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I had a hard time with this book. Barna divides (based on research, polling, etc.) the American people into seven faith tribes: Casual Christians, Captive Christians, American Jews, Mormons, Pantheists, Muslims, and Skeptics.

I really dislike making generalizations about people, so the first part of the book, in which he explains the characteristics of each faith tribe, was difficult to read.  Also, I felt like implication was always that the Captive Christians were the ones who got it right.

However, later in the book Barna does compile a list of values that the faith tribes do have in common, and suggests that it would be beneficial to our country for the faith tribes to do all they can to instill and encourage these values.

My husband read this book first, and kept telling me that while the first part would make me mad, the last part would make up for it. I didn’t quite feel that way — I still felt like Barna was pushing a Captive Christian worldview.  So I can’t say that this was a book I liked, or that I felt was important information.

It is the result of a great deal of research, though, and it was interesting to look at the data comparisons and research methods in the appendices.

Disclosure: I received this book free in exchange for a review via http://viralbloggers.com.

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We went to church this evening, because an online friend invited us, and because my husband wanted to find out more about this particular church.

I’m not going to critique or review the church, because I think I have no business doing that! However, if it’s 95 degress outside and you’re meeting in a non-airconditioned gym with no outside doors or windows, for the love of God and his people, please set up a couple of fans!

Despite that, it was a pretty good service — good music and a lively message that used clips from movies and tv shows as illustrations.  And being in a church again, after a long absence, made me think.

You see, there are certain beliefs sometimes taught in churches that are dealbreakers for me. If these things are being taught in a particular church, I know I’m not interested in being part of it.

For me, those things are literal creationism (the earth was created 6005 years ago in six days) and the belief that homosexuality is evil. (Quick note — I’m not saying that these are necessarily the beliefs of the church we attended. I don’t know enough about that church and its beliefs to assume anything.)

I know that for some people, my non-belief in those items would be dealbreakers. And some people have completely different dealbreaker issues.

Throughout the history of Christianity, when people have dealbreaker issues with each other, they split into separate groups.  That’s why we have Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches. And that’s why we have so many Protestant denominations.

But is that really how it should be? You go your way, and I’ll go mine? That doesn’t really fit well with what Jesus taught (Love one another as I have loved you?).

So what are the alternatives?

Some churches choose to avoid the divisive issues and focus on the more important beliefs that draw us together. After all, the Nicene Creed doesn’t require us to believe in literal creationism and says nothing about homosexuality. Jesus also had nothing to say about those issues.

But this isn’t done universally. So I, at least, continue to avoid churches teaching those things. And I feel guilty about it, because I’m not loving the people in those churches, and because I know that we are not in accord with each other.

Another option might be to openly acknowledge and discuss our differences, lovingly recognizing that we do hold different points of view.

Some people can handle this, but some are absolutely certain that they are right and can’t tolerate another point of view. And I’m pretty close to that myself. I’m pretty darned certain that science shows the earth wasn’t created 6005 years ago in six days, and I don’t understand why anyone insists on arguing that position.  And to me, painting homosexuality as evil is bigotry.  But I’m mostly willing to let people believe what they believe as long as they don’t insist that others follow their beliefs, too.

So where does this leave us? As usual, with much imperfection. I don’t know how to reconcile my strongly held beliefs with the strongly held beliefs of other Christians.

I do know that with God, we can do all things. So I can call on God for love and patience when interacting with people from different viewpoints.