Original post at http://umruminations.blogspot.com/2013/01/today-in-god.html
I recently starting receiving Google Alerts using the search-term, "God." I wanted to see--and chronicle--how God is showing up in the news these days. I figured God was as good a subject as any, and maybe, just maybe, a way to see what God's up to.
"God Wants Spiritual Fruit, Not Religious Nuts."
Those are the words on a church sign in New York City, Madison Avenue Baptist Church. Apparently it's turning some heads, and you can read the story here. The article notes that the Rev. Susan Sparks is the Senior Pastor "as well as an established stand up comic." Sparks told The Huffington Post that she loves the reactions to the signs:
"I love it because it is a way to show that the church can step back and laugh at itself. Every week we have folks stopping and taking photos of the signs to post, share, etc. Very often I will see them circulated on Facebook."
Sparks explained about the sign: "Our church is a place that welcomes all people; a place that is safe from the shame and judgment of religious 'nuts' and therefore a rich ground to bear spiritual fruit."
Maybe we could learn something from that in The United Methodist Church?
I'm not sure how God is feeling about this one, but there are reports that the first athiest church in London, England, is opening. Brad Hirschfield, who blogs for the Washington Post on things religious, notes that even tho the "church" is new, the idea isn't. "Virtually everything that we celebrate as new," he writes, "has its roots in something else, and that is especially true when it comes to religion. For example, before there was Christmas, there was Hanukkah. And before there was Hanukkah there were yet older celebrations of light in the midst of darkness - some Greco-Roman and others Zoroastrian. Of course, each of these traditions is unique, but none simply fell from the sky as fully formed novelties. Each emerged from a context which included predecessors which they both mirrored and altered, and the same can be said for this 'first' atheist church." (Read the full article here.)
Hirschfield also makes some good points that atheism, despite it's absence of God, really is a faith.
But if there's a growing faith in God not existing, our friends at the Gallup Poll suggest in this article that "God is Alive and Well (and Living) in America." Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll, has a new book out that says that the United States could "be on the cusp of a religious renaissance." After doing a million interviews (wow!), Newport notes that despite the rise of the "nones" (those who claim no religious preference or affiliation), the level of the "nones" increase year-to-year is starting to level off.
"We've been analyzing data from 350,000 interviews since 2008, and 2012 showed the lowest increase in the percentage who said they have no religious identity, so that might be leveling off," he told the Huffington Post.
Newport also has some interesting thoughts on why Mainline Protestants aren't growing, why Mormons are (hint: it has something to do with the number of children they have), and why Catholicism is holding its own (hint: immigration of Hispanics).