01: Although evangelicals have been viewed as uniformly holding an anti-Islamic and pro-Israel agenda, there are significant differences on these issues in American evangelicalism, according to a new study.
In the Brandywine Review of Faith & International Affairs (Spring), Dennis R. Hoover writes that American evangelicals have increasingly been labeled in the media as supporting a “civilization fight” (to paraphrase Samuel Huntington) between Islam and the Judeo-Christian West. But in conducting a content analysis of the two main evangelical publications, Christianity Today and the newsweekly World, Hoover finds important distinctions.
Christianity Today, representing more moderate or “mainstream” evangelicals, soft-pedaled the idea of inevitable conflict between Islam and the West in its coverage in the two years after 9/11. Articles about evangelizing Muslims and religious persecution of missionaries were the most prominent kinds of articles in the magazine during this period. World (which more closely reflects the positions of the Christian Right), in contrast, clearly took a harder line, stressing the violent nature of much of Islam and criticizing news coverage that was viewed as favorably biased toward the religion.
In a “qualitative review” of the secular media’ treatment of evangelicals and Israel, Hoover finds overwhelming attention paid to evangelicals and fundamentalists with pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian views. But journalists tended to “drop the ball” when it came to evangelicals who are more critical of Israel and supportive of Palestinian rights.
He concludes that “This is no minor oversight, for alternative views, while perhaps in the minority, are nonetheless far more widespread in evangelicalism than the conventional wisdom presumes.”
(Brandywine Review of Faith & International Affairs, 1300 Eagle Rd., St. Davids, PA 19087)
02: Increases in educational levels are occurring across the religious spectrum, “regardless of whether adherents belong to congregations in denominations . . . that are classified as liberal, moderate, or fundamentalist,” reports the current issue of the demographic newsletterVisions (Vol. 5, Number 5).
In analyzing General Social Survey figures from 1984-2002, the newsletter notes that liberal religious adherents continue to hold their edge in educational levels, as they have historically. In the 2002, General Social Survey, three-fifths of liberal adherents had at least 13 years of schooling, compared to 54 percent of moderate adherents and 44 percent of fundamentalist adherents.
But over the past two decades, the level of schooling has risen among all three religious orientations. Since 1984-85, fundamentalist adherents have decreased in the proportion of adults who are least educated and have gained sharply in those persons with 13-16 years of schooling. Liberal adherents have become even better educated, with those having more than 16 years of schooling increasing by one-third.
On the whole, the newsletter adds, attenders of religious services appear to be better educated than the general populace. For example, the U.S. Congregational Life Survey (which polled 300,000 worshippers in a wide range of religious congregations) found that 38 percent of respondents had at least a college degree, compared with 23 percent of the general population.
(Visions, P.O. Box 94144, Atlanta, GA 30377)
03: An online poll of singles by the website Match.com found that two-thirds of them are at least open to the idea of dating someone whose religious upbringing and beliefs may differ from their own.
The informal poll found that only 26.5 percent would not date outside of their own faith and that it is important that their partner shares their beliefs. Thirty seven percent said that religion was not a decisive factor in determining who they will or won’t date, while an almost identical percentage were somewhat more concerned about finding a partner of comparable faith, yet did not rule out the possibility of dating someone from another background. While many — about 60 percent — said they value religion in their lives, they expressed openness to the idea that people of “at least somewhat different” faiths can intertwine beliefs and sustain a successful romance.
04: Is the failure of churches to minister to youth through Sunday schools almost a half century ago behind much of the decline of the churches in England?
That is the argument of Rachel Coupe writing inQuadrant (May), the newsletter of the Christian Research Association. Coupe maintains that the huge loss of children from British churches in the 1950s is attributable to church policy as well as to cultural factors, playing a big part in the drop in current church attendance. What is called the “fifties freefall” refers to the sudden dip in Sunday school attenders between 1955 and 1960.
Coupe writes that the policy of encouraging children to attend church with their families and thus merging the old style Sunday school with the morning service initially tended to boost attendance figures. But children soon left the church at an earlier age and new children failed to arrive.
Coupe concludes that “It is possible that this change in policy caused the church to lose half its children over one generation…Although few Sunday Scholars became church members, most became nominal Christians who came to church for weddings, baptisms and funerals….There are observable consequences caused by the church reaching significantly less children since the late 50s: church membership is currently strong amongst retired people. Below retirement age there is a drop in membership with each successive generation…”
(Quadrant, 4 Footscray Rd., Eltham, London, SE9 2TZ)
05: Eritrea, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam have recently been added to the list of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the world’s only government sanctioned organization investigating and reporting on religious freedom, recommended the additions because they had “egregious, systematic and continuous” violations of religious freedom. The list currently comprises Burma, China, North Korea, Sudan, Iran, and Iraq.
The Washington Times (May 13) reports that the commission also recommended that Iraq be removed since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.