TGC Spotlight 12.05.14

Editors’ note: 

TGC Spotlight highlights TGC articles from earlier in the week, previews articles coming next week, and links to items around the web that you might have missed. 

Around the Web

Religion and Relationships in America

A new study reveals that religion still has a profound effect on shaping Americans views on sex, relationships and family. The Relationships in America study, produced by the Austin Institute, looks at “how social forces, demography, and religion continue to shape attitudes about family and intimate relationships.” Here are just a few of the many intriguing statistics in the report:

Americans Are Still Religious

Two out of every three (66 percent) Americans still identify with some form of Christianity, with Evangelicals comprising the largest subgroup of Protestants (8.7 percent of the population). Mainliners (3.2 percent) are now fewer than Pentecostals (3.3 percent).  About 27 percent of Americans report attending church weekly (on average), and women still dominate: there are 115 women for every 100 men (ages 18-60) at the average Christian worship service.

Religion and Education

The survey finds that adults with more education are only slightly less likely to report a religious affiliation than their less-educated peers. Among Americans with less than a high school education, 77 percent claim a religious affiliation, while an equal proportion of high school graduates do the same. Among those who have some college education, that number drops slightly to 74 percent, and dips further—but only to 72 percent—among those who have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Sexual Promiscuity and Sexual Contact

The median heterosexual man or woman (age 18-60) reports somewhere between four and six opposite sex partners in their lifetime. Lesbian women, too, report about the same number of partners. The median gay man, however, has had many more partners—reporting between 16 and 20 same-sex sexual partners to this point in their lifetime.

Thirty-one percent of adults below the age of 60 report having had overlapping sexual relationships at some point in their lives.

Two-thirds of lesbians (70 percent) and one-third (30 percent) of gay men who report attraction exclusively to members of their own sex also report having had at least one opposite sex sexual partner in their lifetimes. On the other hand, among those who considered themselves exclusively (or “100 percent”) heterosexual, the share who had sex with someone outside of what their reported sexual orientation would predict were much lower: just three 3 percent of heterosexual men and five 5 percent of heterosexual women had at least one sexual partner of the same sex.

Pornography Use

Forty-three percent of men and 9 percent of women reported watching pornography in the past week, while only 34 percent of men and 72 percent of women report not viewing pornography in at least a year, if at all.

60-year-old men are only slightly less likely to have viewed pornography within the past week than men in their 20s and 30s. Among women, 19 percent of women under age 30 report viewing pornography in the week prior to the survey, while only three percent of women in their 50s report doing so.

Religious affiliation itself is associated with moderately lower levels of pornography usage, though pornography usage is still common among male churchgoers: 27 percent of Christian male attendees report pornography use in the week prior to the survey.

Religious service attendance also matters for pornography use. Weekly church attenders are the least likely to report pornography use in the past week, while those who rarely or never attend do so at double the rate.

Premarital Sex

Increased religious service attendance is negatively associated with reports of premarital sex. Among married weekly religious service attenders, 65 percent reported first sex prior to getting married, compared to 88 percent who report occasional attendance and a full 96 percent of those who never attend religious services. Among Protestants, those that classify themselves as “liberal Protestants” report the highest levels of premarital sex while more conservative “evangelical Protestants” report the lowest levels.


Quick Takes

• This week TGC released the latest issue of Themelios, which has 221 pages of articles and book reviews. Andy Naselli has more about what you’ll find in this issue.

Garbage collecting for the glory of God: “If I’ve done my job well, people don’t even know I’m there,” David says.

• No, Tim Challies won’t pray for you.

• What ever happened to Rob Bell, the pastor who questioned the gates of hell? As Sarah Pulliam Bailey discovers, he found Oprah.

(For even more links, see the “Remainder Bin” at the end of this post.)

Featured TGC Articles

‘My Work Is More Important Than Yours,’ So We All Say | Bethany Jenkins

Our unity is not based on a sameness of our vocations, but on a celebration of our differences, as we give ourselves to one another in love.


6 Ways We Experience The Holy Spirit | J. D. Greear

If you ask Christians whether they would rather have Jesus beside them or the Spirit inside them, which do you think most would choose?


