CULTURE DIGEST: Only 5% of adults tithed last year, Barna survey says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The United States is supposedly the most generous nation on the planet, but only 5 percent of American adults donated 10 percent or more of their income to churches and charitable groups last year, according to a study by George Barna's research organization.

Within the randomly selected group of 1,006 adults surveyed, Christians tended to give more than others, The Barna Group said in a news release in mid-April.

"Among the most generous segments were evangelicals (24 percent of whom tithed); conservatives (12 percent); people who had prayed, read the Bible and attended a church service during the past week (12 percent); charismatic or Pentecostal Christians (11 percent); and registered Republicans (10 percent)," Barna said.

The segments of society who were highly unlikely to tithe included people under the age of 25, atheists and agnostics, single adults who have never been married, liberals and adults who make less than $20,000 per year, the research indicated.

Barna explained that the idea of a tithe originated in the Old Testament as the tax that Israelites paid from the produce of the land to support the Levites, to fund Jewish religious festivals and to help the poor. Since the New Testament, Barna said Christians have believed in generous giving but have not necessarily put a number on the percentage expected.

The average amount given to nonprofits by U.S. adults last year was $1,308, Barna reported, and one-third of all adults gave away $1,000 or more. Almost two-thirds of adults donated at least a small amount of money to a place of worship, Barna said, and 96 percent of evangelicals gave money to a church.

One of the key findings Barna noted is a change regarding where Christians choose to give their money. The percentage of evangelical and non-evangelical born-again adults who gave money to churches dropped to its lowest level this decade -- 76 percent. Many Christians are now giving their money to different types of organizations rather than a church, he said.

"They attend conventional churches less often. They are expanding their circle of Christian relationships beyond local church boundaries. And they are investing greater amounts of their time and money in service organizations that are not connected with a conventional church," Barna said. "That doesn't make such giving inappropriate or less significant. It's just a different way of addressing social needs.

"... If this transition in the perceptions and giving behavior of born again adults continues to accelerate, the service functions of conventional churches will be redefined within the next eight to 10 years, and conventional churches will have to adopt new ways of assisting people in need," he said.

TAXPAYERS FUNDING MUSLIM SCHOOL -- Taxpayers are funding an Islamic public school in Minnesota even in a culture that would not tolerate the funding of a Christian school, according to a report by Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten.

The Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy was founded in 2003 by two imams who were leaders of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota (MAS-MN), and it shares the Muslim society's headquarters building along with a mosque, Kersten wrote in March. Most of the 300 students are from low-income Muslim immigrant families, and the school has a waiting list of 1,500, she said.

"TIZA uses the language of culture rather than religion to describe its program in public documents," Kersten wrote. "According to its mission statement, the school 'recognizes and appreciates the traditions, histories, civilizations and accomplishments of the eastern world (Africa, Asia and Middle East).'

"But the line between religion and culture is often blurry. There are strong indications that religion plays a central role at TIZA, which is a public school financed by Minnesota taxpayers," she added. "Under the U.S. and state constitutions, a public school can accommodate students' religious beliefs but cannot encourage or endorse religion."

Girls at TIZA wear headscarves, the student body prays daily and the cafeteria serves food approved by Islamic law, the columnist reported. When the school day is over, students head to Islamic studies classes, and during Ramadan, all of the students fast from dawn to dusk.

When addressing Muslim audiences, TIZA officials make the link to Islam clear, Kersten said.

"At MAS-MN's 2007 convention, for example, the program featured an advertisement for the 'Muslim American Society of Minnesota,' superimposed on a picture of a mosque. Under the motto 'Establishing Islam in Minnesota,' it asked: 'Did you know that MAS-MN ... houses a full-time elementary school'? On the adjacent page was an application for TIZA," she wrote.

In a subsequent column in April, Kersten surmised that TIZA has been allowed to operate because of lack of oversight by the state's department of education.

COLLEGES RECRUITING HOMOSEXUAL STUDENTS -- The front page of a recent Chicago Daily Herald newspaper proclaimed "Colleges reaching out to recruit gay students," and the article told of institutions of higher learning including Princeton and Yale aggressively seeking a new demographic.

"They've chased star athletes. They've pursued valedictorians. Now colleges and universities are vying for the attention of gay, lesbian and transgender students," the April 11 issue of the suburban paper said.

Nearly 50 schools took part in the National Gay-Friendly College Fair on the campus of the University of California San Diego in April, catering to students "who want to find campuses committed to LGBT people." The event was sponsored by Campus Pride, a group working to advance the homosexual agenda at the nation's universities.

"Students are coming out at a much younger age," Eric Tammes, a recruiter for Roosevelt University in Chicago, told the Daily Herald. "That process isn't beginning in college or after college like we may have seen 10 or 20 years ago."

Homosexual high school students these days, the article said, are looking for colleges that will embrace their lifestyles and offer "gay and lesbian student organizations, gay and lesbian courses or majors and gender-neutral residential halls where students can live in coed rooms."

Colleges even are vying for the top spots in the Campus Pride ranking of universities that are the most accepting of homosexual behavior, and students who attend the Campus Pride college fairs seem to be looking for more than a good education. Their comments reflect the changing atmosphere in which Christian college students are called to minister.

"It was great to have my first college fair be one where I could ask important questions about myself as someone from the LGBT community," Isabel Galupo, a high school senior in Towson, Md., said, according to the Out in America Newswire. "This type of college fair was also very important for me as I have two moms. I want to be at a college where I can feel comfortable about my family."


Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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