Maybe Christians aren’t so bad after all

Bradley Wright, a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, has published a book entitled Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media

This is the book that provides the research we blogged about earlier that Christians who faithfully attend church do not, in fact, as is often said, have the same divorce rate as non-Christians.  What’s especially interesting to me is that Professor Wright takes on the source of so many of these statistics the evangelical pollster George Barna.   Barna defines “evangelical Christian” as someone who has had a born-again experience.  Wright looks rather at church attendance as evidence of Christian commitment.  (You can buy the book, giving the Cranach blog a commission, by clicking any of these links.)

Here are product descriptions from Amazon:

From Publishers Weekly

A sociologist at the University of Connecticut, Wright examines recent survey data on Christian evangelicals to see if they substantiate the often misguided and hyperbolic public perceptions of this faith group. Separating the wheat from the chaff, he explains how some poorly worded, ill-sampled statistics give the wrong impression of evangelicals and why people should avoid giving them credence. Though he often blames the media for gleefully reporting bad news about devout Christians, he doesn’t spare evangelical polemicists such as Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel for their false exaggerations of evangelical shortcomings. His biggest target may be the pollster George Barna, whose surveys on Christianity have generated intense controversy. Wright’s colloquial writing style gives this volume the feel of a folksy college lecture series. The abundant use of graphics adds to the impression the book’s genesis was cribbed from introductory sociology of religion classes. The conclusions drawn here–no surprise–are that the most committed Christians practice what they preach, performing better than the rest of the population on a host of social measures including divorce, domestic violence, sexual misconduct, crime, substance abuse, and everyday honesty.

Product Description

According to the media, the church is rapidly shrinking, both in numbers and in effectiveness. But the good news is, much of the bad news is wrong. Sociologist Bradley R. E. Wright uncovers what’s really happening in the church: evangelicals are more respected by secular culture now than they were ten years ago; divorce rates of Christians are lower than those of nonbelievers; Christians give more to charity than others do. Wright reveals to readers why and how statistics are distorted, and shows that God is still effectively working through his people today.

via Amazon.com: Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (9780764207464): Bradley R.E. Wright: Books.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Very interesting!

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Very interesting!

  • http://Donegality.blogspot.com Donegality

    Glad it took an expert to let us know. Knowing is half the Battle.

  • http://Donegality.blogspot.com Donegality

    Glad it took an expert to let us know. Knowing is half the Battle.

  • Steve Billingsley

    But that doesn’t fit the narrative. If Christians aren’t hate-filled hypocrites, then who else can I blame for the problems of the world?

  • Steve Billingsley

    But that doesn’t fit the narrative. If Christians aren’t hate-filled hypocrites, then who else can I blame for the problems of the world?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I guess, I’m going to need to be nicer then?
    Hey-diddley-oh, neighbors!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I guess, I’m going to need to be nicer then?
    Hey-diddley-oh, neighbors!

  • Porcell

    Interesting that two young academic sociologists, Brad Wright and Brad Wilcox, have come to respect the Christian religion. Another such sociologist is Rodney Stark.

    One may hope this is a trend, though it will take a long time to displace the leftist ideologues who grew up in the sixties and seventies that presently dominate academia.

  • Porcell

    Interesting that two young academic sociologists, Brad Wright and Brad Wilcox, have come to respect the Christian religion. Another such sociologist is Rodney Stark.

    One may hope this is a trend, though it will take a long time to displace the leftist ideologues who grew up in the sixties and seventies that presently dominate academia.

  • Booklover

    Most of the Christians I know are pretty “bad.” Which is why we lean on the Saviour. :-)

  • Booklover

    Most of the Christians I know are pretty “bad.” Which is why we lean on the Saviour. :-)

  • Booklover

    …and the worst ones are the ones who think they are “good.” :-)

  • Booklover

    …and the worst ones are the ones who think they are “good.” :-)

  • Abby

    Amen, Booklover.

  • Abby

    Amen, Booklover.

  • Stephen

    Vanity, vanity. All is vanity.

    This has nothing at all to do with Christ. This is about American Christians needing to have their egos stroked and their faith affirmed by what they do, centered in personal experience rather than in Christ alone and in his merits, thus making their faith into a work. The gospel becomes law, and thus no gospel.

    Chasing after wind. Look for Christ where he can be found, in his Word and Sacrament, not in what we do or do not do.

  • Stephen

    Vanity, vanity. All is vanity.

    This has nothing at all to do with Christ. This is about American Christians needing to have their egos stroked and their faith affirmed by what they do, centered in personal experience rather than in Christ alone and in his merits, thus making their faith into a work. The gospel becomes law, and thus no gospel.

    Chasing after wind. Look for Christ where he can be found, in his Word and Sacrament, not in what we do or do not do.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    Wait, wait, wait. You mean the Hollywood stereotype of Christianity isn’t true? Man, who am I going to imitate now?

    More seriously, I have a question for Stephen @9. Surely we can’t attribute it all to making faith into a work; surely at least some of it could be explained by the transformational nature of grace? The Holy Spirit continues to work in our lives after salvation, and surely that work must produce some fruit?

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    Wait, wait, wait. You mean the Hollywood stereotype of Christianity isn’t true? Man, who am I going to imitate now?

    More seriously, I have a question for Stephen @9. Surely we can’t attribute it all to making faith into a work; surely at least some of it could be explained by the transformational nature of grace? The Holy Spirit continues to work in our lives after salvation, and surely that work must produce some fruit?

  • helen

    Wait, wait, wait. You mean the Hollywood stereotype of Christianity isn’t true? Man, who am I going to imitate now?

    Go back a little… like to Bing Crosby and the Bells of St Mary’s. :)

  • helen

    Wait, wait, wait. You mean the Hollywood stereotype of Christianity isn’t true? Man, who am I going to imitate now?

    Go back a little… like to Bing Crosby and the Bells of St Mary’s. :)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Is there anyone here who would deny that Christians are hypocrites? I kinda thought that was a given for us, as we all uphold Scripture as telling us what we should be doing, and yet daily confess that we don’t do that.

    As to “hate-filled”, is there any Christian that would deny he gets angry with any number of his neighbors, thinking them stupid or even evil, and less deserving of God’s love than himself? If anyone here does deny that, you’re quite possibly even more of a hypocrite than I am!

    But, according to the title, it’s a “lie” that I’m a hate-filled hypocrite. In fact, I’m a pretty good guy — provided that I go to church frequently. Right?

    “He often blames the media for gleefully reporting bad news about devout Christians.” Well, of course it’s the media‘s fault. It’s not like the Bible has any bad news about devout Christians’ behavior.

    … Hm, oh, what’s that? It does? Criminy. Is there any good news in there? … Hm? There is? But it’s not about how better I perform than the rest of the population? I don’t know, that sounds like a bummer. I’d rather hear more about this book that tells me that I do “practice what they preach”, and that I am better than others. Now that’s good news I can get behind!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Is there anyone here who would deny that Christians are hypocrites? I kinda thought that was a given for us, as we all uphold Scripture as telling us what we should be doing, and yet daily confess that we don’t do that.

    As to “hate-filled”, is there any Christian that would deny he gets angry with any number of his neighbors, thinking them stupid or even evil, and less deserving of God’s love than himself? If anyone here does deny that, you’re quite possibly even more of a hypocrite than I am!

    But, according to the title, it’s a “lie” that I’m a hate-filled hypocrite. In fact, I’m a pretty good guy — provided that I go to church frequently. Right?

    “He often blames the media for gleefully reporting bad news about devout Christians.” Well, of course it’s the media‘s fault. It’s not like the Bible has any bad news about devout Christians’ behavior.

    … Hm, oh, what’s that? It does? Criminy. Is there any good news in there? … Hm? There is? But it’s not about how better I perform than the rest of the population? I don’t know, that sounds like a bummer. I’d rather hear more about this book that tells me that I do “practice what they preach”, and that I am better than others. Now that’s good news I can get behind!

  • Porcell

    Stephen: This has nothing at all to do with Christ. This is about American Christians needing to have their egos stroked and their faith affirmed by what they do, centered in personal experience rather than in Christ alone and in his merits, thus making their faith into a work.

    Not really, this has to do with a sociologist who took a close look at the data and found, contra the conventional liberal pious myth that Christians are hypocrites, that, the most committed Christians practice what they preach, performing better than the rest of the population on a host of social measures including divorce, domestic violence, sexual misconduct, crime, substance abuse, and everyday honesty.

    Serious Christians, who fully know they are fallen, don’t need their egos stroked, though there not a bit above welcoming some good news.

  • Porcell

    Stephen: This has nothing at all to do with Christ. This is about American Christians needing to have their egos stroked and their faith affirmed by what they do, centered in personal experience rather than in Christ alone and in his merits, thus making their faith into a work.

    Not really, this has to do with a sociologist who took a close look at the data and found, contra the conventional liberal pious myth that Christians are hypocrites, that, the most committed Christians practice what they preach, performing better than the rest of the population on a host of social measures including divorce, domestic violence, sexual misconduct, crime, substance abuse, and everyday honesty.

    Serious Christians, who fully know they are fallen, don’t need their egos stroked, though there not a bit above welcoming some good news.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell said (@13) “Serious Christians, who fully know they are fallen, don’t need their egos stroked, though there not a bit above welcoming some good news.”

    Serious Christians know that the Good News is that Jesus died for their sins. Not that they’re really great people.

    What about you, Porcell? Are you a hypocrite?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell said (@13) “Serious Christians, who fully know they are fallen, don’t need their egos stroked, though there not a bit above welcoming some good news.”

    Serious Christians know that the Good News is that Jesus died for their sins. Not that they’re really great people.

    What about you, Porcell? Are you a hypocrite?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Stephen @ 9

    But I would hope that you agree that Christians ought to have a good witness before an unbelieving world, right?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Stephen @ 9

    But I would hope that you agree that Christians ought to have a good witness before an unbelieving world, right?

  • Joe

    tODD has nailed it here. This idea of measuring who is doing what better than the other is futile. The fact is that we all sin much and the idea that how much or how little we sin is somehow relevant to our salvation is false doctrine.

    Justification is a gift; nothing we can earn. Serious Christians understand this.

  • Joe

    tODD has nailed it here. This idea of measuring who is doing what better than the other is futile. The fact is that we all sin much and the idea that how much or how little we sin is somehow relevant to our salvation is false doctrine.

    Justification is a gift; nothing we can earn. Serious Christians understand this.

  • Jon

    It seems to me that the point the author is making is that the cultural smear campaign of bearing false witness against Christians by inflating or skewing facts to make them appear worse neighbor-to-neighbor than they are actually behaving is measurably wrong according to their criteria. Will we all be taking this book to the judgement seat to plead for our righteousness? God forbid!

  • Jon

    It seems to me that the point the author is making is that the cultural smear campaign of bearing false witness against Christians by inflating or skewing facts to make them appear worse neighbor-to-neighbor than they are actually behaving is measurably wrong according to their criteria. Will we all be taking this book to the judgement seat to plead for our righteousness? God forbid!

  • Grace

    “What about you, Porcell? Are you a hypocrite?”

    It would appear, you need to take your own “hypocrite” temperature. Envy doesn’t become anyone!

    Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
    Matthew 7:4

  • Grace

    “What about you, Porcell? Are you a hypocrite?”

    It would appear, you need to take your own “hypocrite” temperature. Envy doesn’t become anyone!

    Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
    Matthew 7:4

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace said (@18), “It would appear, you need to take your own ‘hypocrite’ temperature.”

    It would appear that you, Grace, need to reread my first comment here (@12).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace said (@18), “It would appear, you need to take your own ‘hypocrite’ temperature.”

    It would appear that you, Grace, need to reread my first comment here (@12).

  • Grace

    tODD – 19

    Rereading your post doesn’t change a thing. Your continued advance on Porcell is obvious – my post stands as posted.

  • Grace

    tODD – 19

    Rereading your post doesn’t change a thing. Your continued advance on Porcell is obvious – my post stands as posted.

  • Bob

    I read the book. The title is somewhat misleading. Publishers have to sell books, though.

    It’s an excellent read because the author is a recognized expert in his field. He digs much more deeply than Barna — Barna’s stuff often is cited in pop evangelical circles and gets repeated and repeated, with little real understanding.

    He says (p. 218), “If nothing else, I hope you realize the need to be more skeptical when it comes to statistics about Christianity.”

    This author has no theological or sociological ax to grind. It’s well worth reading.

  • Bob

    I read the book. The title is somewhat misleading. Publishers have to sell books, though.

    It’s an excellent read because the author is a recognized expert in his field. He digs much more deeply than Barna — Barna’s stuff often is cited in pop evangelical circles and gets repeated and repeated, with little real understanding.

    He says (p. 218), “If nothing else, I hope you realize the need to be more skeptical when it comes to statistics about Christianity.”

    This author has no theological or sociological ax to grind. It’s well worth reading.

  • steve

    Darn! I was just learning to get in touch with my inner Church Lady. Now I’m hearing that I’m not a narrow-minded curmudgeon? I’m so confused!

  • steve

    Darn! I was just learning to get in touch with my inner Church Lady. Now I’m hearing that I’m not a narrow-minded curmudgeon? I’m so confused!

  • Bob

    Stephen,

    I think you’re overreaching. I’m a confessional Lutheran, too. But what’s wrong with a sociologist examining the church? Everything doesn’t have to be about the gospel.

  • Bob

    Stephen,

    I think you’re overreaching. I’m a confessional Lutheran, too. But what’s wrong with a sociologist examining the church? Everything doesn’t have to be about the gospel.

  • Bob

    The other cool thing about this book that’s been alluded to is that this author has no bias. I don’t trust anything Barna says — he’s aligned himself with some wackadoodle charismatics and home church types, and at least IMHO, he lost his cred long along.

  • Bob

    The other cool thing about this book that’s been alluded to is that this author has no bias. I don’t trust anything Barna says — he’s aligned himself with some wackadoodle charismatics and home church types, and at least IMHO, he lost his cred long along.

  • Porcell

    Todd: Serious Christians know that the Good News is that Jesus died for their sins. Not that they’re really great people.

    It is a distortion of Brad Wright’s argument that he says or implies Christians are really great people; rather he makes clear that the data show serious, church-going ones on balance not to be the hypocrites they are made out to be by the righteous liberal left.

    Arguing that Christians need only value being forgiven is naive and a good example of righteous moralism. One may quite value being forgiven and still appreciate a study that shows that serious Christians are better than the rest of the population on a host of social measures

    As to your last query on that post, I don’t answer rude, impertinent questions.

  • Porcell

    Todd: Serious Christians know that the Good News is that Jesus died for their sins. Not that they’re really great people.

    It is a distortion of Brad Wright’s argument that he says or implies Christians are really great people; rather he makes clear that the data show serious, church-going ones on balance not to be the hypocrites they are made out to be by the righteous liberal left.

    Arguing that Christians need only value being forgiven is naive and a good example of righteous moralism. One may quite value being forgiven and still appreciate a study that shows that serious Christians are better than the rest of the population on a host of social measures

    As to your last query on that post, I don’t answer rude, impertinent questions.

  • Louis

    I can’t answer for Porcell or Grace, but I know that I am prone to hypocrisy at times. While I think there is something in what Jon says, overall I agree with Todd. I also think fws made the point about the merits of Aristotelian ethics before. Even Zen-buddhist ethics, as witnessed by the general discipline, and stoicism in the Japanese response to the earthquake and Tsunami.

    What amounts to good ethics within is nothing more than the good ethics found outside Christianity. While it might be politcally expedient to claim otherwise (hint hint, nudge nudge), it doesn’t correspond with reality. When one draws a balance sheet, all out works are like filty rags….

  • Louis

    I can’t answer for Porcell or Grace, but I know that I am prone to hypocrisy at times. While I think there is something in what Jon says, overall I agree with Todd. I also think fws made the point about the merits of Aristotelian ethics before. Even Zen-buddhist ethics, as witnessed by the general discipline, and stoicism in the Japanese response to the earthquake and Tsunami.

    What amounts to good ethics within is nothing more than the good ethics found outside Christianity. While it might be politcally expedient to claim otherwise (hint hint, nudge nudge), it doesn’t correspond with reality. When one draws a balance sheet, all out works are like filty rags….

  • Cincinnatus

    I don’t really understand the direction this thread has taken vis a vis the Gospel versus works. Would anyone here deny that certain groups of people–groups defined religiously, educationally, economically, however you like–are more inclined to “behave” in a manner that is conducive to communal stability and goodwill than certain other groups? And what is wrong with concluding that certain sects of Christians can be sociologically identified as one of the former groups?

    In other words, I think Stephen, perhaps tODD, and others are imputing to this author theological claims he isn’t making. Though I haven’t read the book like Bob has, it seems merely to be a fairly modest argument about the “behavior” of certain social groups. He’s not making bold statements that Christians are somehow “better people” in their hearts, before God, etc. It’s just a plausible claim that Christians “perform” “better” on certain measurable “social indicators” than, say, felons or atheists, perhaps. And no serious sociologist, by the way, claims that his hypothesis represents infallible truth. It’s just a claim, subject to critique and falsification.

    (Abundant use of scare quotes because I’m not at all a fan of the jargon employed by the so-called “social sciences.”)

  • Cincinnatus

    I don’t really understand the direction this thread has taken vis a vis the Gospel versus works. Would anyone here deny that certain groups of people–groups defined religiously, educationally, economically, however you like–are more inclined to “behave” in a manner that is conducive to communal stability and goodwill than certain other groups? And what is wrong with concluding that certain sects of Christians can be sociologically identified as one of the former groups?

    In other words, I think Stephen, perhaps tODD, and others are imputing to this author theological claims he isn’t making. Though I haven’t read the book like Bob has, it seems merely to be a fairly modest argument about the “behavior” of certain social groups. He’s not making bold statements that Christians are somehow “better people” in their hearts, before God, etc. It’s just a plausible claim that Christians “perform” “better” on certain measurable “social indicators” than, say, felons or atheists, perhaps. And no serious sociologist, by the way, claims that his hypothesis represents infallible truth. It’s just a claim, subject to critique and falsification.

    (Abundant use of scare quotes because I’m not at all a fan of the jargon employed by the so-called “social sciences.”)

  • Bob

    Cincinnatus,

    “In other words, I think Stephen, perhaps tODD, and others are imputing to this author theological claims he isn’t making”

    You said what I was trying to say, only you said it better.

    It’s the Lutheran doctrine of vocation, IMHO — some folks are fantastic sociologists, like this guy. We can learn from him. Not everybody has to show the gospel all the time. In fact, that’s the job of the pastor, in his office.

  • Bob

    Cincinnatus,

    “In other words, I think Stephen, perhaps tODD, and others are imputing to this author theological claims he isn’t making”

    You said what I was trying to say, only you said it better.

    It’s the Lutheran doctrine of vocation, IMHO — some folks are fantastic sociologists, like this guy. We can learn from him. Not everybody has to show the gospel all the time. In fact, that’s the job of the pastor, in his office.

  • Stephen

    The last line from the above quoted says this:

    ” . . . and shows that God is still effectively working through his people today.”

    So it would seem that this study is out to prove some kind of eternal fact, that the Holy Spirit is actually making people “better” in some way that is measurable, and so is to likewise be admired. Am I really supposed to assume otherwise?

    This is fundamentally idolatrous because it locates truth in what humans do and not in what God has done in Jesus Christ. It is to deny the sin that distorts everything we do. It seems to be telling American Christians in effect “see there, OUR sins are not so bad as all that” much like the Pharisee who stands on the street and says “thank you Lord that I am not like those sinners over there.”

    For every study or statistic given to “prove” Christians are good people (as if our goodness counts for anything) someone else can cite some kind of historical evidence to the contrary. Every war that devastated Europe in the 20th c., for instance, was perpetrated by Christians. What does that “indicate.” This is not witness either, it is pride.

    If it means anything, it means that in our current moment, certain people of a set can follow rules well and being civil. So what? What does that have to do with faith in Jesus? That is all about what people do and not about what God has done in Christ. It only takes will power to follow rules, and maybe fear, and perhaps only the faith that following rules has some purpose. But that is not faith in Christ. Yet we are given to believe that faith in Christ, “being Christian,” makes all the difference here. There is no way to prove that. None.

  • Stephen

    The last line from the above quoted says this:

    ” . . . and shows that God is still effectively working through his people today.”

    So it would seem that this study is out to prove some kind of eternal fact, that the Holy Spirit is actually making people “better” in some way that is measurable, and so is to likewise be admired. Am I really supposed to assume otherwise?

    This is fundamentally idolatrous because it locates truth in what humans do and not in what God has done in Jesus Christ. It is to deny the sin that distorts everything we do. It seems to be telling American Christians in effect “see there, OUR sins are not so bad as all that” much like the Pharisee who stands on the street and says “thank you Lord that I am not like those sinners over there.”

    For every study or statistic given to “prove” Christians are good people (as if our goodness counts for anything) someone else can cite some kind of historical evidence to the contrary. Every war that devastated Europe in the 20th c., for instance, was perpetrated by Christians. What does that “indicate.” This is not witness either, it is pride.

    If it means anything, it means that in our current moment, certain people of a set can follow rules well and being civil. So what? What does that have to do with faith in Jesus? That is all about what people do and not about what God has done in Christ. It only takes will power to follow rules, and maybe fear, and perhaps only the faith that following rules has some purpose. But that is not faith in Christ. Yet we are given to believe that faith in Christ, “being Christian,” makes all the difference here. There is no way to prove that. None.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    It always amazes me how so many Lutherans can so confidently proclaim that there’s a difference between righteousness before God and righteousness before men, but then be so prone to assuming that nobody is ever talking about the latter–even in the context of a survey detailing the human-observed behavior of a group of humans compared to other groups of humans. What’s the use of recognizing two distinct categories if you assume one of them never applies in any conversation?

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    It always amazes me how so many Lutherans can so confidently proclaim that there’s a difference between righteousness before God and righteousness before men, but then be so prone to assuming that nobody is ever talking about the latter–even in the context of a survey detailing the human-observed behavior of a group of humans compared to other groups of humans. What’s the use of recognizing two distinct categories if you assume one of them never applies in any conversation?

