Onesimus Online: a blog to stir your thinking (Bill Black)

UPDATE: Onesimus Online no longer exists.

Ask any of Bill Black’s students here about him, and they will probably say: “he provokes; he really challenges us to think.”   Thankfully, for the rest of us, Bill blogs at Onesimus Online: history, theology, culture, the church, and other dangerous stuff. If you are at all interested in theology, theological education in Africa, global Christianity, missions, evangelicalism, American cultural Christianity, and other related topics, you might enjoy his blog–and having your thinking provoked and deepened. I know Bill appreciates the broader dialog.  Bill and his wife are both pastors, graduates of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, PhDs from Cambridge, and teachers here at NEGST.  Previously, they taught in Ethiopia. Plus, they are a lot of fun to talk to;  I’ve learned a lot from them.

Here are a few “sound bytes” from some of Bill’s posts to whet your appetite:

The passing of evangelicalism

…We Western Evangelicals thought we were the center of the Christian universe, only to discover that the glory seems to have departed and moved south to Africa, Latin America and Asia. Those tongues-speaking, hallelujah-shouting, other-side-of-the-tracks-dwelling so-called Pentecostals, even more derisively labeled as ‘holy rollers’ by the upstanding Christians in my home church who, of course, knew better, have become the most explosive force in the global expansion of Christianity ever. There is not a single individual person in my systematic theology class who would not identify themselves as either Pentecostal or Charismatic. On the ‘mission field’ at least, the old paradigms of missionary Christianity are in the process of being leap-frogged entirely. ..
…Anyway, the point of all of this is that things have changed. Radically. Decisively. The old verities and polarities don’t work anymore (if they ever did). The systems and structures which we created to manage the world as we knew it are being pressed into service beyond their capacity to cope. This is not a call to somehow change Evangelicalism. It’s actually too late for that. Its day has passed and cannot be recovered. Instead, …

A Plea for Civility, Sanity and Integrity in Theological/Political Debate (3 personal examples)

Theology is not safe:

…there is another reason why I am undertaking this blog. Theology is a dangerous thing. Theology that attempts to reduce God to what I can understand about God is an attempt to tame God. But the God revealed in the Christian Scriptures is untamable. Our Western theological traditions, both Catholic and Protestant, are attempts to mount God onto a specimen board, attempts to dissect and label God’s constituent parts, attempts to deduce divine physiology from divine structure. But efforts to catalogue the parts fails to apprehend the whole. Our orthodoxies miss the point…

…This blog then is becoming increasingly like my own incident at the fords of the Jabbok, my own wrestling with the one who refuses to be named and categorized…

The Western Captivity of African Christianity

…Not only are we forcing Western Evangelical categories on African students as the measure of all that’s true in the world, but we have simply assumed that our model of theological education itself is the baseline for all subsequent thinking on the matter…

…We theological educators in Africa are doing a bang-up job of reproducing North American Evangelicals for Africa, replete with our ways of thinking about and practicing Christianity. But in doing so, I’m not at all certain that we are either being true to New Testament Christianity or engaging effectively with the people of this continent as they really are…

Brain tumors, theological education and the church

The human brain is an unimaginably complex piece of work…Though my extended parable may be like the tumor it describes – a malignant profusion of words that obliterates the intended purpose – the purpose itself remains. The concern of this post is with theological education as it is actually practiced, especially at the higher levels, and its relationship with the church it’s intended to serve. My concerns come from my own experience as one who has benefitted from theological education and who has gone on to serve several churches in a professional ministerial capacity, and from my observations of theological education in actual practice…

…I think there are likely a number of reasons contributing to this fundamental dysfunction in our churches. First,…

….The breathtaking irony of all this is, having created such an institutionalized system for training our leaders (the theological education industry), a system that has succeeded in taking us further and further afield from that which Christ is calling us to be, we heedlessly presume our institutional model to be the most effective way to train Nigerians or Indians or Chinese or Ethiopians for the ministry…

Africa, Spiral Logic, Systematic Theology, and the Perils of Theological Education

The Indefensible Evangelical Habit of Shooting Our Wounded

Last week there was a gun battle outside our gate. Four gangsters had hijacked cars and shot drivers and the authorities finally caught up with them just over the fence from my house. In the ensuing firefight, two of the carjackers were killed outright, one escaped over the fence (and through my garden!), and the fourth lay wounded on the road…

Believers Baptism vs. Infant Baptism, Must it Matter?

