DEMOGRAPHICS & The Proportion Of White Christians In The U.S. Has Stopped Shrinking, New Study Finds

by Becky Sullivan, NPR, 7/8/21.

Two dramatic trends that for years have defined the shifting landscape of religion in America — a shrinking white Christian majority, alongside the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans — have stabilized, according to a new, massive survey of American religious practice. 

What was once a supermajority of white Christians — more than 80% of Americans identified as such in 1976, and two-thirds in 1996 — has now plateaued at about 44%, according to the new survey, which was conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. That number first dipped below 50% in 2012. 

They have largely been replaced by Americans who do not list any religious affiliation, a group that has tripled in proportion since the 1990s. Today, the unaffiliated make up roughly a quarter of Americans. Young adults are most likely to identify this way with more than a third saying they are atheist, agnostic or otherwise secular, the study found.

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2021/07/08/1014047885/americas-white-christian-plurality-has-stopped-shrinking-a-new-study-finds?

THEOLOGY & Comparing two dominant theological views of racism as sin.

“Evangelical Christians grapple with racism as sin,” by Tom Gjelten, NPR, National Public Radio, 6/7/20.

… For evangelical Christian leaders, however, crafting a response to Floyd’s killing is complicated by their view of sin in individual, not societal, terms and their belief in the need for personal salvation above all. Evangelical theologians have long rejected the idea of a “social gospel,” which holds that the kingdom of God should be pursued by making life better here on earth.

Among African American evangelicals, one theologian who has vigorously challenged such views is Darrell Harrison, an ordained Baptist deacon and co-host of the Just Thinking podcast.

“One way to distinguish the biblical gospel from the ‘social gospel,’ ” Harrison tweeted last week, “is that the social gospel preaches structural transformation that works in society from the outside-in, whereas the biblical gospel preaches spiritual transformation that works in society from the inside-out.”

Racism, in Harrison’s view, is often misunderstood. “Biblically, ethnic prejudice is not an ‘ism,’ ” he argued in response to George Floyd’s killing. “It is hate —period. … You end hatred by repenting and believing the gospel.”

Other evangelicals take a more nuanced view of a Christian obligation to work for social justice.

“The way that we live and work in the world, how we care for our communities, how we care for our neighbors. Those are all things that the Bible speaks really clearly about,” says Alan Cross, a white Southern Baptist pastor now leading a congregation in northern California. “Somebody who is transformed from their relationship with Christ should have a transformed view of how they see their neighbor or how they perceive issues of life and justice. That’s the situation we’re in right now.”

For Cross, whose book When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus is in part a memoir of his 15 years leading a Southern Baptist congregation in Montgomery, Ala., the opposition of biblical and social gospel is a “false dichotomy.”

“We don’t believe that people are saved by restructuring society,” Cross says. “But if you do know Christ, if you have a relationship with him, you should see the pain of people around you, and you should say, ‘What can I do?’ ”

Read more at … https://whyy.org/npr_story_post/evangelical-christians-grapple-with-racism-as-sin/

STMs & Spiritual Transformation Movements: Iranians are converting to evangelical Christianity in Turkey #NPR.

“Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey” by Fariba Nawa, National Public Radio, 12-/14/18.

…Sebnem Koser Akcapar, a sociology professor at Istanbul’s Koç University who has been studying refugees and their change of faith, says she has witnessed the rise in conversions.

“The numbers of Iranian refugees converting have grown tremendously over the years. A small church consisting of 20 to 30 families has become a much bigger congregation housing 80 to 100 people on a regular Sunday,” she says.

Akcapar believes only some of the refugees are genuine converts. Others are using religious persecution as a way to get to the West, which may be the only way for them to lead a normal life, she says.

With more U.S. sanctions on Iran, Iranians are facing economic hardships and political pressure.

The United Pentecostal Church in Denizli can’t keep up with the demand, says the church’s Turkey representative Rick Robinson, who has lived in the country for 13 years. It has churches in eight Turkish cities and refugees are calling on them to open more.

He says the church provides a spiritual outlet for refugees, not financial support, and that he welcomes anyone regardless of whether they are genuinely converting or not.

Robinson thinks many of the congregants may not be believers, at least not at first. “There might even be some who start with the help just for the refugee status and become sincere,” he says matter-of-factly.

