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Daniel Love Glazer

  • 2013-01-17 8:42 AM | Daniel

    This remarkable book tells the story of a young woman who was in a car accident which caused brain damage and put her in a coma for five years. From the Introduction: "A coma is not what most people think it is...a person sound asleep until one day they, hopefully, wake up!...My name is Allison Zopel and I recently spent five years coming out of a coma with traumatic brain injuries."

  • 2013-01-16 8:39 AM | Daniel
    I recommend this book, in which Paul Vitz examines the lives of prominent atheists througout history and finds that, in almost all cases, these thinkers had defective fathers, i. e. fathers who had died, were absent, or abusive.
  • 2013-01-16 8:36 AM | Daniel

    "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

    because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

    who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

    from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic,” Sorbonne in Paris, France, April 23, 1910

  • 2013-01-11 8:33 AM | Daniel

    Through much of the twentieth century, it was widely believed among Western intellectuals that the Chinese were immune to religion—an immunity that long preceded the communist rise to power. When, in 1934, Edgar Snow quipped that “in China, opium is the religion of the people,” many academic and media experts smiled in agreement and dismissed the million Chinese claimed as converts by Christian missionaries as nothing but “rice Christians”—cynical souls who had frequented the missions for the benefits they provided. Then, in 1949, Mao Zedong came to power. Religion was outlawed, and it was widely agreed among social scientists that China soon would be a model of the fully secularized, post-religious society.

    But it wasn’t to be. Instead, belief in a coming post-religious China turned out to be the opium of Western intellectuals. The Chinese Christians of 1949—those ridiculed in the West as rice Christians—were so “insincere” that they endured decades of bloody repression during which their numbers grew. And as official repression has weakened, Christianity has been growing at an astonishing rate in China.

    Unfortunately, there is a great deal of disagreement over just how astonishing the growth has been: Are there now 16 million or 200 million Christians in China? Both numbers have been asserted with great confidence and with claims of being “official,” but perhaps the most widely accepted claim is that there are 130 million Chinese Christians. That total is often attributed to a survey conducted by the Chinese government. But it seems unlikely that there was such a poll—at least no Chinese scholars and polling agencies know of it—and that total is not supported by any of the known surveys. Some of the confusion may arise from the fact that the Chinese government does keep track of how many people belong to Christian groups officially registered under the terms of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). These groups now enroll about 16 million members. But there are tens of thousands of Christian house churches in China that are not registered with the TSPM. Not surprisingly, there is considerable interest among diverse groups in learning how many members these house churches have. Estimates have been based not on solid data but rather on intuition and anecdotal accounts of largely Western observers.

    At last it is possible to make a relatively accurate estimate of the total number of Christians in China. Our starting point is a national survey of China conducted in 2007 by Horizon, Ltd., one of China’s largest and most respected polling firms. It is based on a national multistage probability sample of Chinese in mainland China. Respondents had to be sixteen or older, have lived at their current residence for three months, and not been part of a survey in the past six months. The survey involved face-to-face interviews conducted by a regular staff of trained interviewers—Horizon does frequent surveys. Respondents were chosen by using a multistage method to select metropolitan cities, towns, and administrative villages. The final survey was administered in fifty-six locales throughout China, including three municipal cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing) and six province capital cities (Guangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Hefei, Xi’an, and Chengdu). In addition, eleven regional level cities, sixteen small towns, and twenty administrative villages were sampled. Within each locale, households were sampled within neighborhoods, and neighborhoods were sampled within administratively defined total neighborhood committees (government-defined collections of neighborhoods). A grid procedure was used to randomly select one respondent from each household for a face-to-face in-home interview. In all, 7021 Chinese were interviewed.

    These data have been made available to the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University by means of a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

    Of these 7021 Chinese respondents, in 2007 3.1 percent of Chinese indicated they were Christians (2.9 percent Protestants and 0.2 percent Catholics). Based on these data, one can argue for a total of 35.3 million Chinese Christians over the age of sixteen.

