Last week while I was away, Tobin Grant linked to something interesting: new research, based on 40 years of General Social Surveys, that echoes Grant's own parsing of Pew's Religious Landscapes Survey.
How do American people-of-faith feel about American people-of-different-faith? The Pew Forum has a new polling report on this question. It seems Catholics have a slightly higher view of Jews than vice versa, while white evangelicals' view of Jews is much higher than Jews' view of evangelicals. White mainline Protestants have moderately positive views of Jews, Catholic, and evangelicals, while the opposite is.... Huh, okay.
For about a month, there has been an ongoing discussion about the term “mainline.” I refuse to use it because it doesn't adequately reflect the diversity of our social justice influences.
I am tired of pretending that we want to hang out at the country club and eat cucumber sandwiches in fancy hats. We are not some sort of upper-crust elite society. Now, it's time to discard that tired label that ties us too closely with a particular race and class. It's time to call forth another name.
What we read matters. But what should we read? Matthew Hedstrom describes Protestant angst amid the information overload of the early 20th century.
The reevaluation of liberal Protestantism and its real but perhaps overstated decline—a topic that the Century has covered with this review, and related commentary by Martin Marty and by John Buchanan—was picked up by the New York Times this week. The Times story does a decent job summarizing the debate, in which the overarching question is posed by historian David Hollinger (interviewed by the Century last year): Did liberal Protestants of midcentury win the culture war but lose the church?
In this world of constant change, one thing remains predictable: the WSJ will never miss an opportunity to bash mainline churches.
Barton Swaim, reviewing Elesha J. Coffman’s The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline for the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), wrote this: Nor were the editors [of the Christian Century] above dirty tricks, at one point even hiring an investigative reporter to find some impropriety in [the Billy Graham] organization’s finances. None came to light, but in something of a scoop, Ms. Coffman has discovered documents linking the revered historian Martin Marty to the rough anti-Graham campaign. As far as Coffman’s book goes, I have only the usual quibbles that a historian voices when reviewing the work of another historian. It is Swaim who is unfair to the magazine.
It has become cliché to note that we live in a world of information overload. Being cliché, of course, does not make it any less true. We professors are well aware of our inability to keep up with the fantastic production of new knowledge in our own specialties, yet the torrent of words overwhelms not only scholars but all readers. Who can possibly read all the books, magazines, journals, newspapers, blogs, tweets and posts worth reading? And what is worth reading, anyway? This deluge is often ascribed to the digital revolution, and indeed the internet and pervasive connectivity have greatly expanded our reading options. Nevertheless, the historically minded will recognize in our current situation merely the ongoing ripples of earlier information revolutions.
For Elesha Coffman, the pre-1960 Century is a window on the gap between an educated elite and a mass population of churchgoers.
I keep seeing T. F. Charlton's Jason Collins post everywhere, and with good reason: Tim Tebow is an example of how the public face of Christian athletes, like the public face of American Christianity in general, is overwhelmingly white—despite the fact that black Americans are the racial demographic most likely to identify as “very religious.” A recent Barna poll found that Tebow is by far the most well-known Christian professional athlete in the U.S. (with 83% awareness from the public), with retired white quarterback Kurt Warner a distant second at 59%. Robert Grifﬁn III (RGIII), a black quarterback who’s had a far more successful season with the Redskins than Tebow’s had with the Jets, trailed at 34%. It's a good point, but I don't think it's the whole story.
The Barna Group's recent religious freedom poll is pretty interesting. Evangelicals overwhelmingly support religious freedom and are concerned about its possible demise—yet a majority of them also believe that "traditional Judeo-Christian values should be given preference."