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Fewer Christians?

Thoughts on the Pew Report

What do we make of news reports on the recent Pew report on religion in the United States? Well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “Lies, darned lies, and statistics.”

John Stonestreet

The headline of the New York Times was “Big Drop in Share of Americans Calling Themselves Christian.” It was a story reporting on a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

According to the survey, “The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with an organized religion is growing.” More specifically, seventy-one percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians, down from 79 percent in 2007.

The biggest increase and the subject of much of the media coverage was the religiously-unaffiliated, or the “nones” as they are sometimes called. They went from 16 percent of those surveyed in 2007 to 23 percent today. And among 18-to-25-year olds, the percentage of the unaffiliated rose to 34 percent.daily_commentary_05_27_15

While Pew declined to speculate on what is behind the statistical decline of self-identifying Christians, the New York Times didn’t hesitate. Clearly, they claimed, part of the reason is the “politicalization of religion by American conservatives.” The one outside expert quoted in the piece reinforced the notion of a “backlash against the association of Christianity with conservative political values.”

This so-called explanation ignores the inconvenient fact that the biggest decline noted, again, is in the liberal mainline denominations.

So what ought we to make of this report? Well, the first thing, as with all such reports, is to acknowledge its critics who call some of its findings into question. For instance, over at the Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter pointed out that the “Christianity in decline” meme ignores the fact that, according to the survey, the number of Evangelicals is growing, and the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as such remains stable.

Mark Gray of Georgetown University offered similar criticisms regarding the conclusions drawn about Catholicism.

Still, the fact remains that fewer Americans self-identify as Christians. And Russell Moore is correct to note that what the statistical decline most reflects is the demise of what he calls “Bible Belt near-Christianity.”

As Moore writes, “For much of the twentieth century, one had to at least claim to be a Christian to be ‘normal.’” But this is no longer the case. “Those who don’t believe can say so—and still find spouses, get jobs, volunteer with the PTA, and even run for office.”

And jettisoning controversial teachings, especially on what he calls “pelvic autonomy,” won’t help, Moore says, because “people who don’t want Christianity, don’t want almost-Christianity” either.

“We do not have more atheists in America,” Moore stated. “We have more honest atheists in America.” And that’s exactly right.

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Police supporters hold large white sheets with blue lines across them to shield those mourners from Westboro Baptist Church protesters.

Hundreds of supporters came to the funeral of slain Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco to shield mourners from a handful of protesters Tuesday.

About 9 a.m., the supporters moved south to Cass Street, where they were joined by hundreds more, including a large group from the Patriot Guard.

There they unfurled large white sheets with blue lines across them.

The protesters, from Westboro Baptist Church, set up near Interstate 480, so supporters moved to a hill to block them from view.

Kate Kielion of Omaha, the daughter of a retired Omaha police captain, organized the sheet-making.

“Everybody just came together,” said Kielion, 33. “Everybody wanted to help. Our purpose was to hide the hate and show the love, and that’s what happened.”

To see the article…

by S.T. Karnick April 10, 2015
As a Christian, he never ceased to stand by those who suffered, even when it cost him his life. Editor’s Note: To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the death of Dietrch Bonhoeffer, NR is reprinting S.T. Karnick’s review of Eric Metaxas’s biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy from the June 21, 2010, issue. The too-brief life of the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been the subject of much film and literary interest in recent years, and Eric Metaxas’s insightful biography of this heroic figure helps us understand why. Bonhoeffer’s life vividly demonstrated the natural and indeed inevitable tensions between the individual and the modern state, and it pointed toward a response based firmly in Christian thought. There are two powerful presences throughout the book: Bonhoeffer himself and Adolf Hitler, as the two head for the great confrontation in which the theologian engaged in an ambitious conspiracy to kill the Führer and topple his regime. Metaxas’s book makes the reader acutely aware that the same nation that produced Hitler engendered this heroic opponent and many others of similar integrity. His family’s unusual religious life was a huge formative influence on Bonhoeffer. The Bonhoeffers seldom attended church, Metaxas writes, but their “daily life was filled with Bible reading and hymn singing, all of it led by Frau Bonhoeffer.” In addition, the children learned that a real love of God must be manifested in one’s actions. “Exhibiting selflessness, expressing generosity, and helping others were central to the family culture.”

Read more at:

It’s Memorial Day –a day that started out with the name Decoration Day.  Unlike Veteran’s Day, when we honor all veterans who served our country, this day is reserved for those who died in that service.  It started with the living making a trek out to the cemeteries across the land, decorating the graves, honoring the fallen, remembering their service, their “last full measure of devotion.”