Robinson, a tall pastor with silver hair, welcomes the Iranians into the church with hugs and laughter.

Farzana says one reason she converted was the way Iran’s interpretation of Islam treats women. When she divorced an abusive husband, she says, an Iranian court granted him custody of her older son and daughter. Under Iran’s Sharia Islamic law, fathers get custody of older children.

“Mostly because of this I became disillusioned with Islam,” she says. “That judge sitting there and giving orders was completely siding with men. Everywhere in Iran men come before women.”

Farzana says she was shattered and felt lost after her children were taken away.

But a year later, Farzana married her current Iranian husband and they had Andya. She hired a high school friend to assist her in her thriving beauty salon, and soon her friend, a Christian convert, began to recruit her to Tehran’s secret churches.

“Once she began trusting me, she gave me photocopied writings and said, ‘I’m giving these to you as a gift. Go read them. These are the word of God,'” Farzana recalls.

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2018/12/14/669662264/iranians-are-converting-to-evangelical-christianity-in-turkey

STMs & Spiritual Transformation Movements are Taking Place in Turkey Among Muslim Refugees

“Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey” by Fariba Nawa, National Public Radio, 12-/14/18.

…Sebnem Koser Akcapar, a sociology professor at Istanbul’s Koç University who has been studying refugees and their change of faith, says she has witnessed the rise in conversions.

“The numbers of Iranian refugees converting have grown tremendously over the years. A small church consisting of 20 to 30 families has become a much bigger congregation housing 80 to 100 people on a regular Sunday,” she says.

Akcapar believes only some of the refugees are genuine converts. Others are using religious persecution as a way to get to the West, which may be the only way for them to lead a normal life, she says.

With more U.S. sanctions on Iran, Iranians are facing economic hardships and political pressure.

The United Pentecostal Church in Denizli can’t keep up with the demand, says the church’s Turkey representative Rick Robinson, who has lived in the country for 13 years. It has churches in eight Turkish cities and refugees are calling on them to open more.

He says the church provides a spiritual outlet for refugees, not financial support, and that he welcomes anyone regardless of whether they are genuinely converting or not.

Robinson thinks many of the congregants may not be believers, at least not at first. “There might even be some who start with the help just for the refugee status and become sincere,” he says matter-of-factly.

Robinson, a tall pastor with silver hair, welcomes the Iranians into the church with hugs and laughter.

Farzana says one reason she converted was the way Iran’s interpretation of Islam treats women. When she divorced an abusive husband, she says, an Iranian court granted him custody of her older son and daughter. Under Iran’s Sharia Islamic law, fathers get custody of older children.

“Mostly because of this I became disillusioned with Islam,” she says. “That judge sitting there and giving orders was completely siding with men. Everywhere in Iran men come before women.”

Farzana says she was shattered and felt lost after her children were taken away.

But a year later, Farzana married her current Iranian husband and they had Andya. She hired a high school friend to assist her in her thriving beauty salon, and soon her friend, a Christian convert, began to recruit her to Tehran’s secret churches.

“Once she began trusting me, she gave me photocopied writings and said, ‘I’m giving these to you as a gift. Go read them. These are the word of God,'” Farzana recalls.

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2018/12/14/669662264/iranians-are-converting-to-evangelical-christianity-in-turkey

CONVERSION & An interview w/ the author of “The Triumpth of Christianity,” Bart D. Ehrman, on why spiritual transformation was central to Christianity’s growth.

Interview by Terry Gross, Fresh Air, National Public Radio, 3/29/2018.

“On why conversion was so important to Christians.”

It’s one of the things that made Christianity quite distinct in the ancient world. It had to do with the nature of the Christian religion. Christians from the very beginning believed that it was Jesus’ death and resurrection that could make a person right with God and that if a person was not right with God, they would pay an eternal penalty. There would literally be hell to pay if somebody didn’t convert. And so Christians believed that their religion was the only right religion and that people had to practice their religion or else they would go to hell.

Moreover, Christians maintained that they were to follow Jesus’ teachings of love. You’re to love your neighbor as yourself. Well, if your neighbor is going to go to hell by not believing what you believe, and you love this person, then you need to make them see the error of their ways and convert them to your faith. And so that’s what Christians were doing from the very beginning: Trying to convert others so that they could join the church and avoid the terrors of hell.