Evangelicalism Inc.

…Not only are the Western Prosperity gods raking it in, but developing-world prosperity-god-wannabees are trying desperately to get in on the cash…Dare I even mention the Evangelical publishing industry, which seems to have taken on the role of God in conservative academic and popular religion circles, raising up this one and ignoring that one, and on the grounds of whether or not it is ‘marketable’. I can’t imagine Jeremiah being able to secure a publishing contract from this crowd…

…Then there are the incredibly large and wealthy Christian aid organizations poised globally to respond immediately to the latest front page disaster and who must raise gazillions of dollars not only to feed the starving, but to buy the planes and Toyota land cruisers and computers and iPhones and Blackberries and pay the travel fees for all the conferences and meetings and consultations that must happen in the background for the hungry to be fed…

Does this bother anybody else?

…I do not deny the good intentions of most (I hope) of my fellow Christians involved in these so-called ‘ministries’. But I can’t help but thinking that we Evangelicals have become like addicts hooked on methamphetamine. We’ve got to have more, more, more. We’ve got to be successful, or at least appear successful, because if we are or appear so, more people will be drawn to our ‘ministry’ which will make us all the more successful. But like the meth addict, this stuff is destroying us…We dare not take a genuinely prophetic stance on anything, because if we do, someone will be offended and we will lose support. We’ve become like Ahab’s court prophets, cunningly discerning which way the wind is blowing before committing ourselves on any issue, and viciously smacking down anyone who does not toe the party line.

We Evangelicals are seriously compromised. And seriously compromised people are like salt that’s lost its savor…

And much, much MORE.

My Book

I hate to break it to you world, but Obama is still American

Obama Unlikely to Find a Quick Fix for U.S. Global Image (Pew Research Center):

No question that Barack Obama has a great personal following around the world, especially in comparison with President Bush. But to restore the global image of the nation he now leads, the new president must overcome a number of fundamental criticisms. And issues arising from the global economic crisis and other world problems on Obama’s agenda seem likely to resonate with key criticisms about America’s leadership in the Bush years. . .

. . . While President Obama has been extremely popular personally, his international agenda may not be, given the global mindset about the U.S. Take for example his desire to gain more European support for the war in Afghanistan. In 2008 most Europeans surveyed by Pew Research, save the British, favored withdrawing NATO troops from that country. An American president urging reluctant Europeans to use force is hardly likely to allay concerns about U.S. militarism.

Then there is Obama’s economic stimulus plan encouraging consumer spending and entailing greatly increased budget deficits. This apparently strikes at least some European leaders as reckless. The new president’s efforts to sell this policy approach may well feed into the prevailing notion of the U.S. going its own way in dealing with mega international problems.

Even more importantly, . . .

. . . while it seems likely that other nations will, in general, react favorably to Obama’s style and more conciliatory approach compared with President Bush, that will only go so far and so long in changing minds about what America stands for and its global leadership. In the end, actions — and their consequences — will resonate more widely and strongly than words.

The quiet coup in Washington; America’s legalized corruption (the Atlantic)

Having divested myself of all expectations of regular or thoughtful blogging; I freely offer some of my Sunday evening reading to you – pure parasitic blogging. Links to some other great “Sunday evening reads” can be found on the right in my – Links of the Day. I highly recommend the Truth about Forgiveness from last Sunday’s Washington Post; it’s not the kind of thing you can excerpt quotes from. (HT: Scot McKnight who always has good links in his Weekly Meanderings: e.g. Is America Losing Faith or the future of leadership: The Facebook Generation vs. the Fortune 500 by Gary Hamel. 12 values you will have to take into consideration.)

Simon Johnson, formerly of the IMF has a fascinating article in the Atlantic (May?). This falls under the topic of of what I frequently refer to as the “legalized corruption” in the West, which seems to be far more lucrative than the illegal corruption we rightly condemn here. (I seem to be on an economics kick lately):

[Intro:] The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.

