Lost Quiz: David Buckna

Lost Quiz: David Buckna

The Pop Gospel

by David Buckna

TV’s hottest show, Lost, is set in the aftermath of a plane crash on a
mysterious South Pacific island. Season Two premieres Sept. 21 on ABC-TV
with the episode “Man of Science, Man of Faith.”

“It feels like these people have sort of sinned in their lives before,
and now, they’re in an environment where they can’t talk to the people
that they need to talk to. They can’t close the doors that they need to
close.”–Lost co-creator, executive producer and writer Damon Lindelof, on
ABC’s 20/20 (May 6/05)

“The whole concept of man on an island reminds us of who we truly are.
‘Three days ago we all died. We should all be able to start over,’ Jack
says. Who they were before the crash was their old nature. This time on the
island represents their chance at redemption–if they want it.”
–reviewer Maurice Broaddus, on

1. Season One chronicles the survivors’ first days on the island. How many

2. What cast member is a former counsellor at Green Bay Bible Camp in
Kelowna, British Columbia–Yunjin Kim, Evangeline Lilly, or Ian Somerhalder?

3. At what hospital had Jack (Matthew Fox) been a spinal surgeon?

4. What is Jack’s last name?

5. Evangeline Lilly plays Kate Austen. What does the name Evangeline mean?

6. In “House of the Rising Sun,” Kate runs into a cave, where she stumbles
into the skeletal remains of two bodies. What nicknames are they given?

7. In a flashback, what member of Drive Shaft confesses to a priest that
he’s facing temptation?

8. What song by the Blind Boys of Alabama is heard as Sayid (Naveen Andrews)
leaves to map the island?

9. Claire (Emilie de Ravin) wears a necklace with the Chinese character
“ai.” ( What does “ai”

10. He tells Shannon (Maggie Grace): “Everyone gets a new life on this
island, Shannon. Maybe it’s time you start yours.” Who said it?

11. What character does Mira Furlan play?

12. What six words from the 1966 Beatle song, “Strawberry Fields Forever,”
are tattooed on Charlie’s left shoulder?

13. At the end of “In Translation,” what song is Hurley (Jorge Garcia)
listening to on a portable CD player?

14. In “Numbers,” what book is Sawyer (Josh Holloway) reading?

15. In what episode does Locke (Terry O’Quinn) dream of a crashed plane, and
believe if he finds it, will be able to open the mysterious hatch?

16. What name did Claire pick for her baby boy?

17. Just before the raft is attacked by “The Others” and Walt taken, Sawyer
sings part of a Bob Marley song. Name it.

18. In Season Two, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje plays “a mysterious man whose
presence on the island–and intentions–will be revealed in one of the early
episodes.” In August, the media reported his name would be Emeka. What does
“Emeka” mean in the Igbo language?

19. Michelle Rodriguez also joins the cast as a season regular, playing
Ana-Lucia Cortez, a passenger Jack first met at the airport bar.

What do “Ana” and “Lucia” mean?

20. Name three things described as lost by Jesus in his parables at Luke 15.


1. 40 days. In the 3-part episode, Exodus (“departure”) a raft is launched.
After Noah and his sons built an ark, “rain fell on the earth 40 days and 40
nights” (Genesis 7:12).

>From “Forty days? Was that coincidental? It does seem to rain a
lot for no apparent reason on the island. We asked the obvious question: was
the biblical reference intentional? Damon Lindelof’s
answer was immediate. ‘That was NOT unintentional,’ he said with a hint of
glee in his voice.”

2. Evangeline Lilly, who plays Kate. As a teenager Nicole Evangeline Lilly
did missionary work in the Philippines and came to Kelowna for summers in
the late ’90s to work as a counsellor.

3. St. Sebastian Hospital. St. Sebastian was a martyr (286) in Roman Emperor
Diocletian’s persecution of Christians.

Matthew Fox said of his character in Season Two: “Jack will have a very
different journey, a philosophical journey…The whole man of faith vs. the
man of science and the struggle going on between him and Locke. Jack’ll have
to let go of some really strict science dogma, given the situation in which
he’s living.” Regarding the true nature of the island, Fox’s favorite theory
is that it is purgatory.”Based on what’s happened so far, ‘Lost’ is about us
finding redemption so we can move on emotionally, individually and
spiritually to a better place. We had just better not be dead.” (Honolulu
Star-Bulletin, Aug. 22/05)

Fox commented on ABC’s 20/20 (May 6/05): “I’m a huge fan of redemption
stories. I’m very much into the idea that all of these characters are trying
to escape a past version of themselves that you know, they’ve all made
mistakes and harbored secrets and told lies.”

4. Shepard. One of the recurring numbers on the show is 23. Psalm 23 begins
“The Lord is my shepherd…” Jack and his fellow passengers board Oceanic
Airlines Flight 815 (8 + 15 = 23) at gate 23, and was assigned seat 23B.

