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Change? What Change?

Though secular media outlets have reported on an about-face in the "God vote" throughout this election season as more Christians side with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, a recent poll of pastors indicates otherwise when it comes to Christian leadership. The survey, conducted in early October by LifeWay Research, found that 55 percent of Protestant pastors plan to vote for John McCain, compared with only 20 percent for Obama. (Another 22 percent were undecided at the time of polling.) Among evangelical pastors the difference was even more pronounced, with 66 percent supporting McCain and 13 percent voting for Obama. Mainline pastors, however, showed a tighter race as 37 percent plan to vote for Obama, 36 percent support McCain and 24 percent are undecided. [Baptist Press, 10/30/08] read more

Speaking of Candidates

Pastors may have been in the spotlight in recent months regarding IRS regulations prohibiting them from endorsing political candidates from the pulpit, but that hasn’t stopped them from doing so on their own time. According to the same LifeWay study, more than half (53 percent) of Protestant pastors say they've endorsed candidates for public office this year. Less than 3 percent have actually endorsed a candidate during a church service this year. Additionally, an overwhelming 95 percent say their churches have not engaged in any form of political endorsement. [Baptist Press, 10/30/08] read more

Summoning the Church

Despite that last statistic, 11th-hour campaigning from both the Republican and Democratic parties indicates just how hazy the line between politics and faith really is. Though both the McCain and Obama campaigns say they've been careful not to compromise regulations placed on churches, both launched church-targeted initiatives on Sunday across the nation. Volunteers for the McCain campaign included thousands of church members distributing literature and calling fellow churchgoers to urge them to vote. Obama's initiative included distributing a "nonpartisan letter" from the Illinois senator to black churches in battleground states and urging members of those churches to read the letter during worship services. [AP, 11/2/08] read more

Reading Scripture Through the Eyes of America

QUOTE: "Can you conceive of the howl that would erupt if a preacher today suggested that God was using Arab terrorists to humble America? The First Amendment might save him from arrest (the prophet Jeremiah was not so lucky), but any such preacher would almost certainly be relieved of his pulpit duties, if not run out of town. The conflation of religion and patriotism is so widespread in our country today that most of us would never entertain the notion that America's foreign or domestic policies might fall short of what God requires. Part of our challenge stems from the fact that we Americans have an overabundance of self-confidence. ... I suspect we read the Bible much the same way. We don't identify with the Egyptians, Babylonians or the multitude of Israelites who worshipped the golden calf. We identify with Abraham and Moses—the good guys. ... [But] the faith community has our work cut out for us if America is to become the ‘city upon a hill' envisioned by some of our greatest leaders. And if self-awareness is the beginning of wisdom, perhaps we should start by reading the Bible with different eyes. Let's lose the hubris. Maybe we're not ancient Israel. Maybe we're Rome." —Oliver "Buzz" Thomas, Baptist minister and author of 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job), in a challenging op-ed titled "Ungodly Hubris" [usatoday.com, 10/27/08] read more

Blessed, But Not Necessarily Acting Like It

Sixty-one percent of all Americans believe their country is uniquely blessed by God, and almost as many (59 percent) say that means the United States should be a model Christian nation to the world, according to a recent nationwide survey of more than 1,400 adults. Of those responding, evangelical Christians were most likely (86 percent) to feel God has specially blessed the country. In comparison, only 48 percent of those who infrequently attend religious services were likely to agree. Despite an overall belief that the nation should play a significant role in global affairs, two-thirds of Americans say our relationship with the rest of the world is souring. "Americans remain very interventionist in their views about America's role in the world and want the U.S. to take an activist role on the world stage," said Allen Hertzke, a visiting scholar at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. "[But] they want us to be smart about it." [christianpost.com, 10/23/08] read more

I'm Politicked!

QUOTE: “The church has become more and more a non-prophet entity. But I’m excited a lot of churches are becoming for-prophet. The prophets of God, men and women of God, are standing up and saying, ‘Thus sayeth the Lord.’ … We’re going to stand for God’s truth and be the church because what a time in history that we have right now to be the church.” —Ed Young, senior pastor of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, kicking off a series called “Politicked” in which he’ll tackled issues of faith and politics [christianpost.com, 10/13/08] read more

Missions-minded? Not So Much

According to the latest Barna survey, only 11 percent of all churchgoers have been on a short-term missions trip. That’s only 2 percent higher than the overall percentage of Americans who have been on any kind of brief service trip. To make matters worse, the majority of those who have gone on a missions trip did so more than five years ago—which amounts to 8 million adults out of the 228 million living in the United States. Among the most active short-term missionaries are evangelical Christians, 23 percent of whom have ventured out to share the gospel. (Interestingly enough, only 1 percent of Americans have taken a missions trip as a family.) [barna.org, 10/6/08] read more

If You Can't Go to Africa, Go Online

With technology making the world smaller and nonprofit donations in decline, some missionary organizations are finding their solution online. Global Media Outreach (GMO), a ministry of more than 70 topically based sites, has accumulated an online missionary force of more than 2,000 volunteers who reply to questions submitted online from site visitors. According to GMO founder and chairman Walt Wilson, more than 1.7 million people made decisions for Christ in 2007 alone. The phenomenal success, he says, is due to two reasons: “We know something about search-engine optimization, and No. 2, I believe firmly that when a person is seriously seeking the face of God He is going to reveal Himself. So I believe a good deal of our success and our traffic comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. It is not that we’re so smart or special.” [christianpost.com, 10/9/08] read more

Can't We All Just Get Along?

According to the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, there are more than 550 "interfaith centers" in the United States—many of which have begun since 9/11—dedicated to combining various faiths in the same house of worship. "I wanted to build a church where Christians are not in charge," says one Seventh-day Adventist pastor who leads the Faith House Manhattan in New York. "We wanted to include all the people who have a right to belong and be partners in the discussion, not as outsiders that need to be converted, but as insiders that we need to be interdependent with." Not surprisingly, many interfaith centers are particularly attractive to women. "Interfaith organizations provide opportunities for women's leadership in a way that oftentimes the religious traditions themselves do not, simply because those positions do not need to be sanctioned by any religious head or body," explains Pluralism Project spokeswoman Kathryn Lohre. [Religion News Service, 10/27/08] read more

An Open-Door Crisis

QUOTE: “Abundant life has nothing to do with bank solvency or market health. Jesus’ invitation to lead generous lives of sharing does not hinge on personal, corporate or national financial security. The present crisis opens the door for us to accept Jesus’ expectation that as pastors, we are called to build beloved communities whose life together centers on trust, sharing, justice and sacrifice.” —Jim Antal, president of the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ, writing to pastors in a letter called “Abundance in a Time of Scarcity” [boston.com, 10/6/08] read more

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