In a primitive political system, power is transmitted through violence, or the threat of violence: military coups, private militias, and so on. In a less primitive system more typical of emerging markets, power is transmitted via money: bribes, kickbacks, and offshore bank accounts. Although lobbying and campaign contributions certainly play major roles in the American political system, old-fashioned corruption—envelopes stuffed with $100 bills—is probably a sideshow today, Jack Abramoff notwithstanding.

Instead, the American financial industry gained political power by amassing a kind of cultural capital—a belief system. . . . Over the past decade, the attitude took hold that what was good for Wall Street was good for the country. The banking-and-securities industry has become one of the top contributors to political campaigns, but at the peak of its influence, it did not have to buy favors the way, for example, the tobacco companies or military contractors might have to. Instead, it benefited from the fact that Washington insiders already believed that large financial institutions and free-flowing capital markets were crucial to America’s position in the world.

One channel of influence was, of course, the flow of individuals between Wall Street and Washington. . . These personal connections

Continue reading

Cognitive and neural foundations of religious beliefs; what an MRI might tell you about your beliefs in God.

There’s a new study out that studies brain activity and religious beliefs – abstract and links.  PDF here (only six pages including pictures). A related article in the Independent gives the bottom line:

. . . people of different religious persuasions and beliefs, as well as atheists, all tended to use the same electrical circuits in the brain to solve a perceived moral conundrum – and the same circuits were used when religiously-inclined people dealt with issues related to God. The study found that several areas of the brain are involved in religious belief.

. . . “There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures. Religion doesn’t have a ‘God spot’ as such, instead it’s embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use everyday,” Professor Grafman said.

Page 1 from the published study results:

Religious belief and behavior are a hallmark of human life, with no accepted animal equivalent, and found in all cultures (1). The biological basis of religion, though, is fiercely debated in fields as diverse as evolutionary psychology, anthropology, genetics, and cosmology. Contemporary psychological theories consider religious belief and behavior as complex brain-based phenomena that may have co-emerged in our species with novel cognitive processes for social cognition, such as Theory of Mind (ToM), and successfully engaged fundamental cognitive mechanisms, such as memory (2–4).


Continue reading

Ahmadinejad: Christianity & Islam spread the same message

Ahmadinejad, visiting Kenya, in today’s Daily Nation:

. . . “Today, most of the oppressive governments are headed for destruction and only those countries that are just and fear God will survive.” The President [Ahmadinejad] said he was hopeful that deals signed with the Kenyan Government would bring about development and cooperation.

He said he wished good health for all Kenyans and Iranians and called for unity among Muslims and Christians, stressing that both religions spread the same message. . .

A post evangelical America?

The Washington Post On Faith asks, “Post Evangelical America?”

Lisa Miller says, “Yes”

Just as “race” has a whole new meaning in America this week, so, too, does “faith.” For at least four decades, white evangelicals have been the religion-and-politics story in this country. Their power, their rhetoric, their numbers, their theology–all have been so dominant that many of us in the media had forgotten that religious faith could be expressed any other way. Last summer, a colleague and I wrote a profile of president-elect Barack Obama that described his Christian faith–a journey that started with a deeply spiritual but not religious upbringing, progressed through a considerable amount of reading, searching and ambivalence, and culminated in an emotional homecoming in a socially active, black church in Chicago. . .

. . .The exit polls echo findings by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which last year published a massive study showing Americans to be deeply spiritual–90 percent of them say they believe in God–but less and less concerned with denominational orthodoxy. Like Obama, a quarter of Americans practice a faith different from the one they were raised in, the Pew survey showed. Among Protestants, that number is a third. Even a quarter of atheists say they believe in a higher power or a universal spirit.

Darrell Bock is a professor at New Testament Studies at the Dallas Theological Seminary who voted for Obama. For Christians like him, social issues such as abortion and gay marriage were not litmus tests this year. . .

Richard Mouw says, “No” – Evangelicals are celebrating Obama too”

After a week or so of basking in the afterglow of the presidential election, I am starting to get a little grumpy. It’s not about President-elect Obama. Like many other Americans I wept tears of joy when he addressed the nation on the evening of November 4. What is irritating me is much of the post-election analysis, especially as it focuses on religious issues.

