Seven reasons to rejoice today

Today is Ascension Day, a major festival of the church year–on a par with Christmas and Easter–but it doesn’t get much attention these days.  Prof.  Joel Biermann of Concordia Seminary gives us “seven reasons to rejoice on Ascension Day.”
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New study shows percentage of Christians declining

The Pew Research Center has released a new study of American religion.  In 2007, the date of its previous research, the percentage of Christians was 78%.  By 2014, the percentage dropped to 70%.   The percentage of those with no religious affiliation has shot up from 16% to 23%.  (Atheists have gone from 1.6% to 3.1%.)

Much of the decline in the number of Christians has come from dwindling mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics.  Evangelicals (and the study explicitly puts the LCMS in this category) are holding pretty steady.  Though declines are evident across regions, ages, and other demographics, the study says much of it can be accounted for by the Millennial Generation.  A link to the study, which has lots more fascinating details, after the jump. [Read more...]

An AARP for kids

A California group has announced that it intends to become an “AARP for kids.”  I don’t think that means getting children discounts at Denny’s.  The goal will be to lobby for children’s rights.

I don’t know the ideology of this particular organization.  Will they lobby for children’s right to be brought up by their mother and their father?  Or will they lobby for children’s rights over and against their parents’ rights?  Will they lobby against abortion and other kinds of infanticide?  Somehow I don’t think so.

But I predict that the next battle line in the war against the family will be liberating children from the authority of their parents.  Watch for anti-spanking laws (which other Western countries already have) and the rhetoric that will go with them to demonize anyone who dares to disagree with them. (“What?  You want it to be legal to hit children?”) [Read more...]

Obama and Republicans lose on free trade bill

A major priority for President Obama is the passage of the Pacific trade accord, a free trade bill that would open up markets in Asia.  But a proposal to fast-track the treaty–allowing a single up-or-down vote, rather than risking death by a thousand amendments–was defeated in the Senate.  All but one Republican took the President’s side, but all but one Democrat voted against him.  The measure fell short of the 60 votes it needed.  Lots of interesting issues here, which I raise after the jump.

UPDATE:  A deal seems to have been struck that will give the bill another shot.

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“The smartest human being” on sin and grace

More from  David Brooks, two interviews in which he talks about what he learned from St. Augustine, “the smartest human being I’ve ever encountered in any form.”  Specifically, that would his concept of sin as disordered love and the Christian concept of grace.

St. Augustine is, indeed, a brilliant thinker.  You don’t have to agree with him on every point–though he is one of the few theologians claimed both by Catholics and Protestants–but his writings have a magisterial logic, a psychological sensitivity,  and a startling depth of spiritual insight.  Luther, remember, was an Augustinian monk, and Augustine is noted for his emphasis, like that of the Reformers, on the grace of God.  In my view, he is more Platonic and thus ascetic than he should be.  Can any of you address the points on which Lutherans–as well as other traditions–agree and disagree with this church father?

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Is the religous right finished?

Are religious conservatives finished as a political and cultural force?  Not at all, argues David French, responding to someone who claims that Mike Huckabee’s inevitable defeat will put the nails in the coffin of the Christian right.

French says that Christian conservatives don’t have to vote for Huckabee because every other Republican candidate are claiming their issues.  Furthermore, back in the Sixties, the left had essentially taken over America’s churches, but now the mainstream theological liberals have dwindled to near insignificance, while evangelicals and other theological conservatives dominate American Christianity and have had a cultural impact, especially on life issues.

Read his argument after the jump.  Is he right or wrong?  Or only partially right or partially wrong? [Read more...]


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