80% of unmarried evangelical young adults have had sex? Hmm

CNN Belief Blog – Why Young Christians Aren’t Waiting Anymore

This CNN blog post says that 88% of unmarried adults ages 18-29 have had sex. And not only that, but 80% of “unmarried evangelical young adults” have had sex. I don’t know how the author of the Relevant Magazine article who is cited for the 80% stat got that number. I looked at Chapter 1 of the “Fog Zone Report” of the website of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy which had data on young adults’ sexual activity and found nothing of the sort.

I don’t believe the statistics, especially the 80% of evangelical young adults figure. Most of these studies that cite such “shocking” statistics about how Christians don’t live much differently than non-Christians probably use watered-down definitions of “evangelical” or maybe don’t provide a definition at all and ask people to self-identify, which is always going to end up overcounting because everyone thinks they’re Christian.

I don’t believe the widely held view, based on “studies” that probably have similarly flawed methodologies, that Christians divorce at similar rates as non-Christians. I’m sure if you account for very basic variables like weekly church attendance (to weed out the holiday-only attendees) and consistent Bible reading (to weed out those who are horribly Bible illiterate)–very basic marks of solid, mature Christians–you will find that Christians do live differently than the world.

Just some cursory thoughts. No hard data or rigorous critical analysis.

Edit: Kevin DeYoung at The Gospel Coalition has posted a critical response to this study.

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Upcoming Supreme Court case has grave implications for religious liberty

I have not written in a while. When my writing gets this sparse, I usually try to make my updates only about those things that I consider important.

I’ve been wanting to get practice commenting on current events, especially after a summer discussing issues in sanctity of life, family and marriage, and religious freedom. Many of the Fellows this summer were well-versed in speaking about these issues. I have always been weak in keeping track of important issues in politics and law, and I want to practice being up to date on these things. It is a lot of work. Some days I will read a lot of news articles, but my mind has not processed them enough to be able to speak intelligently about them. I am like this with my law classes, too. I will read so much, thinking that I know something, but then when I am forced to speak about them in class, I fumble over my words and my brain locks up. It is pretty pitiful.

So I think taking some time to write about what I read will help me process it. I hope I will be able to speak intelligently these issues and be able to convince others of their importance.

Up at the US Supreme Court next week is a case that was mentioned often this summer as having deep implications for religious liberty in America. It is the case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC.

Here are the facts. Cheryl Perich, a teacher at a private Christian school, was diagnosed with narcolepsy after going on a disability leave of absence. The doctor said she would be able to return to work and be fine as long as she took medicine. But the school said that they were concerned her condition may jeopardize the safety of the students in her care. The school asked her to resign, which she refused. She was then fired, not because of the disability, but because she had threatened to sue. The Christian school felt that her threats of legal actions went against the biblical principle of Christians resolving things without going to court.

This was the reason she was fired, or at least that’s what the school says. I guess it is possible for the EEOC to argue that she was indeed fired for her disability, not because she opposed a Christian belief.

At issue for this particular case is whether Perich was a secular or religious employee at Hosanna-Tabor. She taught non-religious subjects at the school but she did lead morning prayers and devotionals. She also attended chapel and taught a religion class. But the far more important issue for the future is the “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination law. Under this exception, a religious institution is exempt from employment discrimination lawsuits because of the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment. A church or religious organization has the right to “discriminate” in choosing leaders based on their religious beliefs.

Lower courts have ruled against Perich by holding that she couldn’t bring the case because of the ministerial exception. The Supreme Court has decided it will hear the case and review the ministerial exception. If the Court decides the ministerial exception should not exist, then you can expect there to be a lot of lawsuits in the future in which religious institutions are sued for all kinds of discrimination.

A ruling against Hosanna-Tabor would be an erosion of religious liberty. Separation of church and state gets a bad rap because people use it in talking about the encroachment of the church into the state. This case is the complete opposite–the encroachment of the state into the church. And I think most Christians would intuitively agree with the separation of church and state in this case. The state should not be able to say what the church can and cannot do in terms of who it allows to become leaders and members. What would make a ruling against Hosanna-Tabor ominous is that, with the increasing acceptance and normalization of homosexuality in American society, we would begin to see a growing assault on the church’s right to preach against and condemn homosexuality.

That is why this case is so important.

