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CULTURE DIGEST: Religious talk leads to little change, Barna finds; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A surge in communications technology in the past decade has expanded religious dialogue, but the discussions have led to little change in people’s lives, The Barna Group found in a recent survey.

When asked, “Has anything related to your religious beliefs, practices or preferences changed in the past five years?” just 7 percent of respondents could think of anything that had changed.

The types of people most likely to have changed included 13 percent of young adults, 12 percent of independent voters and 11 percent of adults who describe themselves as “mostly liberal” on social and political matters, Barna said in a report Sept. 27.

Those least likely to have changed included people age 65 and over, registered Republicans and social conservatives.

George Barna said the survey results raise questions about the impact of church-related activity, such as whether “the courses of action currently pursued are capable of facilitating and reinforcing significant change.”

Barna added that the results are consistent with a pattern he has seen over the years indicating that most of the religious beliefs, behaviors and expectations that define a person’s life have been developed and embraced by the age of 13.

Given the fact that only 7 percent of respondents could think of any change in their religious lives, Barna suggested that religious leaders may not be “provoking people to think deeply and practically about the major issues of life and culture from a religious perspective.”

The data reflected relatively generic shifts that had occurred in lives without much evidence of a deeper level of intellectual or spiritual struggle taking place, Barna said.

“Because the survey revealed that more than two-thirds of adults say their religious faith is very important in their life, and a large majority regularly talks to others about matters of faith, the nature of their religion-focused reflection and discussions may not be as substantive or thoughtful as some observers might imagine,” Barna said. “People do not appear to be turning to religion as often as assumed for answers to troubling questions.”

‘DRAW MOHAMMED’ CARTOONIST IN HIDING — Molly Norris, the editorial cartoonist who suffered a significant backlash to her “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” cartoon, has gone into hiding.

“The gifted artist is alive and well, thankfully. But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, ‘going ghost’: moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity,” the Seattle Weekly announced in September.

Norris basically is being placed in a witness protection program without financial support from the government, the newspaper said, after an American jihadist in Yemen issued a fatwa calling for her assassination.

A columnist for World magazine said the jihadists have invaded the United States and taken the life of one of its citizens, all from beyond America’s shores.

“Norris is still alive, but the woman as she was known is gone,” D.C. Innes wrote Sept. 22. “She has lost her life in the legal sense: new birth certificate, school records, life story. For anyone who knew her, it is as though she is dead. But it is not just one life the jihadists have taken. To the former Molly Norris, it is as though all the people she has known are also now dead. They have been torn from her life because she has been torn from theirs.”

Norris intended the cartoon to protest radical Muslims violently stifling freedom of speech and conscience, and The Examiner in Washington noted in an editorial Sept. 20 that her plight has drawn less attention than the pastor in Florida who threatened to burn the Quran.

“Freedom of speech and press are in deep trouble when the American government thinks the best it can do to protect a journalist from death threats is to counsel her to go into hiding, and when the elite voices of American journalism can’t be bothered to say anything in her defense,” The Examiner said.

“But it’s actually worse than that. The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof thinks Muslims are owed an apology.”

PROMISE KEEPERS BROADENS TO WOMEN — Promise Keepers is synonymous with large groups of men, but in October, organizers are inviting women to a gathering in Dallas.

“We realized the time had come for Promise Keepers to expand its vision beyond ministry to just men,” Bill McCartney, a former University of Colorado football coach who founded Promise Keepers in 1990, said in a news release.

At a Promise Keepers’ Igniting Transformation conference hosted by Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Oct. 2, men will be accompanied by their wives, mothers, sisters and young adult daughters, and single mothers will be honored specifically, marking “one of the most significant changes in the ministry’s history,” the news release stated.

“This shift is in keeping with the biblical precedent of understanding the current times, and Promise Keepers recognizes that nearly half of all U.S. homes are led by single women,” the news release said. “In order to fulfill the ministry’s vision to transform homes for Christ, it has become clear that these women need to be included.”

Promise Keepers will continue a ministry specifically for men during its PK Classic events. One was held in Denver this summer, and three more are scheduled for next year.

At the Dallas event, speakers will address divisions along racial, economic and gender lines within the church, drawing from Galatians 3:28, which says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Since its founding, Promise Keepers has reached more than 6 million men.

SEE YOU AT THE POLE MARKS 20th YEAR — An estimated 1 to 2 million students participated in the annual See You at the Pole prayer event in schools around the nation and in as many as 20 other countries Sept. 22.

The movement began in 1990 when a small group of teenagers in Burleson, Texas, were burdened for their unbelieving friends and drove to three different schools to pray around flagpoles. Each year now, students gather around flagpoles before class on a designated morning to pray for their schools.

As reports continue to come in, SYATP spokesman Doug Clark relayed the story of a high school student who had prayed alone at her school’s flagpole last year and assumed she would be alone this year.

“But when she got to the campus, she saw a guy she’d never met there waiting. He told her that he was from a Christian high school nearby but wanted to pray for a school that wasn’t full of Christians,” Clark wrote. “He had invited a friend too, who was a seeker but not a Christian. The three of them began to pray.

“As they continued, the friend of the Christian guy told them that he wanted to know God the way that he could tell they did by the way they prayed. His friend led him to Christ on the spot,” Clark added.

And in Maryland, Christian students had been warned about a planned protest that morning by a group of atheist students. When it came time to pray at the flagpole, though, the protesters had not shown up but 90 students were ready to intercede for their school.

Clark advises adults to encourage youth in their churches to participate in ministries to fellow students. Adults can make a difference, he said, just by telling a teenager, “I’m praying for your ministry at school. I know you can make a difference for Christ on our campus.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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