01: Spiritual and practical living concerns outweigh social activism for the overwhelming majority of black pastors and congregations, according to Gallup polls.
The Gallup religion newsletter Emerging Trends (December/January) reports on polls conducted among nearly 2,000 African-American pastors and lay leaders, finding they report a strong spiritual emphasis in their congregations. More than eight out of 10 pastors (83 percent) said that their sermons “always focus on God’s love and care, while 66 percent said “always” in the case of “practical advice for living. But those saying social activism was always a focus of sermons were only 25 percent; black liberation theology and womanist (black feminist) focus was cited by only 12 percent.
In describing their churches, the characteristic of spiritual vitality was cited far more (68 percent) than that of “working for social justice” (43 percent). While Bible study and youth programs were the most popular among respondents, the social outreach of congregations was also seen in such activities as voter registration, food pantries and health and housing programs. Sixty four percent agreed that churches should express their views on social and political issues.
When it came to support for women pastors, there was only a 40 percent approval rating among the pastor respondents. The pastors tended to be upbeat about the health of their congregations; two-thirds describe the financial health of their churches as “good” (64 percent), while only 30 percent said things were tight. Only three percent said their churches were experiencing serious financial problems.
(Emerging Trends, 47 Hulfish St., P.O. Box 140, Princeton, NJ 08542)
02: Televangelist ministries’ involvement with politics increased significantly during the recent election, according to a new study.
Of the 21 major TV ministries surveyed, evangelical and fundamentalists focused most on politics, compared to charismatics. Charisma News Service (Feb. 13) reports that the study, conducted by Stephen Winzenburg of Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa, found that D. James Kennedy focused most on the election, devoting 13 percent of his airtime to political programming between September and November.
Also high in political messages was Jack Van Impe (10 percent), James Robison (9 percent) and Jerry Falwell. (7 percent). Charismatics such as Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar and Benny Hinn and Oral Roberts devoted none or only one percent of their airtime to political issues. Overall, ministries devoted 77 percent of their time to spiritual issues and 4 percent to political matters.
03: Religion and spirituality are compatible and connected for most Americans, according to a new poll.
The magazine Spirituality & Health (Spring) commissioned a poll by Blum and Weprin Associates on whether Americans consider themselves spiritual or religious and how these terms are defined. The survey finds that 59 percent describe themselves as both religious and spiritual. Sixty five percent view the word “religion” positively while 15 percent think of the term negatively.
A higher percentage (74 percent) find the word “spirituality” positive. Twenty percent view themselves as solely spiritual, and among this group, 47 percent view religion negatively. The poll finds that 23 percent view spirituality as a broader concept that embraces religion; seven percent say religion is the broader term; 19 percent say the two are identical. But 13 percent see religion and spirituality as entirely different.
Eighty percent of those calling themselves spiritual say that spirituality influences every aspect of their lives. Only 42 percent say that religion plays a central role in their lives, while 36 percent say it plays some role. Another noteworthy finding was that parenting (80 percent) was considered a spiritual activity to the same extent as was attending a worship service (81 percent). A walk in the forest was considered spiritual by 67 percent, while 52 percent of adults viewed sex as a spiritual activity, with men more likely to take this view than women.
(Spirituality & Health, 74 Trinity Place, New York, NY 10006-2088)