America’s declining faith in pastors and churches

Religion holds powerful sway over people’s lives—but not always in ways we might expect. We typically imagine that the faithful check their brains at the church door and follow whatever dicta religious leaders offer. Maybe not. While religious belief represents the greatest influence on how people voted in our recent presidential election, the opinion of their pastors mattered far less to them, according to research by Barna. A third of adults said…

3 reasons it’s good to contemplate your sins

Over the course of several books, crime novelist Philip Davison gave life to his character Harry Fielding, an operative in British intelligence tasked with undesirable jobs. A small train of colorful characters orbit through Harry’s universe, including his flamboyant aunt Kate. In the final Fielding novel, A Burnable Town, Kate wants her nephew to go to church. “Oh God,” he exclaims. “I don’t have to contemplate my sin, do I, Kate?” She…

Faithful to the end: A new history of Christian martyrdom

Christianity is under fire in many places in the world. Last year more than seven thousand Christians were killed for “faith-related reasons,” according to watchdog group Open Doors. The tally was up three thousand from the prior year. In all, as many as 10 percent of the world’s Christians deal with discrimination and blatant persecution. Many of the attacks occur in majority Muslim countries. Last week in Egypt a Muslim mob reportedly…

You are what you love: Why theology isn’t enough

How do we learn what we know? Most of us assume our brains are banks where we deposit data, the available balance representing what we know. But the metaphor falls short—especially when applied to Christian formation. Thankfully, James K. A. Smith’s new book, You Are What You Love, provides a better answer. Smith’s big idea? Ideas matter less than we think. It only sounds counterintuitive. We all recognize that knowing the rules…