Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The "Real" Reasons Youth Drop Out of Church?

I recently stumbled across this article by Ed Stetzer about why youth drop out of church. It came out about the same time as my own series of blog posts on the subject, but is from a Pentecostal perspective and uses a different set of research data. According to this source, for Pentecostals:
About 70 percent of young adults ages 18 to 22 stopped attending church regularly for at least one year.
Ouch.
And it should be noted that we found almost two-thirds of those who left in our Protestant study were back in church by the end of the study.
So they kept 30% of their youth and 70% went missing but almost two-thirds of those (which would be 46% of the original) come back. This would be something under 76%. The NSYR classifies Pentecostals with Conservative Protestants. According to the NSYR, Conservative Protestants retain about 64% of their youth through college. Perhaps Pentecostals have slightly better retention than Conservative Protestants; perhaps the NSYR caught more of their people before they returned.

The article also reported:
We also asked young adults why they dropped out of church. Of those who dropped out, about 97 percent stated it was because of life changes or situations.
This is partly in line with what the NSYR reported although it is broken down a bit differently.

Stetzer also reported a break-down of the reasons that youth gave for leaving:
  • They simply wanted a break from church (27 percent).
  • They had moved to college (25 percent).
  • Their work made it impossible or difficult to attend (23 percent).
About 58 percent of young adults indicated they dropped out because of their church or pastor. When we probed further, they said:
  • Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical (26 percent).
  • They didn't feel connected to the people at their church (20 percent).
  • Church members were unfriendly and unwelcoming (15 percent).
Fifty-two percent indicated some sort of religious, ethical or political beliefs as the reason they dropped out. In other words, about 52 percent changed their Christian views. Maybe they didn't believe what the church taught, or they didn't believe what they perceived others in the church to believe.

Firsthand faith leads to life change and life-long commitment. More specifically, 18 percent disagreed with the church's stance on political or social issues, 17 percent said they were only going to church to please others anyway, and 16 percent said they no longer wanted to identify with church or organized religion.
One of the things to notice is that reasons overlapped. Respondents gave multiple reasons for dropping out. The Pentecostal study has different aims and categories of analysis than the NSYR. I would categorize the responses as falling into one of the following categories:
  • A major change in their life broke their routine (48%)
  • They were offended (58%)
Only a small percentage (18%) left for what might be categorized as intellectual issues, but the survey categorized them as political or social reasons. That strikes me as a more useful assessment. The survey apparently did not question whether sin or the desire to sin played a role in the decision to leave.

What we see again is that there are multiple reasons for leaving and that intellectual issues are not a very big reason for youth leaving.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Report from the ICE XI XVI

The last couple of days have been fairly busy and I have not kept up on reporting highlights of the International Congress of Egyptologists. Again, I am highlighting one or two specific points made in various presenters' talks. I am not trying to summarize their arguments. I am also highlighting what I think are good points or important points though I will not necessarily be describing them as the authors would have. These are things that I think are of good report or praiseworthy. I am also not reporting on every presentation I went to and certainly not private conversations. When I was chairing a session, I usually did not have time to make good notes.

On Friday Daniel M. Mendez Roderiguez argued that the Book of Caverns, which is typically described as a funerary text, was used by the living.

Yvonne Vosman discussed the rise of Neo-Egyptian objects in Europe. These she described as Egyptosophical objects with a spiritual function. She described the proliferation of these objects as a result of the invisibility of religion in European society for the last thirty years. Religion in Europe has been removed from the public sphere and into the privacy of one's own home. As a result religion has been transformed into a popular spirituality, and Egypt is seen as being the home of ancient, exotic, and mysterious wisdom, so there has been a large European market for vaguely Egyptian wares with alleged wondrous powers.

Brett McClain talked about how, if you consider a temple as a book, the Karnak temples of Ramses III provide an excellent model for seeing how redaction actually worked in the ancient Near East. He further noted that the only inscription in these temples that has been studied is the "tablet of gold".

Jan Moje talked about bilingual texts from Elephantine. He mentioned that there were a number of bilingual Aramaic and demotic texts but he concentrated on the bilingual Greek and Demotic ones. He noted that when there is a dominant language, it is usually put first.

Verena Lepper discussed the Elephantine papyri scattered throughout a number of Institutions. There are more than 350 boxes of these papyri in museums that have never been looked at and she discussed her efforts to make the material accessible. She mentioned that these papyri were in hieroglyphs, hierative, demotic, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Coptic, Arabic, and even Phonecian and Punic.