Lisa Miller’s Newsweek piece, “A Post-Evangelical America,” is one of the things that has put me in a foul mood. . .

. . .Were these commentators really listening when President-elect Obama called for the kind of civility that really listens to folks with whom we disagree? Do they really think that the sober tone of his victory speech was a declaration that it is time to ridicule those of us who hold to some conservative values on the so-called “social issues,” in the hope of silencing our voices in the public debates?I am an evangelical who does not always get very high marks from the Religious Right for the stands that I take. But I do share some of their views on some key issues of public policy. If there is a lesson to be learned about evangelicalism these days, it is not that we have been banned from the public square because of the Obama election, but that we are not as easily stereotyped as the Lisa Miller and others want to think. We have come to an evangelical faith as people from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and economic levels. We reside in urban and rural areas, and we live in countries across the globe. We represent every “tribe and tongue.” This means too that we do not all occupy the same place on the political spectrum.

. . . In my part of the evangelical world, folks have been celebrating the election of Barack Obama.


Onto a totally different subject . . . the Washington Post’s On Faith asks, is compassion central to all religions?: “Religion scholar Karen Armstrong is asking the world to write a Charter for Compassion, based on her premise that compassion is central to all religions. Do you agree? If so, what has gone wrong?”

[Read several responses from different religious perspectives at On Faith ]

Something dramatic just happened in America’s moral economy

In the last couple of days, I’ve been touched by reading articles and posts by African Americans that have been deeply moved by Barak Obama’s election. As you already know, I was moved for many of the same reasons, but obviously, I can never feel it as deeply as they feel it (nor can the younger generations feel it like the older generations). My challenge to my white friends is to read some of these reflections and try to absorb some of the history and emotion. This is a very teachable moment, and it may help us begin to change the way we think about certain things. (These examples just happen to be from sites I regularly peruse; I’m sure there are many more.)

Eugene Robinson – (Washington post): Morning in America

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In our Lifetime (the Root): “From toiling as White House slaves to President-elect Barack Obama, we have crossed the ultimate color line.”

Alice Walker – an Open Letter to Obama (The Root)

Edward Gilbreath – What Obama, Tchaikovsky, and Dante Have in Common (Reconciliation Blog)

Todd Burkes – I wish you could have been here. (Follow)

Kevin Merida: A Day of Transformation: America’s History Gives Way to It’s Future (Washington Post)

. . . Presidential elections often reveal something about the nation’s character, its temperament and state of mind. Many who are wondering how it happened that Barack Obama was elected president this season are also wondering what else they may be missing in their cities and towns and neighborhoods. Transformation rarely announces itself with trumpets. It usually happens gradually, over time, and then — clang!— a singular moment chimes the news. From its founding, the United States has seen itself as a special place, an example to other nations, a “city on the hill.” With the election of its first black president, it can now begin to erase one of the stains on that reputation, one that repeatedly shamed us in front of other countries. . .

Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Man of Tomorrow (Washington Post) – sort of a side note.

I also liked this quote about where Obama stands (and differs) with other civil rights leaders – some perspective: “He ran the last leg of a 60-year tag race . . . The wall is down now. Barack must build the bridge for the next generation.” He leapt the tallest barrier. What does it mean for Black America? (Washington Post)

BONUS: Here is a looong New Yorker article that I highly recommend: The Joshua Generation: Race and the Campaign of Barack Obama

As white Americans (especially white evangelicals), we need to come to grips with the reality that something deeply significant just happened in the moral economy of our nation. Let’s put our political reservations aside for a minute and wholeheartedly celebrate what this means within the moral paradoxes of our nation’s history.

Disclaimers: This is only a beginning, and the harsh political realities will emerge soon enough. As far as I recall, none of these writers is saying that Obama is the messiah; this is bigger than any one individual. Also, I do make a distinction between celebrating this moral milestone and Obamamania. Some people (worldwide) might as well be cheering for their favorite sports team; it almost cheapens it for the rest of us.

