Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Blacks Split on Obama’s Reverend Wright

March 30, 2008

By Andrea Billups
The Washington Times
March 30, 2008

The reaction to Sen. Barack Obama’s March 18 speech in Philadelphia on his firebrand pastor and race in America showsa generation gap within the black community, according to scholars and analysts.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., ... 
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, shown here with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, March 10, 2005. Obama on Friday March 14, 2008 denounced inflammatory remarks from his pastor, who has railed against the United States and accused the country of bringing on the Sept. 11 attacks by spreading terrorism.(AP Photo/Trinity United Church of Christ)
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Despite criticism that he didn’t fully address the angry comments by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Mr. Obama’s youth and powerful skills as an orator continue to offer hope to many that he can bridge what he defined in his speech as a national “stalemate” — a civil rights era perception of race as an always-present threat to blacks versus the more unifying view of a younger generation that increasingly sees the world and politics as colorblind.
 

Charles Ellison, a senior fellow at the Center for African-American Policy and chief editor of blackpolicy.org, describes a tension among blacks and a “growing generation gap between new school versus old school.”
 

“The new hip-hop generation, there is a focus on economic, political and social empowerment. They look at a lot of major black elected officials who are young — D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty; in Newark, Cory Booker; and in Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, who are all about the empowerment paradigm. We’ve got close to 650 black state elected officials and 43 black members of Congress, so they are used to this notion already in popular media.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080330/NATION/412979176/1001
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. performed Barack Obama's wedding ceremony and held a largely ceremonial role on a campaign committee.
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. performed Barack Obama’s wedding ceremony and held a role on an Obama for President campaign committee. (Photo by E. Jason Wambsgans — Chicago Tribune)

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The Origin of Obama’s Pastor Problem

March 20, 2008

By JAMES CARNEY AND AMY SULLIVAN
TIME Magazine
March 20, 2008

The speech he delivered at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia was an artfully reasoned treatise on race and rancor in America, the most memorable speech delivered by any candidate in this campaign and one that has earned Obama comparisons to Lincoln, Kennedy and King. But that doesn’t mean it will succeed in its more prosaic mission of appealing to voters who have their doubts about Obama and his preacher. It left unanswered a crucial question: What attracted Obama to Wright in the first place?

Read it all:
http://news.yahoo.com:80/s/time/20080320/us_
time/theoriginofobamaspastor
problem;_ylt=AiVOE5wlzSUgZFQwMq12ttSs0NUE

Sometimes, friends are a politician’s worst enemy

March 19, 2008

By Andrea Billups
The Washington Times
March 19, 2008

In the wake of the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s, President Harding remarked: “I have no trouble with my enemies … [it’s] my … friends … that keep me walking the floors at night.”

Warren G. Harding

Warren G. Harding, President of the United States 1921-1923.
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Today’s presidential candidates likely feel the same way at times, facing a certain guilt by association, as their personal connections dovetail with their political ambitions. The media are watching — beware your past.
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Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois faced down his own relationship with his controversial Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., in a speech yesterday that sought to distance himself from Mr. Wright’s anti-American and seemingly anti-white teachings and to bridge a gap on racial understanding, particularly his own views.
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Although Mr. Obama’s speech generated much attention….

