1) American culture has surely transformed in recent years. And if you’re looking for evidence, just consider a recent report from the Pew Research Center that details exactly “how America changed during Barack Obama’s presidency.” It notes that, though there were many cultural, technological and social shifts, the “biggest trend” on the faith front during Obama’s two terms in office was the growth of the share of Americans who report having no religious affiliation.
“Those who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is ‘nothing in particular,’ now make up nearly a quarter of the U.S. adult population, up from 16 percent in 2007,” wrote Pew president Michael Dimock.
2) Speaking of cultural changes, consider the ongoing debate over celebrities’ views on Donald Trump. First, we had the now-famous speech from Meryl Streep, calling the president-elect out for his tone and electoral behavior. Then, there was singer and actress Marie Osmond who said she doesn’t “get political,” but believes it’s essential for the country to unite, addressing some of the intense divisiveness observed of late.
Oh, and Nicole Kidman is yet another celebrity who has urged Americans to give Trump a chance.
3) The next story encapsulates the spirit we all want to see in our country and world. It’s about a young guy who noticed a homeless man who was shirtless and shivering on a New York City subway on a cold night and was so moved by the tragic scene that he decided to give the man the shirt off of his own back. It was an act of compassion that can teach us all a valuable lesson about kindness.
4) And this week, Faithwire once again had a series of stories about Christian persecution. Unfortunately, the horrific problem,once again worsened across the globe in 2016, with around 215 million Christians experiencing extreme or high levels of persecution, according to the 2017 World Watch List. The report, which is produced annually by watchdog Open Doors USA, found that, for the third year in a row, the worldwide persecution problem has become more dire, rising to “unprecedented levels” in countries located in South and Southeast Asia, among other locations.
And check out what might be happening to Christianity in North Korea, despite government efforts to try and stop its spread. Plus, a petition urging Sudanese officials to release a Christian pastor who might be executed for his faith has reached nearly 122,000 signatures, as activists turn up the heat on efforts to save the man’s life.
5) Moving on, conversion stories are always intriguing, and this one’s no exception. A deaf man’s story of converting from Islam to Christianity provides an example of how inclusive ministry efforts are intentionally aiming to bring the Bible to deaf communities across the globe.
“The approach to teaching God’s Word has touched my heart. I have clearly seen myself in the life of the prodigal son. God touched me. I feel very much at peace,” the man said after his conversion. “I have made up my mind to follow Jesus Christ, as taught today from God’s Word. I know God accepts me just as the father accepted the prodigal son when he came back home.”
6) It’s always encouraging to see goodness emerge from tragedy, and this next story is one that fits that mold. A 11-year-old girl who had just experienced what was probably the most harrowing moment of her life received an unexpected surprise when the stranger who saved her returned the backpack she thought she lost in the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting.
7) Getting back to personal testimonies: We all make mistakes, which is what makes this next story entirely relatable. Lynsi Snyder, president of In-N-Out Burger, recently opened up in an “I Am Second Video,” sharing how the void from losing her father at a young age led her on a problematic path with the men in her life — a path that eventually brought her back to God.
8) As the country continues to battle over the balance between religious freedom and individual rights, a new Marist Poll has found that the majority of Americans — 89 percent — believe protecting religious freedom is an important undertaking, with 57 percent calling it an “immediate priority.”
9) And why do so many people feel stuck when it comes to their faith? Here’s one person’s response.
10) We’ll close with a pretty creepy story. Considering the death of “Exorcist” writer William Peter Blatty, we thought we’d bring you the “real-life” story behind the possession that inspired his now-infamous book and movie.
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