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November 13, 2007

Comments

Johnny A. Ramirez

Monte,
I'm interested in hearing your take on the latest research from Willow Creek on discipleship. Will you post on it?
Johnny

Chris

Monte,
Is this a case of what prayer is? I have heard of the cursing Psalms which could relate on
how we feel about our political life.
I guess my personal prayer life is never that engaging in the political sphere.

I was trying to spacially correlate your prayer survey with the Leadership Journal survey results of USA christians. Here is a summary of the findings.

Active Christians 19%

* Believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ
* Committed churchgoers
* Bible readers
* Accept leadership positions
* Invest in personal faith development through the church
* Feel obligated to share faith; 79% do so.

Professing Christians 20%

* Believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ
* Focus on personal relationship with God and Jesus
* Similar beliefs to Active Christians, different actions
* Less involved in church, both attending and serving
* Less commitment to Bible reading or sharing faith

Liturgical Christians 16%

* Predominantly Catholic and Lutheran
* Regular churchgoers
* High level of spiritual activity, mostly expressed by serving in church and/or community
* Recognize authority of the church

Private Christians 24%

* Largest and youngest segment
* Believe in God and doing good things
* Own a Bible, but don't read it
* Spiritual interest, but not within church context
* Only about a third attend church at all
* Almost none are church leaders

Cultural Christians 21%

* Little outward religious behavior or attitudes
* God aware, but little personal involvement with God
* Do not view Jesus as essential to salvation
* Affirm many ways to God
* Favor universality theology

When I combine this with the article of the religious right crack up in the NYtimes a few weeks back,we could use your theological/sociological analysis.

Monte

Unless we ask the questions in the same survey and cross-tab them, it is difficult to really know how the portions in one pie overlap the portions in another pie. My guess is that the 56 percent who pray daily include almost all of the "active" and "liturgical" segments and half the "professing" and "private" segments. I will write more about the Leadership-Zondervan Survey in a regular posting soon. I am trying to track down more about the sampling procedures, etc.

If you combine the prayer survey data that I wrote about with the NYT article and other news about the splintering of the Christian Right and the new research from Barna (see the top of the New Books column to the left on this page) ... there is definite evidence of a significant shift underway. The consensus in American public opinion has begun to shift back from its extremely conservative focus of recent years and is now moving away from the right toward the center.

What does that mean theologically? That is more difficult to tell, although the reduction in the number of people in the prayer poll who said they pray daily is an indicator that perhaps it means that fewer people are as rigorous about religion as has been true. The fusion of conservative religion and conservative politics was rooted in two realities, I think.

First, is the reality that a percentage of Americans are simply congential conservatives. They combine conservative religion and conservative political views in their own personalities not because it necessarily follows any theological or political logic, but because it is their nature to choose conservative views no matter what the arena. The percentage of Americans who are like this goes up and down over long cycles, but it has never been a majority and likely never will be.

Second, is the Neo-traditionalist viewpoint which has blossomed over the last couple of decades. There are many "public intellectuals" who began to argue that conservative religion was a positive force in society supporting traditional views in politics, economics, the arts, etc. These "neo-cons" allied themselves with the so-called "social agenda" of the first group, not so much because they believe in it, but because they saw it as a way to get allies for their issues of using American power to order the world, establish unlimited free markets, etc.

Karl Rove figured out how to fuse the two segments in winning elections and found a likely fusion figure in George Bush; a southern Evangelical with a personal conversion story who is the son of the only former President to also have once been CIA director during the Cold War. He finally ran out of rope and had to resign because (1) the conservative Christians were beginning to figure out that he was manipulating them by getting an emotional response to abortion, gay marriage, stem cells, Teri Schiavo, etc., but that the Bush administration was not delivering their goals; and (2) the Neo-traditionalist global agenda is a train wreck of monumental proportions. When was the last time you heard anyone use "compassionate conservative" in a positive tone of voice? It has failed under its own weight of how bad an idea or set of ideas it really is.

The question now at hand is how much damage is this disaster going to wreak? Clearly the Neo-traditionalist foreign policy is stalled. The new Barna book shows how much damage has been done to the conservative Christian church. I will write more about how damaging this can be the cause of Christ overall.

Theologically, I would refer to Revelation 13. God very clearly reveals there the utter futility of any attempt to use political power to advance religious goals. It ends up in the profound confusion of Babel. Politics can follow moral principle, but politics cannot make a nation more spiritual or faithful. A politically-manipulated "Christian America" is sooner or later unmasked as not really Christian at all. I think more and more of the truly faithful are seeing that and are revulsed by the stinking dung heap in our midst even if their political views remain entirely conservative.

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