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Bush, Faith, and the Culture

Last week President Bush was interviewed by Cynthia McFadden for ABC’s Nightline. The interview was intended to specifically focus on the President’s beliefs in regard to his Christian faith. His answers to some of those questions proved to be quite controversial; particularly among conservatives and evangelicals. [CLICK HERE OR ON PHOTO TO VIEW NIGHTLINE INTERVIEW]

Here are some comments from bloggers and online media sources that are reflective of some of the responses being generated by the Nightline interview:

“All it [the interview] proves to me is that Bush is an intellectual lightweight who doesn't have the capacity to defend his own faith.”

“I kinda think that Bush has lost his first love from being around political Washington too long; that is, if he was ever truly born again as claimed.”

“I honestly do not think President Bush intended to do this or meant what he said. At least, I hope he didn't. I do believe that this entire interview put tremendous pressure on Mr. Bush…

Coming Soon to a Bus Near You

Atheism, the belief there is no God, is still a view held by a few Americans. In fact, according to a June 2008 survey by the Pew Forum, only 1.6 percent of Americans identify themselves as Atheists. However, though small in number, this is becoming an increasingly vocal group with an apparent interest in growing their number.
In October, British atheists announced a plan to place advertising posters on London buses proclaiming, “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” A website was set up to take donations and within a very short time over $80,000 had been donated to the effort.
Richard Dawkins, an Oxford Professor and author of the bestselling The God Delusion, pledged to match all donations up to 5,500 pounds (approximately $9,300). Dawkins, who is a member of the British Humanist Association (atheists also refer to themselves as humanists), said, “This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema t…
Okay, I admit it. I have been remiss in posting to this blog on a timely basis.

Do I have an excuse? You betcha!

Is it a good one? I don't know, let me try it out.

Earlier this year, I was approached by Dr. Bob Terry, the editor of the Alabama Baptist Newspaper, with an idea he had for a series of articles to help their readers understand more about the diversity of religious sects in our nation. This was to be an eleven week series and he asked if I would be willing to write the articles. I agreed to take that on and, while it has been a great ministry project and well received, it has also taken up a lot of the time I have allocated to writing. Thus, a decrease in attention to this blog.

To make amends, here are links to the first six articles (maybe these should count as six blog posts, which would mean I haven't been remiss in my blogging after all):

Spiritual Buffet

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Christian Science

Atheists and Agnostics

Scientol…

Say It Ain't So Reba!

Grammy award winning, country singer, Reba McEntire has had numerous hit records. She’s been in movies, had her own television show, and has several product lines she endorses. Without question, she presents that down-home country likability. In fact, you might say she’s everyone’s “country darling”.

However, even she must realize that what she confessed to believe, during a recent interview in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette (Oct 16), will be so startling to many that it will dramatically change how they regard her. The interview starts out innocently enough, with her talking about her sitcom, movies, and even her foray into horse racing.
She even gives a nod to God acknowledging her talent is, “a gift from God”. And that if she didn’t use it, she, “wouldn’t blame Him one bit if he took it away and gave it to someone else”.
Nothing all that controversial so far. However, her answer when asked to reveal a secret for her fans will surprise many of them. The “secret” seems innocent enough wh…

Crosswinds in the Military

Our country has been involved in the war in Iraq since 2003. This war and our military are constantly on the minds and hearts of the American people. It has also been a topic of debate during this presidential election, revealing just how strongly Americans disagree about the war.

Even if we may disagree about the war, we all agree that our service men and women have done a magnificent job and we are indebted to them for their service. And though we are aware of the duty they are performing and are glad to hear of their many successes and are pained by the too many losses of loved ones; I think we, too often forget the intangible personal costs and struggles they are experiencing, such as those involving spiritual issues.

Being in the military, especially in an active conflict, probably heightens one's awareness of such issues. Also, we shouldn’t forget our soldiers come from a country that developed out of a Christian culture and now serve in a theater were the religion of Islam is…

Got Some Cheetos? Blog Me!

It has been a few weeks since I opened a bag of Cheetos (a must have for bloggers according to Joe Scarborough), got out my computer and wrote on my blogspot. It’s not that there hasn’t been anything of cultural importance occurring during the past few weeks (quite the contraire); I’ve just been tied up with other writing and organizational projects and plans.

For example, I have been asked by the Alabama Baptist to write an eleven week series of articles on pseudo-Christian religious groups and worldviews. The series includes how to recognize and respond to such groups and includes articles on: Scientology, Mormonism, Christian Science, Atheism, New Age, Jehovah's Witnesses, Agnosticism, Word-Faith Movement, Wicca and the Occult. The series begins next week and can be read online the following week.

In addition to this, the front page of our website is now online so you can view it. I am furiously in the process of writing content so all the links can be activated and in the next f…

Running With Scissors

Everyone knows what not to do if you are holding scissors – run! It seems we all have that valuable piece of information in our database because it was drilled into us as children by every adult who saw us holding a pair of scissors. “Don’t run with those scissors in your hands!” It is right up there with, “You’ll put your eye out!”, as one of the most popular warnings for kids.

Now that I have kids, I have even issued both warnings myself, on occasion. In fact, in writing this I asked my 13 year-old, “What should you not do if you have scissors in your hands?” His immediate reply was, “Run!” Apparently, my wife and I have successfully parented in that area.

It is not that scissors are inherently dangerous. In fact, they are quite useful and harmless if used wisely and, especially for children, with proper supervision. So, why my sudden interest in scissor safety? Well, blame it on one of the subjects of my last entry – Oprah.