5. Evangeline (feminine) and Evangel (masculine) mean “good news” in Greek,
and is the New Testament word for “gospel”.

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the
good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the
people.” (Matthew 4:23)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Evangeline (1847) was inspired by the
expulsion of the Acadians in 1755.

6. Adam and Eve. According to Genesis 5:5, Adam lived to 930; Eve’s age
isn’t mentioned.

7. Charlie (Dominic Monaghan).

Priest: “Well, we all have our temptations, but giving in to them, that’s
your choice. As we live our lives it’s really nothing but a series of
choices, isn’t it?”

Charlie: “Well, then, I’ve made my choice. I have to quit the band.”


On the island, Rose (L. Scott Caldwell) prays with a grieving Charlie over
Claire’s baffling disappearance:
‚ ‚ ‚ 
Charlie: “Your husband was in the tail section of the plane.”

Rose: “Yes, he was. But he’ll be back.”

Charlie: “You think he’s still alive?”

Rose: “I know he is.”

Charlie: “How?”

Rose: “I just do. It’s a fine line between denial and faith. It’s much
better on my side.”

Charlie: (crying) “Help me.”

Rose: “Baby, I’m not the one that can help you….Heavenly Father, we thank
you. We thank you for bringing us together tonight, and we ask that you show
Charlie the path…”

Monaghan told the Sunday Herald Sun (Aug. 22/05):”Charlie’s a drug addict,
but he’s also a man of faith…The question is: Did he take the statue [of
the Virgin Mary] as a symbol of his faith or for the drugs that might be
inside?…I love the way his faith and addictions are moulded together. The
heroin is inside the statue of the Virgin Mary, so his weakness is trapped
inside his strength…I love the symbolism–he’s going to have to break what
he believes to get into his weakness.”

In a TV promo for Lost, Charlie says in voice-over: “How long will it take
for redemption? Like the chance to put the past behind me. To start over.
Maybe that’s what this is. A second chance. An opportunity to earn
forgiveness. They say that everything happens for a reason. I wish I could
believe that.”

8. “I Shall Not Walk Alone.” From the song: “When my legs no longer carry/
And the warm wind chills my bones/ I reach for mother Mary/ And I shall not
walk alone”

9. love. “Ai” resembles the sound “eye”.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

10. John Locke (Terry O’Quinn). John Locke was a 17th century philosopher
whose ideas later influenced American law and government.

In his Two Treatises of Government (1690), Locke writes: “The state of
nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and
reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it,
that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his
life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of
one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign
master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are
his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one
another’s pleasure…”

Keith Green’s song, “If You Love The Lord” (1980) includes the line: “We are
His workmanship, created for good works in Christ”, echoing Ephesians 2:10.

11. Danielle Rousseau, the Frenchwoman stranded on the island for 16 years,
responsible for the distress call. She is named for 18th century French
philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who argued that man is noble but society
corrupts him.

This is paralleled by the characters on Lost: Locke embraces both nature and
the need for organization, while Rousseau prefers nature and refuses to join
the survivors in their village.

12. “Living is easy with eyes closed”. The 1966 song written by John Lennon
started out as a nostalgic view of a Salvation Army orphanage, where he and
childhood friends Pete and Ivan played in the trees.

13. “Delicate” by Damien Rice: “So why d’ya fill my sorrow/ With the words
you’ve borrowed/ From the only place you’ve known/ Why d’ya sing hallelujah/
If it means nothin’ to ya/ Why d’ya sing with me at all?”

The CD player stops playing just as “hallelujah” was to be heard a second
time: “Why d’ya sing h—“.

The Hebrew “hallelujah” combines “hallelu” and “yah,” and translates as
“Praise God”. The phrase is found in the book of Psalms (such as 113:1) and
four times in the book of Revelation (such as 19:1)

14. Madeline L’Engle’s sci-fi classic, A Wrinkle in Time (1962), about three
children who travel through time to rescue a father from an impending evil
force. Prior to the 2004 broadcast of the film version on ABC, the
85-year-old L’Engle was interviewed by Newsweek:

Newsweek: “So to you, faith is not a comfort?”

L’Engle: “Good heavens, no. It’s a challenge: I dare you to believe in God.
I dare you to think wasn’t an accident.”

Newsweek: “Many people see faith as anti-intellectual.”

L’Engle: “Then they’re not very bright. It takes a lot of intellect to have
faith, which is why so many people only have religiosity.”

15.”Deus ex machina”–Latin for “god from the machine”. The term originated
with Greek and Roman theatre, when a mechane would lower a god or gods
onstage to resolve a seemingly hopeless situation. In short, a deus ex
machina is a quick fix in a story.

Locke and Boone do find a plane hanging in the trees. Flown by drug
smugglers disguised as Nigerian missionaries, it contains heroin-filled
statuettes of the Virgin Mary.