I cried, and Liam stole my snack

I didn’t stay up to watch the election results; I got a good night’s sleep. I woke up this morning and turned on BBC radio just in time to hear McCain’s concession speech. Christi and I went downstairs in the apartment of our Sudanese neighbors to watch Obama’s victory speech (we don’t have a TV.) Liam (my 2 year old son) had fallen down on his way to school; he walked back to be comforted and joined the festivities.

The speech was vintage Obama, but I’m not big on hype or political rhetoric; I remember Bush saying many of the same things when he was first elected (obviously not as eloquently).

But when the speech was over and Michelle Obama walked out onto the stage, the tears suddenly came (for Christi too). The symbolic importance of this moment for America and the world cannot be overestimated. I know it’s not perfect, and the real work is just beginning, but a critical threshold has just been crossed. That this barrier has been broken means a lot to me, and it makes me feel real good right now.

In the meantime Liam, rummaging through my backpack, takes out my banana bread snack, adds it to his own, zips up his backpack, and – with a smirk on his face – trudges off to school ;-).

Other random thoughts:

  • I’m really glad the campaign is over.
  • Will all the lobbyist have to learn how to play basketball now? (Reflecting on Obama’s election day activity.)
  • Christi on seeing Joe Biden on stage: “Joe Biden just got a free ride. He must be thinking, ‘boy was that easy.'”
  • I appreciated McCain’s concession speech, but we haven’t arrived with regards to race; we’ve still got a long way to go – on Main Street as it were.
  • It’s all downhill from here (once the realities of Washington strike); wait, we still have the inauguration. I’m counting the the First Lady to help the president keep it real.

With apologies to all my really conservative friends, I’m going to enjoy this moment.

My personal sadness about Christians and politics

As I’ve watched the latest political campaign, I’ve often thought what Bob Hyatt has just articulated better than I ever could – Out of Ur – Decision ’08: Your choice of president is less important than our integrity

. . . I watch in amazement as every four years, well-meaning Christians who are otherwise committed to values of truth and controlling our tongues descend into the pit of partisanship, smears, and tale-bearing. You know how it goes. You have genuine concerns about the other guy (or gal) and so, with few qualms, repeat whatever was told to you by someone in the parking lot or that you heard on the talk radio show or read on that extremely well fact-checked source, the Internet. Of course, all the stuff the other side is saying about your candidate? Yellow journalism and lies.

People who balked at the Left’s mention of George Bush’s alcoholism repeat at the drop of a hat Obama’s admission of drug use in his younger days. And people who on any other day are likely to decry the sexism of American politics suddenly become concerned that Palin went back to work too quickly after giving birth and that she can’t be both VP and a mother of a special-needs child.

We believe whatever our side says, refuse to even listen to the other side, and generally put critical thinking aside. [Emphasis mine]

I’m sad to say that over the last few months, I’ve seen good Christians who genuinely love Jesus repeat tale after tale (many later proven false or exaggerated) about both major tickets in this election–all with the intention of. . . [read all of Decision ’08]

It especially saddens me the deep racism of many Christian evangelicals rears its ugly head in this way. As a guest on Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed, Soong-Chan Rah, professor at North Park Theological Seminary, points out – Loosening the Grip 3:

. . . Christians have been at the center of two of the more explicit examples of racism in the Presidential campaign: Obama Waffles (created by two Christian writers) and the hanging in effigy of Senator Obama at a Christian college. These shameful examples serve to further the media perception of the deep level of racism rooted in the American Christian community. . . .

Don’t mess with Obama in Kenya or you’ll be deported (Corsi)

Everyone is welcome to visit Kenya’s gameparks; just don’t try to slander Obama while you are here. I didn’t see the TV news last night (don’t own a TV), but today The Standard writes Drama as anti-Obama author is deported:

. . . An attempt by anti-Obama crusaders to launch a smear campaign ended in a dramatic anti-climax when an American author was bundled out of Nairobi, moments before he could launch his book, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and The Cult of Personality. Dr Jerome Corsi, a Republican, was declared persona non grata and deported last night after earlier being detained by Immigration officials. The charge… engaging in illegal activities in Kenya. . . “They violated terms of the visitor’s pass by engaging in a business and marketing of his book. They required a special permit to do business,” a top Immigration source said.