  • Cincinnatus

    Stephen@29, I don’t know what you’re reading, but I don’t see it. All the author is claiming is that in the United States (and the scope of his study extends no further than the boundaries of the United States), certain groups of Christians, again, perform “better” on certain measures–like divorce rate–than other groups. I don’t know why this claim is facially controversial. It’s not a claim about the Law and the Gospel. It’s not a theological argument asserting that the Holy Spirit is making Christians “better”–though that may or may not be true, given what Christ says about the “fruits of the spirit.”

    But, in his role as a sociologist and scientist, the author doesn’t care (and probably shouldn’t care) about theology, the Gospel, and fruits of the spirit. It’s just an empirical claim that certain groups of Christians have a greater propensity to behave in certain particular ways that are beneficial to the sort of community we value as a society than do other groups. I repeat, that is all the author is claiming. Whether these Christians are secretly hypocrites, whether they think they can earn salvation by their good works in the community, whether this is the work of the Holy Spirit or just good ole’ fashioned bourgeois family values is completely immaterial to the argument the author is making. You can believe what you want, but it has nothing to do with the ostensibly “scientific” claims being made. Statistics often lie, and you can dispute his study on methodological grounds (perhaps the causal connection between “Christianity” and “low divorce rate” isn’t so clear, for instance, or maybe there are problems with his sample or research design), but I don’t see any grounds whatsoever for allowing this book to trigger theological apoplexy.

    Meanwhile, are you also disputing that good works, virtues, behaviors, etc., are, well, good for the community? Because that would just be silly.

  • Cincinnatus

    Stephen@29, I don’t know what you’re reading, but I don’t see it. All the author is claiming is that in the United States (and the scope of his study extends no further than the boundaries of the United States), certain groups of Christians, again, perform “better” on certain measures–like divorce rate–than other groups. I don’t know why this claim is facially controversial. It’s not a claim about the Law and the Gospel. It’s not a theological argument asserting that the Holy Spirit is making Christians “better”–though that may or may not be true, given what Christ says about the “fruits of the spirit.”

    But, in his role as a sociologist and scientist, the author doesn’t care (and probably shouldn’t care) about theology, the Gospel, and fruits of the spirit. It’s just an empirical claim that certain groups of Christians have a greater propensity to behave in certain particular ways that are beneficial to the sort of community we value as a society than do other groups. I repeat, that is all the author is claiming. Whether these Christians are secretly hypocrites, whether they think they can earn salvation by their good works in the community, whether this is the work of the Holy Spirit or just good ole’ fashioned bourgeois family values is completely immaterial to the argument the author is making. You can believe what you want, but it has nothing to do with the ostensibly “scientific” claims being made. Statistics often lie, and you can dispute his study on methodological grounds (perhaps the causal connection between “Christianity” and “low divorce rate” isn’t so clear, for instance, or maybe there are problems with his sample or research design), but I don’t see any grounds whatsoever for allowing this book to trigger theological apoplexy.

    Meanwhile, are you also disputing that good works, virtues, behaviors, etc., are, well, good for the community? Because that would just be silly.

  • Stephen

    I’m saying Christian faith is something given and distinct from what humans do or do not do. There is no way to prove a necessary connection between faith and our existential, temporal goodness, though we want it to be so because, well, this would make us look good. The focus then becomes our doing of good instead of on that which is done for us in Christ.

    Perhaps another way to say it would be to understand “being Christian” as having nothing whatsoever to do with our actions per se, but with the faith that is believed, the one into which we are baptized. That is not to say it is purely something intellectual, but it is to put the emphasis of our truth claims where the truth actually is – on Christ himself, the one we preach and confess faith in, and not on us and how civil or well-behaved we happen to be these days, things which are transitory and not truly the object of our faith.

    And given the statement I quoted from the product description, it seems more than just empirical claims are being made. As well, given that this is a study which claims to correct information about Christians, and that Christians have such a great stake in eternal truth claims, why is it such a stretch to suspect that more is at stake then mere corrective, empirical data as you say? That you say the author “doesn’t care” beyond pure science seems to penetrate into his intentions as much as anything I have said. How do you know? At least the product description betrays that something else is at stake.

    And of course I am not disputing that virtue is desirable. God desires it and gets us to do it with law, even the unbelievers. But this is not what makes us Christian. That is grace, something given and done to us and for us.

  • Stephen

    I’m saying Christian faith is something given and distinct from what humans do or do not do. There is no way to prove a necessary connection between faith and our existential, temporal goodness, though we want it to be so because, well, this would make us look good. The focus then becomes our doing of good instead of on that which is done for us in Christ.

    Perhaps another way to say it would be to understand “being Christian” as having nothing whatsoever to do with our actions per se, but with the faith that is believed, the one into which we are baptized. That is not to say it is purely something intellectual, but it is to put the emphasis of our truth claims where the truth actually is – on Christ himself, the one we preach and confess faith in, and not on us and how civil or well-behaved we happen to be these days, things which are transitory and not truly the object of our faith.

    And given the statement I quoted from the product description, it seems more than just empirical claims are being made. As well, given that this is a study which claims to correct information about Christians, and that Christians have such a great stake in eternal truth claims, why is it such a stretch to suspect that more is at stake then mere corrective, empirical data as you say? That you say the author “doesn’t care” beyond pure science seems to penetrate into his intentions as much as anything I have said. How do you know? At least the product description betrays that something else is at stake.

    And of course I am not disputing that virtue is desirable. God desires it and gets us to do it with law, even the unbelievers. But this is not what makes us Christian. That is grace, something given and done to us and for us.

  • Stephen

    Post # 32 for you Cinncinatus

  • Stephen

    Post # 32 for you Cinncinatus

  • Stephen

    Porcell makes my point quite nicely:

    “Arguing that Christians need only value being forgiven is naive and a good example of righteous moralism. One may quite value being forgiven and still appreciate a study that shows that serious Christians are better than the rest of the population on a host of social measures”

    “Thank you Lord that I am not like all those sinners” said the Pharisee.

    Perhaps that may not prove the authors intentions, but it does say something about how it is read by Christians looking for validation of their works.

    Righteous moralism indeed. Unbelievable.

  • Stephen

    Porcell makes my point quite nicely:

    “Arguing that Christians need only value being forgiven is naive and a good example of righteous moralism. One may quite value being forgiven and still appreciate a study that shows that serious Christians are better than the rest of the population on a host of social measures”

    “Thank you Lord that I am not like all those sinners” said the Pharisee.

    Perhaps that may not prove the authors intentions, but it does say something about how it is read by Christians looking for validation of their works.

    Righteous moralism indeed. Unbelievable.

  • Grace

    “For every study or statistic given to “prove” Christians are good people (as if our goodness counts for anything) someone else can cite some kind of historical evidence to the contrary. Every war that devastated Europe in the 20th c., for instance, was perpetrated by Christians. What does that “indicate.” This is not witness either, it is pride.”

    Hitler certainly wasn’t a “Christian” and those who followed the man, or others who were/are antisemitic.

    Who’s “pride” is being covered here?

  • Grace

    “For every study or statistic given to “prove” Christians are good people (as if our goodness counts for anything) someone else can cite some kind of historical evidence to the contrary. Every war that devastated Europe in the 20th c., for instance, was perpetrated by Christians. What does that “indicate.” This is not witness either, it is pride.”

    Hitler certainly wasn’t a “Christian” and those who followed the man, or others who were/are antisemitic.

    Who’s “pride” is being covered here?

  • Cincinnatus

    Stephen, I still think you’re finding things in the text above that aren’t there, and/or are making an issue out of vapors.

    Look, if some Christians read this book and say, “Yes indeed, we Christians truly are superior people when compared with the heathens in our midst,” that’s their problem, not this book’s. This book is written in response to numerous recent claims (I would provide citations, but I think you can Google it yourself quite readily) that Christianity has either no positive social effect or, in fact, even has a negative social fact. Witness recent studies “proving” that Christians are just as likely to divorce, just as likely to engage in extramarital affairs, just as likely to avoid meaningful political participation, just as likely to drop out of high school, engage in premarital sex, smoke marijuana, drink to excess, ad infinitum. The author is merely presenting evidence to the contrary: it turns out that those who at least self-identify as Christians (whether they actually are Christians is, of course, between the respondent and God) are statistically less likely to engage in socially destructive behaviors and more likely to engage in behaviors that build “social capital” (another social science-y term I despise). If such conclusions are drawn rigorously, objectively, and seriously, then I honestly fail to see the problem. Really.

    Again, if some pharisaical Christians take this book as “validation” for their superiority complexes, then that’s too bad. More significant than that, I think, is the fact that we have some plausible evidence that practicing what we preach, that fostering a “Christian culture,” that good works, that being salt and light in a flavorless, dark world are actually meaningful and viable goals. Or if you don’t prefer the language of “goals” (which could, in your stark universe, entail a confusion of Law and Gospel, works and grace), it could indicate that, when lots of individuals take to heart the Gospel message, it actually does produce visible fruits and socially desirable results. In other words, it might just be that a culture full of ostensibly serious Christians is a better culture (I’ll remind you that Roman observers noted favorably the peaceable, orderly, law-abiding qualities of early Christian communities). I ask again: what’s the problem here?

  • Cincinnatus

    Stephen, I still think you’re finding things in the text above that aren’t there, and/or are making an issue out of vapors.

    Look, if some Christians read this book and say, “Yes indeed, we Christians truly are superior people when compared with the heathens in our midst,” that’s their problem, not this book’s. This book is written in response to numerous recent claims (I would provide citations, but I think you can Google it yourself quite readily) that Christianity has either no positive social effect or, in fact, even has a negative social fact. Witness recent studies “proving” that Christians are just as likely to divorce, just as likely to engage in extramarital affairs, just as likely to avoid meaningful political participation, just as likely to drop out of high school, engage in premarital sex, smoke marijuana, drink to excess, ad infinitum. The author is merely presenting evidence to the contrary: it turns out that those who at least self-identify as Christians (whether they actually are Christians is, of course, between the respondent and God) are statistically less likely to engage in socially destructive behaviors and more likely to engage in behaviors that build “social capital” (another social science-y term I despise). If such conclusions are drawn rigorously, objectively, and seriously, then I honestly fail to see the problem. Really.

    Again, if some pharisaical Christians take this book as “validation” for their superiority complexes, then that’s too bad. More significant than that, I think, is the fact that we have some plausible evidence that practicing what we preach, that fostering a “Christian culture,” that good works, that being salt and light in a flavorless, dark world are actually meaningful and viable goals. Or if you don’t prefer the language of “goals” (which could, in your stark universe, entail a confusion of Law and Gospel, works and grace), it could indicate that, when lots of individuals take to heart the Gospel message, it actually does produce visible fruits and socially desirable results. In other words, it might just be that a culture full of ostensibly serious Christians is a better culture (I’ll remind you that Roman observers noted favorably the peaceable, orderly, law-abiding qualities of early Christian communities). I ask again: what’s the problem here?

  • Bob

    ‘Perhaps that may not prove the authors intentions…’

    Yes, Stephen, that’s the point I think some of us are making here. That is NOT the authors’ intentions. It just seems like you’re reading your concerns and fears about how the study might be used by Christians into what the author is trying to say.

