fain | fān | archaic

fain | fān | archaic: adjective: 1. pleased or willing under the circumstances, eager. 2. obliged. adverb: gladly

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Robert's Reads: Ways Faith Is Kept, or Lost, Over Generations

Must read.. especially for Dads!

Book Explores Ways Faith Is Kept, or Lost, Over Generations

Vern L. Bengtson came from a religious family — to put it mildly.

“My dad was a minister of the Evangelical Covenant Church,” Professor Bengtson, who teaches social work at the University of Southern California, said from his home in Santa Barbara this week. “He had nine brothers and sisters, and all were staunch Evangelical Covenant Church people. I had 33 cousins on my father’s side, all staunch Evangelical Covenant Church people.”

In 1963, after college at a school sponsored by his historically Swedish denomination, Professor Bengtson entered graduate school at the University of Chicago. There, he was an oddity in two ways. All of a sudden, most of his peers were irreligious. And while he happily took cues from his parents, his classmates didn’t trust anyone over 30.
To a graduate student, this state of being the odd man out suggested a research question: Why do some young people adopt their families’ views, while others, especially in the ’60s, strike out on their own?

In 1969, shortly after being hired at U.S.C., Professor Bengtson began a study of 350 families, whom he interviewed regularly until 2008. In some families, he interviewed four generations. In all, his respondents were born in years spanning 1878 to 1989.
Professor Bengtson’s project yielded more than 200 articles, many focused on aging and intergenerational conflict, topics on which he has become an expert. Now, at last, he is ready to draw some conclusions about religion, the issue that got him started.

In “Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations” (Oxford; $29.95), written with two colleagues, Professor Bengtson argues that families do a pretty good job of passing religious faith to their children. More interesting, for those who fret about children leaving the fold — that is, clergy members and parents everywhere — Professor Bengtson has theories about why some children keep the faith while others leave.

According to Professor Bengtson, parents have as much hold as ever on children’s souls. “Parent-youth similarity in religiosity has not declined over 35 years,” from 1970 to 2005, he writes. Denominational loyalty is down — kids feel free to ditch the Baptists for the Presbyterians — but younger generations are no less likely to inherit core beliefs, like biblical literalism, the importance of church attendance or, for that matter, atheism.
As to why some children follow their parents, spiritually speaking, Professor Bengtson’s research confirmed some common-sense assumptions. For example, it helps if parents model religiosity: if you talk about church but never go, children sense hypocrisy. And intermarriage doesn’t help. If you’re Jewish (or Mormon, Catholic, etc.), and want your child to share your religion, it helps to marry someone of the same faith.

But Professor Bengtson’s major conclusion is that family bonds matter. Displays of parental piety, like “teaching the right beliefs and practices” and “keeping strictly to the law,” can be for naught if the children don’t feel close to the parents. “Without emotional bonding,” these other factors are “not sufficient for transmission,” he writes.

Professor Bengtson also found that one parent matters more than the other — and it’s Dad. “But what is really interesting,” he writes, “is that, for religious transmission, having a close bond with one’s father matters even more than a close relationship with one’s mother.”

There are some interesting exceptions. Transmission of Judaism, for example, depends more on a close bond with one’s mother than with one’s father — perhaps because Judaism has traditionally held that the faith is inherited from the mother. Among Jews with a close maternal bond, 90 percent considered themselves Jewish, versus only 60 percent of those who weren’t close to their mothers.

In general, however, “fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant dad.” Over and over in interviews, Professor Bengtson said, he found that “a father who is an exemplar, a pillar of the church, but doesn’t provide warmth and affirmation to his kid does not have kids who follow him in his faith.”

Professor Bengtson’s own family hewed to the rule of the nurturing dad. “I had this great big jovial grandfather, who just exuded warmth,” Professor Bengtson said. “All of his 10 kids followed him in the faith. And it was true of his father, going back to Sweden, and it was true of my father. There’s this pattern of paternal warmth that seems to characterize the Bengtson family. And that may be why there are so many evangelical Bengtsons.”
Professor Bengtson also found that grandparents have a strong influence on children’s religious development, and that freedom to leave can encourage children to stay. “Allowing children religious choice can encourage religious continuity,” he writes.
Then there is the conclusion that the professor now exemplifies himself: “Don’t give up on the Prodigals” — those who drift away — “because many do return.”