Huffington Post – Supreme Court To Examine ‘Ministerial Exception’ Case

National Review – What’s at Stake for Religious Liberty in the Hosanna-Tabor Case

Reflections from India – Part 3

It is encouraging to hear a people gathered and worshipping the Lord in their own tongue. But not everyone at the church in Orissa was singing joyfully. Some instead stared blankly, wondering who these guests sitting in front of them were. I knew that not everyone there was a perfect Christian full of bold faith, willing to profess Christ in the face of death. I didn’t know what the preacher was preaching, but it was powerful and forceful. Even if it was an excellent sermon, though, I know that there were those whose hearts weren’t fully open to hearing the gospel.

The anti-Christian violence was widespread, and I know it wasn’t only the strongest of believers that endured the persecution. People have moved out of the villages for fear of their lives. I heard of how some people in Orissa had backslidden in their faith. Some had broken down in the midst of intense persecution and pressure, reconverting to Hinduism to avoid being killed or tortured. I know there are many who have doubts, who struggle to understand God’s love and grace in the midst of untold suffering.

I prayed that this realization wouldn’t harden my heart to the suffering of God’s people in Orissa. Seeing the rustic poverty there didn’t hit me like the poverty in Tijuana did when I was in junior high school, when I saw abject poverty for the first time. But realizing the humanness of the Oriyan believers–that not everyone responds like a saint (indeed, how would I have responded?)–actually makes me pray harder, with brokenness, because it shows me how much of a spiritual battle this really is. But I know that God will prevail, and so I pray with confidence.

Reflections from India – Part 2

It was interesting to go to the posh, upscale shopping mall in South Delhi. Just down the street from the entrance to the mall were unkempt, even naked, children walking on the dusty sidewalk. It was also interesting hearing my host remark about how good they had it in Delhi compared to the people of Orissa. It’s true, in Orissa everything was stripped down. Restaurants served meals in bowls and plates made of leaves pinned together and everyone ate with their hands. Homes had stone floors and everyone walked barefoot. In Delhi buying gas cylinders for the stove and waking up at 6 every morning to flip a switch which would fill the water tank was a blessing compared to having to pump well water and having only candle light. These villages were so far apart from one another. It was 6 hours driving from the capital city where we flew in to get to the main city in Kandhamal district, and then another 1-2 hours driving through winding roads into the lush, green plains to get to the villages.

But this was normal for the people of Orissa! You couldn’t tell that the people felt sorry for themselves that they were poor. After 4 weeks in India, I remember waking up one morning and there was a strange aura of mundaneness about it all. Wearing the same pants I had worn and sweated in all week, feeling the intensely humid air as I walked downstairs to eat breakfast, morning devotionals at the office, working on the computer all day and taking a break at 1 pm for lunch–curry, rice, chapati–heading back home and watching CNN while doing pushups, writing emails and reading articles, researching law firms, eating dinner at 9 pm, and heading off to bed. I felt the same mundaneness in Orissa while I sat barefoot in front of the 100 or so people gathered in that one-room, solid concrete church with cobwebs and soot on the ceilings and walls, with a lone ceiling fan that wasn’t running. It was just another day for the people of Orissa.

Wherever we are on this earth, we will all deal with the mundane realities of life, figuring out how to feed ourselves or our families, what livelihoods to pursue, how to plan for the future. I know there are parts of the world where there is crisis and emergency and dire need. But there are many more parts of the world where there is poverty yet life is okay, life is simple, life is going pretty well. There, just as in the major cities of India, just as in America, the challenge is bringing all of one’s life under the sovereign lordship of Christ. Just as the young adults at Apostles Methodist Church strove to figure out how they could serve the Lord in their white-collar office jobs, the Oriyan villagers were gathered that Sunday to listen to how the gospel makes their lives meaningful and purposeful.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” — 1 Corinthians 10:31

Reflections from India – Part 1

I learned many things during my time in India this summer. I will share some of them with you. Writing will help me synthesize my thoughts from this summer, which was so good because I was able to think and reflect. The first year of law school was tiring because I had very little time to do this–to think and reflect on everything I was seeing, hearing, and experiencing. Having a 9-5 work schedule with no post-work responsibilities and not having to worry about what food I was going to eat or about tomorrow’s tasks left me free to write in my journal, pray, read and meditate on and memorize Scripture, and interact with friends in person and through email more meaningfully.

