After last week’s sweeping victories for John McCain
on the Republican side, and Barack Obama on the
Democrat side, this week we have no primary election
activity. But the action will start all over again on next
Tuesday, March 4, with elections in Ohio, Rhode Island,
Texas and Vermont.

So let’s take a quick look at some other items which have
a particular concern for us as Christians -- such as:

Growth in church membership in 2007. The
“2008 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches,”
published by the National Council of Churches, lists the
25 largest denominations and indicates which ones
reported growth over the previous year, 2006. Some of
the top churches in size did not report any membership
growth whatsoever, and the Episcopal church reported a
sharp decrease of 4%. The Presbyterian Church USA
was slightly ahead with a 2.4% decrease. But Jehovah’s
Witnesses, the 25th largest church, 1.06 million, showed
the greatest growth rate at a 2.25% increase. Mormons,
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 4th in
total membership, had a growth rate of 1.56%. The
largest denomination, Roman Catholic, reported a .87%
increase. The second largest church, the Southern Baptist
Convention, reported an increase of .22%. By comparison,
the rate of population increase for the United States was
1%, so aside from Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons,
the other denominations in America are failing to keep up
with the rate of the nation’s population increase.

“Rich States, Poor States.” That is the title of a new
report by economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore.
The report discloses the shifts in population of
various American states for economic reasons, tax
rates, business opportunities, etc. The 10 Biggest
Losers in population were: California, Louisiana, New
York, North Dakota, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The 10 Biggest
Winners were: Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama
and Tennessee. In addition to business and economic
reasons, there are cultural and religious effects also.

A new research in belief in God is to be undertaken
by Britain’s Oxford University. It will be a $3.7 million
Effort, sponsored jointly by the Ian Ramsey Centre for
Science and Religion, and the Centre for Anthropology
and the Mind. Not that the results of such a study will
have any effect on the convictions of those of us who
know God through faith, but it will be interesting to see
what conclusions today’s researchers will report, after
utilizing the work of biologists, evolutionists, linguists,
psychologists and computer programmers. We could
suggest that there are better ways to spend that much
money, but that isn’t within our sphere of influence.

Ever wonder about the best children’s books?
This, too, is a British survey. They seem to be very big
on this sort of thing. Despite the fact that the last four
Harry Potter books were the fastest selling books in
history, only one of them finished in the list of the top
50 best books for children, in a study released by the
British organization, Booktrust. No. 1 was C.S. Lewis’
“The Chronicles of Narnia,“ and at No. 6 was J. K.
Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

And similar surveys, both sides of the Atlantic.
According to the Christian Post, approximately two-
thirds of the British people claim absolutely no religious
affiliation. That is the report of a UN survey released
last week. It stands in stark contrast to the national
census in 2001 which reported that 72% of Britons were
Christian. The survey went on to call for disestablishing
the Church of England because it no longer represents
“the religious demography of the country.” Here in the
USA, a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion
and Public Life discloses that Protestants, who just 30
years ago accounted for two-thirds of the population, are
now clinging to a slight majority of 51%. The number
of adults who reported as being unaffiliated with any
religion has risen to just over 16%. In the New England
States of Connecticut and Rhode Island, the rate is
even higher, at 23%. Overall, those claiming some
religious affiliation is now just 84%. The largest single
block are the Evangelicals at 26.4%, followed by the
Roman Catholics at 23.9%. David Roozen, director of
the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, remarked,
“Mainline Protestantism has been eroding for a while.
We have had 40 years of this.” When asked if America
is running away from its Protestant roots, he answered,
“Absolutely, that is the long term trajectory.” These
news items are not particularly encouraging for either
us or our British cousins.

The often quoted remark attributed to Alexis de
Tocqueville in 1831, seems appropriate in this regard:
“America is great because she is good. If America ever
ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Afterthoughts . . .

It won’t happen again for 150 years, but this year
St Patrick’s Day occurs right in Holy Week, on Monday,
the day after Palm Sunday. This conflict does require
a decision for those who want to celebrate the “wearin’
of the green,” and also observe the religious significance
of the week prior to Easter.

Looking ahead to our next issue: after a week in
which there was more talk than substantive action in the
race for presidential campaign votes, there should be a
full measure of news for our consideration in next
week’s issue. Bill Clinton, seemingly his wife’s most
active supporter, admits that if she fails to do extremely
well in Ohio and Texas, she is effectively out of the race.
His own flashes of temper which have conceivably hurt
her campaign as much as his personal appearance has
helped, has been met by temper outbursts on her part
in attacking Obama which have not seemed to advance
her campaign chances. On the other side of the Democrat
race, the endorsement of Barack Obama as “the hope of
the entire world” by Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of
Islam, hasn’t exactly endeared Obama to many Americans.
On the Republican side the attacks on John McCain by the
NY Times seem to have actually helped him, because
so many Republicans who are not strong supporters of
McCain, very strongly dislike the Times. And to add a
new, but somehow old and familiar flavor to the race,
perennial third party candidate Ralph Nader has once
again decided to enter the campaign. After garnering
2.7% of the total vote in the 2000 presidential election
(and conceivably having kept Al Gore from victory), he
ended up with only .87% of the vote in 2004. And so
as we head for what may be the truly decisive series of
voting in next Tuesday’s primaries, all the peace and
tranquility” which has more or less been evident up to
now will probably disappear in a flurry of last minute
attacks and counter attacks by all participants.

Consider the following, and then decide how to
answer the question which follows . . .

A Founding Father’s view of Presidential elections:
“The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the
office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who
is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite
qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts
of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the
first honors in a single State; but it will require other
talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in
the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so
considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make
him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of
President of the United States. - Alexander Hamilton, 1788

Those were the standards the founders of this nation
demanded in any man they would elect to be President.
Question: Have we allowed those standards to slip in our
choice of the man to be President?

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