How Architecture Testifies To Beauty And Brokenness In Our Cities | Jen Pollock Michel

Good architecture helps communities flourish by cultivating a healthy sense of collective identity.


For The Days You Don’t Like Your Spouse | Amie Patrick

Living in covenant with another sinful, imperfect human being is messy and, while full of many beautiful moments, is not a constant fairy tale.


Featured TGC Contributor Articles

Should Christian Historians Appeal to Providence in Their Interpretations? | Justin Taylor

Although Christian historians may disagree among themselves regarding the precise nature or extent of God’s providence, all affirm its reality and importance as those who trust in the God who has decisively revealed himself through Christ in his authoritative Word and who is at work throughout history.


Five Points for Parents Who Want to Pass On the Faith | Kevin DeYoung

How is religion passed down across generations? That’s the theme of the new book Families and Faith by Vern L. Bengtson (with Norella M. Putney and Susan Harris).


Our Moral Compass Is Turned Toward Self-Righteousness | Trevin Wax

Say “self-righteous” and people are likely to think of super-spiritual religious person who looks down on everyone else for their failure to attain the same standard of holiness.


One Man’s Justice Another Man’s Nightmare: It Really Could Have Been Me | Thabiti Anyabwile

Last night I had a twitter exchange–one of many–with an assertive brother insisting that I was biased in my view of the events in Ferguson and in my assessment of the grand jury process.


Revival and money? | Ray Ortlund

We are accustomed to the biblical message that we should trust God. But here is another — smaller and subordinate, but still important — category: that God would trust us.


An Advent Prayer for Waiting and Repenting of Impatience | Scotty Smith

Dear heavenly Father, the Advent theme of waiting confronts me in every context of life. Why am I in such a hurry? Why the rush? At just the right time, you sent Jesus.


The Gospel, Fathoms Deep | Jared C. Wilson

Ever felt Ephesians 2:1-10? You’ve probably read it, maybe multiple times. But ever felt it? Ever drunk it? Steeped in it? Had it knock you over?


Coming Next Week at TGC

Eve’s Daddy Issues and Ours | Jasmine Holmes

Jasmine Holmes reflects on the rebellion in our hearts and the hope found in trusting God.


The Role of Singing in the Life of the Church | Rob Smith

Rob Smith explains why we sing in church.


Romantic Love Is Not Enough | Dave Dunham

Dave Dunham argues that we need the love of friends as well as the love of our spouses to experience a full life.


Upcoming Events

Albuquerque Regional Conference (March 20-22, 2015)

Assembled Under the Word: Preaching and Christ. Speakers include Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson, and David Helm.

2015 National Conference (April 1-15, 2015)

Heading Home: A New Heaven and a New Earth. Speakers include Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, John Piper, Mark Dever, Voddie Baucham, Philip G. Ryken, Ligon Duncan, and many others.

Remainder Bin

American Culture

In UPS Case, Justices Tackle Ambiguity in Pregnancy Law Adam Liptak, New York Times

A Supreme Court argument on Wednesday about pregnancy discrimination had, for the most part, the arid quality of a logic problem, with the justices wrestling with an ambiguous federal law.

The Google misery index: The times of year we’re most depressed, anxious and stressed Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post

Depression. Anxiety. Pain. Stress. Fatigue. Below, I’ve plotted the past year’s worth of daily Google search interest these five terms, which I’ve aggregated into a index of misery.

The light of the sun in a dark basement Jamie Dean, WORLD

Congressman Frank Wolf has spent more than three decades showing up in far corners of the globe to help the most vulnerable—and the ‘patron saint of unpopular causes’ says he’s not finished

STUDY: 86% Of Vegetarians Go Back To Eating Meat Dennis Green, Business Insider

A study released by the Humane Research Council (HRC) — a nonprofit that provides public opinion research for use by animal advocacy groups — says at least 86% of vegetarians go back to eating meat at some point in their lives.


Why are blood donors asked their sexual history? BBC

The US Food and Drug Administration is meeting to consider lifting a lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with other men, even just once, since 1977. The blood is tested so why does it matter?

Christianity and Culture

11 Brooklyn Churches Hit in a String of Burglaries Tatiana Schlossberg, New York Times

One Sunday morning this month, as worshipers streamed into the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, police officers inspected shattered glass and took note of an air-conditioner that had been pulled from a wall, clues in the theft of a few hundred dollars from the church’s coffers.