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080319/NATION/62946736/1001

A Speech That Fell Short

March 19, 2008

By Michael Gerson
The Washingon Post 
Wednesday, March 19, 2008; Page A15
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Barack Obama has run a campaign based on a simple premise: that words of unity and hope matter to America. Now he has been forced by his charismatic, angry pastor to argue that words of hatred and division don’t really matter as much as we thought.
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Obama’s speech in Philadelphia yesterday made this argument as well as it could be made. He condemned the Rev. Jeremiah Wright‘s views in strong language — and embraced Wright as a wayward member of the family. He made Wright and his congregation a symbol of both the nobility and “shocking ignorance” of the African American experience — and presented himself as a leader who transcends that conflicted legacy. The speech recognized the historical reasons for black anger — and argued that the best response to those grievances is the adoption of Obama’s own social and economic agenda.
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It was one of the finest political performances under pressure since John F. Kennedy at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960. It also fell short in significant ways.
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The problem with Obama’s argument is that Wright is not a symbol of the strengths and weaknesses of African Americans. He is a political extremist, holding views that are shocking to many Americans who wonder how any presidential candidate could be so closely associated with an adviser who refers to the “U.S. of KKK-A” and urges God to “damn” our country. .
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Obama’s excellent and important speech on race in America did little to address his strange tolerance for the anti-Americanism of his spiritual mentor.
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Take an issue that Obama did not specifically confront yesterday. In a 2003 sermon, Wright claimed, “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.”
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This accusation does not make Wright, as Obama would have it, an “occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy.” It makes Wright a dangerous man. He has casually accused America of one of the most monstrous crimes in history, perpetrated by a conspiracy of medical Mengeles. .
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If Wright believes what he said, he should urge the overthrow of the U.S. government, which he views as guilty of unspeakable evil.
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If I believed Wright were correct, I would join him in that cause.
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But Wright’s accusation is batty, reflecting a sputtering, incoherent hatred for America. And his pastoral teaching may put lives at risk because the virus that causes AIDS spreads more readily in an atmosphere of denial, quack science and conspiracy theories.
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Obama’s speech implied that these toxic views are somehow parallel to the stereotyping of black men by Obama’s grandmother, which Obama said made him “cringe” — both are the foibles of family. But while Grandma may have had some issues to work through, Wright is accusing the American government of trying to kill every member of a race. There is a difference.
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Yet didn’t George Bush and other Republican politicians accept the support of Jerry Falwell, who spouted hate of his own? Yes, but they didn’t financially support his ministry and sit directly under his teaching for decades.
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The better analogy is this: What if a Republican presidential candidate spent years in the pew of a theonomist church — a fanatical fragment of Protestantism that teaches the modern political validity of ancient Hebrew law? What if the church’s pastor attacked the U.S. government as illegitimate and accepted the stoning of homosexuals and recalcitrant children as appropriate legal penalties (which some theonomists see as biblical requirements)? Surely we would conclude, at the very least, that the candidate attending this church lacked judgment and that his donations were subsidizing hatred. And we would be right.
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In Philadelphia, Obama attempted to explain Wright’s anger as typical of the civil rights generation, with its “memories of humiliation and doubt and fear.” But Wright has the opposite problem: He ignored the message of Martin Luther King Jr. and introduced a new generation to the politics of hatred.
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King drew a different lesson from the oppression he experienced: “I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate myself; hate is too great a burden to bear. I’ve seen it on the faces of too many sheriffs of the South. . . . Hate distorts the personality. . . . The man who hates can’t think straight; the man who hates can’t reason right; the man who hates can’t see right; the man who hates can’t walk right.”
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Barack Obama is not a man who hates — but he chose to walk with a man who does.

Congregation Defends Obama’s Ex-Pastor

March 18, 2008

 By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 18, 2008; Page A01

CHICAGO — The Rev. Jeremiah Wright spent 36 years teaching this congregation how to recognize injustice, and his parishioners sense it all around them now. On Sunday, more than 3,000 of them filled Trinity United Church of Christ on the city’s South Side to pray for their former pastor. They read a handout that described Wright’s newfound infamy as a “modern-day lynching.” They scrawled his name in tribute on the inside of their service programs and applauded as Wright’s protege, the Rev. Otis Moss III, stepped to the pulpit.
Supporters say that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is misunderstood.

Supporters say that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is misunderstood. (Brian Jackson – AP)

“No matter what they want,” Moss said, “we will not shut up.”

A simmering controversy over Wright’s provocative rhetoric and his connection to Sen. Barack Obama ignited last week after some of his old sermons were aired, prompting the Democratic presidential candidate to condemn them and severing Wright’s connection to the campaign. But inside this mega-church that Wright built up from financial ruin, his most loyal listeners offered a different interpretation: It is Wright, and black theology in its entirety, that is misunderstood.