On how conversions to Christianity were largely voluntary in the religion’s first centuries of existence.

I think early in Christianity it was always voluntary. People were simply deciding that the Christian God was the one to be worshipped rather than the traditional pagan gods, and for several centuries it went on like that. We don’t actually have records of forcible conversions in the sense that Christians were wielding the sword and forcing pagans to convert. We don’t have that kind of thing.

By the end of the 4th century, we do have some Christian intolerance of other religions that was manifest on the political level, where pagan religions became illegal to practice. At that point you … don’t have forced conversions to Christianity; what you do have is enforced illegal religions, so the pagan religions became illegal to practice at one point.

On why there weren’t more Jewish converts

Christianity started out as a group of Jesus-followers, who were all Jewish as he was, who agreed with his teachings, which were Jewish teachings. They believed that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah sent from the Jewish God to the Jewish people in fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures. They were Jewish.

But this message that they had — that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah after his death — simply didn’t take among the Jews. Most Jews absolutely rejected the message, and they didn’t think it was simply wrong — they thought it was somewhat ludicrous. Jews who were expecting a Messiah had a variety of understandings of what that Messiah might be, but the various understandings of the Messiah was that the Messiah was going to be a powerful figure who would destroy the enemies of the people of God and set up Israel as a sovereign state in its promised land. He was going to be a powerful warrior political figure.

Jesus, on the other hand, was a crucified criminal who is executed for crimes against the state. To call Jesus the Messiah struck most Jews as completely crazy. … So most Jews simply didn’t accept the Christian message, and early on at least, were quite opposed to it.

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2018/03/20/595161200/author-traces-christianitys-path-from-forbidden-religion-to-a-triumph

CHURCH HISTORY & Why Schools Fail To Teach Slavery’s ‘Hard History’

by Cory Turner, NPR, 2/5/18.

“In the ways that we teach and learn about the history of American slavery,” write the authors of a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), “the nation needs an intervention.”

… the report lays out several key “problems” with the way slavery is often presented to students. Among them:

Textbooks and teachers tend to accentuate the positive, focusing on heroes like Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass without also giving students the full, painful context of slavery.

Slavery is often described as a Southern problem. It was much, much more. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, it was a problem across the colonies. Even in the run-up to the Civil War, the North profited mightily from slave labor.

Slavery depended on the ideology of white supremacy, and teachers shouldn’t try to tackle the former without discussing the latter.

Too often, the report says, “the varied, lived experience of enslaved people is neglected.” Instead, lessons focus on politics and economics, which means focusing on the actions and experiences of white people.

States and textbook-makers deserve considerable blame for these problems, according to the report. The project reviewed history standards in 15 states and found them generally “timid,” often looking for slavery’s silver lining; hence a common preference for coverage of the abolitionist movement over talk of white supremacy or the everyday experiences of enslaved people…

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/02/04/582468315/why-schools-fail-to-teach-slaverys-hard-history

STUDENT SUCCESS & The Importance of Perseverance

by Anya Kanenetz, National Public Radio, 3/8/16.

… The science shows … Students who believe they can do better with more effort, who try harder, who can delay instant gratification and control their impulses, who take feedback well and know how to work on teams, are likely to become happier, healthier, more successful adults.

What’s missing right now, though, is a consensus on how best to cultivate those qualities…

Read more at … http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/03/03/468870056/is-grit-doomed-to-be-the-new-self-esteem

RELIGION & Forecast For 2050: Atheism Is Down, Islam Is Rising #PewResearch

by Nadia Whitehead, National Public Radio, 12/25/15.

Christianity is currently the world’s largest religion, making up a third of the world’s population with 2.2 billion adherents. Pew research report shows that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. The religious group will make up 30 percent of the world’s population by 2050, compared to just 23 percent of the population in 2010. That means the number of Muslims in the world will nearly equal the number of Christians by 2050…

That’s not to say that the total number of Christians is decreasing; Christianity’s growth rate is just not as fast as Islam’s. While the number of Christians will increase from about 2.1 billion to 2.9 billion by 2050, Muslims will jump from 1.6 billion to 2.8 billion.