    But for several reasons we know this total is substantially too low. Many Chinese refuse to participate in survey studies, and it is assumed that Christians are unusually likely to do so—it remains somewhat risky for Chinese to be identified as Christians. In addition, some Christians who do agree to be interviewed are likely to think it unwise to admit being a Christian when asked that question by a stranger. To get an accurate estimate of the number of Chinese Christians requires a correction factor for both of these suppressors.

    To address these concerns we launched a follow-up study in cooperation with colleagues at Peking University in Beijing. Based on contacts in the Chinese Christian community, we were able to obtain samples of members of Chinese house churches from many of the same areas used in the original survey sample. Survey interviewers were sent to seek interviews with these people, all of whom were active Christians (though this was unknown to the interviewers). Of these known Christians, 62 percent refused to be interviewed compared with an overall refusal rate of 38 percent for the original survey. Adjusting for this difference in response rates yields an estimate of 58.9 million Christians sixteen and older.

    In addition, of those known Christians who did agree to be interviewed, 9 percent did not admit to being Christians when asked. Correcting for that suppressor brings the number of Christian Chinese sixteen and older to 64.3 million. Of course, this total is for 2007. Obviously the total is higher now. It seems entirely credible to estimate that there are about 70 million Chinese Christians in 2011.

    We do not know how people have arrived at the estimates of 200 million Christians in China. We have not been able to uncover one article, story, or reference that includes an estimate with an accompanying explanation—let alone an estimate that provides a sound research methodology and appropriate scientific rigor. It would appear that so-called experts have simply repeated unsubstantiated figures they have heard from others.

    Beyond this important finding, the survey also makes it possible to gain some insights into who is converting to Christianity. As is consistent with all religious groups around the world, Chinese women are almost twice as apt to be Christians as are men. Not surprisingly, no current member of the Communist Party confessed to being a Christian, although 1.7 percent of those belonging to the Communist Youth League did so.

    Some suppose that older people are more apt to have become Christians, while others believe that the elderly cling to tradition and that it is young people who are converting. But the survey data show that age has no significant effect. It is widely believed that Christianity has stronger roots in the rural areas than in the cities, but the data do not support this claim. In addition, when Chinese are separated according to where they grew up (lived until age fifteen), no significant differences emerge.

    Contrary to standard sociological wisdom, some observers have suggested that Christianity is spreading more rapidly among the more privileged Chinese. In fact, the data support that view: When Communist Party and Youth League members are excluded (since they are clustered among those with higher incomes), the higher their income, the more likely Chinese are to be Christians.

    Of course, even if Chinese Christians total 70 million, they still make up only slightly more than 5 percent of the population, although they are about as numerous as are members of the Chinese Communist Party. Thus, it may be vital for the safety of the Christian community that Christians are clustered among the more affluent and are not concentrated in rural areas. Indeed, American visitors to leading Chinese universities are struck by the Christian climate that often prevails in contrast even with most American church-supported campuses. Despite many years of dramatic religious persecution, we now have empirical evidence of the resiliency of Christianity in China and the remarkable trajectory of growth it continues to experience.

    Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson are distinguished professors of the social sciences and Carson Mencken is professor of sociology at Baylor University.

  • 2013-01-11 8:31 AM | Daniel

    "The only known cure for fear is faith."

    William S. Sadler, The Mind at Mischief, 1929

  • 2013-01-11 8:27 AM | Daniel
    "He is the eternal Father. He is that in Himself. It is as such that He is then Father for us and reveals Himself to us and is the incomparable prototype of all human creaturely fatherhood."
  • 2013-01-11 8:25 AM | Daniel

    What has been achieved in over forty years of dialogue between science and theology? What might the future of the discipline look like and how might it best progress?

    These questions framed a major conference last month at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. The Science and Religion Dialogue: Past and Future, supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, gathered leading scholars in the field to assess the current and future state of the academic study of science and religion. “The weekend attracted 400 visitors from 33 countries, in addition to the 60 or so academics who presented papers and chaired discussions,” says Michael Welker, professor of systematic theology at the University of Heidelberg and conference host. “There is work of real quality and diversity being undertaken, and the future is exciting.” Videos from the conference, including the opening ceremony and presentations, are now available online.

