Century Marks

Century Marks

Diversity and decline?

Religious diversity may be making America less religious. Although religious pluralism is not necessarily the cause of declining religiosity, it does expose people to ideas and practices that challenge their faith. Increasing religious pluralism also dilutes any notion of America having a Christian heritage—a theme that in the past has reinforced Christian faith. Mississippi, where “it’s hard to swing a dead cat without hitting a Baptist,” is both the most religiously uniform state and the most religious state in the country. Conversely, Oregon is highly diverse and one of the least religious states (FiveThirtyEight, August 23).

Attitude adjustment

An Angli­can study, Church Growth in East Lon­don, concludes that church growth is more about attitude than theological or liturgical tradition. It challenges the notion that only evangelically oriented congregations using contemporary forms of worship can grow. The churches that engaged in the most social action attracted the largest number of new Christians. “The degree of intentionality behind growth is related to the likelihood of growth,” the report says. Willingness to adopt new leadership forms and structures and the congregation’s ability to reflect on what faithfulness means in its context were also key variables (Church Times, September 2).

Two firsts

There are two First Baptist churches in Macon, Georgia, one black and one white. Until 1845 they were one congregation made up of slave owners and slaves. The pastors of each congregation met two years ago to explore ways their congregations could become friends. Their first joint activity was an Easter egg hunt in the park that separates their properties, followed by a book drive, a Thanks­giving Day potluck, and a trip to Orlando for black and white youth. Congregants were surprised to discover that their sanctuaries have nearly identical designs. The congregations next plan to hold conversations about racism (Post Register, August 29).


The term trauma originally referred to physical harm. In time its usage embraced emotional harm, and for good reasons. But now even a personal slight or disappointment can be viewed as traumatic. The “promiscuous use” of the word “has worrying implications,” writes professor of psychology Nick Haslam. “When we describe misfortune, sadness or even pain as trauma, we redefine our experience. Using the word trauma turns every event into a catastrophe, leaving us helpless, broken, and unable to move on” (Washington Post, August 12).

Remembering the victims

Last year the Equal Justice Initiative documented over 4,000 lynchings of African Americans between 1877 and 1950 in the United States. The nonprofit organization is developing a museum to commemorate the victims. The museum, scheduled to open in April 2017, stands on the site of a former slave warehouse in Montgomery, Alabama. The memorial will contain rows of over 800 concrete columns representing the counties where lynchings took place, with the names of those lynched engraved on the columns. The columns are free-floating, suspended from the ceiling in imitation of hanging (Next City, August 16).