By Melissa Wuske
Many Americans View Christianity as Extreme
A study by the Barna Group explores American society’s views on faith, and in particular what constitutes religious extremism.
Most Americans—75 percent overall and 90 percent of those with no faith affiliation—agree that “being religiously extreme is a threat to society.” Researchers asked people to categorize whether certain actions are extreme; they compiled four levels: 1) actions widely considered extreme, like using religion to justify violence; 2) actions usually considered extreme, such as demonstrating outside an organization they consider immoral; 3) actions often considered extreme, including fasting for a period of time; and 4) actions sometimes considered extreme, like regularly donating money to a religious community.
There are notable gaps between the views of evangelical Christians and skeptics (atheists or agnostics)—10 percent of evangelicals view a person converting others to their faith as extreme, compared to 83 present of skeptics. Regarding whether teaching one’s children that sexual relationships between people of the same sex are wrong is extreme, 1 percent of evangelicals and 76 percent of skeptics agreed.
Speaking Out About Pornography
Former NFL player and actor Terry Crews has released several video confessionals about his struggle with pornography. This combats popular opinion. While 90 percent of men and more than 50 percent of women think viewing pornography is acceptable, Crews disagrees. Calling porn an “intimacy killer,” he said, “Pornography . . . changes the way you think about people. People become objects. . . . And things to be used rather than people to be loved.”
He also spoke of the need to bring the problem out in the open in order to address it: “By not telling people, it becomes more powerful. But when you tell and when you put it out there in the open . . . it loses its power.”
Fighting for Citizenship in Israel
Yared is a Jewish man from Ethiopia. He and his family went to Israel hoping to become citizens through the Law of Return—a provision that allows anyone who can trace a Jewish heritage to immigrate and receive Israeli citizenship. There are about 130,000 Ethiopian Jews already in Israel. But there was a holdup for Yared and his family: though his ancestry is Jewish, his family believes in Jesus as the Messiah.
Currently his family has received residency but is waiting to see if the courts will grant them citizenship. Messianic Jews have successfully appealed and gained citizenship through the Law of Return, but nationalistic groups often call out stricter regulations against people whose faith differs from theirs. Vandalism and harassment of Christians and Messianic Jews is common; for example, a young nationalist wrote “Death to the heathen Christians—the enemies of Israel” on the walls of a church.
Retiring? Join a Group
Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia found that social interaction is just as important as exercise for the health of people who are retired. The study followed people for six years after they retired. For every social group a person lost during retirement, their quality of life rating went down 10 percent. Yet, retirees who took part in church small groups, book clubs, or other social gatherings had a lower risk of death than those who did not. “Social connections are essential to everyone, but especially to people as they experience the major changes that are associated with later life,” said Anna Dixon, chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better.
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).