The stories are endless.  The count is breathtaking.  The first war to prompt what became this official observance saw the fallen honored from the two sides of our “civil” war, with 625,000 names and lives to remember from that war alone.

For those of us who never served, it really is close to unimaginable.  For many who served and watched their comrades die, it is so very imaginable.  And the cost; the sacrifice; the duty…  they all add up to the simple yet extraordinary story of young men (mostly men in the past) who showed up, (or were drafted), signed up, and followed orders.

Some came mainly because we were bored at home — thought this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many of us came because it was the right thing to do. And all of us have seen men die.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Addresses Maine Soldiers, (from the movie Gettysburg)

“The right thing to do.”  The “just war” doctirne says that when the cause is just, there is little doubt about the justification.

I recently read the biography Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Mataxas.  Dietrich Bonheoffer was at heart a pacifist.  A German theologian, he saw no way for a Christian to participate in war.  And then he watched Hitler’s rise to power.  He changed, because the cause was inescapably just.  He joined in on a serious attempt to kill Hitler, part of the Valkyrie plan.  He was captured, and ultimately spent the last day of his life leading worship.  Here is the author’s summary of that last day:

Less than twenty-four hours before he left this world, Bonhoeffer performed the offices of a pastor. In the bright Schönberg schoolroom that was their cell, he held a small service. He prayed and read the verses for that day: Isaiah 53:5 (“With his stripes we are healed”) and 1 Peter 1:3 (“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” RSV).
He had hardly finished his last prayer when the door opened and two evil-looking men in civilian clothes came in and said: “Prisoner Bonhoeffer. Get ready to come with us.” Those words “Come with us”—for all prisoners they had come to mean one thing only—the scaffold. We bade him good-bye—he drew me aside—“This is the end,” he said. “For me the beginning of life.”
He “was a good and saintly man,” wrote one observer.  But in the letter he went further: “In fact my feeling was far stronger than these words imply. He was, without exception, the finest and most lovable man I have ever met.”
Bonhoeffer’s sentence of death was almost certainly by decree of Hitler himself.  (Hitler) was every atom a petty man, he was accustomed to diverting exceedingly precious resources of time, personnel, and gasoline for the purposes of his own revenge.
We know that Bonhoeffer thought of death as the last station on the road to freedom, as he put it in his poem, “Stations on the Road to Freedom.”
“In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God,” wrote another.
Bonhoeffer thought it the plain duty of the Christian—and the privilege and honor—to suffer with those who suffered.

I speak regularly at an assisted living facility nearby.

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The way community has been formed for much of the last 4,000 years has come unravelled in the last few decades. Where agrarian societies were primarily stable farming communities — your farm and your neighbors’ farms kept you rooted to a single place and to one another — we have entered into a new nomadic era.

Where farm cultures are settled and take value from the soil they till and then put value right back into it, nomadic cultures are mobile, moving to wherever they find value. With the dwindling of many farming communities since World War II, the rise of cities, and the birth of an information/communication economy, the jobs we do and the places we live have become more interchangeable.

Much of the growth of the city I live in (Bend, Oregon) has come from people whose work enables them to live anywhere they want, because they can do their…

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It is amazing how Dietrich Bonhoeffer has ended up on both sides of the debate concerning the rights of the LBGT. This seen in a letter to the editor in the Indy Star…

Don’t cite Dietrich Bonhoeffer in support of RFRA

The Rev. Ron Johnson Jr. of the Indiana Pastors Alliance claimed during his April 27 Statehouse rally that issues around the Religious Freedom Restoration Act had brought on a “Bonhoeffer moment.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor who created an underground seminary in Nazi Germany to train pastors for courageous leadership in dangerous times.

However, Bonhoeffer would not have affirmed Johnson’s statement or actions in promoting legislation to allow discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers. Homosexuals were one of the populations persecuted under Nazi rule, and Bonhoeffer’s teaching, beliefs and eventual decision to participate in an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler were evidence that he believed in the dignity and worth of all.

