Thursday, April 30, 2009
The Word of God is clear on homosexuality; but never forget, hatred will not persuade anyone. Our allegiance should be to the Lord and His Word, without compromise.
Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire Senate voted narrowly on Wednesday to legalize same-sex marriage, paving the way for the state to potentially become the fifth in the nation — and the third this month — to allow gay couples to wed.
The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 13 to 11 in favor of the bill, but only after a last-minute amendment strengthened language granting legal protections for religious groups and organizations that do not want to perform or help carry out same-sex marriages.
The House, which approved the marriage bill by a seven-vote margin last month, must vote on the Senate’s amended version. But supporters and opponents predicted that version would pass the House, which is more liberal and was more enthusiastic about same-sex marriage from the start.
It is unclear whether Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, will veto the bill or whether the new language will persuade him to endorse it. The bill probably cannot gain enough support in either house for an override, so its fate almost certainly rests with Mr. Lynch.
The governor has consistently opposed same-sex marriage, but he could also let the bill become law without his signature. Mr. Lynch did not reveal his intentions after the Senate’s vote but restated his belief that the state’s two-year-old civil-union law provides sufficient rights and protections to gay couples.
“To achieve further real progress,” he said in a statement, “the federal government would need to take action to recognize New Hampshire civil unions.”
The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996, prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. It denies federal benefits, like Social Security survivors’ payments, to spouses in such marriages.
Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, which was established to fight same-sex marriage around the country, said the group would intensively lobby Mr. Lynch to veto the bill.
“This vote is in no way representative of what folks in New Hampshire want,” Mr. Brown said, adding that the Senate leadership had used “arm-twisting” to change the votes of a few crucial Democrats. “If the governor is going to stand by his words,” he added, “he will veto this bill.”
To some extent, the support for same-sex marriage reflects a sea change in New Hampshire politics since 2006, when Democrats gained control of the legislature for the first time in over a century. While staunchly conservative on fiscal matters, New Hampshire has been less so on social issues, partly because its residents’ famous libertarian streak resists government intrusion in personal matters.
But last-minute politicking also played a role in the Senate’s vote. Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3 to 2 against the marriage measure, and the committee’s chairwoman, Senator Deborah Reynolds, a Democrat, said afterward that New Hampshire was simply not ready for same-sex marriage.
Ms. Reynolds, the only Democrat who opposed the bill in committee, emphasized that civil unions were still new in New Hampshire and that Vermont, whose legislature approved same-sex marriage on April 7, had done so only after living with civil unions for nine years.
But on Wednesday, Ms. Reynolds, who represents a fairly conservative region, said the new language made the bill acceptable. She described it as a compromise that was “respectful to both sides of the debate and meets our shared goals of equality under the state laws for all of the people of New Hampshire.”
Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican, vetoed that state’s same-sex marriage bill, but the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode his veto, making Vermont the first state to adopt same-sex marriage legislatively instead of through the courts. Days earlier, the Iowa Supreme Court found a state law banning same-sex marriage to be a violation of the State Constitution.
In New Hampshire, more than 650 same-sex unions have been registered since they became legal in January 2008.
Same-sex marriage was among several contentious bills that the Senate took up Wednesday, all passed by the House in recent weeks. One, a measure to allow people with certain illnesses to possess marijuana for medical purposes, passed in a vote of 14 to 10. But the Senate voted unanimously against a bill that would guarantee transgender people protection from discrimination in housing and employment. It also put off action on a bill to repeal the death penalty.
Democrats hold a 14-to-10 majority in the Senate, but it is generally more centrist and cautious than the House, where Democrats hold a 223-to-175 majority.
Opponents of same-sex marriage appeared better organized here than in Vermont. Cornerstone Research Institute waged an intense phone campaign with help from the National Organization for Marriage, but the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition and other gay-rights groups also lobbied fiercely.
Mo Baxley, the coalition’s executive director, described the Senate bill as a fair compromise.
“It is in keeping with New Hampshire’s live-free-or-die tradition to stand up for individual liberties and against discrimination of any kind,” Ms. Baxley said.
“I have to say,” she added, “America is at a turning point.”
Friday, April 24, 2009
*Ahmadinejad seems to always meet my expectations. Before attending and during attending and after attending conferences on eliminating racism; one may do well to stop calling for the annihilation of a country and its people. Just a thought.
