Garrison Keillor and the test of a good religion

Garrison Keillor has stepped away from Prairie Home Companion.  Ethan McCarthy discusses his depiction of the Midwest and its values, which Keillor loves, though he often finds them annoying.  But you’ve got to read what McCarthy says about Keillor’s depiction of the church and Christianity (excerpted and linked after the jump), which, I suspect, many of you will relate to.

McCarthy closes with a quotation from G. K. Chesterton:  “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” [Read more…]

New study on church-going has surprises

Pew Research has released a new study on church-going, including why people leave, how they choose a new congregation, and why people don’t attend.  Read the study here.

The reason lots of people have stopped going to church, it turns out, is not so much that they are rejecting religion in favor of scientific materialism.  Rather, the logistics of getting up on Sunday and organizing themselves and the family for a trip to church is just too difficult.

The main reason people choose a new congregation is not disagreement with the pastor of the old one (a reason given only by 11%), but because they have moved.  The factor that is most influential in choosing a new congregation?  The pastor’s sermons.

There are other surprises:  denominational loyalty is still an important factor; while many people attend church less, almost 25% of Americans are attending church more.

Take a look at the study and then read an analysis of the findings by Emma Green in the Atlantic, excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more…]

The Communion of the Saints

The body consists of innumerable cells.  Each of these has its own distinct life–its own systems of nutrition, reproduction, and protection–and yet these cells group together to form highly specialized organs that, in turn, make up a single body.  The whole scheme, with its incredibly complex relationship of the parts to the whole and the whole to the parts, is astonishing to contemplate.  And the makeup of the body is the Bible’s explanation for the Church and for the relationship each Christian has with the others. This is the “Communion of the Saints” that we celebrated yesterday on All Saints Day. [Read more…]

Being Christian without believing in God

In Judaism, it’s fairly common to hear, “I’m an atheist, but I’m culturally Jewish.”  So why can’t a person be an atheist but culturally Christian?

It turns out that some people like going to church–singing hymns, performing rituals, being part of a community, getting morally inspired–but they have trouble with the God part.  An op-ed by Alana Massey calls for churches to make a space for unbelievers who nevertheless want to be “cultural Christians.” [Read more…]

Who the unchurched really are

Most evangelism programs, church growth tactics, and other attempts to reach the “unchurched” concentrate on Millennials, young urbanites, college types, and the suburban middle class.  But, as Robert Putnam reminds us, the demographic that is the most unchurched is the working class, the lower income non-college-educated folks.  A big segment of these blue-collar workers has just stopped going to church.  They are also, with the personal and family problems that Putnam documents, arguably, most in need of ministry.  This is ironic, since the working class used to be the biggest supporters of conservative Christianity.  And yet, I’m unaware of any concerted effort to reach them, other than individual pastors in these communities doing what they can. [Read more…]

Why the family & the church are prior to the state

In the context of a discussion of the movie The Wolf of Wall Street,  Dr. Jack Kilcrease discusses Luther’s concept of the “Orders of Creation” (in each of which we have vocations).  God established the family (the marriage of Adam & Eve) and the church (ordering His relationship with Adam & Eve) BEFORE the Fall.  God established the state AFTER the Fall, as a response to human sin, which now needs to be restrained for society to be possible.   Thus, the church and the family are more basic to human existence in God’s design than the state.  When these orders get confused–as when the state takes the place of the church and the family–trouble ensues. [Read more…]


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