Why has Pentecostalism grown so dramatically in Latin America? David Masci, Pew Research Center

With nearly 300 million followers worldwide, including many in Africa and Latin America, Pentecostalism is now a global phenomenon. But present day Pentecostalism traces its origins to a religious revival movement that began in the early 20th century.

Ecumenism After 50 Years Timothy George, First Things

In retrospect it is clear that the Second Vatican Council was the most momentous religious event of the twentieth century—and not only for Catholics.

More Pastors Embrace Talk of Mental Ills Jan Hoffman, New York Times

Evangelical leaders are increasingly opening up about family suicides, their own clinical depression and the relief they have received from psychiatric medication.

From Hell to Oprah: What Happened to Rob Bell? Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

The former megachurch pastor exchanged his evangelical bona fides for the blessing of Oprah.

Evangelicals add support for EPA plan to cut coal pollution Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Evangelicals are teaming up with environmentalists to support the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants.


Killer’s competency in spotlight on eve of execution Rick Jervis, USA Today

Scott Panetti dressed as a cowboy during his murder trial and, acting as his own lawyer, called John F. Kennedy, Jesus and the pope as witnesses. He’s been hospitalized more than a dozen times for psychosis and delusions.

Reporting Sexual Assault Is Difficult, but a New Technology May Help Brendan Nyhan, New York Times

Callisto, an online sexual assault reporting system under development by a nonprofit called Sexual Health Innovations, aims to change this and provide better options for victims of sexual assault on college campuses.

Legislators call for stricter rules after University of Virginia rape revelations Travis Fain, Daily Press

Legislative support is coalescing behind a proposal to require that university officials quickly turn rape allegations over to law enforcement, or potentially face prosecution themselves.

Drugs and Alcohol

Naloxone, a Drug to Stop Heroin Deaths, Is More Costly, the Police Say J. David Goodman, New York Times

This year, police departments across the country, including in New York City, announced plans to stock up on a medication that reverses the effects of a heroin or opioid painkiller overdose.


Most College Students Don’t Earn a Degree in 4 Years, Study Finds Tamar Lewin, New York Times

The vast majority of students at American public colleges do not graduate on time, according to a new report from Complete College America, a nonprofit group based in Indianapolis.

Family Issues

Are kids getting more virtuous? David Finkelhor, Washington Post

Every generation of parents is alarmed by the sexual behavior of the young. But the accusations are more misplaced now than ever.

Health Issues

Nearly 30% of world population is overweight AFP

More than 2.1 billion people globally — or nearly 30 percent of the world’s population — are now overweight or obese, with the figure set to rise further by 2030, according to a study published Thursday. Read more:

International Issues

Landmine casualties fell by 25 percent over last year to 15-year low David Alexander, Reuters

Fewer people were killed or wounded by landmines over the past year than at any time since record-keeping began in 1999, and production of the weapons has almost stopped, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines said in a new report on Wednesday.

Marriage Issues

Vatican Strengthens Ties with Evangelicals and Mormons Against Gay Marriage Elizabeth Dias, Time

In a month when papal conversation about marriage has been all the rage, the Vatican is enlisting a new set of allies to support its commitment to marriage between a man and a woman: American evangelicals and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

1 in 3 Americans want a divorce between clergy and civil marriages Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service

Should clergy divorce themselves from civil marriage? Such a church-state split — already endorsed by some Catholic and evangelical leaders — is showing surprising popularity in two new surveys released Tuesday by LifeWay Research.

The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On Claire Cain Miller, New York Times

When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” this year, ABC News said it was the latest example of the out-of-control divorce rate, “50 percent and climbing.”


Robot Algorithms Can’t Answer Ethical Dilemmas, Say Programmers and Ethicists Orion Jones, Big Think

Robots armed with weapons and programmed to act autonomously are already in the hands of national militaries. But taking action on the battlefield depends on making decisions that algorithms are simply not equipped to handle, say computer scientists and ethicists.

Race Issues

Attorney general to issue new guidance on racial profiling Julia Edwards, Reuters

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday he would soon release new guidelines to limit racial profiling by federal law enforcement, a move long awaited by civil rights advocates.