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Liebe Interessentinnen und Interessenten,

wir freuen uns, Ihnen heute mit dem neuen Newsletter zum Dietrich Bonhoeffer Portal einen ersten Eindruck der wichtigsten Schwerpunkte, Termine und Events rund um die Jubiläumszeit zum 70. Todestag Bonhoeffers kurz vorzustellen. Auch im Portal hat sich einiges getan. So ist es jetzt möglich, innerhalb der Inhaltsverzeichnisse der Werkausgabe per Stichwortsuche zu recherchieren, und auch unsere Erinnerungsstätten und Gemeindeseiten haben sich nach und nach mit vielen neuen Inhalten gefüllt. Natürlich gilt es immer noch einige Lücken zu schließen. Wenn Ihre Bonhoeffer-Gemeinde, Schule oder Institution bei uns noch nicht oder nur als Adressinfo enthalten ist, zögern Sie nicht, uns zu kontaktieren, wir freuen uns über Ihre Neumeldungen und Ergänzungen!

Der Geburtstag Bonhoeffers am 4. Februar hat schon eine erste Welle an Terminen, Vorträgen und Referaten ausgelöst. Mehr Informationen erhalten Sie auf der Terminübersichtsseite:

Bonhoeffer Gedenkjahr 2015

Wir freuen uns, Sie weiterhin mit unseren Themen und Inhalten zu begeistern und danken allen, die zum Gelingen dieser Aufgabe mit eigenen Inhalten beitragen!

Herzliche Grüße Ihre
Anni Neumann
– Online-Redaktion –

“Wer bin ich” – Schülerwettbewerb: Einsendeschluss: 31.03.2015

„Wer bin ich?“ Dieser Frage begegnen Menschen immer wieder. Vielleicht sind besonders junge Menschen von dieser Frage betroffen, die – gerade wegen der Vielzahl an Angeboten und Möglichkeiten – auf der Suche nach ihrem Platz in der Gesellschaft sind.

Mit der Ausschreibung des Wettbewerbs „Wer bin ich?“ regt der Arbeitskreis „Dietrich Bonhoeffer in der Schule“ der Internationalen Bonhoeffer-Gesellschaft (ibg) Jugendliche dazu an, sich anlässlich seines 70.Todestages mit dem Theologen und Widerstandskämpfer Dietrich Bonhoeffer auseinander zu setzen und seine Aussagen aus dem Gedicht „Wer bin ich?“ mit ihrem eigenen Leben in Verbindung zu bringen.

Mehr Informationen zum Wettbewerb …

Call for Papers für den XII. Internationalen Bonhoeffer-Kongress 2016 in Basel

Die Vorbereitungsgruppe des XII. Internationalen Bonhoeffer-Kongresses, der vom 6. bis 10. Juli 2016 in Basel/Schweiz stattfinden wird, lädt herzlich zur Einsendung von Vorschlägen für Vorträge ein.
Der Kongress steht unter dem Thema Bonhoeffer in einer globalen Zeit: Christlicher Glaube, Zeugnis, Dienst.

Die Konferenz will klären, wie Bonhoeffers eigene Theologie durch Auslandserfahrungen und ökumenische Begegnungen geprägt wurde. Kann Bonhoeffers Theologie auch in unserer globalen Situation heute noch hilfreich sein? Und wie?
An den drei Arbeitstagen der Konferenz finden morgens Hauptvorträge und nachmittags Seminarreferate statt. Zu diesen Seminarreferaten erbitten wir Ihre Proposals. Die Themen der drei Arbeitstage finden Sie in unserem Artikel “Call for Papers …” unter:

Forschung aktuell, “Call for Papers …”

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“We are certainly not Christ; we are not called on to redeem the world by our own deeds and sufferings, and we need not try to assume such an impossible burden. We are not lords, but instruments in the hand of the Lord of history; and we can share in other people’s sufferings only to a very limited degree. We are not Christ, but if we want to be Christians, we must share in Christ’s large-heartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the hour of danger comes, and by showing a real sympathy that springs, not from fear, but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. The Christian is called to sympathy and action, not in the first place by his own sufferings, but by the sufferings of his brethren, for whose sake Christ suffered.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, After Ten Years in Letters & Papers From Prison, 14. 

Last Days of the Nazis

Last Days of the Nazis is a story that’s rarely been broadcast on television before. This is a dark and compelling history of Nazism from a different perspective – that of the Nazis themselves. In 1945, the Allies rounded up and interrogated thousands of ex-Nazis. The interrogations became a fascinating, but largely forgotten, part of the historical record. The Last Days of the Nazis uses these interrogations to dramatically bring to life accounts by Nazi death camp commandants, Nazi doctors, generals, architects, and members of the Hitler Youth. It is an inside look at the minds and motivations of the most evil regime in history. This is what the enemy told us.

May 2015


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