In graduate school and after, Professor Bengtson abandoned his faith. His despairing mother once wrote to him, “Vern, if I have to choose between you and my Jesus, I will choose Jesus.” Recently, however, too late for his mother to know, Professor Bengtson has found his way back to church.

“By golly, I had this religious experience when I was about 67 years old,” said Professor Bengtson, now 72. Easter morning of 2009, he woke up and decided to check out “this Gothic-looking church down on State Street” in Santa Barbara. He entered church a bit late, after the service had started.

“The organ was roaring,” he recalled, “the congregation was singing, the pillars were going up to heaven, the light was sifting down through the stained-glass windows. I was just overwhelmed. I found my way to a pew and started crying. ... I haven’t been the same since.”

Professor Bengtson now sings in the church choir. His return — albeit to a progressive Episcopal church — has, he says, made him a better scholar. He now believes that some of his survey data are, while necessary, also “trivial — questionnaires asking, ‘Do you agree or disagree that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God?’ ”

Parents aren’t just trying to pass on to their children a checklist of beliefs, he said. Better than ever, he grasps “the kind of passion these parents had for wanting their children to achieve the peace and the joy and the hope and the inspiration they had found for themselves.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Robert's Reads: Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury Unite to Comat Slavery and human Trafficking

Good news!

Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury unite to combat slavery and human trafficking
By Archbishop Cranmer on his blog.


Some ecumenical pursuits are laughably delusory; others are supremely vital. The fight against modern slavery and human trafficking is of the latter category, and ought to unite Christians across all denominations.

It is therefore a cause of great joy that the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis have given their backing to a ground-breaking ecumenical initiative to combat this evil. The agreement to help eradicate an injustice affecting up to 29 million people was co-signed today by the Archbishop of Canterbury's Representative to the Holy See, Archbishop Sir David Moxon, the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science, Bishop Sanchez Sorondo and Mr Andrew Forrest, the founder of the large international philanthropic anti-slavery organisation from Perth, Western Australia 'Walk Free'.

In a statement the Archbishop of Canterbury said:
“Anglicans and Roman Catholics have, since 1966, been in serious and prayerful dialogue with each other, to seek the unity that Christ wills for his church in the world. Jesus has said 'May they all be one', and this imperative has inspired and sustained the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission, and the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, for many years as an act of faith.

“We are now being challenged in these days to find more profound ways of putting our ministry and mission where our faith is; and being called into a deeper unity on the side of the poor and in the cause of the justice and righteousness of God. For this reason, the new Global Freedom Network is being created to join the struggle against modern slavery and human trafficking from a faith base, so that we might witness to God's compassion and act for the benefit of those who are abducted, enslaved and abused in this terrible crime.

“Many are already engaged in the struggle and we join them with much to learn as well as much to contribute. All are called to join common cause to end this crime and suffering. The more we share the pain and oppression of the poor and suffering in the name of God, the more God will draw us closer to each other, because we will need each other’s strength and support to make the kind of difference that is needed. We are struggling against evil in secret places and in deeply entrenched networks of malice and cruelty. No one of us is strong enough, but together we are ready for the challenge God is placing before us today, and we know that he will strengthen us so that all people may live in freedom and dignity.”
Salvation is not only concerned with eschatology and eternity: it can be realised in a believer's 'freedom' and redemption here on earth, as the first-fruits of what we anticipate and hope for. The freedom we have in Christ includes the removal of psychological barriers - liberation from "the bondage of the will". St Paul often contrasts the gospel of liberty with the law that binds, because Christ came to deliver us from the incapacity to obey. The law simply reinforces our impotence, rendering us nervous paralytics.

To be free we must be able to respond as we wish. Those who are bound in will or restricted in action may be free in spirit, but they cannot be free to participate in the fullness of the created order: in Christ, we are no longer slaves, but sons and daughters. This means not only that we can do now what we could not do before, but that we may do now what we were not permitted to do before.

This effort by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope is founded upon a clear scriptural principle - freedom for captives. These modern-day slaves will be liberated from the living death of isolation, depression, shame, abuse and hatred. They will given a new life in creation and a worthy place in community. They are walking side-by-side in the footsteps of William Wilberforce and giving meaning to the term 'humanity'.