Sunday, May 17, 2015

The 3 - May 17, 2015

This week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, includes a report on some of the relief efforts that have been taking place in Nepal, where a second major earthquake struck this week. Also, there is a new survey that shows that the number of people identifying as Christians is down, the number of those who are non-affiliated is up, and evangelicals experienced a slight decline.  And, a major piece of pro-life legislation protecting unborn children at over 20 weeks has passed the U.S. House.

3 - Relief efforts continue in Nepal; 2nd major earthquake hits

This past Tuesday, a powerful new earthquake struck the nation of Nepal, taking lives and sending thousands into the streets, according to a piece on the Baptist Press website, which reported that this week's 7.3-magnitude quake came just 17 days after a massive earthquake killed over 8,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes. Tuesday's tremor set off a series of landslides at the epicenter, Namche Bazar, which is near Mount Everest.

The site reported that Southern Baptist relief teams were already on the ground in Nepal from the earlier quake, and well-positioned to investigate the new damage and emergency needs. The Southern Baptist efforts are being coordinated by Baptist Global Reponse, with whom the International Mission Board partners in disaster response.  It was reported that BGR's Nepal Earthquake Response will continue to help hurting people with basic survival needs -- like water, shelter, food and healthcare -- in the coming days.

Samaritan's Purse is working in the region, as well, providing relief items such as shelter materials, clean water supplies, and hygiene and cooking kits.

And, Reach Beyond's efforts in the country are centered in the remote village of Harmi, which was epicenter of the first quake.  Virtually every structure was destroyed, including the Reach Beyond partner’s radio station.   People there are without housing, food, water and basic necessities.

Here's a report from Gospel for Asia's website:
Gospel for Asia Compassion Services workers are continuing to bring relief to the needy, especially those in rural, hard-to-reach areas, that have not yet received aid. In many of these villages, believers who attend fellowships led by Gospel for Asia-supported pastors are suffering, too: Some have lost homes and no longer have a place to meet to worship. Despite this, believers and pastors have assisted Compassion Services teams as they provide aid.

Mission Network News reports that, "The indigenous ministries in Nepal that Christian Aid Mission assists are well-positioned to help earthquake survivors. With rains and landslides cutting off road access to many areas, local Christian workers know how to get aid to people and how to come alongside shell-shocked survivors in their trauma."  (Here is the link to the Christian Aid website.)

These are examples of how Christian missions and relief organizations are responding to this devastating tragedy.

2 - Pew survey points to decline in Christianity, rise of the non-affiliated, and only slightly lower numbers for evangelicals

This week, the findings of a survey became so pervasive that the results ended up grabbing headlines. The Religious Landscape Study was conducted by Pew Researchand its website said there was a sample size of more than 35,000 Americans, designed to offer a detailed look at the current religious composition of U.S. adults.

Here is a summary of some of the key findings:

1. Christians are declining, both as a share of the U.S. population and in total number. In 2007, 78.4% of U.S. adults identified with Christian groups, such as Protestants, Catholics, Mormons and others; seven years later, that percentage has fallen to 70.6%.

2. Within Christianity, the biggest declines have been in the mainline Protestant tradition and among Catholics.  The percentage of Mainline Protestants dropped from 18.1% in 2007 to 15.7% in 2014.  The Catholic share of the population fell to 20.8% from 23.9% over the same period.  With respect to evangelical Protestants, that percentage only declined about 1 point between 2007 and 2014 (from 26.3% to 25.4%).

3. The decline of Christians in the U.S. has corresponded with the continued rise in the share of Americans with no religious affiliation (religious “nones”).  The survey summary said that people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, which is about 7% of all U.S. adults, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular,” now account for a combined 22.8% of U.S. adults – up from 16.1% in 2007.

4. The major trends seen in American religion since 2007 – the decline of Christians and rise of the “nones” – have occurred in some form across many demographic groups, including men and women, older and younger Americans, and people with different levels of education and different races and ethnicities.

5. The share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths, such as Islam and Hinduism, has grown modestly.  Interestingly enough, less than 1 percent of the population - .9% - is identified as Muslim, .7 is identified as Hindu.

Another summary on the Pew Research website highlights the relatively small decline in the number of evangelical Protestants.  The report says that, "One big reason evangelical Protestants have not declined at the same rate as other major Christian groups is that they are gaining new converts at a greater rate than they are losing people who were raised in the tradition. While 8.4% of Americans were raised as evangelicals and have since left evangelicalism for another faith (or no faith), even more U.S. adults (9.8%) were raised in another faith (or without a religious affiliation) and have since become evangelicals."

1 - U.S. House passes ban on abortions after 20 weeks

This past Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks' gestation, according to a report on the website. The bill passed 242-184, largely along party lines.

The bill ended four months of what the article described as "often vitriolic debate" among Capitol Hill Republicans and pro-life activists about the legislation.   The article points out that the passage of the bill came on the second anniversary of the conviction of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, was convicted on three of four charges of murdering babies born alive after failed abortions.

According to, the bill was originally scheduled to come to the floor for a vote on the day of the March for Life, but a number of female members said they did not support a rape exception that allowed a woman to have a late-term abortion only if she reported the crime to police before aborting her child. Their opposition led to changes in the bill, including the removal of the reporting provision for adults.  Other changes included, based on that report:
  • a requirement that abortionists ensure that rape victims have received either medical treatment or licensed counseling a minimum of 48 hours prior to the late-term abortion, not at the abortion clinic, unless it is in a hospital,
  • the addition of language that requires the presence of a second doctor in the case of such abortions, in case the child is born alive, and 
  • the provision that a child who survives a late-term abortion is to be cared for in the same way as any premature child - a woman can sue if that part of the bill is violated.
Plus, accountability and reporting laws are also enhanced under the bill, and informed consent is required. also included a story with response from pro-life leaders, including a number of lawmakers.  It quotes Rep. Mike Kelly, a Republican from Gosnell's state of Pennsylvania, who said: "Scientific evidence now shows that unborn babies can feel pain by 20 weeks post-fertilization, and likely even earlier," adding, "A late term abortion is an excruciatingly painful and inhumane act against children waiting to be born and their mothers."  

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