To his supporters, the message Wright wove through more than 4,000 sermons is now disseminated in a handful of grainy, two-minute video clips that tell only part of his story. Yes, they acknowledge, he was sometimes overcome at the pulpit by a righteous rage about racism and social injustice. But he was a radical who also inspired women to preach, gays to marry and predominantly white youth groups to visit his services. Until he retired last month, Wright, 66, implored all comers at Trinity to “get happy” — to shout, to sing, to dance in the aisles while he preached the gospel.

“The world is only seeing this tiny piece of him,” Moss said. “Right now, we are all being vilified. ….

Read the rest:
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/17/AR2008031702796.html?hpid=topnews

Obama denounces pastor’s 9/11 comments

March 14, 2008
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday denounced inflammatory remarks from his pastor, who has railed against the United States and accused its leaders of bringing on the Sept. 11 attacks by spreading terrorism.

As video of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has widely aired on television and the Internet, Obama responded by posting a blog about his relationship with Wright and his church, Chicago‘s Trinity United Church of Christ, on the Huffington Post.

Obama wrote that he’s looked to Wright for spiritual advice, not political guidance, and he’s been pained and angered to learn of some of his pastor’s comments for which he had not been present. Obama’s statement did not say whether Wright would remain on his African American Religious Leadership Committee, and campaign officials wouldn’t say either.

“I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080314/ap_on_el_pr/
obama_pastor;_ylt=AllYjqgCzJI
kor1oZAvfnMSs0NUE

Related:
Obama’s Pastor Known for “Inflammatory Rhetoric”

Obama Strives To Keep Divisive Minister At a Distance

Race Issue Marring Election Unnecessarily

Outspoken Minister Out Of Obama Campaign

Obama Wounded by Association With Fiery Pastor?

Obama Strives To Keep Divisive Minister At a Distance

March 14, 2008

By Brian DeBos
The Washington Times
March 14, 2008

The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., a mentor and friend to Sen. Barack Obama for 20 years, in a recent sermon shouted: “God damn America” for its history of slavery, racism and oppression against its black citizens.
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Mr. Wright — who baptized Mr. Obama at the Trinity United Church of Christ, presided over his wedding there and inspired him in his career as a community activist and a politician — has been a lightning rod for the campaign from the very beginning.
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When Mr. Obama announced his candidacy for president, Mr. Wright, who is also a member of Mr. Obama’s National African American Religious Leadership Committee, was asked not to appear because of his “black power” social views, which many have criticized as separatist, forcing Mr. Obama to distance himself from his home pastor.
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He has given many fiery sermons in his career and has called Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan his friend, but it is his final sermon as head pastor, given Feb. 10, that has called his relationship with Mr. Obama and his views into question again.
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“Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single-parent home. Barack was. Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people,” Mr. Wright said.
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“Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a n—-er.”
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Mr. Wright went on to detail all the ways in which Hillary is not black enough to represent black Americans, and he also attempted to paint Mr. Obama as a Jesus figure, saying his life parallels that of Christ.
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“Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country and who lived in a culture that was controlled by rich white people. The Romans were rich. The Romans were Italians, which means they were Europeans, which means they were white, and they controlled everything in Jesus’ country.”

Related:
Obama’s Pastor Known for “Inflammatory Rhetoric”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080314/NATION/729484602/1001

See also coverage from The New York Post:
http://www.nypost.com/seven/03142008/news/national
news/9_11_slur_by_obama_rev__101937.htm

Obama’s Pastor Known for “Inflammatory Rhetoric”

March 13, 2008

Obama’s Pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Has a History of What Even Obama’s Campaign Aides Say Is ‘Inflammatory Rhetoric’

ABC News

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s south side, has a long history of what even Obama’s campaign aides concede is “inflammatory rhetoric,” including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own “terrorism.”

In a campaign appearance earlier this month, Sen. Obama said, “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” He said Rev. Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with,” telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.

Barack Obama, Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Rev. Wright married Obama and his wife Michelle, baptized their two daughters and is credited by Obama for the title of his book, “The Audacity of Hope.”

