Embedded religion vs. movement religion



Walther League 1928I’ve been reading Kenneth L. Woodward’s Getting Religion:  Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama.  I’ll be publishing a review of it for the Concordia Historical Institute Journal.  Woodward was the religion editor of Newsweek for nearly four decades before his retirement, an old-school journalist who is widely respected from all sides.  He treats the developments in American religion since the end of World War II as a historian but also as a first hand witness who came to know many of the players and covered the key stories of that tumultuous period.

He distinguishes between “embedded religion” and “movement religion.” [Read more…]

Why is the left so sympathetic to Islam?

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Why are liberals and leftists always defending Islam?

They have nothing but scorn for Christians who oppose the LGBT agenda.  But Muslims oppose the LGBT agenda even more.  To the point, in many Islamic countries, of killing gays.

Feminists attack Christianity for its alleged mistreatment of women.  But Islam treats women far, far worse than anything seen in the West.

Similarly, Muslims in general support traditional sexual morality and oppose abortion.  And, unlike Christians, in Islamic countries, they would likely punish the leftists who are agreeing with them for their secularism and unbelief.

When a terrorist turns out to be a Muslim, those on the left make a point of saying that we shouldn’t blame all Muslims, which is true enough.  And yet when a Christian does something that offends them, they don’t make the same caution against over-generalization about Christianity.  Indeed, they often tar all Christians with the same brush.

ANOTHER THOUGHT:  The left is worried that Christians are going to establish a theocracy.  But establishing societies ruled by the Q’uran is a major goal of Islam, and Islamic States really are theocracies.

The left is always on the alert for  “Islamaphobia.”  While being oblivious to their own “Christophobia.”

Why is this?  Michael Brown, excerpted after the jump, raises these questions.  He doesn’t really have an answer for them.

I suspect the left’s tradition of anti-colonialism is part of the answer, but it can hardly account for the continuation of these sentiments in the new post-Marxist climate of gender politics.

I realize the question could be turned around:  Why don’t Christians ally themselves with Muslims, since they agree on all of this retrograde morality?

Secularists, assuming all religions are just about morality and are thus all the same,  can’t understand religious differences.  Islam is a religion of pure Law, with no Gospel of grace, redemption, and forgiveness.  So, for Christians, whose faith is built on the Gospel, see a vast chasm between them.  (Though liberal Christians who have replaced the Gospel of salvation for a social gospel built on politics and moralism do have that liberal sympathy.)

Can anyone explain this phenomenon? [Read more…]

Trump’s world-religion tour

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Donald Trump is on his first international trip as president, and he has an ambitious agenda.  He is visiting the homelands of three world religions that have often been in contention with each other:  Islam, Israel, and Rome.

This weekend he was in Saudi Arabia, where he gave a rather impressive speech about Islam (see our post about it) and signed deals for weapons and other investments worth as much as $350 billion.  (Prompting questions about whether we should be so tight with such an authoritarian regime.)

Today he is in Israel.  On Wednesday he will meet with the Pope.

Then the theme will shift to global military and economic issues. Thursday he’ll be in Brussels to meet with NATO.  Friday he’ll be in Sicily for the G7 summit of leaders of the world’s biggest economies.

His purpose in the religion tour, according to the White House, is to “broadcast a message of unity” to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Here is a useful day-by-day breakdown of the trip, giving the context, goals, and what could go wrong.

Do you think President Trump can pull off all of this diplomacy?

[Read more…]

5 more arguments for the existence of God

 

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St. Thomas Aquinas famously formulated 5 arguments for the existence of God.  Robert H. Nelson has formulated 5 more, reflecting modern modes of thinking.

They have to do with (1) the mystery of why mathematics, a mental construction,  applies so completely in the physical world; (2) the mystery of human consciousness; (3) new issues in evolutionary biology; (4) that revolutionary ideas have tended to occur separately but at the same time;  (5) the phenomenon of different forms of worship (including the way even non-religious ideologies such as Marxism assume religious forms).  These all suggest the existence of a mind behind the universe.

More details on these arguments after the jump.  See also Nelson’s book,  God?  Very Probably:  Five Rational Ways to Think about the Question of a God.

Now I’m not sure such arguments, while interesting, get us very far.  They don’t get us to the incarnation of this God, or to His act of atonement on the Cross, or to His resurrection from the dead.

