so-called Western values — in the form of giant billboards advertising self-indulgence, semi-pornographic films, liquor, pop music, fat tourists in indecent clothes and funny hats, and politicians lecturing people about the virtues of democracy…

In another essay for openDemocracy, Professor Crone focused on the Prophet Muhammad himself, writing that “we can be reasonably sure that the Quran is a collection of utterances that he made in the belief that they had been revealed to him by God.” She summarized the major themes of the Quran as “God’s unity, the reality of the resurrection and judgment, and the imminence of violent punishment.”

She also wrote that Muhammad was perceived not as the founder of a new religion but as a preacher in the Old Testament tradition, hailing the coming of a messiah. His success, she argued, “had something to do with the fact that he preached both state formation and conquest: Without conquest, first in Arabia and next in the Fertile Crescent, the unification of Arabia would not have been achieved.”

Her other books include “God’s Rule: Government and Islam: Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought” (2004) and “The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran” (2012), which detailed the historical precedents for local rebels defying the ruling elite…

Read more at … http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/07/23/us/patricia-crone-scholar-of-islamic-history-dies-at-70.html?referrer=

BIGOTRY & Love and Terror in the Black Church #NYTimes

by Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times, 6/20/15.

At the sprawling Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas one day last spring, I was met by five men with earpieces who escorted me to the pastor’s office. As I prepared to preach that morning, a rolling phalanx of bodyguards shadowed my every move — when I greeted parishioners in the church’s spacious narthex and even as I made a stop at the men’s room. We walked from the church study into the 4,200-seat sanctuary, the security team whispering into their wrists.

I was entering a sanctuary, a sacred space to speak the word of the Lord and to lift the spirits of God’s people. But I was also entering a black church, a site of particular power in this country, and a site of unspeakable terror.

That is what the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., became on Wednesday, when a young white male wielding a .45-caliber handgun unloaded his rage on nine souls, and that is why for the foreseeable future we will enter our houses of worship wary of violence.

Sites and spaces of black life have come under attack from racist forces before, but the black church is a unique target. It is not just where black people gather.

In too many other places, black self-worth is bludgeoned by bigotry or hijacked by self-hatred: that our culture is too dumb, our lives too worthless, to warrant the effort to combat our enemies. The black sanctuary breathes in black humanity while the pulpit exhales unapologetic black love.

For decades, these sites of love have been magnets for hate

Read more at … http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/michael-eric-dyson-love-and-terror-in-the-black-church.html?referrer=