Nominal Christians

In an article about sociologist Bradley Wright’s book  Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media journalist Adelle M. Banks discusses his findings that Christians who go to church regularly have lower divorce rates, contrary to the assertion of other researchers that Christians have the same divorce rate as everybody else.

We’ve talked about that topic, but what I’d like us to consider is another issue raised in the story:

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, agrees there’s been some confusion.

“You do hear, both in Christian and non-Christian circles, that Christians are no different from anyone else when it comes to divorce and that is not true if you are focusing on Christians who are regular church attendees,” he said.

Wilcox’s analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households has found that Americans who attend religious services several times a month were about 35 percent less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation.

Less active conservative Protestants, on the other hand, were 20 percent more likely to divorce than the religiously unaffiliated.

“There’s something about being a ‘nominal Christian’ that is linked to a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life,” Wilcox said.

via Christians question conventional wisdom on divorce –

“Nominal Christians.”   We often say that churches are full of nominal Christians.  But it is probably more to the point that nominal Christians–including many who would classify themselves as “born again” and “conservative”–do not generally go to church.  They are Christians in name only, as opposed to Christians, whatever their faults, who attend worship services where, to whatever measure, they seek God and receive His Word.  That’s not being “nominal.”

There is no longer any cultural pressure to attend church, as there once was, and indeed the cultural pressure is in the other direction.  So those who are in church, I would argue, on some level, really mean it.

I wish I knew more about what Wilcox says about “a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life” that are associated with “nominal Christians.”  I suppose someone who is Christian in name only may well consider himself or herself married in name only, carrying over the tendency for superficial commitment in all relationships, with spouse as well as with God.

Can anyone fill in what Wilcox says?

Bungling the War in Libya?

Why are so many conservatives against the new war in Libya, liberals are asking, their assumption being that conservatives like war.   Well, one thing that bothers those who believe in following the Constitution is that President Obama has gone to war at the behest of the United Nations.  But he has not so much as asked Congress, which the Constitution explicitly gives the authority to declare war (even though presidents lately of both parties have flouted that Constitutional requirement).   Are we ruled by the UN now?

Meanwhile, it appears that the coalition enforcing the no fly zone by attacking flying objects such as tanks and infantry columns, is also unraveling.  NO ONE wants to lead the operation.  President Obama specifically said he didn’t want the United States to lead it.  The other countries say NATO should run it.  NATO says it doesn’t want to.  How we can prosecute a war without operational or political leadership is beyond me.

Another issue is “mission creep,” as people are trying to change the goal from preventing Libyan aircraft from flying (a goal pretty much accomplished) to helping the rebels, to killing Gaddafi, to building Libya into a democracy.


Libya: Obama’s ‘coalition of the unwilling’ asks does the West have the right to kill Gaddafi? | Mail Online.

Filming begins on “The Hobbit”

After one problem after another, including labor troubles in New Zealand, the movie version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit has gotten underway. The film will be shown in two parts, beginning in late 2012.

The prequel to The Lord of the Rings features lots of the people who made the earlier trilogy, including director Peter Jackson.  Also reprising their roles will be the actors who played Gandalf, Frodo, Gollum, and Galadriel.  Martin Freeman will play Bilbo Baggins:


Martin Freeman



BBC News – Hobbit filming finally under way.

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 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.


And now .xxx

There will now be a new domain name just for pornography:  .xxx.  However, pornography will still continue to populate the .coms and every other domain also.  The big opponents:  The porn industry, which knows that the creation of an internet red light district will mean their product be easier to block:

On Friday in San Francisco, the California nonprofit that oversees Internet addresses gave the green light to the virtual red-light district. The vote comes after several years of clashes and deliberations by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers.

Adult-entertainment sites will still populate the .com space and every other corner of the Internet. But now, many pornographic sites can also join a specialized domain that instantly telegraphs its content with the infamous suffix. ICM Registry, a Florida-based company that will run .xxx, said the domain’s Web sites will be the Internet’s most trusted place for adult entertainment: ICM will monitor the sites to ensure that they prohibit spam, viruses and any other illegal behavior. And it says it will use some of the registration fees for an affiliated foundation to promote free speech and combat child pornography.

“At the moment, the consumer has no way of knowing who is operating to good standards or has viruses,” Stuart Lawley, ICM Registry’s chairman and chief executive, said in an interview. “This new domain allows webmasters to associate with best business practices.”

But the dirty domain has a slew of critics. The Obama administration and some foreign nations say the domain’s offensive material will only encourage oppressive regimes to block .xxx entirely. A Commerce Department spokeswoman said the administration neither supports nor objects to the domain’s actual content or merit.

“We are disappointed that ICANN ignored the clear advice of governments worldwide, including the U.S.,” said Lawrence Strickling, assistant Commerce secretary. “This decision goes against the global public interest, and it will open the door to more Internet blocking by governments and undermine the stability and security of the Internet.”

Another set of foes, oddly enough: major pornography industry players, who fear that .xxx will be easily vulnerable to governments’ censorship. They also are concerned about aggressive policing by ICM and worry that porn Web sites will be forced to pay thousands of dollars in registration fees to buy multiple .xxx addresses simply to protect their brands from cybersquatters.

“This is putting a red target on us,” said Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association representing multiple adult-entertainment organizations including Hustler. “People who are pedophiles and child pornographers are not part of the adult-entertainment system. We have a code of ethics.

via Coming soon online: Dot-XXX – The Washington Post.

Right.  Anyway, pro-family groups also tend to oppose this, I suppose because it seems to legitimize pornography.  It seems that if porn will continue to operate from it current .com sites, this will do little one way or the other.  And if pornographers oppose it, they have no reason to put their material on .xxx sites.  If porn could be all moved to the .xxx sites, would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

Black swans

In the new words department:

The disaster bureaucrats talk about black swans: calamities from out of the blue, terrible and strange. The world is now transfixed by the black swan disaster of Japan — an earthquake larger than seismologists thought could happen in that part of the country, leading to a tsunami too big for the sea walls, and now a nuclear crisis that wasn’t supposed to be possible.

via Japan’s ‘black swan’: Scientists ponder the unparalleled dangers of unlikely disasters – The Washington Post.

I like new terms that are not mere abstractions but vivid images.  “Black swan” gives us a picture of something that is very unlikely, but that occasionally, creepily, happens.  (It turns out, though, that there is a whole species of black swans in Australia that wasn’t discovered until the 18th century.)

See this for “black swan events”

Karl Popper uses the example of a black swan to show how, contrary to naive scientism, you can’t jump from the observation of particulars to make universal conclusions, but how particulars are useful to meet the criterion of falsifiability.

Then there is the ballet movie Black Swan, which plays off of some imagery in Tschaikovsky’s Swan Lake , but that’s different, positing in the white swan and the black swan a contrast between purity and sensuality.

Now that we apparently have a new word, what are some other rare, unexpected, and weird calamities that would qualify as black swans?