Now, I don’t want to just make this a blog about Oprah, but w…

Branded By Oprah

How well have you been “branded”? Not branded like cattle in a Western movie, but able to recall the slogans, jingles, and logos that companies bombard us with daily in order to “brand” their product into our life.

See if you can name the products that go with the following advertising slogans/campaigns: (You can check your answers at the end of today’s entry.)

1. “They’re Grrreaaat!”
2. “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”
3. “A little dab’ll do you.”
4. “It’s the real thing!”
5. “Finger Lickin’ Good!”
6. “For those who think young!”
7. “Just Do It!”
8. “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is!”
9. “Where’s the beef?”
10. “The Quicker Picker-Upper!”
11. Ask any mermaid, you happen to see, “What’s the best tuna?”
12. Double your pleasure, double your fun.

Even though some of these slogans haven’t been used for decades, they became so embedded in the culture that many of us still remember the commercial and/or jingle that contained the slogan. If you fall into the category of those who coul…

Holy Book! Does This Feel Good?

This month the Barna Research Group released the results of a recent poll concerning what books Americans consider to be “sacred/holy” texts. Their findings aren’t all that surprising when considered in light of the findings of other researchers regarding Americans and their faith, religious, and/or spiritual beliefs; namely, that while we are becoming an increasingly pluralistic society, Americans tend to cling to a “cultural” Christianity.

Barna found that only one book was considered a sacred/holy text by more than five percent of those polled – the Bible. In fact, eighty four percent included it as sacred literature (the same percentage as those identifying themselves to be Christian.) Only three other books were listed by more than one percent of respondents, with the highest being the Koran, at four percent. The other two were the Book of Mormon, at three percent, and the Torah, at two percent.

Obviously, these numbers pale in comparison to that of the Bible; but, despite their lo…

The Silence is Deafening

Our judicial system continues to turn a deaf ear to States that try to return prayer to our public schools by beginning the school day with a moment of silence. The Courts take this posture despite the fact that each day it is in session the U.S. Congress is opened with a verbal prayer. Illinois, the state of Presidential candidate Barack Obama, is the latest to feel the Courts' indignation over having a moment of silence.

Last October the Illinois’ state legislature passed a law requiring a moment of silence in public school. Suit was promptly filed by an atheist challenging the law on the basis of the First Amendment establishment of religion clause, which prohibits the establishment of a State religion. The case is in the U.S. District Court, and though the Court has not yet issued a formal ruling, it has found that the law is “probably” unconstitutional. As such, the Court has mandated that this law shall be stayed until a final ruling is made.

This would have been unheard of pr…

Christian Nation, Melting Pot, or Honey Pot?

For several decades there has been a continuing shift from the historic faith, values, and traditions upon which this country was founded. We have drifted from being a Christian Nation to a Nation that is said to be founded on Christian principles. We have absorbed and birthed a number of religions and, as a Nation, have embraced religious pluralism.

During the presidential primaries, faith and its place in today’s society has become an important part of the debate. Media, journalists, and voters, have frequently asked candidates about their religious views. The presumptive presidential nominees of each party also had to address their own views of how, or where, “Christian” fits into our heritage.

“I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles.... personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith. But that doesn't mean that I'm sure that someone who is Muslim would not make a good president. I do…

When It Comes to Religion, It Seems to Be a Toss-Up

This month the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a 268 page report entitled, The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. It is not surprising that the trends it reports reflect a continuing shift in the views of Americans relative to matters of religious beliefs and faith.

The response to one question is particularly revealing regarding the blurring of distinctions among the various “faiths” held by Americans. The question asked was:

“Now, as I read a pair of statements, tell me whether the FIRST statement or the SECOND statement comes closer to your own views even if neither is exactly right.

(a) My religion is the one true faith leading to eternal life, OR Many religions can lead to eternal life.

(b) There is only ONE true way to interpret the teachings of my religion, OR There is MORE than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion.”

In an age when brand loyalty is marketed and emphasized, one might think that Americans would be particularly loyal to their own faith of…

One Nation Under Who…or, Should We Say, What

Over the years, the Gallup Poll has conducted a number of polls regarding religious trends in the US. One question they have asked annually for several decades is: “How important is religion in your own life?”

In 2007, an all-time low of only 56% of respondents stated religion is “very important”. While this is not a dramatic decrease from recent years (the percentage who gave this response has hovered in the upper 50s to lower 60s since the 1990’s), contrast it with the 1950s when those responding “very important” was consistently in the upper 70 percentages.

Another question polled annually has been: “At the present time, do you think religion as a whole is increasing its influence on American life, or losing its influence?”

Again, in a 2007 poll, those responding, “losing its influence” was 62%, the highest percentage since the early 1990s when this number reached 68%.

These are interesting numbers when considering a poll taken last month by Gallup found 78% of those polled said they b…

Three Little Pigs and a Barbque Sandwich

Do you remember as a child reading the story of the three little pigs? Recently, I was driving to a meeting and I began thinking about this story. Actually, I was driving past a barbeque restaurant and thinking about how great it would be to stop and get a pork sandwich – inside chopped, oozing with sauce, a side of potato salad and baked beans and....you get the picture; barbeque pork naturally leads one to think about pigs which leads to reminiscing about those most famous of pigs – the three pigs (or, perhaps, Porky the Pig for some).

But, I digress. Anyway, you know the story, the three pigs each build a house to protect them from the big bad wolf – one of straw, one of sticks, and one of brick. The ones of straw and sticks were quickly disposed of by the strong winds blown by said wolf; but, the one of brick withstood the winds and protected the little pig that constructed it. The moral, of course, is to build with strong materials that will withstand the attack and protect you fr…