Iran leader sparks walkout at UN over Israel
By FRANK JORDANS
GENEVA (AP) — Dozens of Western diplomats walked out of a U.N. conference and a pair of rainbow-wigged protesters threw clown noses at Iran's president Monday when the hard-line leader called Israel the "most cruel and repressive racist regime."
The United States decried the remarks by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as hateful — reinjecting tension into a relationship that had been warming after President Barack Obama sought to engage Iran in talks on its nuclear program and other issues.
Ahmadinejad — the first government official to take the floor at the weeklong event in Geneva — delivered a rambling, half-hour speech that was by turns conciliatory and inflammatory. At one point he appealed for global unity in the fight against racism and then said the United States and Europe helped establish Israel after World War II at the expense of Palestinians.
"They resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering," he said.
Jewish groups had lobbied heavily for a boycott of the conference, warning it could descend into anti-Semitism or other anti-Israel rhetoric, which marred the last such conference eight years ago in South Africa.
The meeting turned chaotic almost from the start when the two wigged protesters tossed the red clown noses at Ahmadinejad as he began his speech with a Muslim prayer. A Jewish student group from France said it had been trying to convey "the masquerade that this conference represents."
One of the protesters shouted "You are a racist!" before he and the other demonstrator were taken away by security.
Ahmadinejad interjected: "I call on all distinguished guests to forgive these ignorant people. They don't have enough information."
During his speech, he accused Israel of being the "most cruel and repressive racist regime" and blamed the U.S. invasion of Iraq on a Zionist conspiracy.
At the first mention of Israel, about 40 diplomats from Britain and France and other European Union countries exited the room.
Most of his remarks were not new but their timing and high profile could complicate U.S. efforts to improve ties with Iran. Alejandro Wolff, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the U.N., denounced what he called "the Ahmadinejad spectacle."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, asked by reporters about Ahmadinejad's remarks, replied: "Obviously, the president disagrees vehemently with what was said, as, from some of the video I saw, so did many others."
Gibbs said it proved that the United States was right to boycott the conference. Germany, Italy and at least six other countries also refused to attend the event, which began on the eve of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day.
"We call on the Iranian leadership to show much more measured, moderate, honest and constructive rhetoric when dealing with issues in the region, and not this type of vile, hateful, inciteful speech that we all saw," Wolff said at the U.N. in New York.
Later, about 100 members of mainly pro-Israel and Jewish groups tried to block Ahmadinejad's entrance to a scheduled news conference.
In a milder protest, Jewish groups outside the venue read out some of the names of the 6 million who died in the Holocaust.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Ahmadinejad before his speech and said he had counseled the Iranian leader to avoid dividing the conference. Ban later said he was disappointed the speech was used "to accuse, divide and even incite," directly opposing the aim of the meeting.
"It was a very troubling experience for me as a secretary-general," he said. "It was a totally unacceptable situation."
The Israeli Foreign Ministry condemned the speech and Ban's meeting with Ahmadinejad.
"It is unfortunate that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deemed it appropriate to meet with the greatest Holocaust denier of our time," the Foreign Ministry said. "This matter is especially severe, as it took place on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day."
Ahmadinejad has been praised by some in the Muslim world for his attacks on Israel. The hard-liner has often used international forums to criticize Israel.
Most Muslim delegations in Geneva declined to comment, but Pakistan said the protesters were wrong to interrupt Ahmadinejad.
"If we actually believe in freedom of expression, then he has the right to say what he wants to say," Ambassador Zamir Akram told The Associated Press. "There were things in there that a lot of people in the Muslim world would be in agreement with, for example the situation in Palestine, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, even if they don't agree with the way he said it."
While the speech was interrupted several times by cheers from the large Iranian delegation, it may not be well-received among many others in Iran, which is suffering from high inflation and unemployment partly as a result of its global isolation. Many have criticized Ahmadinejad, who is up for re-election in June, for spending too much time on anti-Israel and anti-Western rhetoric and not enough on the country's economy.
*See also "UN 'regrets' Ahmadinejad speech"
The Word of God says: "Mark 14:7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always."
