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Posts tagged church

by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

Timothy Dalrymple has a typically thought-provoking post up at Patheos today about his upcoming World Magazine article on COURAGEOUS, the new movie from Sherwood Baptist Church, producers of FIREPROOF and other movies. A lot of folks have asked me what I think of what they’re doing, and Tim kindly includes a couple quotes from me about the real importance of these movies. Understandably, he couldn’t include my whole reply when he asked for my comments, but with his permission, here it is.

I’ve seen neither FIREPROOF nor COURAGEOUS. My friends who know movies are pretty skeptical of their artistic merits (to say the least). For my part, I suspect they are pretty thin artistic efforts (like an awful lot of stuff that passes for cultural creativity from Hollywood itself). But I celebrate them, for two simple reasons.

First, it is better to create something worth criticizing than to criticize and create nothing.

Second, one or two Christian kids with real talent somewhere in this vast land are going to see these movies, get the sacred-secular dichotomy knocked out of them at an early age, move to LA, work their tails off, dream, fail, and try again . . . and one day make truly great movies. These movies are significant not for their own excellence but for the door they open to cultural creativity that the church never should have lost.

Nate:
from "The Wasted Land," by David Streitfeld, Details, March 1996 :: via Craig Fehrman, kottke

He’ll blend in even more after he starts attending church. Brought up an atheist, he has twice failed to pass through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, the first step toward becoming a Catholic. The last time, he made the mistake of referring to “the cult of personality surrounding Jesus.” That didn’t go over big with the priest, who correctly suspected Wallace might have a bit too much skepticism to make a fully obedient Catholic. “I’m a typical American,” says Wallace. “Half of me is dying to give myself away, and the other half is continually rebelling.”

Recently he found a Mennonite house of worship, which he finds sympathetic even if the hymns are impossible to sing. “The more I believe in something, and the more I take something other than me seriously, the less bored I am, the less self-hating. I get less scared. When I was going through that hard time a few years ago, I was scared all the time.” It’s not a trip he ever plans to take again.

W. David O. Taylor on For the Beauty of the Church,” interviewed by Christy Tennant, International Arts Movement, 15 April 2010

Christy:
Nate:
from The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy (1960)

The Negro has already come outside. His forehead is an ambiguous sienna color and pied: it is impossible to be sure he has received ashes. When he gets in his Mercury, he does not leave immediately but sits looking down at something on the seat beside him. A sample case? An insurance manual? I watch him closely in the rear-view mirror. It is impossible to say why he is here. Is it part and parcel of the complex business of coming up in the world? Or is it because he believes that God himself is present here at the corner of Elysian Fields and Bons Enfants? Or is he here for both reasons: through some dim dazzling trick of grace, coming for the one and receiving the other as God’s own importune bonus?

It is impossible to say.

photo
Andy:
Nate:
from "The Church vs the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?," by Jonathan Gruber and Daniel Hungerman, Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 2008 :: via The .Plan

In this paper we identify a policy-driven change in the opportunity cost of religious participation based on state laws that prohibit retail activity on Sunday, known as “blue laws.” Many states have repealed these laws in recent years, raising the opportunity cost of religious participation… We then use a variety of datasets to show that when a state repeals its blue laws religious attendance falls, and that church donations and spending fall as well… We find that repealing blue laws leads to an increase in drinking and drug use, and that this increase is found only among the initially religious individuals who were affected by the blue laws. The effect is economically significant; for example, the gap in heavy drinking between religious and non religious individuals falls by about half after the laws are repealed.

Nate:

Religion | Now churches are getting into market research, hiring consultants as “mystery worshippers” to show up on Sunday and evaluate “everything from the cleanliness of the bathrooms to the strength of the sermon.” It used to be that one mysterious presence to keep an eye on things was enough. [Wall Street Journal]

Nate:

One of the few studies to look at the effects of religious participation on the mental health of minorities suggests that for some of them, religion may actually be contributing to adolescent depression. Previous research has shown that teens who are active in religious services are depressed less often because it provides these adolescents with social support and a sense of belonging.

But new research has found that this does not hold true for all adolescents, particularly for minorities and some females. The study found that white and African-American adolescents generally had fewer symptoms of depressive at high levels of religious participation. But for some Latino and Asian-American adolescents, attending church more often was actually affecting their mood in a negative way.

Asian-American adolescents who reported high levels of participation in their church had the highest number of depressive symptoms among teens of their race.

Likewise, Latino adolescents who were highly active in their church were more depressed than their peers who went to church less often. Females of all races and ethnic groups were also more likely to have symptoms of depression than males overall.

Setting all other factors aside, the results suggest that participating in religion at high levels may be detrimental to some teens because of the tensions they face in balancing the conflicting ideals and customs of their religion with those of mainstream culture, said Richard Petts, co-author of the study, who did the work as a doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State University.

Nate:
from "Where prayers come with a twang," by E.A. Torriero, Chicago Tribune, 4 August 2008

At least 600 cowboy churches are scattered across the U.S., according to leaders in the movement and published accounts. In central and southern Illinois, an estimated two dozen congregations meet in barns and arenas, on the dusty trails and in churches—some decorated with Western memorabilia.

Some evangelical Christians have questioned whether the churches only offer gimmicks and fail to provide a meaningful spiritual experience.

But pastors and churchgoers said their services are divinely inspired. Like the suburban megachurches that beckon teenagers with gospel-themed rap and rock music, cowboy sanctuaries promote country-western worship while seeking to attract those who find traditional rural church settings unattractive.