Faith is a curious kind of thing,” the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Faith is a gift.  As the great thinker  J. G. Hamann said when his friend Immanuel Kant tried to argue him out of his conversion, you can’t argue me out of my faith because I was never argued into my faith.  Faith is a kind of revelation, the personal impact of the Word of Law and Gospel, so it’s very real, hard to shake, and yet a different kind of thing than the conclusion of a rational argument.

And yet, I do think apologetics can be helpful in clearing away obstacles and in reminding us all that Christian faith is connected to objective truth.

 

[Read more…]

The 221 religions

V&A_-_Raphael,_St_Paul_Preaching_in_Athens_(1515)The United States military has nearly doubled its list of recognized religions to 221.

The list includes the various forms of neo-paganism, which is as sectarian as any other religion:  Druids, Heathens, Pagans, Shamans, Magick & Spiritualists, Wicca, Seax Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, etc.   But Satanists did not make the list.

The new list includes the various kinds of unbelief:  Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Deists, No Religion.

The earlier list had the one category “Jewish,” but this one usefully breaks down that religion into its  “Reform,” “Conservative,” and “Orthodox” strains.  Hasidic Jews are not listed, but Messianic Jews are.

It lists “Islam” as one group, but ignores the distinction between “Shi’ite” and “Sunni,” despite the current conflict between those two sects, which would seem to be important for our military to be aware of.

The Lutheran list is all confused.  “Lutheran Church in America,” “American Lutheran Church,” and the “American Evangelical Lutheran Church” are listed, though they no longer exist, having merged into the “Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” (listed).  “The Lutheran Council in the USA”–never a church, just an organization of churches– is also defunct, having shut down in 1988.  More recent organizations are not listed.  Nor is the North American Lutheran Church, which broke away from the ELCA.

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is on the list, but not the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church or the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.  And yet smaller Lutheran groups, such as the Free Lutherans and the American and the Independent Lutherans, are on the list.  There is a category for “Lutheran Churches, Other.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if other traditions are similarly garbled.  So the list falls short of being a comprehensive catalog of American religions.  But it’s interesting nonetheless.

How this list will be used is unclear.  Expect an initiative to provide religious support for all of these groups, and expect Christian chaplains to be pressured accordingly.  Read this article about the list and see our post on religion in the military.

Read the whole list after the jump.

[Read more…]

Believing, behaving, belonging

41d5clt3VoL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_The Pew Study of religious belief in former Communist countries that we blogged about recently cites a scholar who breaks down religious involvement into three factors:  “Believing. Behaving. Belonging.”

A religion entails believing in certain things.  “Behaving” refers not so much to moral behavior–though acting in accord with what one’s religion teachers is surely an important factor–but to religious behavior, such as attending church, praying, etc.  “Belonging” refers to membership in a religious community, as in belonging to a church and holding to a particular religious identity.

The major insight from this breakdown is that people around the world often approach their religion in at least one of these ways, but not always in all three of them.

In the former Communist countries, people “believe” and “belong,” but they do not “behave.”  That is, they affirm Christian teachings and consider membership in a church extremely important, but they hardly ever actually go to church or practice other religious “behavior.”

In Scandinavia, as I have been learning, despite the presence of intensely Christian individuals who do all three, the majority of people do not “believe” (the rates of atheism and agnosticism are very high), nor do they “behave” (seldom attending religious services).  But they do “belong,” as rates of church membership–church tax and all–remains very high.

In East Asian Buddhism, many people do not believe in their religion, nor do they belong to a religious community.  But they do “behave” in accord with the religion, going to the temple and performing the rituals and sacrifices.

Many Americans “believe” but neither “belong” to a church nor “behave” by attending one.

Liberal Christians “belong” and “behave” in their mainline denominations without actually “believing.”

Some say that these can be put into an order according to which people can be drawn into the church, though opinions differ on what the order is.  Might “belonging” eventually lead to “belief”?  Or does “belief” lead to “belonging”?  (See Roger Olsen’s  discussion.)

What are some other applications? How can this breakdown help us in reaching the “unchurched” and in discipling the “churched”?  Or is this merely a sociological account of religion that has little to do with actual faith? [Read more…]