Speakers at the Republican National Convention mentioned God 43 times; speakers at the Democratic Convention, 22 times. One thing was clear: American civil religion is alive and well. At both events God was regularly invoked as the guide and protector of American greatness.
Any account of the modern expansion of Christianity worldwide must pay respectful attention to Pentecostal and charismatic forms of worship. In Latin America, and most conspicuously in Brazil, this tradition accounts for virtually all of the vast growth of Protestant churches in the past 30 years.
Not long ago I was taking a cab from O’Hare Airport to downtown Chicago, and my friendly driver proved to be a Nigerian from the Yoruba people. As the traffic gave us lots of time to talk, I soon found that this man was a pastor of a Nigerian-based congregation about which I had written at some length, one of the so-called Aladura churches.
Prayer can be taught. Indeed, learning to pray is the quintessential means of learning how to be Christ’s disciples. It is no coincidence that Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer appears in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ manual for godly living.
For the past several months the debate over U.S. immigration policy has centered on the tiny town of Postville, Iowa. In May, government officials descended on the town and arrested almost 400 immigrants who worked at a kosher meat processing plant. Close to 300 of the workers, most of whom are from Guatemala, were convicted of fraud.
To little fanfare, Denis McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff, joined a team on the streets of San Francisco doing a head count of the homeless. It was part of a survey required of cities every two years in order to qualify for federal funding for homeless programs. The president had told McDonough he wanted to know firsthand what the city was doing about the homeless. San Francisco has been able to get 19,000 homeless off the streets during the past decade by expanding housing and support services, but it still had over 6,000 people on the street during the 2013 count. “This is the same sort of challenge we face all over the country. The numbers tell the story,” McDonough said. “I had no idea anyone gave a damn,” one homeless man told the team (SFGate.com, January 30).