Read all about it in the Standard’s article or the Daily Nation’s version (it gets better) and now even the NY Times and the Washington Post.

Here is The Standard‘s cartoon for today – 8 October:

Immigration officer leads Corsi away

Thanks for the heads up, Simon. I would have missed it.

What Americans think of Evangelical voters

From the latest Barna Report: What Do Americans Think of Evangelical Voters?

In general, evangelical voters are perceived with a mix of skepticism and respect. Americans are not always sure what to make of evangelicals, but they believe the voting bloc has significant influence. Barna examined eight perceptions of evangelical voters. Four of the statements represented the most widely-held views:


  • will have a significant influence effect on the election outcome (59% of American adults said this was either “very” or “somewhat accurate” regarding evangelical voters);
  • will cause the political conversation to be more conservative (59%);
  • will spend too much time complaining and not enough time solving problems (59%);
  • will be misunderstood and unfairly described by news media (56%).
  • Surprisingly, given the attention that moral issues have received in connection with evangelicals, only half of Americans (52%) felt that evangelical voters would focus primarily on homosexuality and abortion.

Roughly half said that evangelicals will minimize social justice issues (47%) and another 47% felt they believe that evangelicals will vote overwhelmingly Republican. Roughly two out of every five Americans (44%) believed evangelicals will not approach the election with an open mind.

For more on  Evangelical perceptions of themselves and the perceptions of outsiders towards evangelicals (complete with table), common ground, and how they view the Rick Warren interviews, read:  What Do Americans Think of Evangelical Voters?

Also: How Evangelicals Plan to Vote (11 Aug. 2008) – I wonder if the ground has shifted any in the intervening month?

the best of biblia blogging in August (a comprehensive listing)

Over at pisteuomen, t. michael w. halcomb has an incredible chronicle of interesting posts written by biblio bloggers in the month of August – Biblioblogs Carnival 33

Let’s be honest already, biblical studies is the spice of life! That’s why I’ve spent a portion of the last month keeping tabs on biblically-oriented conversation that has taken place in the world and more particularly, in the blogosphere. Needless to say, a lot of ground has been covered many, many people. Below, for Biblioblogs Carnival XXXIII, you will find 31 days worth of links to thought-provoking posts. Over 150 different bloggers are mentioned (so, if you need to update your rss readers or blogrolls, now might be the time to do it) even though only 5 were nominated (as of 08.31.08, 8pm). Scattered throughout, you will find some familiar names as well as unfamiliar ones. I hope the less familiar ones will find a niche and a place in biblica/biblio-blogdom.

To give you a flavor, here are the first five days:

08.01 – At the beginning of the month, big news surrounded some important archaeological finds. A few people including Chris Heard, NT Wrong, Jim West and Michael Halcomb weighed in with their thoughts. The following day, 08.02 proved to be an interesting one as Glenn Penner shared his thoughts on Boycotting the Beijing Olympics. Just as well, Jeff Rudy continued his illuminating series on C. S. Lewis & The Atonement while Ben Byerly offered some thoughts on Why Jesus Turned Water Into Wine.

On 08.03 Suzanne McCarthy ruminated on the relationship between Women and Bible Translation while Alan Knox, typically insightful, challenged believers with another addition to his “Scripture As We Live It” series. 08.04 found Nijay Gupta pondering what it takes to Become A More Well-Rounded Theologian, while at the same time, Scot McKnight issued some thoughts on what it takes to Become a Good Teacher. Not to be forgotten, Zondervan announced its new blog “Koinonia”.

08.05 – Something, perhaps the Holy Spirit (who knows!), got hold of Scott Bailey and led him to start his “The Worst Preacher Ever” contest. A little more on the serious side of things, Celucien Joseph dove headfirst into issues pertaining to African Americans and Racial Reconciliation. Owen Weddle spent the afternoon dwelling on the meaning of the account concerning the “Thief on the Cross” and Julie Clawson made A Case For Junia, The Lost Apostle. . .

To skim the rest, check out Biblioblogs Carnival 33; it’s going to take me all month to catch up ;-). Thanks for this incredible piece of work Michael!!