Financial problems? Go to the Lord in prayer. Do not waste your time and money giving in a seed faith mentality because someone sowed $1000 and got a "return" which was plastered in magazines, and broadcasted in videos. Yet several hundred and thousands got no "return", let me see them and their stories published by these ministries. And I am also tired of hearing these people say such lack faith. Anyway I am short on time, find the letter/advertisement from Wagner's ministry below:
Subject: You Shall Not Want Conference
Wealth is an essential subject to understand in the Kingdom of God! The transfer of resources under Kingdom rule is essential for the Harvest in days ahead. We must recognize the war over wealth includes the harvest of people and souls! With that (eternal) goal in mind, we are calling the Body of Christ together on June 4-6, 2009 in Vineland, New Jersey to declare an opening of the river of supply and wealth! Our speakers include Peter Wagner (convener), Chuck Pierce, Pat Francis and Peter Roselle. Personal ministry will be available for you to gain strength to contend and "flow" through new channels in the future. So come with a mind and heart to:
- Understand wealth strategies as we connect Earth with Heaven!
- Develop your storehouse mentality!
- Understand the principles of multiplication!
- Break the power of waste and loss!
- Release strategies of increase!
- Learn how to contend with Mammon over supply and distribution!
- Understand the war over the transfer of wealth from the tight grip of the enemy on the world's economy into the hands of God's Kingdom army!
- Understand how a Kingdom economy differs from a world economy!
- Discern how acquiring wealth and God's covenant timing are related!
- Better understand the curses associated with poor stewardship!
- Receive a new strength to keep praying and prophesying for wealth transfer!
- Understand the wealth and power wars that are occurring in the earth as NATIONS realign!
- Learn about Jehovah Jireh - the One who causes you to see your provision!
- Receive keys to break the power of lack!
- Position yourself to receive the wealth transfer in the future!
- Overcome the money trap!
- Defeat Mammon's rule in your life!
- Remove the iniquity of poverty!
Poverty was never in the heart of God, nor was it in His plan for humanity! We will discuss the two economic systems on the earth. God has one economic system, and He teaches the necessity of being a good steward in this system. Satan has another economic system that is ruled by Mammon. This god, through demonic forces, controls the administration, transfer and distribution of wealth within this system. Matthew 6:24 refers to the complete difference between the two: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
Pastor Ralph Snook and Chestnut Assembly of God will be helping host this gathering held in Vineland, New Jersey (near Philadelphia). We will begin on Thursday evening at 7 PM, meet all day Friday, and conclude on Saturday by noon. If you register by May 18, the cost is $45/person or $80/married couple. You can register by going to www.globalharvest.org or by calling (888) 965-1099. Groups of 10 or more (registering at the same time) can attend for $35 per person by calling our toll-free number. This conference will also be available by webcast for those who cannot attend in person. A list of nearby hotels is listed on our website. We encourage you to book your room early due to other events in the region.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
*Link to the video
*Link to slide show
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Strange Fire in the House of The Lord
No one fully understands what Nadab and Abihu did to prompt God to strike them dead in the sanctuary of Israel. The Bible says they loaded their firepans with incense, ignited the substance and “offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them” (Lev. 10:1, NASB). As a result of their careless and irreverent behavior, fire came from God’s presence and consumed them.
Zap. In an instant they were ashes.
When Moses had to explain to Aaron what happened to the two men, he said: “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near to Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored’” (v. 3). Although we don’t know the details of what Nadab and his brother did with the holy incense, we know they were careless and irreverent about the things of God.
This ancient story has relevant application for us today. We don’t use incense or firepans in our worship, but we are expected to handle God’s Word with care and minister to His people in the fear of the Lord. In other words: No funny business allowed. We aren’t allowed to mix God’s Word with foreign concepts or mix our worship with pagan practices.
Yet as I minister in various churches around this country I am finding that strange fire is spreading in our midst-even in churches that call themselves “Spirit-filled.” Pastors and leaders need to be aware of these trends:
1. Deadly visitations. In some charismatic circles today, people are claiming to have spiritual experiences that involve communication with the dead. One Michigan pastor told me last week that some church leaders he knows promote this bizarre practice and base it on Jesus’ experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. The logic is that since Jesus talked to Moses and Elijah on the day He was glorified, this gives us permission to talk to dead Christians and our dead relatives.
Although little is said about these experiences from the pulpit (since the average believer is not ready to handle this “new revelation”), people in some streams of the prophetic movement are claiming to have visitations from Aimee Semple McPherson, William Branham, John Wimber or various Bible characters. And we are expected to say, “Ooooooo, that’s so deep”-and then go looking for our own mystical, beyond-the-grave epiphany.
