Sunday, May 06, 2012

Guess who...  

Didn't make it to church today?  So instead let me share a couple of nuggets that struck me about what it means to be a Christian these days.

First, it means finding The Flock is infested with parasites.
For 39 years, the Trinity Broadcasting Network has urged viewers to give generously and reap the Lord’s bounty in return.
The prosperity gospel preached by Paul and Janice Crouch, who built a single station into the world’s largest Christian television network, has worked out well for them.
Mr. and Mrs. Crouch have his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community here, provided by the network using viewer donations and tax-free earnings. But Mrs. Crouch, 74, rarely sleeps in the $5.6 million house with tennis court and pool. She mostly lives in a large company house near Orlando, Fla., where she runs a side business, the Holy Land Experience theme park. Mr. Crouch, 78, has an adjacent home there too, but rarely visits. Its occupant is often a security guard who doubles as Mrs. Crouch’s chauffeur.
The twin sets of luxury homes only hint at the high living enjoyed by the Crouches, inspirational television personalities whose multitudes of stations and satellite signals reach millions of worshipers across the globe. Almost since they started in the 1970s, the couple have been criticized for secrecy about their use of donations, which totaled $93 million in 2010.
Now, after an upheaval with Shakespearean echoes, one son in this first family of televangelism has ousted the other to become the heir apparent. A granddaughter, who was in charge of TBN’s finances, has gone public with the most detailed allegations of financial improprieties yet, which TBN has denied, saying its practices were audited and legal.  [More details]
Yeah - I know, it's the "librul media", AKA the New York Times, but the stuff they mention is public record and pretty fairly presented, IMHO. I have surfed over this channel from time to time and never watched for long, but obviously the Crouches have found a rich vein in pseudo-spirituality that can keep them in considerable comfort.

Meanwhile, back at the Prairie Bankruptcy that is my home state, consider this new finding:
Muslims have become the third-largest religious group in the state after Roman Catholics and independent evangelicals. Not to mention, the fastest-growing one.
That's according to a census of American religious congregations unveiled Tuesday in Chicago.
This year, for the first time, the nationwide aggregation of religious traditions, dubbed the "Religion Census," counted nondenominational evangelical congregations, ranging from storefront sanctuaries to megachurches with multiple sites such as Willow Creek Community Church.
That calculation revealed that evangelicals affiliated with independent churches make up the second-largest religious group in Illinois. In fact, in 48 of the 50 states, independent evangelicals occupy a top-five spot. In the Chicago area, Illinois and nationwide, Roman Catholics rank as the largest religious group.
With 176 religious traditions, Illinois slipped from its top spot as the most religiously diverse state in 2000, falling to Pennsylvania with 184.
Religious leaders and sociologists welcomed the bird's-eye view of America's religious landscape as a helpful tool for determining where to evangelize and understanding where certain religious traditions thrive. But some caution that the numbers and rankings shouldn't be taken as gospel because religious groups apply different standards for counting adherents.
"We're always saying how much we contribute to the state of Illinois, but it's more anecdotal," said Ahlam Jbara, interim executive director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. "As somebody dealing with government officials, it's about numbers as well. Here's information, here's real data in our community which we really haven't been able to show."
The religion census is the latest in a series of reports released each decade to coincide with figures from the U.S. census. It is compiled by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. The 2010 edition is the sixth since the U.S. Census Bureaufirst excluded religious affiliation after World War II.
Overall, the study shows a profoundly Christian nation with a lot of variety beneath the surface, including about 150 million Americans — half the population — who aren't engaged with a religious community.
Stephen Warner, a sociologist of religion at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the decennial study is the best attempt at mapping religion in America.
"What we get is a geographic distribution about where the heartlands and hinterlands of the religious bodies are. They're not evenly distributed," he said. Warner added, however, that Methodists seem to be the exception. "My God, they're everywhere." [More]
I know looking at the scoreboard during the game is a bad idea, especially in a bipolar state like Illinois. Still, more Muslims than Methodists???

Finally, I cannot recommend highly enough Jonathon Haidt's new book. I'm only partway through and already rethinking how I arrive at my own moral judgments.

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