On Saturday, Alexa Rickert discussed terms for New Years Day in the Temple of Dendara. She made a distinction between theological cardinal points and geographical cardinal points, which at Dendara are 90 degrees off of each other. (Thus "theological" north is "geographical" west.)

Felicitas Weber talked about a Book of the Dead papyrus in Dresden, most of whose texts and some of whose vignettes are unknown from other manuscripts of the Book of the Dead. At the end she made the statement that it was "worth looking at manuscripts closely because usually it is not just another Book of the Dead."

Mykola Tarasenko looked at the iconography of one scene in one vingette in the Book of the Dead and discussed the range of variations in that scene through the New Kingdom.

Silvia Einaudi discussed an noteworthy manuscript of the Book of the Dead in the Louvre. (I have seen it before and it is quite remarkable.) It is a Ptolemaic manuscript which is 19.44 meters long and has some 1700 columns of text. Sometimes the space for the name is left out, and after a certain point, there are spaces for vignettes but no illustrations have been drawn.

Suzanne Topfer discussed a number of unpublished papyri from Tebtunis. She remarked how strange it seemed to have texts of rituals for the protection of the Pharaoh long after there had ceased to be Pharaohs in Egypt.

Sandrine Vuilleumier discussed the phenomenon of adapting ritual texts for individuals in the late period. These were originally rituals for the king or the gods which were then reused as funerary texts.

Finally, Jacqueline Williamson talked about how her excavations at Tell el-Amarna have forced her to rethink some of the standard theories about religion during the Amarna period. (The archaeological and epigraphic evidence that she has unearthed certainly do not square with what I was taught in graduate school about the topic.)


The organizers of the congress did well on a number of things that I would like to highlight: The student helpers were competent, involved, and enthusiastic. They were easy to spot in their bright yellow polo shirts, unfailingly helpful, and managed to solve every problem within minutes. The sturdy name badges on the lanyards had good maps printed on the back showing the location of all the conference venues. There were large signs on site to help one locate the venues. Communication of changes were posted in a central location and sent via email. The wifi in the venue was good. The breaks were long enough to talk to people without being too rushed but not too long. The food provided was sufficient and there was a good variety of things other than coffee to drink (impressive considering that there were supposedly 800 people there). The papers were generally of good quality. I would like to thank them for these things (and others) which they did well.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Report of the ICE XI XV

The photo shows a new demotic graffito presented at the International Congress of Egyptologists. This extremely important graffito obviously revolutionizes our study of ancient Egypt.

Report from ICE XI XIV

This morning Frederico Contardi described newly identified fragments of the Opening of the Mouth ritual from Drovetti's finds. He noted that the ritual was used for both humans and gods. The use for gods was previously attested only for the Greco-Roman period but these new fragments show that that use goes back to the New Kingdom, over a thousand years earlier.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why You Should Go Into Mormon Studies

According to this article if you get a degree in Religious Studies (of which Mormon Studies is a subset) you can look forward to the following:
  • You might get really lucky and make $32,000 dollars a year; of course you are just as likely to earn $23,000 dollars a year (that's below the poverty level for a family of four).

  • 35% of graduates will be employed in jobs that they did not even need a college degree for.

  • 58% of graduates will be employed in low wage service jobs (waiting tables, janitors, maids, cashiers, etc.; on the bright side, those are honorable professions).

  • It is a little unclear but it looks like only 7% of Religious Studies majors find employment in the field. You could be that one in fourteen who actually makes it (comparatively) big.

  • You will be competing with over 54,000 people for that job.

  • A Religious Studies major is more likely to find employment than someone in Mormon Studies.

  • The faceless person who sets your insurance premiums will likely start out at at least double your salary. 
Good luck!

Report from the ICE XI XIII

This morning and afternoon a number of reports were given on digital databases and tools dealing with Greek loanwords, hieratic paleography, demotic paleography, and a new dictionary project.

This afternoon, A. Legowski told about an abbreviated Book of the Dead in Athens. He noted that it had unique vignettes and that the vignettes did not always match the text they were placed with.

Nicolaus Leroux discussed some hitherto unknown priestly regulations at Dendara.

Report from ICE XI XII

M. Di Teodoro gave a fascinating synthesis of the system of conscripted labor in the Middle Kingdom. Basically households were obliged to provide a number of individuals for a few months to work on government projects. (For those in the US think three months mandatory unremunerated jury duty involving hard labor.) She used labor records to show how the system worked in practice.