  • Bob

    ‘Perhaps that may not prove the authors intentions…’

    Yes, Stephen, that’s the point I think some of us are making here. That is NOT the authors’ intentions. It just seems like you’re reading your concerns and fears about how the study might be used by Christians into what the author is trying to say.

  • Grace

    36 – Cincinnatus

    “More significant than that, I think, is the fact that we have some plausible evidence that practicing what we preach, that fostering a “Christian culture,” that good works, that being salt and light in a flavorless, dark world are actually meaningful and viable goals. Or if you don’t prefer the language of “goals” (which could, in your stark universe, entail a confusion of Law and Gospel, works and grace), it could indicate that, when lots of individuals take to heart the Gospel message, it actually does produce visible fruits and socially desirable results.

    Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

    There are those who believe the Sermon on the Mount is anthropocentric, or man centered, rather than theocentric, or God centered. The Sermon on the Mount is not anthropocentric, man centered, it is theocentric.

    The verse does not say …. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify YOU, and give you a gold star” …. This verse says you and I are to let our light so shine in this world that we may glorify our Father which is in heaven. The Sermon on the Mount is GOD centered. Our motivation should be to bring glory to God. The purpose of our lives should be to glorify God.

  • Grace

    36 – Cincinnatus

    “More significant than that, I think, is the fact that we have some plausible evidence that practicing what we preach, that fostering a “Christian culture,” that good works, that being salt and light in a flavorless, dark world are actually meaningful and viable goals. Or if you don’t prefer the language of “goals” (which could, in your stark universe, entail a confusion of Law and Gospel, works and grace), it could indicate that, when lots of individuals take to heart the Gospel message, it actually does produce visible fruits and socially desirable results.

    Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

    There are those who believe the Sermon on the Mount is anthropocentric, or man centered, rather than theocentric, or God centered. The Sermon on the Mount is not anthropocentric, man centered, it is theocentric.

    The verse does not say …. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify YOU, and give you a gold star” …. This verse says you and I are to let our light so shine in this world that we may glorify our Father which is in heaven. The Sermon on the Mount is GOD centered. Our motivation should be to bring glory to God. The purpose of our lives should be to glorify God.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    Matt Cochrane @30: “What’s the use of recognizing two distinct categories if you assume one of them never applies in any conversation?” Well put. Well put indeed. This is clearly a case where we’re talking about righteousness before men, not before God.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    Matt Cochrane @30: “What’s the use of recognizing two distinct categories if you assume one of them never applies in any conversation?” Well put. Well put indeed. This is clearly a case where we’re talking about righteousness before men, not before God.

  • Stephen

    Well, I cited the product description which indicated that the value of faith in God was indeed being proven by these statistics based on what people do. So, this leads me to think that this book is an attempt to prove the same. This seems to indicate intention. If so, this is not, in my view, a good intention or witness because it stresses what people do rather than what God has done in Christ, which is the actual message of Christianity. If we make it about what we do, what happens when we fail? What happens when the statistics change? The problem is it encourages faith in the wrong thing, in our ability to do good.

    May I remind you (cinncinnatus) that European culture has been Christian for most of its existence the past, oh, roughly 1500 years or so. And we’re talking about culture completely immersed in it up until a couple hundred years ago. Has it been exceedingly moral and filled with light? Certainly there are Asian cultures (Tibet, Bhutan perhaps) that lived for centuries in relative harmony and peace that had absolutely no connection with Christianity.

    I’m not tying to make some kind of cultural argument against being Christian, though it may sound like it. If this is some kind of needed corrective, then fine. But it might just as well be negative stats we don’t like, and then there would be crying about liberal atheists who don’t like us and are liars. It just feeds the culture war. All this data is temporary and meaningless for telling us anything about the reality of faith. And yet even from the comments on this thread and the defensiveness against what I have said here it would seem we need things like this to affirm we are on the right track instead of placing our hope where it ought to be, in Christ alone.

  • Stephen

    Well, I cited the product description which indicated that the value of faith in God was indeed being proven by these statistics based on what people do. So, this leads me to think that this book is an attempt to prove the same. This seems to indicate intention. If so, this is not, in my view, a good intention or witness because it stresses what people do rather than what God has done in Christ, which is the actual message of Christianity. If we make it about what we do, what happens when we fail? What happens when the statistics change? The problem is it encourages faith in the wrong thing, in our ability to do good.

    May I remind you (cinncinnatus) that European culture has been Christian for most of its existence the past, oh, roughly 1500 years or so. And we’re talking about culture completely immersed in it up until a couple hundred years ago. Has it been exceedingly moral and filled with light? Certainly there are Asian cultures (Tibet, Bhutan perhaps) that lived for centuries in relative harmony and peace that had absolutely no connection with Christianity.

    I’m not tying to make some kind of cultural argument against being Christian, though it may sound like it. If this is some kind of needed corrective, then fine. But it might just as well be negative stats we don’t like, and then there would be crying about liberal atheists who don’t like us and are liars. It just feeds the culture war. All this data is temporary and meaningless for telling us anything about the reality of faith. And yet even from the comments on this thread and the defensiveness against what I have said here it would seem we need things like this to affirm we are on the right track instead of placing our hope where it ought to be, in Christ alone.

  • Pete

    I’m with Bob @23 as concerns Stephen’s comments @9.

    Could we perhaps agree that the sociologist has stumbled on the truism that Christians are observably better-behaved hypocrites than are others?

  • Pete

    I’m with Bob @23 as concerns Stephen’s comments @9.

    Could we perhaps agree that the sociologist has stumbled on the truism that Christians are observably better-behaved hypocrites than are others?

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Some are pretty bad.

    Some run around doing their Taliban imitation wearing Moses suits.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Some are pretty bad.

    Some run around doing their Taliban imitation wearing Moses suits.

  • Pete

    Or, perhaps more accurately, regular church-attenders are better behaved than others.

  • Pete

    Or, perhaps more accurately, regular church-attenders are better behaved than others.

  • Pete

    But, in support of Stephen’s point @9, I bet scrutiny of church-going Mormons would have them looking as good (probably better) as church-going Christians.

  • Pete

    But, in support of Stephen’s point @9, I bet scrutiny of church-going Mormons would have them looking as good (probably better) as church-going Christians.

  • Cincinnatus

    Grace@36: When did I say that the Sermon on the Mount is “anthropocentric”? I didn’t, and I don’t even see how it’s relevant. As others have mentioned, this work details external evidence of “righteousness before men,” which, last I checked, isn’t a bad thing. Again, if some Christians exploit the text to validate external righteousness in favor of their true righteousness in Christ, than that’s their problem; it’s a pastoral or theological problem, not a sociological problem.

    Meanwhile, Steven, I’m glad you’re not attempting to make an argument against…positive social behavior. But you’re still being a bit obtuse. In your first paragraph, you seem still to be ignoring the fact that this book is not an evangelical tract, not a work in dogmatic theology, and not a sermon of some kind. It’s a sociological study. Sociologists are interested purely in external, observable behaviors and their demonstrable causes. If a serious sociologist discovers that certain identifiable groups of people–churchgoing Christians, let’s say–are more likely to act like a, b, and c and do x, y, and z, then bully for him. He’s not trying to convert anyone to the faith or claim that a, b, c, x, y, and z are what it truly means to be a “real” Christian. It only means what it says: that in this particular time and context, this group of people tends statistically to behave like that. The end. People can draw whatever conclusions they think are valid from that data, and they can even call into question the data itself. But the fact that some people might “misuse” the date is certainly not a compelling argument against the entire study itself.

    You also make the claim that Eastern cultures, for instance, have lived in relative harmony in the absence of a Christian religion. That’s a good and probably valid observation. But that is also not a decisive claim against the book. He doesn’t seem to be claiming anywhere that a) Christianity is the only variable that produces desirable social behaviors or that b) his hypothesis is generalizable to all cultures in all places in all times. Thus, as you say, his data is certainly “temporary” and contingent, but if it can be interpreted soundly, it’s definitely not meaningless.

    In short, given sound data (and we haven’t necessarily demonstrated that this data was soundly collected, but let’s assume it for the moment) that Christians in the particular context of the United States in 2011 exhibit certain “moral” behaviors more often than other identifiable groups, and excluding confounding variables like socioeconomic status or familial and educational background, how can we interpret this data? What can we conclude? It won’t do simply to discard the entire set of data just because you think it might give some people the “wrong” idea about what Christianity really is–especially since the author doesn’t claim to be outlining what it “means” to be a true Christian. Remember: this is sociology, not theology. It’s about society and social patterns, not the Church and individual souls.

  • Cincinnatus

    Grace@36: When did I say that the Sermon on the Mount is “anthropocentric”? I didn’t, and I don’t even see how it’s relevant. As others have mentioned, this work details external evidence of “righteousness before men,” which, last I checked, isn’t a bad thing. Again, if some Christians exploit the text to validate external righteousness in favor of their true righteousness in Christ, than that’s their problem; it’s a pastoral or theological problem, not a sociological problem.

    Meanwhile, Steven, I’m glad you’re not attempting to make an argument against…positive social behavior. But you’re still being a bit obtuse. In your first paragraph, you seem still to be ignoring the fact that this book is not an evangelical tract, not a work in dogmatic theology, and not a sermon of some kind. It’s a sociological study. Sociologists are interested purely in external, observable behaviors and their demonstrable causes. If a serious sociologist discovers that certain identifiable groups of people–churchgoing Christians, let’s say–are more likely to act like a, b, and c and do x, y, and z, then bully for him. He’s not trying to convert anyone to the faith or claim that a, b, c, x, y, and z are what it truly means to be a “real” Christian. It only means what it says: that in this particular time and context, this group of people tends statistically to behave like that. The end. People can draw whatever conclusions they think are valid from that data, and they can even call into question the data itself. But the fact that some people might “misuse” the date is certainly not a compelling argument against the entire study itself.

    You also make the claim that Eastern cultures, for instance, have lived in relative harmony in the absence of a Christian religion. That’s a good and probably valid observation. But that is also not a decisive claim against the book. He doesn’t seem to be claiming anywhere that a) Christianity is the only variable that produces desirable social behaviors or that b) his hypothesis is generalizable to all cultures in all places in all times. Thus, as you say, his data is certainly “temporary” and contingent, but if it can be interpreted soundly, it’s definitely not meaningless.

    In short, given sound data (and we haven’t necessarily demonstrated that this data was soundly collected, but let’s assume it for the moment) that Christians in the particular context of the United States in 2011 exhibit certain “moral” behaviors more often than other identifiable groups, and excluding confounding variables like socioeconomic status or familial and educational background, how can we interpret this data? What can we conclude? It won’t do simply to discard the entire set of data just because you think it might give some people the “wrong” idea about what Christianity really is–especially since the author doesn’t claim to be outlining what it “means” to be a true Christian. Remember: this is sociology, not theology. It’s about society and social patterns, not the Church and individual souls.

