Century Marks

Century Marks

Book sales

Pastors buy 3.8 books on average per month, according to a recent Barna Group survey. In contrast, only 29 percent of the general American population buys more than ten books a year. Pastors usually choose books based on someone else’s recommendation of a book or topic, with spirituality, theology and leadership being the most frequent topics selected. Although almost half of the pastors surveyed use a digital device, pastors of all generations prefer hard copies to digital versions. More than nine in ten pastors also recommend a book during their sermons at least once a year (barna.org).

Whither the C of E?

A new analysis of a 2011 census shows a drop in ten years of 4.1 million (10 percent) in the number of people in England and Wales who call themselves Christian. These numbers were bolstered by the influx of foreign-born Christians, including Polish Catholics and evangelicals from Nigeria and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the number of Muslims in England and Wales surged by 75 percent, to a total of 600,000 more foreign-born Muslims. Almost half of British Muslims are under 25; almost a fourth of the Christians are over 65. Projections indicate that in 20 years there will be more active Muslims than churchgoers, causing some to call for an end of the established Church of England (Telegraph, May 16).

Below the line

Ben Affleck and Josh Groban were among the celebrities who decided to join Live Below the Line’s weeklong challenge of living on $1.50 per day for food and drink. The program calls attention to the fact that almost 3 billion people in the world live on less than $1.50 each day. The estimated 20,000 who joined the project were also encouraged to contribute to efforts at addressing world poverty (Time, April 23).

Pivotal days

Four church historians were asked: “After AD 70, what day most changed the course of Christian history?” Robert Louis Wilken, Univer­sity of Virginia, cited the mid-seventh-century Muslim invasion of the Middle East. George Marsden, University of Notre Dame, chose the day in the fourth century when Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity. Philip Jenkins, Baylor University, chose May 29, 1453, when the Roman capital of Constan­tinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. Thomas S. Kidd, also from Baylor, opted for October 19, 1740, when the revivalist George Whitefield preached at Jonathan Edwards’s church, an event that signaled the beginning of evangelicalism (The Gospel Coalition, May 17).

Off course

A science course taught at Ball State University in Indiana has been critiqued by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Jerry Coyne, a University of Chicago science professor. They charge that the syllabus and reading list of The Boundaries of Science include creationists and Christian apologists with no science credentials, while leading proponents of evolution are excluded. The course has generated debate on science blogs. Although Coyne and others argue a science course taught at a state university shouldn’t cross the line into religion, other pro-evolution professors support the course on academic freedom grounds (Inside Higher Ed, May 17).