Friday, June 27, 2008

Introducing......"Pious But Not Religious"

Thursday June 26, 2008

We often look at the religious landscape in binary terms - believers vs. nonbelievers, churchgoers vs. atheists, the "religious" vs. "secularists". It's time too add a new group: "pious but not religious."

For a while now, some pollsters have tracked an increasing number of people who call themselves "spiritual but not religious." We've found at Beliefnet, though, that the people who identified that way tended to be, well, just not all that religious or spiritual. It's a moniker for those who have rejected organized religion and have a relatively small connection to spirituality.

It's also long been known that many people believe in God (90-plus percent) but don't really engage in much spiritual practice beyond that.

But the recent Pew Religion Forum survey confirms what we've seen on Beliefnet for a long time: There's a huge group of people in the middle - they don't just believe in God, they take concrete steps on a regular basis - but don't go to church.

Consider this: 39% attend church weekly yet 75% pray at least weekly -- and 58% pray daily. About 19% of the population is very devout - but doesn't go regularly to church.

How do they feed their spiritual thirst? They have become their own spiritual general contractors, pulling information and nourishment from a variety of sources. The burgeoning spiritual book industry, the growth of religion on the internet, and religious radio have all made it possible for Americans to devour spiritual content without regularly attending worship services. An internal Beliefnet survey found that that 69% of people read articles about spirituality in the course of a week, 53% listened to spiritual music each week.

Many also belong to 'small groups', which often are not affiliated with houses of worship. Almost half of those on Beliefnet who belong to small groups say the informal spiritual gathers - prayer, discussion or book groups -- are not connected to a church.

Many of these folks are NOT picking a bit from one religion and a bit from another, or acting as casual dabblers. They often are firmly grounded in one particular faith tradition but draw wisdom from teachers and preachers directly via books, the internet, tapes and the radio. Some of them have had bad experiences with religion that turned them off while others simply don't have the time to attend.

Religious leaders have spent many hours mulling this and trying to come up with innovative services or activities to draw these folks in. They tend to view the large number of "unchurched" as a sign of defeat, and that's understandable. This might be seen as yet another sign of the over-individualization of religious practice, each person cherry-picking their favorite creeds to fit their personal fancies. Overly private spirituality also can deprive people of a sense of community - mentors, support structures and educational rigor - that a house of worship can provide.

It does indeed seem to mean less focus on theology and more on personal experience. 57% of evangelical Christians say many religions can lead to eternal life - a direct contradiction to one of the most important teachings of evangelical Christianity that salvation comes ONLY through Christ.

But there's also another, more positive way of looking at the rise of the pious-but-not-religious group. Americans believe that prayer works, and have concluded that they can have an active and meaningful spiritual life without weekly organizational support, if they focus on prayer. They do it because they find it to be an effective way of gaining strength and, often, gaining help from God: 49% of those who pray say they received "direct answers" to prayer in the course of the year. They find that when supplemented with readings, discussion, small groups and music, they can create a genuinely meaningful spiritual plan.

Prayer, not church, has become the center of the American spiritual experience for many Americans. We're only beginning to grapple with the implications of that.

Find Article here:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

T.D.JAKES: Obama's Nomination Gives 'Goose Bumps'

By Bishop T.D. JAKES

(CNN) -- Last night, I like most Americans of all stripes, watched with visible goose bumps as history was made. I sat with my 13-year-old son and looked from the screen to his eyes as Sen. Barack Obama became the first African American in history to lead a U.S. major-party ticket when he claimed the nomination for the Democratic Party for president of the United States.

I congratulate Sen. Obama on this historic accomplishment. I thank him for accepting the torch that was lit by our forefathers and proudly carrying it through the darkness of our struggles, trials and tribulations, bringing light and hope to a new generation, and for facing all those who said "No" and "You can't win," or "It will never happen," and firmly, proudly, defiantly saying, "Yes I can!"

However, what I really hope people take away from that night is that this is not just a victory for African Americans, it is a victory for democracy that proves that our country provides possibilities for all people. It is also a sign that a metamorphosis is in progress. Today we saw that Americans respect experience, but are interested in change. I hope that we can somehow merge the best ideas of our differences and emerge with a president who epitomizes our highest and best ideals. While it remains unclear where we are going, last night proves that we as a people have moved beyond business as usual.

I congratulate not just Sen. Obama on his victory, but the country on this landmark event that has shattered a past all too often filled with reasons to separate us as opposed to a voice of reason to unite us. The victory cup does not rest on the shoulders of the senator alone, but to all those who have been able to lift the conversation from petty racism, antiquated cut-throat politics, and fear-based campaigns to the larger issues of how we would like to see our country led into the future and ultimately how our country will be remembered.

As the days and discussions of this political season continue, it is my sincere hope and prayer that we do not sink back into the abyss of political pettiness that has plagued our country and our lives for so many years. I am grateful to Sen. Hillary Clinton for giving, through this campaign, a chance for my daughters to see that their femininity is not a liability. Today both my sons and daughters came to understand that their ethnicity isn't viewed by progressive Americans as a limitation or a liability.

For me it was almost déjà vu as I sat with my son. I remembered a little over 40 years ago watching the famous King speech with my dad. Similarly, I watched with my youngest son last night as a historical moment unfolded. He and I saw the dreams of slaves come true as the sons of slaves and the slave owners clapped their hands in one progressive sweep. As I drifted into sleep, all I could see was the twinkle in my son's eyes. His eyes were illuminated with possibilities, and his heart was filled with the potential of what is attainable for qualified, competent people of all types who prepare themselves intellectually and are well vested with a divine sensitivity to the "fierce urgency of now!"

Congratulations Sen. Obama.