  • Grace

    Cincinnatus – 45

    “When did I say that the Sermon on the Mount is “anthropocentric”? I didn’t, and I don’t even see how it’s relevant. “

    Read it over again Cincinnatus, …. I didn’t accuse you of saying any such thing. I was obviously making a point that covered a great many people who believe “works” have nothing to do with a Christian’s life, or the way the world views them – our lives are to glorify the LORD. I was agreeing with you. If you view the quote you posted, and I used (bold) you might be able to see it.

    I disagree with you, …. for many it is relevant!

  • Grace

    Cincinnatus – 45

    “When did I say that the Sermon on the Mount is “anthropocentric”? I didn’t, and I don’t even see how it’s relevant. “

    Read it over again Cincinnatus, …. I didn’t accuse you of saying any such thing. I was obviously making a point that covered a great many people who believe “works” have nothing to do with a Christian’s life, or the way the world views them – our lives are to glorify the LORD. I was agreeing with you. If you view the quote you posted, and I used (bold) you might be able to see it.

    I disagree with you, …. for many it is relevant!

  • Joe

    Cinci – my point is that the entire study is irrelevant to what matters. It matters not if we are “better” than our heathen friends. As in, if a man keeps the who of the law and violates only one part, he is guilty of violating the whole. James 2:10 (forgive my paraphrase).

  • Joe

    Cinci – my point is that the entire study is irrelevant to what matters. It matters not if we are “better” than our heathen friends. As in, if a man keeps the who of the law and violates only one part, he is guilty of violating the whole. James 2:10 (forgive my paraphrase).

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    My problem with this study is the same with any study that makes claims about Christians – how do you identify and categorize who is a Christian? Frequently, the measure used is the measure taught by the Romanists and the Calvinists, you identify the elect by their works of righteousness. I don’t blame the statisticians for do what they do, simply because I understand the difficulty we humans have in seeing the heart of the issue.

    Second, I am surprised our host did not pick up on this theological tidbit – the author of the book is seeking and/or presenting a theology of glory. Go to church regularly and protect your marriage. Is this not the essence of the theologian of glory seeking temporal blessings rather than the eternal assurance of the cross? Honestly, what he might be picking up is the fact that people who maintain a long term commitment to one relationship may likely manage to maintain other long term commitments which may not be at all related to vitality of belief. There is a reason why employers and schools like taking on men who attained Eagle Scout. If they can manage to work to that lofty goal they are likely to be able to work towards others.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    My problem with this study is the same with any study that makes claims about Christians – how do you identify and categorize who is a Christian? Frequently, the measure used is the measure taught by the Romanists and the Calvinists, you identify the elect by their works of righteousness. I don’t blame the statisticians for do what they do, simply because I understand the difficulty we humans have in seeing the heart of the issue.

    Second, I am surprised our host did not pick up on this theological tidbit – the author of the book is seeking and/or presenting a theology of glory. Go to church regularly and protect your marriage. Is this not the essence of the theologian of glory seeking temporal blessings rather than the eternal assurance of the cross? Honestly, what he might be picking up is the fact that people who maintain a long term commitment to one relationship may likely manage to maintain other long term commitments which may not be at all related to vitality of belief. There is a reason why employers and schools like taking on men who attained Eagle Scout. If they can manage to work to that lofty goal they are likely to be able to work towards others.

  • http://journeytoluther.blogspot.com/ moallen

    As a forgiven sinner, I appreciate all the comments here pointing me back to the cross of Christ. I have been a hypocrite, BIG time. I cannot trust in myself one bit.

    I also appreciate the purely sociological aspects of this – the other side of the argument on this thread. I didn’t think we were the source of all evil /troubles in the world (or at least a good portion of it) as Christopher Hitchens claimed in “god is not good.”

    I think these two things represent a good balance – our good works, everything in us that is good comes through the blood of Christ. I should never glory in my or any Christian good works. I think that’s when the Church/Christians become particularly offensive to those who are not Christian – we’re see as part of the holy club, judging others. Nope, just a forgiven sinner, throwing myself on the mercy of Jesus.

  • http://journeytoluther.blogspot.com/ moallen

    As a forgiven sinner, I appreciate all the comments here pointing me back to the cross of Christ. I have been a hypocrite, BIG time. I cannot trust in myself one bit.

    I also appreciate the purely sociological aspects of this – the other side of the argument on this thread. I didn’t think we were the source of all evil /troubles in the world (or at least a good portion of it) as Christopher Hitchens claimed in “god is not good.”

    I think these two things represent a good balance – our good works, everything in us that is good comes through the blood of Christ. I should never glory in my or any Christian good works. I think that’s when the Church/Christians become particularly offensive to those who are not Christian – we’re see as part of the holy club, judging others. Nope, just a forgiven sinner, throwing myself on the mercy of Jesus.

  • Porcell

    While justifying grace is the most central doctrine of Christianity, it is mistake not to distinguish variable degrees of human ethics and behavior. We would do well to understand with Reinhold Niebuhr the inequality of guilt as well as the equality of sin.

    In a recent First Thingsarticle, the Missouri Synod Lutheran professor of church history, Gilbert Meilaender, remarked as follows on the subject of the inequality of guilt:

    If I am an inattentive, thoughtless, or even abusive husband and father—and my neighbor is just the opposite, an exemplary husband and father—what Lutheranism too often has to say to us is exactly the same: that before God we are sinners in need of justifying grace. And if I want help to become more like my exemplary neighbor, the message is likely to be precisely the same: that I am a sinner in need of grace.

    Brad Wright, the sociologist, does orthodox Christians a favor by rigorously analyzing the behavior of serious, church-going Christians compared to the rest of the population. Serious Christians should come away from this study better informed without necessarily developing a swollen head about it, protestations of the moralistic purists on this thread notwithstanding.

  • Porcell

    While justifying grace is the most central doctrine of Christianity, it is mistake not to distinguish variable degrees of human ethics and behavior. We would do well to understand with Reinhold Niebuhr the inequality of guilt as well as the equality of sin.

    In a recent First Thingsarticle, the Missouri Synod Lutheran professor of church history, Gilbert Meilaender, remarked as follows on the subject of the inequality of guilt:

    If I am an inattentive, thoughtless, or even abusive husband and father—and my neighbor is just the opposite, an exemplary husband and father—what Lutheranism too often has to say to us is exactly the same: that before God we are sinners in need of justifying grace. And if I want help to become more like my exemplary neighbor, the message is likely to be precisely the same: that I am a sinner in need of grace.

    Brad Wright, the sociologist, does orthodox Christians a favor by rigorously analyzing the behavior of serious, church-going Christians compared to the rest of the population. Serious Christians should come away from this study better informed without necessarily developing a swollen head about it, protestations of the moralistic purists on this thread notwithstanding.

  • http://journeytoluther.blogspot.com/ moallen

    One more thing I would note – a lot of times the idea that Christians are worse than the rest of culture is used precisely for a works righteousness message. I have heard it noted that the Christian divorce rate is worse than that of Atheists; therefore, we need to work harder! Christians need to be more righteous and transforming culture… we’re not doing it, and should feel guilty!! So the inverse of we’re righteous, is used to promote a message of get righteous! So understanding that this is not true, and knowing that it is a lie that Christians would be transforming the culture if only we worked harder on our own righteousness keeps us from buying the works righteousness message as well.

  • http://journeytoluther.blogspot.com/ moallen

    One more thing I would note – a lot of times the idea that Christians are worse than the rest of culture is used precisely for a works righteousness message. I have heard it noted that the Christian divorce rate is worse than that of Atheists; therefore, we need to work harder! Christians need to be more righteous and transforming culture… we’re not doing it, and should feel guilty!! So the inverse of we’re righteous, is used to promote a message of get righteous! So understanding that this is not true, and knowing that it is a lie that Christians would be transforming the culture if only we worked harder on our own righteousness keeps us from buying the works righteousness message as well.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Friends, a sociologist studies empirical data. I don’t know if this sociologist is a Christian or not, but it doesn’t matter to his findings. The question is, Do Christians get divorced at the same rate as non-Christians? That is a factual question, the possible answers being “yes” or “no.” This sociologist is criticizing the evangelical pollster George Barna, the source of many of these studies that show how far Christians fall below their principles. He does so for sociological reasons. I’m pretty sure this sociologist is not trying to promote a theology of glory or works righteousness or anything else. He is crunching numbers. That Christians who go to church do not get divorced at as high a rate as non-churchgoers, whether or not they have had a born again experience, should not be surprising. But to accuse this social scientist of having a theological axe to grind seems to be jumping to a number of conclusions.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Friends, a sociologist studies empirical data. I don’t know if this sociologist is a Christian or not, but it doesn’t matter to his findings. The question is, Do Christians get divorced at the same rate as non-Christians? That is a factual question, the possible answers being “yes” or “no.” This sociologist is criticizing the evangelical pollster George Barna, the source of many of these studies that show how far Christians fall below their principles. He does so for sociological reasons. I’m pretty sure this sociologist is not trying to promote a theology of glory or works righteousness or anything else. He is crunching numbers. That Christians who go to church do not get divorced at as high a rate as non-churchgoers, whether or not they have had a born again experience, should not be surprising. But to accuse this social scientist of having a theological axe to grind seems to be jumping to a number of conclusions.

  • SKPeterson

    It seems that what is missing in these analyses and comments is the concept of repentance and its relationship to curbing or perpetuating sinful behavior. However, repentance is not something that is a measurable quantity which can be easily assessed via the sociological methodology apparently used by the author.

    It does appear that the author set out to examine claims made by others (Barna et al) regarding the behaviors of self-identified Christians and find evidence to either validate or refute those prior claims. So, within this narrow context, he has done so. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • SKPeterson

    It seems that what is missing in these analyses and comments is the concept of repentance and its relationship to curbing or perpetuating sinful behavior. However, repentance is not something that is a measurable quantity which can be easily assessed via the sociological methodology apparently used by the author.

    It does appear that the author set out to examine claims made by others (Barna et al) regarding the behaviors of self-identified Christians and find evidence to either validate or refute those prior claims. So, within this narrow context, he has done so. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Grace

    Insightful piece in Christianity Today –

    NOTE: there are two pages

    Christianity Today

    Stop Browbeating

    The stats on evangelicalism are much better than you’ve been led to believe.

    Interview by Ted Olsen | posted 9/28/2010 09:22AM

    Young people are not abandoning church. Evangelical beliefs and practices get stronger with more education. Prayer, Bible reading, and evangelism are up. Perceptions about evangelicals have improved dramatically. The data are clear on these matters, says University of Connecticut sociologist Bradley Wright, but evangelicals still want to believe the worst statistics about themselves. Christianity Today’s Ted Olsen (who, among other things, compiles the Go Figure statistics in our Briefing section) talked to Wright about Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told (Bethany House), which aims to change conventional wisdom.

    Another excerpt _____

    QUESTION: “Why? Are the survey questions bad? Is the math wrong? Is it how the survey subjects are chosen? Is it the analysis? Or is it the way the numbers get used post-publication?”

    ANSWER: “All of the above, but especially the last two. Take the divorce rate. For years, studies have shown that Christians have lower divorce rates than others. But people aren’t interested. If you want to motivate people to take their marriages seriously, you look for a negative, scary statistic. Meanwhile, there’s so much good news in journals and academic books that isn’t getting through to the public.”