Report from ICE XI XI

This morning Richard Jasnow discussed a group of hieratic/demotic commentaries of the Book of the Fayyum that he and Horst Beinlich are preparing for publication. Interesting features include hieratic text interspersed with demotic commentary, and descriptions of and commentary on pictures that are not in the text itself (but are in the hieroglyphic versions).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Report from ICE XI X

I have a lot to catch up on:

Yesterday afternoon, James K. Hoffmeier showed that the great hymn to the Aten, which is normally thought to be a composition from late in Akhenaten's reign had to have come earlier in the reign, before year 9.

Lucia Diaz-Iglesias Llanos discussed the Book of the Dead found in the tomb of Djehuty, an early Eighteenth Dynasty official. She made the case that there were at least three different scribes in the tomb. She also discussed the numerous sorts of textual errors made by the copyists.

Holger Kockelmann discussed the gate guardians in temples and amassed material from the early dynastic period through Coptic times (and even into medieval times) on his subject.

This morning E. Liptay showed how Sed-Festival imagery was used in certain Twenty-First Dynasty Coffins.

Corina van den Hoven discussed he coronation ritual at Edfu and brought forth evidence that not only were officials anointed in ancient Egypt, but that kings were probably as well.

Angus Graham discussed coring work at Luxor and his team's attempt to reconstruct the floodplain in the area. He showed that based on the work they have been able to do so far, most of what Egyptologists have assumed about the placement of the river is likely wrong.

This afternoon, Alessandra van Lieven discussed how a number of the Coffin Texts (which are usually regarded as funerary) have to have been used by the living. She also discussed one of them in particular, which was a ritual for the prolonging of one's life that was performed every New Year.

Melanie Flossmann-Schutze discussed her project at Tuna el-Gebel and how they are trying to integrate archaeological and textual sources to understand the history of the site.

There were some other good papers that I chose not to highlight, and some not so good papers that I am skipping over. So far it has been a good conference with lots of interesting papers.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Report from ICE XI VIII

I am principally interested in noting things that are of good report or praiseworthy. One less praiseworthy thing is that unfortunately some Egyptologists still pay no attention to the second half of Egyptian history.

Report from ICE XI VII

Laurent Coulon gave an interesting overview of chapels of Osiris around Karnak. One of the interesting things he pointed out is that these chapels, which are called temples but are rather small, tend to be located along processional routes.

Report from ICE XI VI

Grzegorz First gave an impressive presentation on the so-called pantheistic deities in ancient Egypt. He argued that Egyptologists have misused the term "pantheistic" since the so-called pantheistic deities were not pantheistic in the conventional sense. He supported the suggestion that they be called polymorphic instead. He also argued that polymorphic deities could refer to Christ. (Unfortunately I can not reproduce his argument here.)

He also noted that it is very difficult to interpret these figures because they generally lack inscriptions.

Report from ICE XI VI

This morning G. Gestoso Singer talked about love and gold in the El Amarna texts. She noted that love was used three ways in the texts: (1) as an expression of brotherhood, (2) as an expression of loyalty, (3) as a rationale for exchanging gifts (mainly gold) as a means of enhancing a ruler's prestige among foreign ambassadors.

Report from ICE XI V

This morning Roberto Gozzoli discussed how Egyptology is an insular discipline that would benefit from interaction with other disciplines (he emphasized particularly history). He noted that most Egyptian histories are merely a concatenation of summaries of the texts.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Report from ICE XI IV

I am only posting select comments on papers that I thought were good and points that I thought were interesting. I am not especially summarizing arguments.

This afternoon Dawn McCormack discussed her excavation of what she currently thinks is a Thirteenth Dynasty royal tomb complex at Abydos. Unfortunately she can only guess who it might have been intended for.

Report from ICE XI III

This afternoon at the International Congress of Egyptologists Jennifer Babcock discussed her work on certain illustrations and noted the difficulty in figuring out what the scene was about our reconstructing the story when all one had were the pictures.

Report from ICE XI II

This morning Silke Caßor-Pfeiffer discussed scenes of offering milk and swaddling clothes in the southern chapel of the Opet temple at Karnak. She talked about how the Opet temple rituals on one level provide for the basic needs of Horus as an infant but the inscriptions also specify that these rituals serve to establish Horus as the king. She was able to draw enough parallels to show that the southern chapel served as the Mammisi of the Opet temple.

Report from ICE XI I

This morning at the eleventh International Congress of Egyptologists, Guo Dantong gave a summary of between Egypt and the Levant during the Middle Kingdom / Middle Bronze Age. She did a good job considering that English is not her native language. One point which she mentioned that probably has not been emphasized enough is that Egyptian access to the northern Levant was over seas while access to the southern Levant was over land. She also noted that archaeological evidence from Tell el-Da'ba indicated that in the late Middle Kingdom had closer contact with the northern Levant than with the south.