An ABC News review of dozens of Rev. Wright’s sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans.

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people,” he said in a 2003 sermon. “God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”

In addition to damning America, he told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 that the United States had brought on al Qaeda’s attacks because of its own terrorism.

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he told his congregation.

Sen. Obama told the New York Times he was not at the church on the day of Rev. Wright’s 9/11 sermon. “The violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification,” Obama said in a recent interview. “It sounds like he was trying to be provocative,” Obama told the paper.

Rev. Wright, who announced his retirement last month, has built a large and loyal following at his church with his mesmerizing sermons, mixing traditional spiritual content and his views on contemporary issues.

“I wouldn’t call it radical. I call it being black in America,” said one congregation member outside the church last Sunday.

“He has impacted the life of Barack Obama so much so that he wants to portray that feeling he got from Rev. Wright onto the country because we all need something positive,” said another member of the congregation.

Rev. Wright, who declined to be interviewed by ABC News, is considered one of the country’s 10 most influential black pastors, according to members of the Obama campaign.

Obama has praised at least one aspect of Rev. Wright’s approach, referring to his “social gospel” and his focus on Africa, “and I agree with him on that.”

Sen. Obama declined to comment on Rev. Wright’s denunciations of the United States, but a campaign religious adviser, Shaun Casey, appearing on “Good Morning America” Thursday, said Obama “had repudiated” those comments.

In a statement to ABCNews.com, Obama’s press spokesman Bill Burton said, “Sen. Obama has said repeatedly that personal attacks such as this have no place in this campaign or our politics, whether they’re offered from a platform at a rally or the pulpit of a church.

Sen. Obama does not think of the pastor of his church in political terms. Like a member of his family, there are things he says with which Sen. Obama deeply disagrees. But now that he is retired, that doesn’t detract from Sen. Obama’s affection for Rev. Wright or his appreciation for the good works he has done.”

U.S. Economy In Recession (Or Very Close)

March 12, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
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The United States is in a recession and economic storm clouds loom in Asia. 

U.S. homeowners have more debt than ownership (equity) causing many to “bail out” on their mortgages.  Banks now own more and more houses.  To make it easier to buy, the Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates over and over again.  The Fed may lower rates again next week.

The dollar is way down compared to the euro — and just about all other reputable currency — and oil prices are up because of this, high world-wide demand and limited refining capacity.

A US banknote is reflected on a euro coin. The dollar found ...

A US banknote is reflected on a euro coin. The dollar found some support Monday, gaining ground on the euro on warnings against excessive exchange rate volatility from European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet.(AFP/File/Joel Saget)
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In China, where banks hold over a trillion dollars in foreign exchange reserves, a sell-off of dollars could also depress the dollar further.  Fear of such an action alone is enough to make economists wary of pressuring China.

Farmers in the Midwest of America are delighted by high corn prices – much attributable to demand for corn-made ethanol.  But the high price of corn is a burden to those trying to feed livestock.

The good news is that it is so expensive to feed cattle right now that the farmers are slaughtering beef at a better than average rate.  Beef is cheep just now (but watch out next year).

The price of wheat per bushel has doubled in the last few months.  This means bread, pizza and bagels are going up in price.  Beer too!

Because of the low dollar, screwy farm prices and high gasoline prices, pretty much everything in the grocery store is costing more.

Retail sales are way down and applications for unemployment are way up.

But recession has a real definition and this, plus politics, has prevented the White House from using “The ‘R’ Word” much.

In macroeconomics, a recession is a decline in a country’s gross domestic product gross domestic (GDP), or negative real economic growth, for two or more successive quarters of a year.

For the U.S., the judgment of the business-cycle dating committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research regarding the exact dating of recessions is generally accepted. The NBER has a more general framework for judging recessions:
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A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.
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A recession begins just after the economy reaches a peak of activity and ends as the economy reaches its trough. Between trough and peak, the economy is in an expansion. Expansion is the normal state of the economy; most recessions are brief and they have been rare in recent decades.
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So, we at Peace and Freedom believe we Americans are in a recession and we see dark economic clouds world-wide, especially in Asia.

