01: A recent survey comparing religious Americans in 2000 and 2004 finds a decreasing willingness to support political compromise.
The survey, conducted by the public policy group Public Agenda, found a smaller number of Americans who believe that devout elected officials sometimes have to compromise in the political arena, with “major decreases among those who attend services weekly. In 2000, 84 percent of Americans agreed that “Even elected officials who are deeply religious sometimes have to compromise and set their convictions aside to get results while in government.”
By 2004, that percentage had dropped to 74 percent, with significant decreases among weekly attenders (82 percent in 2000 versus 63 percent in 2004).
02: A new study finds that the percentage of Southern Baptist churches that can be described as declining has increased in the last two decades.
The Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary found that 23.9 percent of SBC churches in the period ending 2003 were declining in comparison to 17.6 percent in the period ending in 1983. With the percentage of plateaued churches decreasing (from 51.9 percent to 45.8 percent) and growing churches unchanged (about 30 percent), the researchers conclude that the “passion for conversion growth appears to be fading at every level of the SBC. [The denomination] is moving from plateau to decline,” reports Baptists Today newspaper (January).
(Baptists Today, P.O. Box 6318, Macon, GA 31208)
03: A poll from Ellison Research finds a significant gap between large churches and small ones in the use of various kinds of technology, particularly involving the Internet.
The poll, conducted among a sample of 700 Protestant pastors in the U.S., found that while the majority of pastors (91 percent) have internet access, the larger churches (over 200 attenders) are more likely to have web sites. Only 28 percent of small churches, and 60 percent of mid-sized churches have websites compared to 88 percent of larger churches. The size of a church was the most important factor when clergy rated the importance of using technology in their congregation’s ministries over the next five years.
For instance, communicating with the congregation via e-mail will be important to 42 percent in large churches but only important to 13 percent in small churches. Using graphics in worship will be important to 36 percent of large churches but only important to 16 percent in small churches. There were few denominational factors in the differing uses of technology, although Lutherans were significantly less likely than other pastors to value such innovations.
04: The main differences between the French and the Americans may stem from conceptions of God, according to Baylor University sociologists Paul Froese and Christopher Bader.
In the Harvard Divinity Bulletin (Fall/Winter), Froese and Bader write that significant differences emerge in examining the images of God among Americans and the French. When Americans speak of God, they tend to be much more literal about the activity and attributes of the deity (for instance, the view that God takes an active interest in the world and in them personally). They also find that those with views of a less active God tend to have more liberal attitudes on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and sexual activities outside of marriage.
It was found that individuals of the same age, sex, income and education levels and religious affiliations will act differently and hold different moral attitudes based on their perception of God. An active and judgmental God will inspire conservative attitudes regardless of one’s religious denomination or nationality. Froese and Bader theorize that to the extent that individuals imagine God to be a judgmental and watchful deity, they will be more obedient and alert to what they believe God wants, resulting in differing church attendance levels and moral attitudes.
(Harvard Divinity Bulletin, 45 Francis Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138-1911) .