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The Church has lost its voice in the US

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  • apostoli
    replied
    Originally posted by hedrick View Post
    ...I cited the book not because of its description of the morals of born-again Christians, but because of their results on how people view Christians..."
    From my perspective, we shouldn't evaluate Christianity on exclusively American branding and experience.

    In my country, Australia, I'd suggest Christianity is highly regarded, especially by non-christians (eg: Muslims, Hindus, Jews etc). I believe that has a lot to do with our history and social structure. For instance: our conservative governments have had a policy of outsourcing certain social services to various Christian organisations (largely because they have the administrative resources, experience and know how to make such a success). Rarely, has outsourcing in these services been to secular entrepreneurs. Historically, in colonial times and in the infancy of our federation, the RCC took the lead in delivering "free" education and "free" medical services, aged care etc, so we have a weird system whereby certain public institutions are divided between the government and religious institutions (albeit the later are government funded these days). The upshot is that even though in Oz society Christianity is declining as a population force (mainly because of immigration trends) in everyday life everybody in the country ends up drawing on a Christian resource (whether they know it or not. Imo, they mainly know it).

    Your post made me curious concerning the state of Christianity in Australia. Official Stats confirmed my own (local) suspicions. The growth churches are the "social" churches = the Pentecostal movement & the Uniting Church. The RCC has some growth amongst conservative youth. All other denominations are in decline (though I suspect the EOC might experience some growth due to an influx of Greek immigrants to Melbourne (once billed as the largest Greek populated city in the world. I think these days it ranks 3rd or 4th. 15 years ago I was told it ranked 2nd, the old people returning to Greece to retire on a generous Australian pension)).

    Gay rights: The Uniting Church in Australia is pro gay, and the Pentecostals seem to have moderated their position to be comparable with that of the RCC and most other conservative Christian churches = hate the sin, love the person.


    Another possible factor in non-christian peoples higher regard for Christianity in Oz than in the USA, is that religion is largely separated from our politics. There are a couple of obscure parties that very few vote for. I think there is only one dupe that made it into the senate (family first?), possibly two. In any case they have no voice, at least none that any sensible person pays attention - to get some press the guy is often outrageous (a total crank).
    Last edited by apostoli; 07-17-2015, 12:00 AM.

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  • Cow Poke
    replied
    Originally posted by Jedidiah View Post
    The real reason Christians are being seen as unchristian is that a false picture of what being Christian means. We are told that we are unchristian because we are not nice enough to open sinners. This is not a surprise to me.
    Yeah!

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  • Jedidiah
    replied
    Originally posted by hedrick View Post
    . . . snip . . .It's because Christians are widely perceived as being unchristian.
    The real reason Christians are being seen as unchristian is that a false picture of what being Christian means. We are told that we are unchristian because we are not nice enough to open sinners. This is not a surprise to me.

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  • hedrick
    replied
    I think this review of UnChristian is wrong. I looked at the book. First, some of the results about attitudes report people's impression of Christians, of evangelicals, and of born-again Christians. There are differences, but the same negative impressions are present for Christians in general.

    Second, their definition of outsider is someone who is unchurched, who is not a born-again Christian. That is, they generally classify someone who doesn't go to church as non-Christian, except that if they report they are born-again they are still classified as Christian even if they are unchurched. This is clearly a weird definition, but not the weird definition that the reviewer claims. The book is pretty clear to say when they are referring specifically to born-again and when they are not. In the data about pornography and sex outside of marriage, the reviewer seems to be claiming that Kinnamon reports data on born-again Christians attributing it to Christians as a whole. In fact the statistics quoted are clearly labelled as for born-again Christians. Not all the statistics in the book are that way. Does the reviewer really think the results would be different for other Christians?

    But I cited the book not because of its description of the morals of born-again Christians, but because of their results on how people view Christians. Their questions generally asked about the responders views of Christians, though sometimes the questions differentiated.

    One of the problems noted in the book is that outsiders don't clearly differentiate between different kinds of Christians. I personally think that the behaviors outsiders attribute to Christians are more common among born-again Christians than other types of Christians. E.g. one key thing is that outsiders perceive Christians as anti-homosexual. However in fact that is true mostly of conservative Protestants, i.e. evangelicals. Mainline Christians and Catholics are both generally accepting of homosexuality and gay marriage, despite the official views of the Catholic hierarchy. (E.g. see http://www.people-press.org/2013/06/...homosexuality/ on homosexuality in general and http://www.pewforum.org/2015/06/08/g...-gay-marriage/ on gay marriage.) The book is written by a "born-again" Christians. He makes that quite clear. The book takes it for granted that the evangelical perspective on this is right. But the survey reports suggest that outsiders attribute this view to all Christians.