This growth has to do with the relatively young age of the Muslim population as well as high fertility rates. Other religious groups have aging populations. Among Buddhists, for example, half of adherents are older than 30 and the average birth rate is 1.6 children. By contrast, in 2010, a third of the Muslim population was under 15. What’s more, each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, while the average for Christian women is 2.7.

The Pew research revealed two other interesting shifts in world religious perspectives, Cooperman says.

Atheists, agnostics and those who do not affiliate with religion will make up a smaller percentage of the world’s total population by 2050 — even though the group is growing in the U.S. and Europe. The decline is primarily because those who are unaffiliated religiously have low fertility rates, with women bearing an average of 1.7 children in their lifetime.

Between now and 2050, the hub of Christianity will also shift — from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2010, the majority of the Christian population — 25.5 percent — lived in Europe, but sub-Saharan Africa will become home to nearly 40 percent of the world’s Christians by 2050. Fertility rates are also behind this change. Christians living in sub-Saharan African have the highest fertility rates among Christians worldwide: Each woman has, on average, 4.4 children…

Read more at … http://m.wamu.org/#/news/15/12/25/a_religious_forecast_for_2050_atheism_is_down_islam_is_rising

GENERATIONS & Why Teens Are Impulsive, Addiction-Prone And Should Protect Their Brains

From National Public Radio, Fresh Air, 1/28/15.

Read more at … http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/28/381622350/why-teens-are-impulsive-addiction-prone-and-should-protect-their-brains

DUNBAR NUMBER & Don’t Believe Facebook; You Only Have 150 Friends #NPR #GoodResearch

By National Public Radio, 6/5/11

According to Acording to “Dunbar’s Number,” human beings can maintain a network of only about 150 close friends.

Most of Dunbar’s research … is based on the idea that human beings can hold only about 150 meaningful relationships in their heads. Dunbar has researched the idea so deeply, the number 150 has been dubbed “Dunbar’s Number.”

Ironically, the term was coined on Facebook, where 150 friends may seem like precious few.

“There was a discussion by people saying ‘I’ve got too many friends — I don’t know who half these people are,'” Dunbar says. “Somebody apparently said, ‘Look, there’s this guy in England who says you can’t have more than 150.'”

Dunbar has found 150 to be the sweet spot for hunter-gatherer societies all over the world. From the Bushmen of Southern Africa to Native American tribes, a typical community is about 150 people. Amish and Hutterite communities — even most military companies around the world — seem to follow the same rule.

The reason 150 is the optimal number for a community comes from our primate ancestors, Dunbar says. In smaller groups, primates could work together to solve problems and evade predators. Today, 150 seems to be the number at which our brains just max out on memory…

…Dunbar says there are some neurological mechanisms in place to help us cope with the ever-growing amount of social connections life seems to require. Humans have the ability, for example, to facially recognize about 1,500 people. Now that would be an impressive number of Facebook friends.

Yet the problem with such a large number of “friends,” Dunbar says, is that “relationships involved across very big units then become very casual — and don’t have that deep meaning and sense of obligation and reciprocity that you have with your close friends.”

One solution to that problem, he adds, can be seen in the modern military. Even as they create “supergroups” — battalions, regiments, divisions — most militaries are nonetheless able to maintain the sense of community felt at the 150-person company level.

“The answer has to come out of that,” Dunbar says, “trying to create a greater sense of community.

“In a way, Americans are lucky in that respect,” he adds. “There’s this long tradition of commitment to ideals that binds Americans together. That isn’t always true elsewhere.”

While modern society does make it hard to hang on to friends who aren’t geographically close, Dunbar says, his research shows family is different.

“Friends, if you don’t see them, will gradually cease to be interested in you,” he says. “Family relationships seem to be very stable. No matter how far away you go, they love you when you come back.”

Read more at … http://www.npr.org/2011/06/04/136723316/dont-believe-facebook-you-only-have-150-friends

Speaking Hashtags:  #StLizTX

ALTRUISM & Good Deeds May Be Rooted In The Brain #HelpfulResearch

Listen at … http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=349639464&m=350524814

And read more at … http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/09/22/349639464/the-biology-of-altruism-good-deeds-may-be-rooted-in-the-brain