That is creepy. Communication with the dead was strictly forbidden in the Old Testament (see Deut. 18:11), and there is nothing in the New that indicates the rules were changed. Those who seek counsel from the dead-whether through mediums and séances or in “prophetic visions”-are taking a dangerous step toward demonization.
2. Ecstatic rapture. Not long after ecstasy became known as a recreational drug, someone in our movement got the bright idea to promote spiritual ecstasy as a form of legitimate worship. The concept evolved from “spiritual drunkenness” to the current fad in which people gather at church altars and pretend to shoot needles in their arms for a “spiritual high.” Some preachers today are encouraging people to “toke the Holy Ghost”-a reference to smoking marijuana.
I hate to be a party pooper, but the Bible warns us to “be of sound judgment and sober spirit” (1 Pet. 4:7). There is plenty of freedom and joy in the Holy Spirit; we don’t have to quench it by introducing people to pagan revelry. Christian worship is not about losing control. Those who worship Jesus do it “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), and our love for God is not measured by how violently we shake or how many times we fall on the floor.
Recently I told a friend in Pennsylvania that when people get tired of this drug imagery it won’t be long before we see some Christians having sexual experiences at the altar. “It’s already happening,” my friend said. He described a recent “worship concert” in which one of the musicians simulated sex while stroking a microphone and whispering sensual phrases to Jesus. What is next-orgasmic worship? God help us.
3. Angels among us. Angels have always played a vital role in the life of the church. They are “ministering spirits” sent to protect, guide and strengthen believers (Heb. 1:14). But suddenly angels have become the rage in some segments of our movement. People are claiming to see them everywhere, and often the stories don’t line up with the Word of God.
During the Lakeland Revival last year in Florida, a man from Germany took the stage and claimed that an angel walked into a restaurant while he was eating a hamburger, took his intestines out and replaced them with a gold substance. Others have testified that angels took them to heaven and operated on them. And many are claiming that angels are dropping feathers, gold dust and precious gems on worshippers.
I know God can do anything. He can make an iron axe head float, hide a coin in a fish’s mouth and use a little boy’s lunch to feed a multitude. Those were genuine miracles that He can still do today. But we still have to use caution here. There are counterfeits. If we promote a false miracle or a false angel in the Lord’s house, we are participating in strange fire.
I know of a case where a man was caught planting fake jewels on the floor of a church. He told his friends he was “seeding the room” to lift the people’s faith. I know of others who have been caught putting gold glitter on themselves in a restroom and then running back in a church service, only to claim that God was blessing them with this special favor. Where is the fear of God when Christians would actually fabricate a miracle?
This is a time for all true believers with backbones to draw clear lines between what is godly worship and what is pagan practice. We want the miracles of God, but we also want the fear and reverence of God. We cannot allow this strange fire to spread unchecked.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Pakistan Christian Dies In Prison; Police Attacks Reported
By Jawad Mazhar
SARGODHA, PAKISTAN (Worthy News) -- A Pakistani widow wanted to know Monday, April 6, why authorities allegedly let her imprisoned Christian husband die of asthma in Pakistan's Punjab province, while a father there complained that his Christian son was detained on "false" charges.
The widow, who only identified herself as Elizabeth apparently for fear of repercussions, told Worthy News and its partner news agency BosNewsLife that her husband died March 20 in the District Jail of the city of Sargodha where, she said, he was held on trumped up charges of drugs dealing.
"Police did not discover any drugs," during a recent raid on their home, Elizabeth added. Yet, the Factory Area Police of Sargodha allegedly "implicated" her spouse in a drugs dealing case and detained him on March 12.
"During the Police raid, I pleaded to police to let my husband go because he was a chronic asthmatic patient," she said. "However police sent him to jail where he died of asthma due to the negligence of the jail's medical staff, on March 20."
Elizabeth said she has registered "a murder case against the prison's superintendent and its doctor," adding that after her husband’s death she is "in an appalling condition". Officials had no comment, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
Factory Area has been the scene of several police attacks against impoverished Christians, many of whom live in difficult conditions amid rising Muslim extremism in Pakistan, local Christians said.
Ashiq Masih said his young Christian son, Ashir Masih, was also detained on "false charges of bootlegging" on March 30 by Sargodha's Factory Area Police. "My son is innocent, but police have implicated him into this case, perhaps thinking that an impoverished Christian would not be able to defend himself in a court of law."