China’s high January and February readings for inflation have increased the pressure on the government to take action to counter price rises.  In China, annual consumer inflation jumped to 8.7 percent in February after hitting 7.1 percent in January, the worst in more than 11 years.

But much of the current economic turbulence in China, the communist government says, is attributable to the largest winter snowfall in 100 years.  China says their economy will quickly rebound.

A staff counts Chinese Renminbi currency at a bank in Baokang, ... 

Confidence among Australian consumers weakened sharply in March to its lowest level since 1993, according to data released Wednesday, sparking economists’ predictions that the central bank is unlikely to continue a run of interest rate hikes.

The International Monetary Fund has warned Vietnam that its fast-growing economy is overheating. It has advised Hanoi to adopt a more flexible exchange rate regime and to tackle imprudent lending practices by commercial banks, in order to help control inflation.
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Vietnam’s Communist authorities are battling to curb inflation, which, driven by higher food and energy prices, hit 15.7 per cent in February and has fuelled labor unrest, especially among factory workers who say they cannot make ends meet.

Japan’s economy has so far shown resiliency, but experts on the world’s second largest economy worry that Japan’s export-led recovery could stall if US economic troubles deepen.

At the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the leadership has confidence that the U.S. economy will rebound in the next quarter.

The U.S. economy is going through a rough patch but, thanks to a government fiscal package worth some $150 billion, should start recovering as soon as the second quarter, a senior Treasury official said on Tuesday.

“The booster shot that’s been given to the U.S. economy is going to boost consumer spending, is going to boost business investment — that will lead to both higher growth and higher job creation,” Robert Kimmitt, Deputy Treasury Secretary told Sky News in the UK.

“Many economists predict, and we agree, that we will see that upturn in the second quarter,” he said.

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We’ll have to wait and see.

Our advice is to pay off your credit card debt, reduce spending and hunker down.

The U.S. Treasury building designed by Ammi Burnham Young
The U.S. Treasury building

A Few Ways I Can Tell We Are In A Recession
(These may or may not apply to your neighborhood….)

1.  The AA clubhouse starts charging for matches and coffee — and is considering a ‘no smoking’ policy just so the gang can save money.
2.  The church no longer supplies a pen near the pile of the collection envelops.
3.  People actually born in America are eating at the Peruvian Pollo Chicken restaurant.
4.  The neighborhood restaurant no longer has music.  Now you do karaoke.
5.  You no longer know the pizza man’s name.
6.  You’re going to have to use our IRS refund for gas instead of a vacation.
7. A resident of the shelter is wearing a tie and a lapel pin from a bank.
8. A bunch of realtors joined the prayer group.
9. The number of Spanish speaking illegals standing on your street looking for work has doubled.
10.  You’re looking for a lock for your gas cap….

Religion Not Dead In America

March 10, 2008

By Stephen Prothero
USA Today

Numbers lie, but they also tell tales, untrustworthy and otherwise. So the key question stirring around the much discussed U.S. Religious Landscape Survey released in late February by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life is what tale does it tell about the religious state of the union.

For some, the story of this survey, based on interviews in multiple languages with more than 35,000 U.S. adults, is the strength of American religion.

Not too long ago, I wrote that American atheism was going the way of the freak show. As books by Christopher Hitchens and other “new atheists” climbed the best-seller lists, I caught a lot of flak for that prophecy. But atheists make up only 1.6% of respondents to this survey. And 82% of respondents report that religion is either somewhat or very important in their lives.

Others find in this new data a nation of religious shoppers: 44% of the Americans surveyed have traded in their original religious home for another. Apparently, the grass is also greener at the church, synagogue or mosque next door.

Still others, noting that only 51% of Americans describe themselves as Protestants, see Protestantism teetering on the verge of becoming a minority.

Catholicism is at least by some readers of the tea leaves in trouble, too, now that ex-Catholics constitute 10% of the population.