    Here's what they say on a question that asked separately about attitudes towards Christians, evangelicals and born-again. That survey showed that 38 - 49% (depending upon definition) of young outsiders had an overall negative impression of all three, with evangelicals being seen a bit more negatively than born-again and Christians in general, and 3 - 16% having a good impression. This compares with 1996, when 85% of outsiders had a positive impression of Christianity. It's this change I was particularly commenting on. At any rate, here's their comment on that result:

    "We did not define “evangelical” or “born again” for respondents; we simply asked if they had ever heard of the groups and, if so, to describe their opinions. As we probed these young peoples’ perceptions, we encountered a great deal of confusion. For instance, many outsiders thought born-again Christians were former believers who had left the church and subsequently returned, hence, born again. Evangelicals were often thought to be Christians who are political activists. But beyond misunderstanding the terms, most young outsiders pay little attention to the specific theological perspectives that comprise the evangelical or born-again groups."

    I don't have as much detailed support for surveys, but it's my impression that the same thing is true of other issues on which outsiders criticized Christians. That is, I think the attitudes that outsiders objected to were in fact most true of conservative Protestants, compared to mainline Protestants or Catholics. But as far as I can tell, outsiders do not differentiate. They are getting negative impressions of Christianity as a whole.
    Last edited by hedrick; 07-16-2015, 06:59 AM.

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  • apostoli
    replied
    Originally posted by hedrick View Post
    If you want to know why we've lost influence, read the Barna organization's book "unchristian." They document pretty clearly why the change in public attitude towards Christianity has occurred. It's because Christians are widely perceived as being unchristian....
    I found a review of the book "unchristian" by David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group.
    http://wisdomandfollyblog.com/unchri...a-book-review/

    What is plainly evident is that THE SURVEY FINDINGS DO NOT CONCERN ITSELF WITH CHRISTIANS per se but the christian fringe - the self righteous and introspective "born again" fraternity.

    "In the book Kinnaman presents the results of several years of research into what outsiders to the faith think about [born again] Christianity. A common reaction among those he surveyed is summed up in the book’s title. Outsiders, says Kinnaman, “think [born again] Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind, that [their version of] Christianity in [USA] society is not what it was meant to be” (p. 15). By “outsider” Kinnaman means anyone who is not a “born-again Christian,” including [Christians of all other designations], atheists, agnostics, and devotees of other faiths..."

    "Chapter three [of the book] deals with the perception of Christian hypocrisy—the notion that there is a significant gap between [born again] Christians’ beliefs and behavior..."

    "...some of [Kinnaman] data suggest that “[born again] Christians [aged 23-41] are increasingly permissive in their moral beliefs” (p. 53)... Specifically...

    33% believe viewing pornography is morally acceptable
    44% believe sex outside of marriage is morally acceptable
    59% believe cohabitation is morally acceptable"

    "Now this raises two crucial questions. First, given these moral convictions (or lack thereof), why should it surprise us that the behavior of born-again Christians is also morally lax? That’s not hypocrisy but a sad sort of consistency between belief and practice. Second, just what is meant by the designation “born-again Christian” in these Barna polls? Here is Kinnaman’s answer: “To be classified as a born-again Christian, a person has to say he or she has made a personal commitment to Jesus that is still important and that the person believes he or she will go to heaven at death, because the person has confessed his or her sin and accepted Christ as Savior” (p. 46). Kinnaman uses this definition in his surveys for subjects to self-identify (as either born-again or not) and, presumably, to identify others (as born-again or not). He recognizes that this approach is “not perfect,” but he doesn’t see just how flawed it is. For one thing, this definition completely ignores the biblical emphasis on obedience as definitive of genuine saving faith (see John 14:21-23, James 2:14-26, and Gal. 5:22-23). To use this unbiblical definition as the crux of one’s research into Christian behavior and perceptions of Christians is, to say the least, problematic..."
    Last edited by apostoli; 07-16-2015, 01:51 AM.

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  • hedrick
    replied
    Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
    This is the post I had in mind. The exact wording was not quite what I remembered but I believe I did remember the general gist:

    http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/sh...l=1#post137323
    OK, you're right. I really did do a search that should have turned that up. Originally you said "teachings on sexuality "don't work" in today's world... a statement I don't get.." You didn't get it because what I actually said was slightly more restricted: that many of the things he said were aimed at specific circumstances in the 1st Cent, and won't work when applied to different situations today. You might not agree that his teachings were directed at the specific circumstances, but at least the logic should be clear.