    Read the rest http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/september/33.83.html

  • Grace

    Insightful piece in Christianity Today –

    NOTE: there are two pages

    Christianity Today

    Stop Browbeating

    The stats on evangelicalism are much better than you’ve been led to believe.

    Interview by Ted Olsen | posted 9/28/2010 09:22AM

    Young people are not abandoning church. Evangelical beliefs and practices get stronger with more education. Prayer, Bible reading, and evangelism are up. Perceptions about evangelicals have improved dramatically. The data are clear on these matters, says University of Connecticut sociologist Bradley Wright, but evangelicals still want to believe the worst statistics about themselves. Christianity Today’s Ted Olsen (who, among other things, compiles the Go Figure statistics in our Briefing section) talked to Wright about Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told (Bethany House), which aims to change conventional wisdom.

    Another excerpt _____

    QUESTION: “Why? Are the survey questions bad? Is the math wrong? Is it how the survey subjects are chosen? Is it the analysis? Or is it the way the numbers get used post-publication?”

    ANSWER: “All of the above, but especially the last two. Take the divorce rate. For years, studies have shown that Christians have lower divorce rates than others. But people aren’t interested. If you want to motivate people to take their marriages seriously, you look for a negative, scary statistic. Meanwhile, there’s so much good news in journals and academic books that isn’t getting through to the public.”

    Read the rest http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/september/33.83.html

  • Grace

    Bradley R. Entner Wright
    Associate Professor of Sociology

    http://sociology.uconn.edu/faculty/wright.html

  • Grace

    Bradley R. Entner Wright
    Associate Professor of Sociology

    http://sociology.uconn.edu/faculty/wright.html

  • That Guy

    I find myself leaning more and more toward becoming Lutheran and I was curious if there is a cache of books such as what the Puritans put out and is now in the Puritan Paperback or Sola Deo Gloria publishing that is Lutheran.

  • That Guy

    I find myself leaning more and more toward becoming Lutheran and I was curious if there is a cache of books such as what the Puritans put out and is now in the Puritan Paperback or Sola Deo Gloria publishing that is Lutheran.

  • Stephen

    Dr. Veith, who do you think writes a product description that concludes thus:

    “Wright reveals to readers why and how statistics are distorted, and shows that God is still effectively working through his people today.”

    Would that be the publisher? That is a theological statement, and it is making a truth claim of a very particular kind. And who is that aimed at attracting? Maybe it is all marketing, but it sure seems to appeal to all the Christians who tout the merits of this study and its apparent implications. Church makes you better. He does use the work of Christian apologists like Mark Knoll of Wheaton and Christian Smith among others “liberally”as he says. He also thanks his bible study pals. That in and of itself may mean much or little, but why is it such a stretch to infer some sort of proof being offered here in the behavior of sinful people for the efficaciousness of Christian faith, something Lutherans ought to be wary of, or so it seems to me?

    And when people go to church with the mistaken belief that it will improve their life (the Joel Osteen idea) and it fails, what then? Faith is a consumer product for life improvement. Shop for the best brand that gets you what you want. See, now we have statistics. Is that the message to send? I have my doubts as to the purely academic curiosity at work here. The title itself speaks volumes. Does it somehow balance the truth scales in the culture wars? My sense is it will not change anyone’s mind, and so it has little value at all. It will likely only serve to affirm the false belief (on both sides) that good works are the measure of true faith.

    And I would bet money that if the stats went the opposite way there would be no end to the posts trying to prove the contrary by citing all kinds of examples of Christian charity and decrying the sociologist as a secularist. The defensiveness with which my comments are greeted would seem to bear this out, all to make certain that Christian truth is given its real credibility by what we can see and not what we believe, teach and confess about Christ.

  • Stephen

    Dr. Veith, who do you think writes a product description that concludes thus:

    “Wright reveals to readers why and how statistics are distorted, and shows that God is still effectively working through his people today.”

    Would that be the publisher? That is a theological statement, and it is making a truth claim of a very particular kind. And who is that aimed at attracting? Maybe it is all marketing, but it sure seems to appeal to all the Christians who tout the merits of this study and its apparent implications. Church makes you better. He does use the work of Christian apologists like Mark Knoll of Wheaton and Christian Smith among others “liberally”as he says. He also thanks his bible study pals. That in and of itself may mean much or little, but why is it such a stretch to infer some sort of proof being offered here in the behavior of sinful people for the efficaciousness of Christian faith, something Lutherans ought to be wary of, or so it seems to me?

    And when people go to church with the mistaken belief that it will improve their life (the Joel Osteen idea) and it fails, what then? Faith is a consumer product for life improvement. Shop for the best brand that gets you what you want. See, now we have statistics. Is that the message to send? I have my doubts as to the purely academic curiosity at work here. The title itself speaks volumes. Does it somehow balance the truth scales in the culture wars? My sense is it will not change anyone’s mind, and so it has little value at all. It will likely only serve to affirm the false belief (on both sides) that good works are the measure of true faith.

    And I would bet money that if the stats went the opposite way there would be no end to the posts trying to prove the contrary by citing all kinds of examples of Christian charity and decrying the sociologist as a secularist. The defensiveness with which my comments are greeted would seem to bear this out, all to make certain that Christian truth is given its real credibility by what we can see and not what we believe, teach and confess about Christ.

  • Stephen

    Reading the article Grace linked it would seem author does have an agenda of sorts – to boost evangelical self-esteem or something like that with this data. He also uses the pronouns “we” and “us” quite a bit so it seems he considers himself one of “them.”

    Do I have to have to point out why, even if this data is accurate, going about proving how faithful “we” are with statistics is idolatrous? Whether we do or do not do anything at all is meaningless for establishing the truth claims of Christian faith. They are established forever in Christ alone. Encouraging this kind of self-examination just feeds on itself and demands more works. It is looking for truth within the human and not in Christ alone. There is no Christian liberty here, only the law, which will always accuse.

  • Stephen

    Reading the article Grace linked it would seem author does have an agenda of sorts – to boost evangelical self-esteem or something like that with this data. He also uses the pronouns “we” and “us” quite a bit so it seems he considers himself one of “them.”

    Do I have to have to point out why, even if this data is accurate, going about proving how faithful “we” are with statistics is idolatrous? Whether we do or do not do anything at all is meaningless for establishing the truth claims of Christian faith. They are established forever in Christ alone. Encouraging this kind of self-examination just feeds on itself and demands more works. It is looking for truth within the human and not in Christ alone. There is no Christian liberty here, only the law, which will always accuse.

  • Grace

    Stephen,

    I agree with you to some extent. I tried to locate his church afflication, and found nothing. Does he hop from one church to another, trying to decide who is righteous, and who isn’t? It begins to sound, and appear like a test of the heart, which not one human being can determine.

    Yes they will know us by our fruit, however talking to someone, asking a few questions doesn’t always result in a correct answer.

    What purpose does this book serve, does it honor Christ?

  • Grace

    Stephen,

    I agree with you to some extent. I tried to locate his church afflication, and found nothing. Does he hop from one church to another, trying to decide who is righteous, and who isn’t? It begins to sound, and appear like a test of the heart, which not one human being can determine.

    Yes they will know us by our fruit, however talking to someone, asking a few questions doesn’t always result in a correct answer.

    What purpose does this book serve, does it honor Christ?

  • Stephen

    Well thanks Grace.

  • Stephen

    Well thanks Grace.

  • Booklover

    I fear I may have been the one to steer the conversation off in a funky direction. I made a quick comment before rushing off to play Brahm’s “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place” for the local school choir.

    Speaking of which, since Christians are the ones singing of hope and faith, why wouldn’t we be motivated to live our lives in a way that is honoring to the Saviour?

  • Booklover

    I fear I may have been the one to steer the conversation off in a funky direction. I made a quick comment before rushing off to play Brahm’s “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place” for the local school choir.

    Speaking of which, since Christians are the ones singing of hope and faith, why wouldn’t we be motivated to live our lives in a way that is honoring to the Saviour?

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    bob @ 22

    “Stephen,

    I think you’re overreaching. I’m a confessional Lutheran, too. But what’s wrong with a sociologist examining the church? Everything doesn’t have to be about the gospel.”

    Ok. That could sound Lutheran Bob. But you aren´t sounding like a confessional Lutheran. Everything DOES have to be about the Holy Gospel in that case. “In, with and under” is how that is done.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    bob @ 22

    “Stephen,

    I think you’re overreaching. I’m a confessional Lutheran, too. But what’s wrong with a sociologist examining the church? Everything doesn’t have to be about the gospel.”

    Ok. That could sound Lutheran Bob. But you aren´t sounding like a confessional Lutheran. Everything DOES have to be about the Holy Gospel in that case. “In, with and under” is how that is done.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Cincinatus @ 27

    “I don’t really understand the direction this thread has taken vis a vis the Gospel versus works. ”

    I believe you!!!!

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Cincinatus @ 27

    “I don’t really understand the direction this thread has taken vis a vis the Gospel versus works. ”

    I believe you!!!!

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Matt Cochran @ 30

    “It always amazes me how so many Lutherans can so confidently proclaim that there’s a difference between righteousness before God and righteousness before men, but then be so prone to assuming that nobody is ever talking about the latter–”

    Ok. So you don´t understand what “concupiscence” as defined by art II of the Apology is what you are saying. You understand that word in the Roman sense.

    “Concupiscence” in the Lutheran understanding is ALL about faith and righeousness. Understand that Lutheran distinction between Lutherans and Rome and you will get it Matt. ;)

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Matt Cochran @ 30

    “It always amazes me how so many Lutherans can so confidently proclaim that there’s a difference between righteousness before God and righteousness before men, but then be so prone to assuming that nobody is ever talking about the latter–”

    Ok. So you don´t understand what “concupiscence” as defined by art II of the Apology is what you are saying. You understand that word in the Roman sense.

    “Concupiscence” in the Lutheran understanding is ALL about faith and righeousness. Understand that Lutheran distinction between Lutherans and Rome and you will get it Matt. ;)

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    I would love to see a study of christian groups that focus on ministering to the homeless, drug addicts, mentally disturbed, alcoholics.

    What would such a study prove about christians?

    Ok. Let´s grant that the actual study was unbiased. That is not the way the book is marketed, and it is not the way anyone here is reading the results of the study.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    I would love to see a study of christian groups that focus on ministering to the homeless, drug addicts, mentally disturbed, alcoholics.

    What would such a study prove about christians?

    Ok. Let´s grant that the actual study was unbiased. That is not the way the book is marketed, and it is not the way anyone here is reading the results of the study.

  • Stephen

    Or let’s have a study about how Christians reacted to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. What would that reveal about contemporary Christian acts of mercy? How did regular church attendance influence this?

  • Stephen

    Or let’s have a study about how Christians reacted to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. What would that reveal about contemporary Christian acts of mercy? How did regular church attendance influence this?

  • Grace

    Stephen – 66

    “Or let’s have a study about how Christians reacted to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. What would that reveal about contemporary Christian acts of mercy? How did regular church attendance influence this?”