He alleged that police only "registered a fake case" against his son "merely to meet their target of registering a maximum number of cases," for promotion or bonus purposes. Police strongly denied the charges, saying they raided and arrested Ashir Masih on a tip-off. Police said the suspect was "illegally selling liquor" and that they recovered two bottles of one liter each. They could not produce the bottles in front of Worthy News.
Christian rights groups have urged police in Pakistan's volatile Punjab province to protect the Christian minority, amid reports that churches have also been attacked by angry Muslim mobs.
Advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) told BosNewsLife that it learned last week that a man led a mob of neighbors and friends in an attack on a village's only church after discovering that his daughter befriended a Christian man. The incident occurred in Kot Lakha Singh village in Narrowal district of Punjab province, ICC said.
"After desecrating the church, the men forced their way into Christian homes, dragged out the women, and paraded them forcefully on the streets. The assault, which occurred several months ago, so terrified the Christian community that 21 families fled, leaving only four Christian families who are still in the village," ICC added.
"Christians locked their homes and fled to their relatives, living in other villages and cities, to save their lives," said Ashraf Masih, a Christian resident who remained in the village, in a statement distributed by ICC.
Several Christians were injured, including two women whose teeth were broken, ICC said. Local politicians reportedly attempted to set up a "Peace Committee" to reconcile the two groups. After that effort apparently failed, the Christians "finally approached the police with a formal complaint," but ICC said, "police had not taken any action to prosecute" those responsible for the assault.
Pakistan's Christians comprise less than 5 percent of Pakistan's mainly Muslim population of over 176 million people according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).
Sunday, April 12, 2009
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb...the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!” Luke 24:2-6
This is a nicely done video about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection from someone off of Youtube, called "Ballad of the Cross".
Thursday, April 9, 2009
By Alan Silverleib
(CNN) -- The Vermont Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to legalize same-sex marriage, potentially setting the stage for a high-profile legislative showdown and breaking a new political barrier in the state that made history in 2000 by becoming the first to approve civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.
If the bill becomes law, Vermont will become the first state to legalize same-sex marriage without being forced to do so by the courts.
The bill, which passed the 30-member chamber by a 26-4 margin, moves to the Vermont House, where it is also expected to be approved. Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, however, has said he doesn't support the bill.
"Gov. Douglas agrees with President Obama that marriage is between a man and a woman. He supports Vermont's current civil union law, which provides equal rights, benefits and responsibilities to Vermonters in civil unions," Douglas spokeswoman Dennise Casey said.
He also "believes this bill is a distraction from the important work the Legislature needs to do to pass a responsible budget and get our economy going again," Casey added.
It is unclear whether both chambers of the Vermont Legislature would vote to override a potential gubernatorial veto.
Another Senate vote on the bill was set for Tuesday, but Monday's vote was the main one, according to the Burlington Free Press newspaper. The House Judiciary Committee will start hearing testimony on the bill Tuesday afternoon, the newspaper said.
Currently, only Massachusetts and Connecticut allow same-sex marriage. Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey allow civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.
Vermont legalized civil unions nine years ago in response to a ruling from its high court.
Nationwide, the issue of same-sex marriage remains highly divisive. A June 2008 CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll found that 44 percent of adult Americans believe gay marriage should be recognized by law as valid; 53 percent are opposed.
The issue took center stage in the nation's largest state in November, when California voters narrowly approved a proposition amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. California had been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since a May 2008 ruling by the state Supreme Court legalized the unions.
California's high court heard arguments three weeks ago in a case tackling the constitutionality of the controversial ballot proposition. It has not yet issued a decision.
The 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act effectively bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions by defining marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" and a spouse as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
When I was growing up, on Good Friday, public schools were closed in America. Prime time television on the three major networks would present programming about Jesus Christ unabashedly. Many businesses would be closed then, as well as on Easter Sunday. Stores would reflect what Easter was about, but along with selling candy and baskets. Nevertheless, the message of the cross remained in the public eye. It was not just about Peter cottontail, eggs, and other commercial items then.
Where is your God, America? (Yes, I realize He is omnipresent). Every year, we as a nation reject Him more and more. We don’t want Him in our schools. We want to redefine holidays which were intended to celebrate Him, by minimizing the message of the Cross. We don’t want Him on our money. We don’t want Him in our court houses and government buildings as in the past. We don’t want Him in our homes, in our lives, telling us what to do, or what to believe.