    A key feature of the work is that it engages seriously and deeply with cutting-edge science. “Scientific innovation is not a threat to religious belief and theology but a source of inspiration for renewal,” said Hans Joas of the Universities of Freiburg and Chicago in his opening remarks.

    For example, Günter Wagner of Yale University presented a paper on how the complexities of contemporary developmental biology have exploded the notion that organisms are merely the expression of genomes. Rather, epigenetics is demonstrating how organisms are a unique synthesis of all manner of factors, including the social and environmental. This insight carries ethical significance. “Life has real dignity,” Wagner believes. Other cutting-edge science discussed included whether or not the cosmos is causally closed, and the ramifications this has for the possibility of divine intervention.

    Several young scholars who won the Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise, formerly the John Templeton Award for Theological Promise, gave presentations at the conference, including Jan Stievermann from the University of Heidelberg. His presentation argued that knowing about the history of the dialogue between science and religion can correct misapprehensions commonly made today.

  • 2013-01-10 8:22 AM | Daniel

    Christmas is conspicuously the only time of year when the word “merry” receives heavy use. The greeting “Merry Christmas” dates back to at least 1565, in which year the author of the Hereford Municipal Manuscript wrote “And thus I comity you to god, who send you a merry Christmas & many.” Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, pushed it forward, as did industrialization: The first commercially sold Christmas card (also printed in 1843) contained the salutation “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”

    Yet “Merry Christmas” did not gain universal support. The Night Before Christmas (Clement C. Moore’s, I mean, not Nikolai Gogol’s) ends with the words, “A Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.” Queen Elizabeth II wishes British subjects a “Happy Christmas” in her annual Christmas broadcasts, and the phrase enjoys a broad general currency the U.K.

    What accounts for the difference? Queen Elizabeth, a woman of serious low-church piety, is said to prefer “happy” to “merry” because she dislikes “merry’s” connotation of boisterousness, even slight intoxication. (Similarly, in Holland some of the more strictly reformed Dutch prefer Zalig Kerstfeest—“Blessed Christmas”–to Vrolijk Kerstmis—“Merry Christmas.”)

    This moral suspicion of “Merry Christmas” dates back to the Methodist churchmen of the Victorian era who sought to promote sobriety among the English working class. Merrymaking of the ancient, alcoholic sort was frowned on year-round, perhaps never more so than during the celebration of the Savior’s birth. The phrase “Merry Christmas” would hang on, but the image of a family sharing a bottle of port or wine in the first commercial Christmas card was to give way to more temperate holiday depictions.

    We may no longer associate “merry” with spirits alcoholic as well as high, but the meaning was once familiar. “Merry” appeared in both the Wyclife and King James bibles in reference to intoxication, where it describes an evening in the life of the rich man Nabal: “He held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken.” (To wish someone a holiday feast like Nabal’s was to wish him a very good Christmas indeed.)

    To certain ears, then, “Happy Christmas” conveys a sober, well-earned enjoyment, the satisfaction resulting from hard work and virtuous living. “Merry Christmas” stirs in us an impulse more primitive and unrestrained: The childlike giddiness of Christmas morning, the rush down the stairs and tearing at paper, the intemperate delight in gifts long hoped-for and wholly undeserved.

    Which phrase conveys a more fitting response to the overwhelming, unearned, gift of Christ’s birth? Suffice it to say that when our Lord comes I hope I do not greet him with dignified reserve but instead rush at him with the unguarded, unembarrassed joy of a child at play or man at his cups. Merry Christmas to all!

    h/t Christine Emba

  • 2013-01-10 8:20 AM | Daniel

    Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith:
    Religion in American War and Diplomacy

    by Andrew Preston
    Knopf, 832 pages, $37.50

    America, G. K. Chesterton famously observed, is “a nation with the soul of a church.” In his masterful new survey Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith, Cambridge historian Andrew Preston demonstrates that the influence of religion in American life has been as pervasive in diplomacy and warfare as it has been in domestic politics and culture.