Diminished safeguards

The tale I take away from this study is that shifts in the political and moral winds are transforming American religion. Many believe that the Founders separated church and state in order to save the federal government from the interference of overzealous ministers. Not so. The purpose of the First Amendment‘s establishment clause — which prohibits the federal government from passing laws that favor any one religion (atheism included) — was to safeguard religion against the encroachment of politics. And this new survey suggests that those safeguards are, well, going the way of the freak show.

The key subplot here is the rise of “nones,” a category growing faster than any other religious group. Of all adults in the USA, 16% say they are religiously unaffiliated, while 7% were raised that way. Moreover, 25% of younger Americans (ages 18-29) report no religious affiliation at all.

It is important to emphasize that this march of the “nones” is by no means beating the drums for the old secularization thesis, which posited that as societies embraced modernization they would shun God. This is because many “nones” are quite religious. In fact, many Americans refuse to affiliate with any religious organization not because they do not believe in God but because they believe in God so fervently that they cannot imagine any human institution capturing the mysteries of the divine. In this study, only about a quarter of all “nones” call themselves atheists or agnostics. In other surveys, about half the unaffiliated typically affirm the Christian God.

What does the rise of the “nones,” particularly in Western states and northern New England, demonstrate? Not the sickness of religion in general but the health of a new kind of religion — a more personal and less institutional form often parading under the banner of “spiritual but not religious,” an option that, among my Boston University students at least, seems as popular as the smoothie stand in the student union.

Two related factors seem to be at play in the rise of the “nones”: a decline in the stigma of being a religious free agent, and an increase in the stigma of being a church member. According to Darren Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University who has written widely on religious demographics, Americans have long “overconsumed religion because of social constraints.” It used to be that you were considered a bad citizen, a bad marriage prospect and a bad employee if you didn’t show a little faith in faith. And plainly it is still imperative for presidential candidates to pledge their allegiance to God as well as flag. But in recent years, the moral failings of Ted Haggard, John Geoghan and other men of the cloth have been broadcast from National Public Radio to YouTube. As the almighty have fallen, atheists have felt empowered to stand up and ask whether religion really is any sort of guarantor of moral behavior. What is so moral about affiliating with gay-bashing gay evangelists or pedophilic priests?

As Sherkat explains, more parents are deciding to raise their kids without any religion. And more of those children are staying unaffiliated as adults. All this is happening because the status gap between “nones” and believers has never been narrower.

Plainly, the Republican Party gained ground over the past quarter-century by attaching itself to family, morality and God, even as the Democratic Party lost ground by focusing on such matters as rights and reason. In the process, the Republicans became the party of God and the Democrats the party of secularism — not a good strategy for the Democratic Party in a country where 96% of voters believe in God. So Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both taking pains to pitch their party as a party of prayer and piety.

Even so, for much of the past generation, “Christian” and “conservative” have seemed to be interchangeable terms. It should not be surprising if at least some on the left who once upon a time might have described themselves as “Christians” have decided to jettison that affiliation for political reasons. Such reasons, it should be emphasized, are basically the same ones why so many Europeans have divorced themselves from their country’s established churches: because the marriage of a given church with a particular political regime is never eternal, and when it ends it leaves a lot of angry children in its wake.

Customized religion

Another story buried in the data of this new survey is the power of evangelical Protestantism, and particularly non-denominational churches. Of those surveyed, 44% called themselves “born again” or “evangelical” Christians, and among religious options non-denominational Protestantism is one of the fastest growing.

This story of the revenge of the evangelicals might seem at odds with the tale of the rise of the “nones,” but the impulse underlying them is the same. The USA is rapidly becoming a culture of customization. People want to write their own marriage vows and have tailor-made funerals. They gravitate toward religious options that are more personal and less institutional. In this respect, the “unaffiliated” and the “non-denominational” Protestant are cut from the same cloth.

The story behind the numbers of this latest survey is not that religion is in trouble. It is that religion is morphing into something new. Faith is becoming more political. But it is becoming more personal at the same time.

Stephen Prothero is the Chair of the Department of Religion at Boston University. He’s also the author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn’t.