Many are comfortable with their contempt—even proud of it, and at ease in the darkness that surrounds them.
1 Corinthians 1:18
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
I don’t write this to galvanize political action, although that’s fine with me. We are told to shut up when proclaiming the Gospel, but as Paul mentioned in Corinthians, the preaching of the cross was foolishness then… and it is now. In many accounts presented in the Old Testament, Israel repeatedly rejected God and returned to God. Serving other gods and returning to God. Judgment would fall upon them, and the children of Israel would cry out. And God in His mercy would hear them.
Our nation has many voices advocating rebellion against the One True God, and new age beliefs abound. Even in our churches. Too many come up with their own version of a god, generally one which does not recognize sin, or the need of a Savior. Why is it so many think judgment cannot fall on this nation? Or any other nation for that matter? Ironically, some of the same preaching God no longer judges, will proclaim judgment will fall upon those not yielding to their authority. But that's a post for another time.
1 Corinthians 1:17 -21
17) For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
18) For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
19) For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20) Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Friday, April 3, 2009
By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer
A wide-ranging study on American religious life found that the Roman Catholic population has been shifting out of the Northeast to the Southwest, the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined and more people say they have no religion at all.
Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.
Northern New England surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least religious region, with Vermont reporting the highest share of those claiming no religion, at 34 percent. Still, the study found that the numbers of Americans with no religion rose in every state.
"No other religious bloc has kept such a pace in every state," the study's authors said.
In the Northeast, self-identified Catholics made up 36 percent of adults last year, down from 43 percent in 1990. At the same time, however, Catholics grew to about one-third of the adult population in California and Texas, and one-quarter of Floridians, largely due to Latino immigration, according to the research.
Nationally, Catholics remain the largest religious group, with 57 million people saying they belong to the church. The tradition gained 11 million followers since 1990, but its share of the population fell by about a percentage point to 25 percent.
Christians who aren't Catholic also are a declining segment of the country.
In 2008, Christians comprised 76 percent of U.S. adults, compared to about 77 percent in 2001 and about 86 percent in 1990. Researchers said the dwindling ranks of mainline Protestants, including Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians, largely explains the shift. Over the last seven years, mainline Protestants dropped from just over 17 percent to 12.9 percent of the population.
The report from The Program on Public Values at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., surveyed 54,461 adults in English or Spanish from February through November of last year. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 0.5 percentage points. The findings are part of a series of studies on American religion by the program that will later look more closely at reasons behind the trends.
The current survey, being released Monday, found traditional organized religion playing less of a role in many lives. Thirty percent of married couples did not have a religious wedding ceremony and 27 percent of respondents said they did not want a religious funeral.
About 12 percent of Americans believe in a higher power but not the personal God at the core of monotheistic faiths. And, since 1990, a slightly greater share of respondents — 1.2 percent — said they were part of new religious movements, including Scientology, Wicca and Santeria.
The study also found signs of a growing influence of churches that either don't belong to a denomination or play down their membership in a religious group.
Respondents who called themselves "non-denominational Christian" grew from 0.1 percent in 1990 to 3.5 percent last year. Congregations that most often use the term are megachurches considered "seeker sensitive." They use rock style music and less structured prayer to attract people who don't usually attend church. Researchers also found a small increase in those who prefer being called evangelical or born-again, rather than claim membership in a denomination.
Evangelical or born-again Americans make up 34 percent of all American adults and 45 percent of all Christians and Catholics, the study found. Researchers found that 18 percent of Catholics consider themselves born-again or evangelical, and nearly 39 percent of mainline Protestants prefer those labels. Many mainline Protestant groups are riven by conflict over how they should interpret what the Bible says about gay relationships, salvation and other issues.
The percentage of Pentecostals remained mostly steady since 1990 at 3.5 percent, a surprising finding considering the dramatic spread of the tradition worldwide. Pentecostals are known for a spirited form of Christianity that includes speaking in tongues and a belief in modern-day miracles.
Mormon numbers also held steady over the period at 1.4 percent of the population, while the number of Jews who described themselves as religiously observant continued to drop, from 1.8 percent in 1990 to 1.2 percent, or 2.7 million people, last year. Researchers plan a broader survey on people who consider themselves culturally Jewish but aren't religious.
The study found that the percentage of Americans who identified themselves as Muslim grew to 0.6 percent of the population, while growth in Eastern religions such as Buddhism slightly slowed.