NYTimes story on religious affiliation

"Americans Change Faiths at Rising Rate, Report finds"

"The report, titled “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.
For at least a generation, scholars have noted that more Americans are moving among faiths, as denominational loyalty erodes. But the survey, based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans, offers one of the clearest views yet of that trend, scholars said."

Any thoughts? I was talking with some people at a party one night about how this is a great time to be a Christian, because so many people are open to "spirituality" and trying out different ways of having a spiritual life, that they're also open, if they're approached properly (which is always the issue) to Christianity. The downside, as the article points out, is that if you're determined to sample all different kinds of faith, the spiritual life you end up with could be somewhat un-integrated.


The gift of Silence

At a teacher training event last week, we explored a few ways to work with silence as part of a strategy for teaching students (and the teachers themselves) to care for their souls.

We started with an Quaker-style prayer that began with a short silence (10-15 seconds by my rough mental count) and then finished with a spoken prayer. Several of the teachers there had experienced similar ways to pray, but about half hadn't. For most of the group, the time between "Let's pray" and my beginning to pray out loud was uncomfortable. Even though it was a short period of time, it felt much longer and silent-er.

In classrooms, school teachers are learning to wait to call on a child to answer a question; the first hand up might still be called on first, but not until there are several other hands in the air too. This gives the class more time to puzzle out the answer, and lets children who work at a slower pace become more confident as they realize that being first to answer isn't the goal.

Silence is hard to get. From the alarm clock in the morning to the MP3 player during the rest of the day to the late night shows before bed, we tend to surround ourselves with sound. Even in a church service, most of the time is taken up with words and music; for my highly-ordered Episcopalians, an unexplained silence would be interpreted as a gap (for most of the congregation, anyway) and not a gift.

When Elijah heard God, 1 Kings 19 points out, "The Lord was not in the wind...the earthquake... [or] in the fire." Instead, God made Himself known in a still, small voice. One thing I point out to kids fairly often is that it isn't that when we start listening, God starts speaking; it's that God has been speaking all along, and when we learn to enjoy silence, we can begin to hear Him.


New Bible as a graphic novel

From the NYTimes today: "The Bible as Graphic Novel, with a Samurai Stranger called Christ"

"Publishers with an eye for evangelism and for markets have long profited by directing Bibles at niche markets: just-married couples, teenage boys, teenage girls, recovering addicts. Often the lure is cosmetic, like a jazzy new cover.
Sales of graphic novels, too, have grown by double digits in recent years. So it makes sense that a convergence is under way, as graphic novels take up stories from the Bible, often in startling ways. In the last year, several major religious and secular publishing houses have announced or released manga religious stories."

Zondervan started doing some of these graphic novels of Biblical stories; they gave out a few as samples during the NYWC this year. Here's their link.

It's a great idea. For a visual culture, provide visual evangelism. The story makes reference to the tradition of providing ways to access the Bible that people can easily be drawn into-- stained-glass windows were originally intended to share God's story with illiterate people.


Prayer Flash

Last night in Kirkwood, MO, just a little down the road from me, a man walked into a City Council meeting and shot 6 people.

The full story is here, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"KIRKWOOD — The last things Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton said to his family were "To God be the glory" and that he loved them.Then Thornton headed to Kirkwood City Hall, gunning down a police officer outside. He then burst into the City Council meeting just after the Pledge of Allegiance and opened fire, shooting another officer dead and apparently targeting public officials he's sparred with in the past.Police said those killed included three Kirkwood officials, two police officers and the shooter. Two others, including Mayor Mike Swoboda, were injured."

Please pray for the city of Kirkwood and all those involved in this incident. The hardest thing to say, and to believe, in a case like this is that God will somehow redeem even tragedies, but it's true.


Evidence, please.

I had a fishbowl question the other day at Bible study that's got me started on creating my teaching time for our next game night, in two weeks. The question read:

"(Please don't call me atheist.) Does God exist?"

I respect and admire whichever kid was open and honest enough to put this question in there, and since I tend to tackle basic bits of faith on game nights (when we gather socially for the first hour, then wrap up with our regular teaching time and prayer time) I though I'd put it on the docket for February 13.

The approach I'm taking is that I won't be mathematically or scientifically "proving" God, since science and maths don't actually do that in the first place, and since God is too much of a mystery to nail down with any specific arguments. But I want to be able to present a compelling set of clues, some evidence, that Christians cite when we're involved in this discussion, that leads us to believe in God's reality.

What are some good clues I can present, and/or ways you've presented said clues to groups? Your help is much appreciated!