Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Syria Packs Up

Here's the AP story on the historic withdrawal by Syria from Lebanon. Not a word in it about the work of the Bush administration in bringing it about, just a vague reference to "international pressure", as if the Syrians might have buckled to the fearsome demands of Kofi Annan or the French.

The lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq continue to resonate among Middle East tyrants like Bashar Assad even if the Western press thinks these developments are simply instances of spontaneous generation. The media is trying so hard to avoid giving Bush any credit for the pullout that we wouldn't be surprised to soon see this headline: Syria Withdraws Despite U.S. Pressure.

It's Just a Matter of Time

Last February American troops came within a whisker of nabbing Abu al Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist who heads up the insurgency in Iraq. Zarqawi managed to escape, but his computer was seized and has apparently been a rich source of intelligence on his operation.

The details on how he managed to escape are in this interesting ABC News story.

The State of the Church

The Barna Group released their 2005 report on the state of the Church on April 11.

The data for 2005 were generated from a study in January based on a nationwide survey of a random sample of 1003 adults. That survey asked the same questions about religious practices and perspectives that Barna has been tracking in national surveys each January for the last fifteen years. Here are some of their more interesting results:

More than nine out of ten American adults engage in some type of faith-related practice during a typical week.

The survey found a small but noteworthy increase in Bible reading. Currently, 45% of adults read the Bible during a typical week, not including when they are at church. That figure represents a minimal increase over the past few years, but a significant rise from the 31% measured in 1995, the lowest level of Bible reading recorded by Barna in the past 15 years. The current statistic is still below the levels achieved in 1980s and early 1990s, but the report shows that the trend is upward.

Despite the media frenzy surrounding the influence of evangelical Christians during the 2004 presidential election, the new study indicates that evangelicals remain just 7% of the adult population. That number has not changed since the Barna Group began measuring the size of the evangelical public in 1994.

Barna surveys do not ask people to define themselves as "evangelical" but instead categorize people as such based on their beliefs. In this approach, evangelicals are a subset of "born-again" Christians. In addition to meeting the born-again criteria evangelicals also meet seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; contending that they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; stating that Satan exists; maintaining that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not by being good or doing good deeds; asserting that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; saying that the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. In this framework, being classified as "evangelical" is not dependent upon any kind of church or denominational affiliation or involvement.

When all of the atheists, agnostics and adults associated with non-Christian faith groups are combined, they are only half as numerous as the born-again segment (21% compared to 40% respectively). The remaining body of people, 39% of the nation's adult population, is what Barna categorizes as "notional Christians" - people who consider themselves to be Christian but not born-again. For more than a decade, the sizes of the born-again and notional segments have been roughly equivalent.

Given the criteria for being "evangelical" it's something of a surprise that evangelicals are only about 28% of all "born-again" Christians. It's also a bit surprising, to me anyway, that 40% of adults are in this latter group. That seems rather a large number given the dominant secularism of the culture. Perhaps there are many people who claim to be born-again whose lives, paradoxically, are relatively unaffected by their alleged rebirth.

How to Tell If You're a Liberal

Dennis Prager thinks that a significant fraction of those who call themselves liberal really aren't. Indeed, if they knew what it was that liberals believed they'd disassociate themselves from the Democratic party forthwith. He writes:

It is my belief that about half of the Americans who call themselves liberal do not hold the great majority of positions held by mainstream liberal institutions such as the New York Times editorial page, People for the American Way, and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. So here is a test of this thesis to be given to anyone who believes he or she is a liberal. If you feel I have omitted a liberal position or have unfairly characterized any of them here, please email me at dennisprager@dennisprager.com. This is still a work in progress.

You say you are a liberal. Do you believe the following?

1.Standards for admissions to universities, fire departments, etc. should be lowered for people of color.

2.Bilingual education for children of immigrants, rather than immersion in English, is good for them and for America.

3.Murderers should never be put to death.

4.During the Cold War, America should have adopted a nuclear arms freeze.

5.Colleges should not allow ROTC programs.

6.It was wrong to wage war against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War.

7.Poor parents should not be allowed to have vouchers to send their children to private schools.

8.It is good that trial lawyers and teachers unions are the two biggest contributors to the Democratic Party.

9.Marriage should be redefined from male-female to any two people.

10.A married couple should not have more of a right to adopt a child than two men or two women.

11.The Boy Scouts should not be allowed to use parks or any other public places and should be prohibited from using churches and synagogues for their meetings.

12.The present high tax rates are good.

13.Speech codes on college campuses are good and American values are bad.

14.The Israelis and Palestinians are morally equivalent.

15.The United Nations is a moral force for good in the world, and therefore America should be subservient to it and such international institutions as a world court.

16.It is good that colleges have dropped hundreds of men's sports teams in order to meet gender-based quotas.

17.No abortions can be labeled immoral.

18.Restaurants should be prohibited by law from allowing customers to choose between a smoking and a non-smoking section.

19.High schools should make condoms available to students and teach them how to use them.

20.Racial profiling for terrorists is wrong -- a white American grandmother should as likely be searched as a Saudi young male.

21.Racism and poverty -- not a lack of fathers and a crisis of values -- are the primary causes of violent crime in the inner city.

22.It is wrong and unconstitutional for students to be told, "God bless you" at their graduation.

23.No culture is morally superior to any other.

This is a pretty thorough catalogue of the views of modern liberals and of the beliefs of the average Democratic leader and activist today. It puts into bold relief a major reason why Democrats have been largely unsuccessful in electoral politics over the last two decades and reinforces one's fervent hope that they remain so.