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CULTURE DIGEST: Wall Street Journal says spiritual interest is growing in Europe

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Though most reports have indicated a growing secularization in Europe, The Wall Street Journal has noticed a rise in the popularity of newer Christian churches that connect with a generation interested in religious discussions.

One theory for the growth, the newspaper reported, stems from a correlation between an increase in religious competition and a rise in church-going. In other words, when congregations not sponsored by the government start up, people are more likely to attend. Europeans are deserting established churches, one expert said, but that doesn’t mean they’re not religious.

“Now even Europe, the heartland of secularization, is raising questions about whether God really is dead,” reporter Andrew Higgins of Stockholm, Sweden, wrote for the July 14-15 edition.

The newspaper noted a parish of the Church of Sweden that recently had only 40 elderly people in attendance one Sunday in its 1,000-seat building. Just a few blocks away, a new evangelical group called Passion Church drew 100 young Swedes with Christian rock music.

A man at Passion Church told Higgins “an ocean of anger has calmed” and he has turned his back on crime since being introduced to the church.

“Wherever churches are a little more energetic and competitive, you’ve got more people going to church,” Rodney Stark, a sociology professor at Baylor University, told The Wall Street Journal.

The arrival of devout Christian and Muslim immigrants has revived questions about faith, Higgins said, and “anxiety over immigration, globalization and cutbacks to social-welfare systems has eroded people’s contentment in the here-and-now.”

“Most church pews are still empty. But belief in heaven, hell and concepts such as the soul has risen in parts of Europe, especially among the young, according to surveys,” Higgins wrote. “Religion, once a dead issue, now figures prominently in public discourse.”

CHASTITY RING VIOLATES DRESS CODE — Despite news of a growing spiritual interest in Europe, a British student is feeling the sting of discrimination she attributes to her Christian beliefs.

A judge sided with school officials July 16 in telling 16-year-old Lydia Playfoot that she could not wear a silver ring representing her commitment to sexual purity because it violates the school’s dress code, which bans jewelry.

Playfoot’s parents are employed by the British arm of Silver Ring Thing, an abstinence movement that started in the United States and involves students wearing a simple silver ring inscribed with 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4: “God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin.”

School officials in Horsham, about 40 miles south of London, have made exceptions to the dress code in order to allow Muslim girls to wear head scarves and Sikhs to wear steel bracelets. But they contend Playfoot’s virginity ring is not an integral part of her religion and is not a Christian symbol.

“It is never simple to draw boundaries,” Leon Nettley, principal of the school, said, according to The New York Times. “If we allow one set of pupils to wear rings symbolizing one particular message, when that item of jewelry is not required by their religion, then doubtless other pupils will then demand to be able to wear jewelry symbolizing other messages.”

Playfoot, in response to the court’s decision, said in a statement it “will mean that slowly, over time, people such as school governors, employers, political organizations and others will be allowed to stop Christians from publicly expressing and practicing their faith.” She added that since the government’s sex education program is not working to curb teen pregnancies, an expression of chastity should be welcomed rather than shunned.

MANDISA DEBUTS BOOK & CD — Mandisa Hundley, the “American Idol” contestant who didn’t hesitate to express her Christian beliefs, has written a book and recorded a CD aimed at promoting a message of confidence for women who struggle with the world’s expectations.

Her book, “IDOLeyes,” tells about her challenges and victories through growing up and breaking into the music industry.

“My struggle with my weight has been the biggest struggle of my life,” Mandisa (who uses solely her first name) said. “Rather than turning to alcohol or drugs when I was going through emotional times, I turned to food. As a result, I’ve become unhealthy — and it’s a day-to-day process to overcome.”

Mandisa’s debut CD, “True Beauty,” “exemplifies the desire of women to be known and respected for who they are within. Singing from personal experience, it is a biblical message that all women in today’s modern world need to hear and believe,” according to reviewer Kelly Jad’on of blogcritics.org.

After college, Mandisa became a telephone sales representative at LifeWay Christian Resources and later worked briefly for LifeWay’s women’s enrichment events before joining Bible teacher Beth Moore’s worship team as a singer for her Living Proof Live conferences.

AMERICANS ADMIT MEDIA’S BROAD INFLUENCE — A survey by the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the conservative Media Research Center, has found that most of the public believes American values are in decline, the media is contributing to the decline and those who watch more television have more permissive attitudes about moral issues.

Among the findings released in June:

— 64 percent of Americans believe the media is the most important, or one of the most important, influences on American values.

— 74 percent believe American values are weaker than they were 20 years ago.

— 68 percent of Americans say the media has a negative impact on moral values in this country. Only 9 percent say the media impact is positive.

— 56 percent of those who watch four hours or more of television per evening never volunteer, compared to 27 percent of those who watch one hour or less.

“The more a person watches television, the less likely he is to accept personal responsibility” for himself and others, Robert Knight, director of the institute, said.

Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates conducted the poll for the Culture and Media Institute in December 2006. The polling company interviewed 2,000 adults — 1,000 by telephone and 1,000 through the Internet.

    About the Author

  • Erin Roach