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CULTURE DIGEST: Bush reiterates importance of relationship with God; apathy reigns in UK; gospel music grows among youth

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Speaking to editors and reporters from The Washington Times Jan. 11, President Bush said he doesn’t “see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord.”

“I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you’re not equally as patriotic if you’re not a religious person,” Bush said in the Oval Office, according to The Times. “I’ve never said that. I’ve never acted like that. I think that’s just the way it is.

“On the other hand, I think more and more people understand the importance of faith in their life. America is a remarkable place when it comes to religion and faith,” he added. “We had people come to our rallies who were there specifically to say, ‘I’m here to pray for you, let you know I’m praying for you.’ And I was very grateful about that.”

After four years on the job, the president said he cannot fathom a person handling the pressures of the highest position in the nation without drawing strength from God.

“I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit,” Bush told The Times. “That’s what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have, or one of the greatest freedoms, is the right to worship the way you see fit.

“On the other hand, I don’t see how you can be president — at least from my perspective — how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord.”

INAUGURATION CONTROVERSY BREWS — With President Bush’s second inauguration just over a week away, plenty of points of contention about the details are arising.

Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition has vowed to sue the Secret Service if they fail to reverse a prohibition against crosses along the inaugural parade route Jan. 20. The coalition was granted a permit to hold a prayer vigil and demonstration during the parade, and then they noticed a list of prohibited displays “such as puppets, papier mache objects, coffins, crates, crosses, theaters, cages and statues,” according to the Associated Press.

“Why were crosses singled out over any other religious symbol — the Star of David, Islamic symbols?” Mahoney asked. “This is offensive. It’s, in my view, religious bigotry.”

The Secret Service, in the midst of organizing unprecedented security, said the guidelines were intended to prohibit large structures that could be used as weapons. Crosses printed on posters or banners will be allowed.

“We will not rest or be comfortable until they take crosses completely out of the prohibited list of props and structures,” Mahoney said.

APATHY REPLACES RELIGION IN BRITAIN — A recent poll indicates a striking decrease in the number of people in Britain who believe in God. In 1968, a Gallup poll found that 77 percent of people said they believe in God, but that number has fallen to just 44 percent today, according to the Telegraph in London.

Britons also believe their nation is becoming a more secular country, though many wish it wasn’t so: 81 percent acknowledged the increase in secularism while 68 percent regret the fact.

The Telegraph’s YouGov poll on God and the secular society assessed the national mood as one of “benign indifference,” saying most people seem to regard religion as a consumer good to be selected by those who happen to have a taste for it.

Among the 35 percent who classified themselves as non-believers, most were hesitant to call themselves atheists. Forty-six percent said they were agnostics, 35 percent claimed the atheist title and 18 percent said they didn’t know, the Telegraph said. Among the 44 percent of believers, 87 percent described themselves as believing in one God, 3 percent as believing in more than one god, and 10 percent as believing in some other kind of supreme being.

Regarding heaven and hell, in 1968, 54 percent believed in the existence of heaven and 23 percent believed in the existence of hell. Today, just 38 percent of Britons believe in heaven and 23 percent believe in hell, the Telegraph found.

The nation’s apathy toward religion was more evident in responses to the question of where the respondent would prefer to be married — in a church or somewhere else. Thirty-four percent said they would prefer a church or other place of worship, 23 percent said they would prefer the wedding not be conducted in a religious place, and 40 percent said they would not mind either way.

But while Britain is growing more secular, most residents would prefer for the Queen to continue to be the head of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith. Fifty-four percent said she should retain her position while 27 percent said she should not and 19 percent were unsure of their stance.

GOSPEL MUSIC TAKES HOLD AMONG YOUTH — The popularity of Christian rock groups such as Switchfoot, MercyMe and Casting Crowns has signaled a growing trend for the gospel music industry, which reported a sales total of 43.4 million units in 2004.

“Gospel music will always be unique for its wide-ranging music styles and diverse audiences, and black gospel and praise and worship continue to be powerful categories of Christian music, but there has definitely been a measurable shift towards rock, alternative, hip-hop, urban and other styles of music particularly popular with younger customers,” John W. Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association, said in a GMA release.

“This is a great sign that a new generation of music fans has discovered these and other artists and hopefully indicates a continued bright outlook for gospel music,” he added.

Switchfoot joined Columbia Records, a mainstream company that helped push their single “Meant to Live,” to No. 5 on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 and caused a surge in both their Christian and mainstream retail sales, GMA said.

“Switchfoot is reflective of our newer generation of Christian artists — artists whose lives are greatly influenced by their Christian faith, who write and record music that is informed by those beliefs, but don’t use Christian rhetoric that might otherwise limit their audience,” Stylls observed. “From the start of their music careers, Switchfoot has been making their groundbreaking style of music which speaks eternal truths in a way that relates to their generation and have patiently persisted until finally the world has taken notice.”

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  • Erin Curry