Long Time No See 
Friday, February 10, 2006, 02:39 AM - General
Sorry to have been away for so long. Between my regular life and my other blog, there hasn't been time to maintain this one. I have begun teaching the Faith and Film class I outlined in an early entry. It's been a nice experience. I may eventually even scrounge some time to write about it. In the meantime, just know that I haven't dropped off the planet.

Barna Reviews Top Religious Trends of 2005 
Saturday, January 7, 2006, 09:18 PM - General
The Barna Group--named for its founder/director, George Barna--is a well-regarded organization that, among other things, does research designed to be of practical aid to Christian churches. It recently issued a report on the top religious trends of 2005. The report identified four church-related trends: 1) "most local churches essentially ignore three critical spiritual dimensions: ministry to children, ministry to families and prayer;" 2) "congregations are rapidly incorporating new technologies into their activities;" 3) a "slow demise of the African-American church community;" and 4) a "changing of the guard among the leaders of the leaders," e.g., from Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell to Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes. "Pastors Warren and Jakes are at the forefront of a new class of faith leaders whose message and media skills reflect the changing cultural environment in which they minister."

Barna also highlighted four individual-related shifts: 1) "the energizing of evangelicals," a group that comprises only 7 percent of American adults but gets a disproportionate share of media attention. This group tends to be the "most active in evangelism, most likely to read the Bible, to pray, to attend church services, to volunteer at a church, and to engage in a small group during the week, and give away almost three times as much money as do other Americans." 2) an alarming epidemic of "biblical illiteracy" among most Christians; 3) the emergence of a group he dubs "Revolutionaries" who have become frustrated with traditional churches and have "crafted entirely new spiritual environments that draw them closer to God and other believers, without the help of a conventional church. There are well over 20 million adults who are pursuing a Revolutionary faith that is reminiscent of the early Church. They are meeting in homes, at work, in public places – wherever they can connect and share their mutual love for Christ and pursue their desire to be obedient servants of God." 4) the "faith trajectory" of people in their 20s and 30s, many of whom are "leaders in the pursuit of new models of faith experience and expression, such as house churches, cyberchurches and marketplace experiences. They are the most prolific practitioners of newer forms of evangelistic outreach, such as Socratic evangelism. They are pioneering language that bridges the gap between postmodern cultural imperatives and first-century biblical principles."

In Memoriam 
Friday, December 9, 2005, 08:30 AM - General
Seventy years ago today my mother was born in Norfolk, Virginia. I cannot say she led a happy life. Her childhood home was drenched in anger and abuse. Her troubled 23-year marriage ended in divorce. At age 29 she was institutionalized for several months with a mental illness diagnosed first, erroneously, as schizophrenia and later, correctly, as bipolar disorder. Ten years later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The disease finally killed her a few weeks after her forty-seventh birthday.

My mother was part of the last generation of American women raised to embrace what Betty Friedan would call "the feminine mystique": the idea that a woman's highest calling was to be a wife and mother. She usually described herself as a "professional homemaker." She never read The Feminine Mystique. She didn't have to. She lived Friedan's critique of it day to day. She would like to have escaped, but hampered by her bipolar disorder in addition to the usual difficulties of women of her age and station, she stayed in the trap. But she never stopped trying to get out. She immersed herself in self-help books. She drowned herself in religion. Once or twice a year she overdosed on sleeping pills. Through it all she composed short, didactic essays on how to live life and wrote a lot of clumsy poems.

I seldom think of her without recalling these lines from Spoon River Anthology:

I AM Minerva, the village poetess,
Hooted at, jeered at by the Yahoos of the street
For my heavy body, cock-eye, and rolling walk,
And all the more when “Butch” Weldy
Captured me after a brutal hunt.
He left me to my fate with Doctor Meyers;
And I sank into death, growing numb from the feet up,
Like one stepping deeper and deeper into a stream of ice.
Will some one go to the village newspaper,
And gather into a book the verses I wrote?—
I thirsted so for love!
I hungered so for life!

What is Radical Civility? 
Wednesday, December 7, 2005, 07:39 AM - General
Good question. An adequate answer will have to wait for another time. The short answer is that the website and blog were created to support work I do that is concerned mostly with spiritual issues, broadly conceived.