Because most of my readers are Christian, I’ll start with this observation. Many teams from KCM and other campus fellowships and churches send missions teams abroad during the summer. The cool thing about my experience in India was that I experienced what real life was like in India. What it’s like to work in an office, raise a family, go to church, and be involved in a community. A one to two month stint in rural India with no running water and sleeping under gas lamps and mosquito nets is a great and humbling experience, but for me, seeing God working through Indian white-collar workers and Indian Christians was a real blessing. It was great to do research on potential grounds for a petition challenging the constitutionality of various anti-conversion laws enacted in Indian states. If there were no lawyers, who would challenge these laws in court to protect the religious freedom of Christians in India? God needs lawyers to fight against unjust laws and to help create an environment where the gospel can continue to spread. I went to church, and after the English service a bunch of college-age and young single adults came up to me, introduced themselves, and told that twice a month they had a discussion group for young adults for talking about how to serve God in the workplace. That is missions.

Too often college kids in America start to romanticize and nostalgify their experiences in a poor country. They hear over and over that missions is a life calling, not just a summer gig, and yet when they come home, they completely forget it. They don’t get involved in on-campus evangelism. They get caught up in their career ambitions. Or maybe they slack off in school and then try to make up for it by deciding to go to seminary (as if being a preacher doesn’t at all involve diligent studying, reading, writing, and thinking). It was good this summer to see that God has people in India who are probably way more equipped to reach the Indian people than any skilled foreign missionary will be.

But the other interesting thing to was seeing how some of the Delhiites I traveled with needed translators as much as I did to speak and listen to the villagers in Orissa, because they only spoke the tribal language Oriya. India is such a diverse place, and indeed the whole world is, that you will always need missionaries with a special calling to go into the frontier and devote themselves full-time to living among a foreign people and reaching out to them.

The Culture of the Cool

Coming back to New York, I noticed something. In that short period when the city felt foreign to me after spending all summer in India, I noticed that it was so easy to not care what people thought of me. In India, I was just a foreigner, and I knew that the only reason people would look at me was because I was different. In New York, as soon as I began to meet the glances and gazes of the people I would pass by on the street, the feeling in my mind was different. This was home (as far as being in America was home), this was the culture I grew up in, the culture I was familiar with. And at that moment, the culture of New York City became real to me. The culture of the cool. Where when people look at you you think “I wonder what they think of me.” And you also wonder about them. All the different ways that people dress, all the different ethnicities, the conversations they’re having–your mind is drawn to all sorts of thoughts. In India, everyone looked the same, everyone dressed the same. It was so easy not to be self-conscious. And it was easy not to have pride in myself. Here in New York, it is so difficult to escape this. You are constantly surrounded by people–and with each passing stimulation of your ego–it is hard not to think of yourself.

It was easy in the first few days back to stare at the ground, to avert my gaze and push pondering thoughts out of my mind, to focus on the Lord and His will for me, to concentrate on humility, to find quiet times to listen to the Spirit and submit myself to God’s Word. But now after only a week back in the city, I realize that living in New York City is like living in an offline version of YouTube. So many things draw your attention and distract you and your thoughts wander aimlessly.

I must fight against this. I must pray daily for humility and the reminder that without God’s grace, I am nothing but a worthless sinner.

Another reflection on the Fall

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)

The Bible isn’t clear about when during Eve’s sin Adam came into the picture. I think there are 3 scenarios.

1) Adam was with Eve while she was tempted.
2) Adam joined Eve after she was tempted but before she ate the fruit.
3) Adam joined Eve after she ate the fruit.

Coming up with these 3 scenarios is already hypothesizing a lot, but consider something one of my small group members said she had read somewhere. This person’s account of the Fall was Scenario 3–Adam came upon Even only after she ate the fruit. The account portrayed Adam as deciding to eat the fruit so that Eve wouldn’t be the only one banished from the Garden. Adam wanted to be with Eve instead of separated from her forever.

If this were any old sappy romance movie, our response to this might be “Awwww, Adam loves Eve so much he would do anything to be with her.” But it actually means that Adam wanted to be with Eve over against obeying God’s commands. It means Adam made Eve his idol. Adam shut out God in order to pursue his own selfish pleasures.

We don’t know if this is what happened, but it reminds us to be careful in our pursuit of relationships and marriage. No matter what stage of the process we are in–trying to get that first date, officially dating, engaged, or married–we must put God before any boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife. The temptation will be to put them before God, to idolize them and to make them the center of our attention and adoration rather than make Jesus the center of our attention.