FaithWorld

Most U.S. Protestant pastors see Islam as dangerous – survey

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American Muslims at the Atlanta Masjid of al-Islam mosque, 9 Feb 2007/Tami Chappell

Here’s an interesting survey that was released on Monday by LifeWay Research, which is the number crunching arm of the South Baptist Convention, America’s largest evangelical group.

It says that two-thirds of Protestant pastors in America regard Islam as a dangerous religion. You can see their press release here. The full survey has not been posted on their site.

But in a nut shell, the survey of over 1,000 pastors of different Protestant denominations found that 45 percent strongly agreed with the statement “I believe Islam is a dangerous religion,” while 21 percent agreed to it “somewhat.”

The survey was conducted in October, before the massacre at the Fort Hood army base in Texas allegedly by a Muslim soldier.

A list of Top 10 lists – “it was the election, stupid”

“Top 10 Stories” lists are a perennial feature,  especially in the United States (which explains a lot of the picks below). Now that they’re all out there, I took a quick look at the “Top 10 Religion Stories 2008″ lists to see if any pattern emerged. Of course one did: “It was the election, stupid.” Even a website dedicated to pagan news found a “pagans and politics” angle to top its list.

The Religion Newswriters Association, which polls member religion reporters, has been drawing up such lists for about 30 years. Election-related stories swept the top three slots last year. They did the same in 2004 as well, but the election shared the top spot back then with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ movie. The election-dominated lists show some divergences, but the most interesting compilations were the more specialised ones down in the second list below.

Here’s a quick list of the Top 10 lists, first those dominated by the U.S. election and then others I actually found more interesting:

PETA urges Southern Baptists to go vegetarian

PETA members protest in outfits of lettuce leaves in Taipei, 22 May 2008/Pichi ChuangA handful of activists from People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) urged Southern Baptists meeting in Indianapolis on Tuesday to try the vegetarian option. “For Christ’s Sake, Go Vegetarian,” read one of their signs outside the convention center in downtown Indianapolis, where the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), America’s largest evangelical denomination, is holding its annual meeting.

“The Bible’s greatest message is compassion,” said PETA campaign coordinator Ashley Byrne, who said she hoped to convince Southern Baptists to adopt a diet that was compassionate to animals by not eating them.

The SBC, like the broader U.S. evangelical movement, is divided about what action to take on “creation care” or environmental issues such as climate change.

Southern Baptists hold meet amid falling baptisms

SBC President Frank Page and President George Bush, 11 Oct 2006/Larry DowningAmerica’s largest evangelical denomination, the 16-million strong Southern Baptist Convention, is holding its annual meeting in Indianapolis on Tuesday and Wednesday against the backdrop of a decline in the number of yearly baptisms.

This is serious stuff indeed for a group that places much emphasis on the conversion experience, the acceptance of Jesus as a person’s savior and the rite of passage that goes with this acceptance: a public immersion in water or baptism.

In April the SBC released its latest baptism numbers — figures it tracks closely, underscoring the importance attatched to them.

Polar opposites Bush and Clinton share Methodist faith

Bush the Methodist, May 1 2008What do George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton have in common, besides a shared address in Washington? (With dates that did not overlap of course).

They actually have a shared faith: The United Methodist Church.

This may surprise many people, given the fact that their politics are polar opposites. The anti-abortion rights Bush strikes many as a Southern Baptist in everything but name; the pro-choice Clinton is seldom associated with religion though she has been actively courting the faith vote as of late.

As its general conference in Fort Worth discussed issues such as its take on humanhillary.jpg sexuality, Scott Jones, the resident bishop for the Kansas area, said differences of opinion were in the church’s “DNA” but “We are united in our mission to transform the world.”

Rare spotlight on U.S. Baptist drive to convert Hindus

Indian Christians carry cross on Good Friday near Cochin, 25 March 2005On the world religion scene, one interesting trend concerns the growing number of Christian missionaries seeking to convert people in developing countries. Many are evangelicals from the United States or South Korea, often trying to convert Muslims. We usually hear about them when their work creates tension or leads to a diplomatic incident. It’s rare to see a lengthy report on what a mission is actually doing and how it is received.

The Commercial Appeal daily in Memphis, Tennessee has just published a fascinating report on a mission to convert Hindus in India that is sponsored by a hometown Baptist church. Bellevue Baptist in Memphis spends $5.5 million each year for missionary work around the world. The Commercial Appeal’s Trevor Aaronson visited the National Training Institute for Village Evangelism in Hyderabad, which Bellevue supports, to see what it does on the ground. These missions can be controversial. In several Indian states, Hindu nationalists have protested against missionary work and passed laws banning conversion from one religion to another. World churches are working on a code of conduct to help spread their faith without antagonising other religions.

Aaronson’s article is a zoom-lens look at one mission, its problems, its links to its American donors and the reactions of the Hindu nationalists. He presents the mission warts and all, which has sparked off a lively debate on the paper’s Web site. As Daniel Pulliam over at GetReligion notes, this is “an impressive journalistic endeavor for a local newspaper … the activities of churches often go uncovered, particularly missionary work.”