CULTURE DIGEST: Barna: American Christianity a lukewarm church; ...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Like the lukewarm church at Laodicea that Jesus said in the Book of Revelation He was about to spew out of His mouth, The Barna Group in a recent study assessed American Christianity as neither hot nor cold.

"Most Americans do not have strong and clear beliefs, largely because they do not possess a coherent biblical worldview," David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group, said. "That is, they lack a consistent and holistic understanding of their faith. Millions of Americans say they are personally committed to Jesus Christ, but they believe He sinned while on earth.

"Many believers claim to trust what the Bible teaches, but they reject the notion of a real spiritual adversary or they feel that faith-sharing activities are optional," Kinnaman added. "Millions feel personally committed to God, but they are renegotiating the definition of that deity."

One reason beliefs fluctuate, Kinnaman said, is that most Americans hold few convictions about their faith and "have one foot in the biblical camp and one foot outside it."

"They say they are committed, but to what? They are spiritually active, but to what end? The spiritual profile of American Christianity is not unlike a lukewarm church that the Bible warns about," Kinnaman said.

In a study released May 21, Barna estimated there are 90 million born-again believers nationwide, and within that group are 16 million evangelical Christians, or 7 percent of the adult population.

Eighty-three percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians, but only 49 percent of those describe themselves as absolutely committed to Christianity, Barna said.

Among other findings:

-- 83 percent of Americans said they had prayed in the last week.

-- 43 percent claimed to have attended a church service.

-- 41 percent said they read the Bible outside of a church service.

-- 20 percent attended Sunday School in the last week.

-- 50 percent said they donated money to a congregation in the past year.

"Most Americans still embrace a traditional view of God, but they are less likely than ever to do so," Barna said in a news release. "Currently two-thirds of Americans believe that God is best described as the all-powerful, all-knowing perfect creator of the universe who rules the world today (66 percent). However, this proportion is lower than it was a year ago (71 percent) and represents the lowest percentage in more than 20 years of similar surveys."

For more information on the study, visit www.barna.org.

AMERICAN MUSLIMS ARE MAINSTREAM, STUDY FINDS -- In a first-of-its-kind survey of Muslim Americans, the Pew Research Center found the demographic group to be highly diverse but distinctly American in their values and attitudes.

The study, released May 22, found that 65 percent of the 2.4 million Muslim Americans were born in another country, and among the native-born Muslims, 21 percent are converts to Islam.

Pew said Muslim Americans reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries, while 53 percent said it has become more difficult to be a Muslim American since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Relatively few Muslim Americans believe the U.S.-led war on terror is a sincere effort to reduce terrorism, and many doubt that Arabs were responsible for the 9/11 attacks," Pew reported. "Just 40 percent of Muslim Americans say groups of Arabs carried out those attacks."

Pockets of extremism were found among Muslim Americans, especially the young, who show a greater tendency to identify themselves first as Muslims and second as Americans. Nearly one-fourth of those under 30 said suicide bombings are acceptable in some cases, Pew found.

Otherwise, most Muslim Americans have a generally positive view of American society, and 71 percent believe that if they work hard they can get ahead in the United States.

Most Muslim Americans, Pew found, believe Muslims should try to adopt American customs, and they don't see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.

Sixty-three percent of Muslim Americans identify themselves as Democrat or leaning toward the Democratic Party, while just 11 percent identified with the Republican Party. Thirty-eight percent describe themselves as moderates, Pew said, while 24 percent consider themselves liberals and 19 percent choose the conservative label.

"On key social issues, Muslims in the U.S. are much more conservative than the general public," Pew said. "Most say that homosexuality is a way of life that should be discouraged rather than accepted by society. A large majority of Muslims (59 percent) also say that government should do more to protect morality in society."

CONTROVERSIAL FIGURES EXCLUDED FROM ANGLICAN MEETING -- Two bishops who have contributed to controversy within the Anglican Communion have been snubbed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who did not invite them to a once-a-decade global gathering.

Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual man ordained by the Episcopal Church, and Bishop Martyn Minns, recently tapped to lead the conservative protest group Convocation of Anglicans in North America, both were excluded from the list of 800 invitations, according to The New York Times May 23.

At the last Lambeth Conference in 1998, the bishops passed a resolution "rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture" and made clear their opposition to the blessing of same-sex unions, The Times noted. The secretary general of the communion told the newspaper that to invite Robinson "would be to ignore the very substantial and widespread objections in many parts of the communion to his consecration and his ministry."

Minns, meanwhile, drew the ire of the Archbishop of Canterbury for crossing boundaries set by the communion which forbade his installation as head of a parallel group in the United States, where the Episcopal Church has jurisdiction.

"I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the communion," Rowan Williams of Canterbury wrote in his invitation letter, according to The Times.

While liberals and conservatives alike were offended by Williams' move, several said they would wait to see if things change before the '08 meeting.

MORE ON IOWA STATE PROFESSOR'S TENURE DENIAL -- At least three of five tenured astronomers at Iowa State University now have been tied to anti-Intelligent Design bias in denying tenure to Guillermo Gonzalez, a highly accomplished science professor who is awaiting the results of an appeal.

Curtis Struck, an astronomy professor in Gonzalez' department, told World magazine he was not surprised when Gonzalez was denied tenure because "he includes some things in his astronomy resume that other people regard as taking a coincidence too far."

Also, another tenured astronomer at Iowa State signed a statement circulated by the pro-evolution National Center for Science Education denouncing Intelligent Design as "creationist pseudoscience," and the husband of another professor signed the same document.

The chair of the department, Eli Rosenberg, admitted to World that Gonzalez' views supporting Intelligent Design played into the decision-making process regarding tenure, and he said the reputation of a professor among others in his field is a significant factor in whether someone is granted tenure.

Gregory Geoffroy, president of Iowa State, has until June 6 to decide on Gonzalez' appeal.


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