    Preston’s approach to his subject is disinterested and evenhanded. He avoids judgment on the wisdom or morality of American foreign policy and offers no evaluation as to whether the influence of religion in shaping that policy has been a salutary one. His analytical assessments are acute and provocative, but he displays no ideological bias in laying them out or, indeed, any indication of his own religious or political inclinations. It’s refreshing to encounter such an admirably old-fashioned exercise in objective historical analysis—and all the more so to see it brought off with such intelligence, sophistication, and grace.

    The scheme of the book is at once ambitious and restrained. It provides a comprehensive and exhaustively researched account of the shaping influence of religion on foreign affairs from the nation’s colonial origins through the presidency of Ronald Reagan (a hurried and hopelessly condensed concluding chapter—one suspects a publisher’s influence—dashes from Bush the elder to Barack Obama in fewer than fifteen pages), but it imposes no dominant theme on that account. It highlights recurring motifs in the conduct of foreign policy but is everywhere sensitive to complexity, nuance, and ambiguity.

    It is religion’s ubiquitous influence on foreign relations, Preston suggests, that explains why America’s foreign policy has so often taken on the “tenor of a moral crusade.” But if religion has served as the primary source of the tendency to idealism in foreign relations, he notes, it has not been univocal in its effects. Its presence can be felt in justificatory themes of American forcefulness—providence, manifest destiny, the New Jerusalem, the shining city on a hill—but it also has been the fount of contrary impulses toward pacifism, anti-imperialism, anti-interventionism, and internationalism.

    Indeed, critics of American policy have been as quick as its defenders to rest their arguments on religious grounds. Preston argues not that religion has determined American foreign policy—that, he concedes, would claim too much—but that, in diplomacy as elsewhere, it has been a taken-for-granted part of the language of politics.

    The most obvious reason why religion has counted in foreign affairs is that policymakers, like the vast majority of their countrymen, have themselves been religious (Preston’s survey reminds us that most American presidents have been genuinely pious Christians), and even those who were not recognized the need to take into account the religious sentiments of their constituents.

    Beyond that, Americans gave religious sentiments a significant place in their diplomacy because they could afford to. Unlike most nations, the United States had the luxury of free security. Protected by two oceans, strategically unthreatened on their own continent, Americans were less bound than other nations by the imperatives of realpolitik and comparatively free to imagine—and even, on occasion, to conduct—an idealistic diplomacy in which the meliorating impulses of religion had more than customary influence.

    The faith culture in which diplomacy operated was not, of course, simply one of religion in general. It was specifically Christian, and for the greater part of the nation’s history Protestant Christian. Beginning in the colonial period—when, Preston notes, Protestant Christianity was the English settlers’ most common tie—and proceeding well into the twentieth century, most Americans saw the survival and flourishing of Protestantism as essential to the survival and flourishing of the nation. Theirs was a crusading faith, committed initially to the conversion (or removal) of the Indians and the containment of Catholicism, and it linked the spread of Protestantism to the spread of liberty and prosperity.

    Religious and political ideas came together most substantively (and most enduringly) in the idea of “Christian republicanism,” which combined Protestant theology with Lockean Whig liberalism. The revolutionary generation’s embrace of republicanism was based on a natural law theory of God-given rights and freedoms that existed antecedent to all political authority.

    But if republican liberty was to be sustained, it required a virtuous people, and the necessary source of virtue was religion. As Preston nicely summarizes the argument: “If [a] republic was essential for liberty, and virtue was essential for a republic, and religion was essential for virtue, then religion was essential to a healthy republic.”

    It was inevitable that a religion-saturated society would produce a religion-saturated political culture. Since religion and politics make for a volatile mix, this has raised the ideological temperature of American public life, including diplomatic life. Americans confronted the world with a crusading spirit, and they often turned on each other in intense disagreement as to the nature or rightness of particular crusades.