For interesting posts and articles I find daily but don’t take the time to post separately about, LOOK RIGHT – “Links of the Day” on the sidebar or click here.

The new im-morality (Barna report)

This is how I spin the the latest Barna report:

  • The older you get, the more mature you become (“The younger generation was more than twice as likely as all other adults to engage in behaviors considered morally inappropriate by traditional standards.”)
  • Common sins: cussing (28%) gambling (20%), pornography (19%), gossiping (12%), getting drunk (12%), or lying (11%). [Percentages reflect what people admit to having done in the last week. These percentages jump significantly if you look exclusively at the younger generation or men.]
  • Marriage reduces sexual immorality (1% vs. 21%).
  • Men are generally worse than women except when it comes to gossip.
  • Christians are more moral than atheists or agnostics (whew).

Among evangelicals, profanity (16%) and pornography (12%) were the most common transgressions. Fewer than 5% of evangelicals had engaged in gossip (4%), inappropriate sex (3%), gambling (2%), lying (1%) or drunkenness (less than one-half of one percent).

In contrast, among skeptics (atheists and agnostics) participation in the eight behaviors ranged from a low of 11% (retaliating) up to a high of 60% (using profanity). While evangelicals averaged 6% participation in each of the eight behaviors mentioned, skeptics averaged five times that level (29%). Other common acts among skeptics included exposure to pornography (50%), gossip (34%) and drunkenness (33%).

People associated with faiths other than Christianity were twice as likely as evangelicals to engage in the behaviors explored. They were most likely to use profanity (33%), view pornography (32%) and lie (18%).

Within the Christian community, there were few differences between Protestants and Catholics in relation to the moral behaviors tested. Catholics were somewhat more likely to gamble (25% vs. 18%) [bingo night tradition?] and to get drunk (16% vs. 7%).

[See also Barna’s generally politically liberal vs. politically conservative comparison.]

Based on telephone surveys a random sample of 1003 adults selected from across the continental United States, age 18 and older, in May 2008. I wonder how high the numbers would have jumped if we were counting more than just “in the last week.”

I’d also like to see the generational differences compared with a similar survey taken a couple of decades ago. Is America really becoming more immoral, or does the younger generation tend to be more immoral than the older across the ages? Also, I’d love to see if the same “moral” gap exists if we include other moral indicators like economic justice, environmental care, or racial/sexual prejudice. Maybe we could create a survey of positive moral behaviors – e.g. “Have you generously done something kind for someone else in the last week?”

I’d love to hear comments on how you would gage these or what other moral indicators should be included.

To find out how Barna gets his data and how he spins it, read the latest Barna report: “Young Adults and Liberals Struggle with Morality “]

World Mapper

I’m a map guy (no secret there), so I really enjoyed this link that my mother in law sent me WORLDMAPPER

Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest. There are now nearly 600 maps. Maps 1-366 are also available as PDF posters.

A good place to start is the World Mapper Index

Here are four examples:

Christians: (There are about 31 religion maps. Christianity is further broken down into: Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant – under which you can find other categories – not all of which we would consider Christian. )


Wealth 2002:

Human Poverty:

Kenyan “Everglades” to be drained for sugar cane

I heard about the Florida Everglades return on the radio the other morning while getting the kids ready for school. I had no idea that the exact opposite was happening on my doorstep. The Economist – Kenya plants sugar cane; America uproots it.

LAST week Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, announced the purchase of almost 300 square miles of land in the middle of the Everglades from a sugar producer. Rather than building on it, Florida will allow the land to revert into its natural state.

On the other side of the world, the government of Kenya said it plans to do exactly the opposite: 80 square miles of the Tana river delta will be dug up by a private company that will grow sugarcane to be turned into biofuel. The Tana delta, which lies 120 miles north of the coastal city of Mombasa and drains Kenya’s longest river, is a mix of savannah, mangrove swamps, forest and beaches. Like the Everglades, this wetland area has unique wildlife; it sustains lions, hippos, reptiles, primates, rare sharks and 345 bird species, as well as thousands of farmers and fishermen. It provides the only dry-season grazing for hundreds of miles around. . .

Read the rest of the Economist article