    I actually said something else immediately following that is far more radical than that, but I didn't recognize the specific statement you quoted. Apologies.

    But the reason I didn't want to say that in this thread is that I think it is a distraction. My point was that people are less likely to look at what the Church says on homosexuality because some of the same people who are most vocal on that were also standing at the schoolhouse door in the civil rights period, and their forefathers were using the same literal interpretation to defend slavery. This is clearly *not* a logical argument against the conservative position on homosexuality. But the OP didn't call for a discussion on the merits of homosexuality. It observed that the Church had lost its voice. Indeed you made many of the same points that I did, pointing to the failures on slavery, race, and in some areas, child abuse. As far as I can tell, we're not in disagreement on the subject of this thread.
    Last edited by hedrick; 07-15-2015, 09:24 PM.

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  • KingsGambit
    replied
    This is the post I had in mind. The exact wording was not quite what I remembered but I believe I did remember the general gist:

    http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/sh...l=1#post137323

    Leave a comment:


  • Jedidiah
    replied
    Perhaps KG can make some comments on this.

    Leave a comment:


  • hedrick
    replied
    Originally posted by Jedidiah View Post
    Yeah, the search function does not work all that well.
    I had to play with it to get it to work, but in this case I'm pretty sure I never said what I was quoted as saying.

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  • Jedidiah
    replied
    Originally posted by hedrick View Post
    I just checked for all of my posting back to early 2014 mentioning Paul. None of them related to sex. The search command doesn't allow a search for sex, but sexual didn't show much. I don't think I've talked much about sexual ethics here, nor the question of homosexuality. The phrase you quote doesn't sound like what I'd say.
    Yeah, the search function does not work all that well.

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  • Thoughtful Monk
    replied
    Originally posted by apostoli View Post
    Thankyou ThoughtfulMonk. I agree with everything you say.

    I said "YHWH ignores the transgressions of people and instead exalted them". Possibly I should have used a word other than "ignore", "cover" is used by the prophets for what I meant.
    Having picked the wrong word myself, I get it. You're right: using cover instead of ignore in the sentence makes much more sense.

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  • Cow Poke
    replied
    Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
    To be fair, there are still some very good churches in these mainline denominations. My own church is in one and has been growing. The pastor is a staunch believer in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the church isn't involved on the wrong side of social issues.
    And that's the point, KG... if you drill down into analysis of why the PCUSA is in decline, it's because many of the conservative PCs have left them, and the liberal churches that remain are dying out.

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  • hedrick
    replied
    Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
    A few weeks ago, he said that Paul's teachings on sexuality "don't work" in today's world... a statement I don't get.
    I just checked for all of my posting back to early 2014 mentioning Paul. None of them related to sex. The search command doesn't allow a search for sex, but sexual didn't show much. I don't think I've talked much about sexual ethics here, nor the question of homosexuality. The phrase you quote doesn't sound like what I'd say.

    Leave a comment:


  • KingsGambit
    replied
    To be fair, there are still some very good churches in these mainline denominations. My own church is in one and has been growing. The pastor is a staunch believer in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the church isn't involved on the wrong side of social issues.

    Leave a comment:


  • Cow Poke
    replied
    Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
    A few weeks ago, he said that Paul's teachings on sexuality "don't work" in today's world... a statement I don't get.
    Well, the PCUSA denomination, to which he claims to belong, appears to be in freefall. The PCUSA Churches that are actually growing or maintaining are the more conservative ones. The Pastors who spoke AGAINST the Pastor Protection Act in Austin this session were PCUSA.

    Source: PCUSA.org

    Total membership in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the end of 2013 was 1,760,200, according to statistics released today by the Office of the General Assembly. That’s compared to 1,849,496 at the end of 2012.

    “Yes, the numbers reflect a decrease in active members in the denomination,” said the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly. “But the numbers also illustrate fewer losses than the previous year. The membership declined by 89,296 in 2013, compared to 102,791 in 2012.

    “We are meeting the challenges we have had and it’s showing,” he said. “And, our decline in total congregations is holding fairly steady.”

    The total number of churches in 2013 was 10,038, compared to 10,262 in 2012. That’s a loss of 224 churches, including 148 congregations dismissed to other denominations and 74 dissolved. The PC(USA) lost 204 churches between 2012 and 2011.

    © Copyright Original Source



    http://www.pcusa.org/news/2014/5/29/...13-statistics/

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