    We were living in the San Francisco area when the entire finally broke – no one really knew about AIDS – it was a very long piece in the Sunday Magazine of the San Francisco Chronicle. It went into detail, telling about the lifestyles of the homosexuals, their bath houses, etc., etc. At that time no one knew how to control the disease, or how one might otherwise contract the disease by other means than a sexual encounter. That was probably the most troubling thought on many minds, ‘how can we stop the disease, and keep ourselves and children from it’s death sentence’ ?

    Reading that story and its implications was dreadful. The men who were very ill, with almost no idea how to contain the disease or cure it.

    My husband and I talked about it all day. I called our pastors wife, she was shocked. As I remember, I was the first one to read the story first on that Sunday in our church.

    Shopping in San Francisco, I then saw the difference between healthy homosexuals and those who were sick, and perhaps dying. I remember clearly a man who worked in one of the restaurants that was very popular for lunch – he was very sick, he wore shoes that were more like slippers.

    Since there was no real information as to how it could spread to those who were not homosexual, most people were very leary of those who were sick. It’s like any other disease which no one knows the exact ways in which it is spread, especially when it has a death sentence attached to it. Of course all that became clearer as more scientific information became available.

  • Grace

    Stephen – 66

    “Or let’s have a study about how Christians reacted to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. What would that reveal about contemporary Christian acts of mercy? How did regular church attendance influence this?”

    We were living in the San Francisco area when the entire finally broke – no one really knew about AIDS – it was a very long piece in the Sunday Magazine of the San Francisco Chronicle. It went into detail, telling about the lifestyles of the homosexuals, their bath houses, etc., etc. At that time no one knew how to control the disease, or how one might otherwise contract the disease by other means than a sexual encounter. That was probably the most troubling thought on many minds, ‘how can we stop the disease, and keep ourselves and children from it’s death sentence’ ?

    Reading that story and its implications was dreadful. The men who were very ill, with almost no idea how to contain the disease or cure it.

    My husband and I talked about it all day. I called our pastors wife, she was shocked. As I remember, I was the first one to read the story first on that Sunday in our church.

    Shopping in San Francisco, I then saw the difference between healthy homosexuals and those who were sick, and perhaps dying. I remember clearly a man who worked in one of the restaurants that was very popular for lunch – he was very sick, he wore shoes that were more like slippers.

    Since there was no real information as to how it could spread to those who were not homosexual, most people were very leary of those who were sick. It’s like any other disease which no one knows the exact ways in which it is spread, especially when it has a death sentence attached to it. Of course all that became clearer as more scientific information became available.

  • Grace

    Stephen,

    How did your church react to AIDS? -

  • Grace

    Stephen,

    How did your church react to AIDS? -

  • Stephen

    Grace -

    How much scientific information was available in Jesus’ time about leprosy or in the middle ages about the Black Plague? Granted, I didn’t live in SF at the time, but I know for quite some time afterward people were abandoned in hospital rooms even when it was known that the disease could only be spread through the blood. There remains a stigma about it that the church has not gone to any great lengths to help remove but went to some lengths to help create.

    But the point is not to compare churches by what we do if that is what you think I mean (@68). Nor is it really to say specifically what anyone should or should not have done. It is to make the point that for every example of Christians who are merciful, there are going to be further examples where we fail, and it is not the proper basis for making Christian faith claims. Christ is where those claims are to be centered – what he has done for us and for all.

    There will also be examples of people outside the faith who do us one better. Elizabeth Taylor comes to mind at the moment. The AIDS crisis is and remains an example of where many people did both courageous and regrettable things. The people that stepped up did so out of whatever motivations they had. While I’m sure there were merciful and brave Christians who reached out and trusted God, Christians as a whole in no way out shined others there, and in many instances to this day show a real lack of concern about those who are stricken with the disease. If we had to rely on such evidence to make some kind of point about the benefits of our faith, something this study seems to be trying to do, in this case, I’d say we’ve utterly failed. And I include myself.

    But thank God that he makes goodness and mercy happen for those we ought to be showing love to even in spite of our sinfulness, because God is love. He will do it any way he has to, even without our cooperation. That is not to say we have no role to play. But it means he does not give up on us when we screw up. That is grace, Grace.

    Are you on that Nazi thing again (@35) ? C’mon, cut me some slack.

  • Stephen

    Grace -

    How much scientific information was available in Jesus’ time about leprosy or in the middle ages about the Black Plague? Granted, I didn’t live in SF at the time, but I know for quite some time afterward people were abandoned in hospital rooms even when it was known that the disease could only be spread through the blood. There remains a stigma about it that the church has not gone to any great lengths to help remove but went to some lengths to help create.

    But the point is not to compare churches by what we do if that is what you think I mean (@68). Nor is it really to say specifically what anyone should or should not have done. It is to make the point that for every example of Christians who are merciful, there are going to be further examples where we fail, and it is not the proper basis for making Christian faith claims. Christ is where those claims are to be centered – what he has done for us and for all.

    There will also be examples of people outside the faith who do us one better. Elizabeth Taylor comes to mind at the moment. The AIDS crisis is and remains an example of where many people did both courageous and regrettable things. The people that stepped up did so out of whatever motivations they had. While I’m sure there were merciful and brave Christians who reached out and trusted God, Christians as a whole in no way out shined others there, and in many instances to this day show a real lack of concern about those who are stricken with the disease. If we had to rely on such evidence to make some kind of point about the benefits of our faith, something this study seems to be trying to do, in this case, I’d say we’ve utterly failed. And I include myself.

    But thank God that he makes goodness and mercy happen for those we ought to be showing love to even in spite of our sinfulness, because God is love. He will do it any way he has to, even without our cooperation. That is not to say we have no role to play. But it means he does not give up on us when we screw up. That is grace, Grace.

    Are you on that Nazi thing again (@35) ? C’mon, cut me some slack.

  • Bob

    @36

    That Guy,

    Here are three books about Lutheranism that I think you’ll find helpful.

    “Spirituality of the Cross,” by Ed Veith, the distinguished owner of this blog.

    “The Defense Never Rests,” by Craig Parton.

    “Why I am a Lutheran: Jesus at the Center,” by Daniel Preus.

    You can obtain all three from Concordia Publishing House
    (www.cph.org)

    God bless you on your search!

  • Bob

    @36

    That Guy,

    Here are three books about Lutheranism that I think you’ll find helpful.

    “Spirituality of the Cross,” by Ed Veith, the distinguished owner of this blog.

    “The Defense Never Rests,” by Craig Parton.

    “Why I am a Lutheran: Jesus at the Center,” by Daniel Preus.

    You can obtain all three from Concordia Publishing House
    (www.cph.org)

    God bless you on your search!

  • Grace

    Stephen 69

    “How much scientific information was available in Jesus’ time about leprosy or in the middle ages about the Black Plague? Granted, I didn’t live in SF at the time, but I know for quite some time afterward people were abandoned in hospital rooms even when it was known that the disease could only be spread through the blood. There remains a stigma about it that the church has not gone to any great lengths to help remove but went to some lengths to help create.”

    Stephen, HIV/AIDS is spread through semen and blood -

    Stephen how long people lay in hospital rooms before they knew how the disease was spread, or if it was spread in other ways, took a few years.

    Do you know how it’s spread? - it’s mainly spread through semen, that is how male to male sexual relations are making this disease a disaster – it’s also spread through IV drug use.

    Check out this link: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/qa/transmission.htm

  • Grace

    Stephen 69

    “How much scientific information was available in Jesus’ time about leprosy or in the middle ages about the Black Plague? Granted, I didn’t live in SF at the time, but I know for quite some time afterward people were abandoned in hospital rooms even when it was known that the disease could only be spread through the blood. There remains a stigma about it that the church has not gone to any great lengths to help remove but went to some lengths to help create.”

    Stephen, HIV/AIDS is spread through semen and blood -

    Stephen how long people lay in hospital rooms before they knew how the disease was spread, or if it was spread in other ways, took a few years.

    Do you know how it’s spread? - it’s mainly spread through semen, that is how male to male sexual relations are making this disease a disaster – it’s also spread through IV drug use.

    Check out this link: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/qa/transmission.htm

  • Grace

    Bob – 70

    Where does the Bible come in? – can no one understand the Words of God Almighty? – do you think God was remiss in making HIS Gospel clear – sending HIS Son upon this earth, Apotles, and then you direct hungry searching people to a man, who was never an Apostle, … why is that?

    Is it Lutheranism or Christ that man seeks? – if it’s Christ, why not go to the source? HE is the fountain of life, no other but our LORD Jesus Christ.

  • Grace

    Bob – 70

    Where does the Bible come in? – can no one understand the Words of God Almighty? – do you think God was remiss in making HIS Gospel clear – sending HIS Son upon this earth, Apotles, and then you direct hungry searching people to a man, who was never an Apostle, … why is that?

    Is it Lutheranism or Christ that man seeks? – if it’s Christ, why not go to the source? HE is the fountain of life, no other but our LORD Jesus Christ.

  • Stephen

    C’mon Grace. I know that. If I had written “blood products” would that have pleased your inner editor? And there is a reason why it isn’t spread through saliva. Please don’t lecture me about AIDS. It still doesn’t answer the question. People were abandoned. There were a few willing to help them and others who headed for the hills. There are still Christians who stigmatize people with AIDS. Christians prove to be no more merciful as a whole than anyone else. It cannot be measured as gauge for how effective faith in Christ is in this world. Rather than talk about that, you usually look for some minor detail to correct in others like some school teacher.

    I wasn’t correcting you and you don’t need to correct me. I was clarifying what I was saying as you seem to think I was making some kind of comparison between what some kinds of Christians do and others don’t. No one is perfect. If we were, we wouldn’t need a savior. That is the point.

  • Stephen

    C’mon Grace. I know that. If I had written “blood products” would that have pleased your inner editor? And there is a reason why it isn’t spread through saliva. Please don’t lecture me about AIDS. It still doesn’t answer the question. People were abandoned. There were a few willing to help them and others who headed for the hills. There are still Christians who stigmatize people with AIDS. Christians prove to be no more merciful as a whole than anyone else. It cannot be measured as gauge for how effective faith in Christ is in this world. Rather than talk about that, you usually look for some minor detail to correct in others like some school teacher.

    I wasn’t correcting you and you don’t need to correct me. I was clarifying what I was saying as you seem to think I was making some kind of comparison between what some kinds of Christians do and others don’t. No one is perfect. If we were, we wouldn’t need a savior. That is the point.

  • Grace

    Stephen – 73

    This is what you wrote in post #69:
    ” Granted, I didn’t live in SF at the time, but I know for quite some time afterward people were abandoned in hospital rooms even when it was known that the disease could only be spread through the blood.”

    Now you write, post #73
    “C’mon Grace. I know that. If I had written “blood products” would that have pleased your inner editor? And there is a reason why it isn’t spread through saliva. Please don’t lecture me about AIDS.”

    I’m not lecturing you Stephen, I’m telling you how AIDS is spread. Check out the link I gave you from the CDC. AIDS is mainly spread, male to male through semen. I didn’t mention “saliva” which you did,…. you don’t need an editor, you need proper medical information on the spread of HIV/AIDS and the diseases those who have it then acquire.

    Helping those who either have the disease or who could acquire the disease is dependent upon not GETTING the disease in the first place, which means males not having sex with one another. That’s where they can HELP THEMSELVES. Blaming others for not helping them is not true, it’s a BLAME GAME.