    Take, for example (and one can only touch on notable instances in Preston’s panoramic survey), the Civil War, where the victorious North’s “ideology of universal redemption,” presupposing America’s duty to promote and protect liberty wherever possible, resulted in what Preston suggestively terms the nation’s first war of “humanitarian intervention.”

    That same spirit of universal redemption, appropriate to a society that saw itself as God’s latter-day chosen people, increasingly led the United States in an expansionist and interventionist direction in the world, though almost never without provoking significant internal controversy and dissent. Preston traces those controversies—always with careful balance and subtle appreciation of conflicting views—in America’s four twentieth-century “crusades”: the conflicts over Cuba and the Philippines following the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the Cold War.

    Similarly, while almost all American Christians once believed that church-directed missionary work was central to the nation’s responsibility to the world, they held conflicting views about what mission work should accomplish. Until America’s emergence as a world power at the turn of the twentieth century, most of them focused on saving souls, converting “heathens” into Christians.

    But the liberalizing theological influences of modernism gradually turned mainstream Protestantism away from evangelism and toward an ethical application of Christian teaching, acting as “an international extension of the Social Gospel” and an unofficial participant in the larger American project of what Preston calls the “imperialism of human rights.”

    The author does not put it this way, but what happened in private missions serves as a rough model for the trajectory of public religious influence, at least among most Protestants, on diplomatic developments. The pattern of events, though often uneven and never uncontested, moved in an ecumenical, secular, humanist direction.

    The old piety, to be sure, lingered well into the twentieth century. During World War II, Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed several official days of prayer (Preston convincingly portrays FDR as more deeply pious than many have supposed), and Harry Truman followed suit in marking the victories over Germany and Japan. And in Preston’s estimation, Dwight Eisenhower’s understanding of postwar Russian-American differences rested on an updated version of Christian republicanism: A Soviet Union without religion would be a Soviet Union without liberty.

    It was the collapse of the anticommunist Cold War consensus that presaged the turn toward the secular in the Protestant establishment. Eisenhower’s first Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, served as the establishment’s most prominent public figure from the 1930s until his death in 1959. Ecumenical in theology, devout in piety, he combined over the course of his career the tensions between liberal internationalism and conservative anticommunism common to his generation.

    Those tensions reflected competing strands of realism and idealism in both diplomacy and religious thought. One thinks here most obviously of Reinhold Niebuhr, whose neo-orthodox theology kept in rough balance social-democratic instincts and (mostly) liberal Protestantism, with a disdain for sentimentality, political or religious, rooted in insistence on original sin.

    The 1960s, the most disruptive decade in modern American history, demolished that uneasy equilibrium. From the raging moral conflict over Vietnam onward, the shape and focus of religious disagreement shifted. The Protestant-Catholic divide was gradually replaced by coalitions of conservative Protestants and Catholics—with Evangelicals prominent among the former—pitted against their liberal denominational counterparts. That realignment in turn reflected the emerging priority of ideology over theology in the interplay between politics and religion.

    As Preston shows, religious identification became defined at least as much by where people stood on divisive political issues as on debated items of doctrine. The religious influence on foreign policy did not disappear, but the Protestant establishment’s rapid dissolution during the decade made it less effective than before.

    The divisions engendered by the war in Vietnam lingered on in the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. And even with the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War, the foreign policy differences between liberals and conservatives—and the religious divisions that coincide with them—have perpetuated themselves, though in somewhat less incendiary form, right up to the present.

    Chesterton’s nation with the soul of a church is today a divided congregation. Preston’s splendid history illuminates how we came to our present pass. That history cannot, of course, patch over our abiding and legitimate differences, but its author’s supple combination of hard thought and sympathetic imagination demonstrates how the friction generated by our finally irresolvable moral conflicts might best serve the perpetual dialectic of democratic politics.

    James Nuechterlein is an editor at large of First Things and a senior fellow of the Institute on Religion and Public Life.

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