Daily Archives

March 6, 2018

Congrats, Billy: Stats Show Your Evangelical Movement Is Still Going Strong

Born-again believers have kept the faith over four decades, while most religious switching has been between mainline Protestants and the “nones.” Editor’s note: In 2014, CT reported how a massive survey by the Pew Research Center found that American evangelicals were weathering the “rise of the nones” much better than other Christian groups. Today, as Billy Graham’s funeral takes place, an analysis of social science data shows the movement the 99-year-old evangelist embodied remains surprisingly strong. The religious landscape is a volatile one, with nearly 1 in 5 Americans switching their religious tradition from 2010 to 2014. We’ve previously examined how Protestants and Catholics changed churches, as well as which segment of the religiously unaffiliated returned to church most, during that four-year window examined by the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). However, what happens when the time period under study is expanded, from four years to more than four decades? Are evangelicals managing to hold on to their share of the US population? Have those with no religion made significant gains? And what is causing the shifts? The General Social Survey (GSS) has tracked religious affiliation biannually, beginning in 1972. It provides an unmatched summation of a generation of religious…

Continue Reading

America’s Surrogacy Bump: Is Fertility a Blessing to Be Shared?

Pro-life carriers and Christian bioethicists navigate the patchy landscape for assisted reproduction. Following months of infertility treatments, Meg Watwood cried in joy when her first ultrasound revealed healthy twin babies. At the doctor’s office three years later, when a scan showed she was pregnant with twins again, there was another mom in the room celebrating. This time, Watwood was carrying the babies for her. Amid all the waiting, testing, and praying for her own twins, Watwood had developed a deep compassion for families stung by infertility. She felt called to help, so much so that she offered up her womb to two little embryos from a fellow couple struggling to conceive. Then last year, she did it again for another couple. Doctors had deemed that hopeful mom-to-be unable to carry a pregnancy after several failed rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). The couple, a pair of Texas lawyers who shared Watwood’s pro-life convictions, wanted to give the additional viable embryos they had produced a chance. They were connected to Watwood, a Southern Baptist, by a local surrogacy agency. “God called me to seek out what seemed like unconventional ways to serve others,” said Watwood, now a…

Continue Reading

Billy Graham Is in Heaven. His Funeral Guests Got a Glimpse of It.

(UPDATED) A first-hand report from the evangelist’s “last crusade,” which he planned years before his death last week at 99. Billy Graham, the famed evangelist remembered for his straightforward Bible preaching and his spirit of Christian unity, once again brought Christians together—literally under one big tent. After spending his life traveling the world to rally millions for Christ, Graham returned Friday to his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was laid to rest following a celebratory and gospel-infused ceremony deemed his final crusade. More than 2,000 guests—including 200 members of Graham’s family, Christian leaders from 50 countries, and dignitaries such as President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence—gathered at the funeral. Graham himself planned it out more than a decade ago, hoping that even his death could continue to point people to Christ. Facing the Billy Graham Library’s giant glass cross façade, the crowd packed into a 28,000-square-foot white tent meant to evoke the “canvas cathedral” where the evangelist held one of his first crusades in 1949 in Los Angeles. The roof of the tent rippled in the midday wind as thousands listened to tributes and sung together. The bittersweet feeling that typically comes at a Christian funeral…

Continue Reading

Creation Groans, but God Hears: Many Species Face ‘Thinning of Life’

On World Wildlife Day, conservationists reflect on biblical ways of dealing with eco-anxiety. Visitors to London Zoo last autumn stood enthralled, watching the family dynamics of the critically endangered Sumatran tiger playing out before them. The two newborn cubs, instinctively mischievous, repeatedly pounced and climbed up their 280-pound father, claws unsheathed. Crowds admired this tiger, built for predatory power, turning his obvious annoyance into gentle reprimands. The scene is reminiscent of Aslan the lion, whom C. S. Lewis used to capture some of the attributes of God—tender but also powerful and “not a tame lion.” Today, these majestic cats are the focus of World Wildlife Day, along with the other big cats that are under threat on our watch—no, because of our watch. Habitat loss, conflict with people, and poaching are just some of the reasons for their drastic declines. There has been a 95 percent drop in tiger numbers over the last hundred years and a 40 percent drop in African lions over just 20 years. Numbers like these have drawn attention to the “pre-traumatic stress” felt by environmental scientists whose everyday work seems to be that of a doomsday prophet. Not only are their audiences not as receptive…

Continue Reading