    I was frequently on the floors of AIDS patients, it was difficult, they were very ill with diseases that anyone could get in a hospital. That means, every single person, in every line of work, doctors, RN’s, tech’s, maintenance, nurses aids, nursing station staff, pastors, anyone who was on those floors had to be very careful. It was not a case of their contracting AIDS, it was and is, the diseases that accompany it.

    Many people tried to help, and still do. You know not of what you speak. The hospitals had many AIDS patients. Sever cases of pneumonia, bronchitis, hepatitis, viral hepatitis (with hepatitis A, B or C viruses), cytomegalovirus (CMV), herpes simplex virus (HSV), herpes zoster (shingles), human papilloma virus (HPV), molluscum contagiosum, oral hairy leukoplakia and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) – many of these are highly contagious.

  • Grace

    Stephen – 73

    This is what you wrote in post #69:
    ” Granted, I didn’t live in SF at the time, but I know for quite some time afterward people were abandoned in hospital rooms even when it was known that the disease could only be spread through the blood.”

    Now you write, post #73
    “C’mon Grace. I know that. If I had written “blood products” would that have pleased your inner editor? And there is a reason why it isn’t spread through saliva. Please don’t lecture me about AIDS.”

    I’m not lecturing you Stephen, I’m telling you how AIDS is spread. Check out the link I gave you from the CDC. AIDS is mainly spread, male to male through semen. I didn’t mention “saliva” which you did,…. you don’t need an editor, you need proper medical information on the spread of HIV/AIDS and the diseases those who have it then acquire.

    Helping those who either have the disease or who could acquire the disease is dependent upon not GETTING the disease in the first place, which means males not having sex with one another. That’s where they can HELP THEMSELVES. Blaming others for not helping them is not true, it’s a BLAME GAME.

    I was frequently on the floors of AIDS patients, it was difficult, they were very ill with diseases that anyone could get in a hospital. That means, every single person, in every line of work, doctors, RN’s, tech’s, maintenance, nurses aids, nursing station staff, pastors, anyone who was on those floors had to be very careful. It was not a case of their contracting AIDS, it was and is, the diseases that accompany it.

    Many people tried to help, and still do. You know not of what you speak. The hospitals had many AIDS patients. Sever cases of pneumonia, bronchitis, hepatitis, viral hepatitis (with hepatitis A, B or C viruses), cytomegalovirus (CMV), herpes simplex virus (HSV), herpes zoster (shingles), human papilloma virus (HPV), molluscum contagiosum, oral hairy leukoplakia and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) – many of these are highly contagious.

  • Louis

    Grace @ 71 & @73 – I did check your link. Why did you feel the need to add “male to male ” in your comment? It is not in your source. And by adding that it appears as if you are saying that is mostly a male same-sex problem – which it is not. It might have been for a short time back in the eighties. We need to get off our soap boxes when dealing with these issues, and stick to the facts, as per your excellent link to the CDC.

  • Louis

    Grace @ 71 & @73 – I did check your link. Why did you feel the need to add “male to male ” in your comment? It is not in your source. And by adding that it appears as if you are saying that is mostly a male same-sex problem – which it is not. It might have been for a short time back in the eighties. We need to get off our soap boxes when dealing with these issues, and stick to the facts, as per your excellent link to the CDC.

  • Grace

    Louis – 75
    “Why did you feel the need to add “male to male ” in your comment?”

    The CDC report and LINK below might answer your question.

    CDC

    MEN who have sex with MEN (MSM)

    HIV among Gay, Bisexual and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM)

    Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM)1 represent approximately 2% of the US population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV and are the only risk group in which new HIV infections have been increasing steadily since the early 1990s. In 2006, MSM accounted for more than half (53%) of all new HIV infections in the United States, and MSM with a history of injection drug use (MSM-IDU) accounted for an additional 4% of new infections. At the end of 2006, more than half (53%) of all people living with HIV in the United States were MSM or MSM-IDU. Since the beginning of the US epidemic, MSM have consistently represented the largest percentage of persons diagnosed with AIDS and persons with an AIDS diagnosis who have died.

    The Numbers
    New HIV Infections
    *In 2006, more than 30,000 MSM and MSM-IDU were newly infected with HIV.

    <b?*Among all MSM, whites accounted for nearly half (46%) of new HIV infections in 2006. The largest number of new infections among white MSM occurred in those aged 30–39 years, followed by those aged 40–49 years.

    *Among all black MSM, there were more new HIV infections (52%) among young black MSM (aged 13–29 years) than any other racial or ethnic age group of MSM in 2006. The number of new infections among young black MSM was nearly twice that of young white MSM and more than twice that of young Hispanic/Latino MSM.

    *Among all Hispanic/Latino MSM in 2006, the largest number of new infections (43%) occurred in the youngest age group (13–29 years), though a substantial number of new HIV infections (35%) were among those aged 30–39 years.
    http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/msm/

  • Grace

    Louis – 75
    “Why did you feel the need to add “male to male ” in your comment?”

    The CDC report and LINK below might answer your question.

    CDC

    MEN who have sex with MEN (MSM)

    HIV among Gay, Bisexual and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM)

    Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM)1 represent approximately 2% of the US population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV and are the only risk group in which new HIV infections have been increasing steadily since the early 1990s. In 2006, MSM accounted for more than half (53%) of all new HIV infections in the United States, and MSM with a history of injection drug use (MSM-IDU) accounted for an additional 4% of new infections. At the end of 2006, more than half (53%) of all people living with HIV in the United States were MSM or MSM-IDU. Since the beginning of the US epidemic, MSM have consistently represented the largest percentage of persons diagnosed with AIDS and persons with an AIDS diagnosis who have died.

    The Numbers
    New HIV Infections
    *In 2006, more than 30,000 MSM and MSM-IDU were newly infected with HIV.

    <b?*Among all MSM, whites accounted for nearly half (46%) of new HIV infections in 2006. The largest number of new infections among white MSM occurred in those aged 30–39 years, followed by those aged 40–49 years.

    *Among all black MSM, there were more new HIV infections (52%) among young black MSM (aged 13–29 years) than any other racial or ethnic age group of MSM in 2006. The number of new infections among young black MSM was nearly twice that of young white MSM and more than twice that of young Hispanic/Latino MSM.

    *Among all Hispanic/Latino MSM in 2006, the largest number of new infections (43%) occurred in the youngest age group (13–29 years), though a substantial number of new HIV infections (35%) were among those aged 30–39 years.
    http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/msm/

  • Louis

    Ah, but I’m thinking internationally, with an emphasis on Africa, where I grew up. I’m sorry, I tend to assume that most people do that (think internationally), forgetting how myopic our southern neighbours are.. :)

  • Louis

    Ah, but I’m thinking internationally, with an emphasis on Africa, where I grew up. I’m sorry, I tend to assume that most people do that (think internationally), forgetting how myopic our southern neighbours are.. :)

  • Cincinattus

    Louis, what’s myopic about being more concerned with the problems and questions of our own (rather large) community than with those of a distant continent upon which the average person cannot (and perhaps ought not, at the expense of his own neighbors) have any meaningful impact?

  • Cincinattus

    Louis, what’s myopic about being more concerned with the problems and questions of our own (rather large) community than with those of a distant continent upon which the average person cannot (and perhaps ought not, at the expense of his own neighbors) have any meaningful impact?

  • Louis

    I understand what you are saying, Cincinattus. I was pulling Grace’s leg a bit there – but here’s the deal: I suspect that she is trying to score a point in the culture wars by highlighing that statistic in such a way, trying to score by forcing the discussion into a pet-issue discussion, that of homosexuality. That is rather cheap. And if one looks at the globe as a whole, it (the statistics she refers to) seems to be a regional phenomenon more than a Human phenomenon, thus it is useless as a point in the culture wars anyway.

    It is a similar trick as her “Luther was anti-semitic” trick, by bringing a completely different issue into the discussion, which is irrelevant to the discussion, and try and score points that way.

  • Louis

    I understand what you are saying, Cincinattus. I was pulling Grace’s leg a bit there – but here’s the deal: I suspect that she is trying to score a point in the culture wars by highlighing that statistic in such a way, trying to score by forcing the discussion into a pet-issue discussion, that of homosexuality. That is rather cheap. And if one looks at the globe as a whole, it (the statistics she refers to) seems to be a regional phenomenon more than a Human phenomenon, thus it is useless as a point in the culture wars anyway.

    It is a similar trick as her “Luther was anti-semitic” trick, by bringing a completely different issue into the discussion, which is irrelevant to the discussion, and try and score points that way.

  • Grace

    Louis – 77

    “Ah, but I’m thinking internationally, with an emphasis on Africa, where I grew up.”

    Look it up yourself – we were talking about the early eighties in this country, and the hospitals in THIS COUNTRY – we weren’t talking about Africa. AHHHHHHHH! LOL

  • Grace

    Louis – 77

    “Ah, but I’m thinking internationally, with an emphasis on Africa, where I grew up.”

    Look it up yourself – we were talking about the early eighties in this country, and the hospitals in THIS COUNTRY – we weren’t talking about Africa. AHHHHHHHH! LOL

  • Grace

    Louis,

    You aren’t pulling anyone’s leg – you are doing what you’re most famous for, and that’s switch and bait.

  • Grace

    Louis,

    You aren’t pulling anyone’s leg – you are doing what you’re most famous for, and that’s switch and bait.

  • Louis

    Grace – I thought you wrote the book on switch and bait? (No lol/smiley there).

    And, I acknowledged that I fell victim to my own assumption (and I pulled your leg at the same time, true). I guess you just had to ignore that and assume the worst, as usual.

  • Louis

    Grace – I thought you wrote the book on switch and bait? (No lol/smiley there).

    And, I acknowledged that I fell victim to my own assumption (and I pulled your leg at the same time, true). I guess you just had to ignore that and assume the worst, as usual.

  • Grace

    Poor Louis

  • Grace

    Poor Louis

  • Louis

    As to the SF – part, it appeared that the discussion had moved on from there to AIDS in general. I do apologise.

    BTW, AIDS isn’t spread. HIV is, which causes AIDS, but sometimes only after many years.

  • Louis

    As to the SF – part, it appeared that the discussion had moved on from there to AIDS in general. I do apologise.

    BTW, AIDS isn’t spread. HIV is, which causes AIDS, but sometimes only after many years.

  • Louis

    Ah, another standard Grace response @ 83!

  • Louis

    Ah, another standard Grace response @ 83!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think the more important question here is: At what point did “Cincinattus” (@78) start misspelling his own handle?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think the more important question here is: At what point did “Cincinattus” (@78) start misspelling his own handle?

  • Boolover

    Why tODD, whatever are you talking about? :-)

  • Boolover

    Why tODD, whatever are you talking about? :-)

  • Stephen

    Like the Rock Man said from the Harry Nilsson record “The Point” -

    “You see what you wanna see, and you hear what you wanna hear.”

    I think that goes double for Grace.

  • Stephen

    Like the Rock Man said from the Harry Nilsson record “The Point” -

    “You see what you wanna see, and you hear what you wanna hear.”

    I think that goes double for Grace.


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