In The Simpsons episode “Thank God, It’s Doomsday”, after the rapture occurs
and Homer is taken to heaven, he asks God to reverse what’s happened. God
agrees, then proclaims “Deus ex machina” and normality is restored.

16. Aaron. The book of Exodus identifies Aaron as the older brother of Moses
(Exodus 7:7). When the time came for the deliverance of the Hebrews out of
Egypt, God sent Aaron to meet his long-absent brother in the desert (Exodus

17. Redemption Song, which opens with the lyrics:
“Old pirates, yes, they rob I/ Sold I to the merchant ships/ Minutes after
they took I/ From the bottomless pit”.

Meanwhile, on the island, Jack, Locke, Hurley, and Kate blow open the hatch
to reveal an extremely deep shaft, a seemingly “bottomless pit”.

“The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss (bottomless pit).”
(Revelation 9:1)

18. Emeka is the abbreviated form of Chiemeka, meaning: “God has done
something wonderful”. Igbo is spoken in eastern Nigeria.

On August 31, Michael Ausiello of reported: “His name is no
longer Emeka. Producers are keeping the new, mysterious moniker top-secret.”
Stay tuned.

19. Ana or Anna are forms of Hannah, meaning “grace” or “favor”; Lucia is
the feminine form of Lucius, meaning “light”.

20. The lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7), lost coin (15:8-10) and lost son

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)


1-7 Fair

8-14 Good

15-19 Excellent

20 As wise as Solomon.



“The Lost Chronicles: The Official Companion Book” by Mark Cotta Vaz
(Hyperion Books, Sept. 2005).

Copyright 2005 by David Buckna. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Buckna is the author of “The Pop Gospel,” a quiz feature that has appeared
in publications including The Calgary Herald, ChristianWeek and Baptist
Press. Buckna reads email at (

Posted in News, Staublog in September 19, 2005 by | No Comments »

Rolling Stone: Ad for a Bible doesn’t fit

Rolling Stone: Ad for a Bible doesn’t fit

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

The nation’s largest Bible publisher, rolling out its biggest marketing campaign ever to promote a new translation aimed at “spiritually intrigued 18- to 34-year-olds,” has stumbled over a little rock: Rolling Stone. The magazine rejected Zondervan’s Bible ad just weeks before its scheduled run date, citing an unwritten policy against accepting ads containing religious messages.

Zondervan executives say the entertainment magazine was key in its $1 million campaign to reach young adults who have rarely, if ever, seen Bible ads before. Surveys show that 53% of this age group read the Bible less than once a year or never, although they are huge buyers of books on spiritual and religious themes.

Today’s New International Version of the Bible (TNIV) is a modern English translation from Zondervan, publisher of the world’s best-selling English translation, the 1978 New International Version. The TNIV features updated language and scholarship.

The rejected ad shows a serious young man, apparently pondering the problems of modern life. The text touts the TNIV as a source for “real truth” in a world of “endless media noise and political spin.” A blue Bible peeks up from the corner of the ad.

The Onion, the weekly satirical magazine, will carry a similar ad next month, and the February/March issue of Modern Bride has an ad featuring a woman in bridal white promoting True Identity, the women’s study version of the TNIV. More ads are booked for Web sites, including VH1 and MTV. “God” isn’t mentioned in any of these, only in ads for Christian media such as Relevant, a Christian monthly magazine aimed at hip twentysomethings.

But every ad carries the slogan: “Timeless truth; Today’s language”

And that assertion of “truth” evidently triggered the rebuff from Rolling Stone.

Although Zondervan bought the space in July for a February ad, magazine executives first saw the actual copy only last week and concluded that “it doesn’t quite feel right in the magazine,” said Kent Brownridge, general manager of Wenner Media, parent company of Rolling Stone.

“The copy is a little more than an ad for the Bible. It’s a religious message that I personally don’t disagree with,” Brownridge said, citing “a spiritual message in the text.” But, he said, “we are not in the business of publishing advertising for religious messages.”

He did not comment on why Rolling Stone sold ad space to Zondervan in the first place or whether any Bible ad could be acceptable. “It’s hard to have a policy that covers every conceivable product,” Brownridge said.

Zondervan marketing vice president Doug Lockhart said offers to change the ad text were refused and Rolling Stone would not show them a written policy ruling out religious advertising.

“We’re really surprised and disappointed,” Lockhart said. “Our mission is more people engaging the Bible more, and Rolling Stone was a perfect fit for the group we want to reach. This rejection underscores the challenge we face.”

Posted in News, Staublog in January 19, 2005 by | No Comments »

Ranger Creed

Ranger Creed

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.

Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier.

Never shall I fail my comrades I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.

Posted in News, Staublog in April 24, 2004 by | No Comments »

Wooding Report: Dick Staub Leaves KGNW

Effective January 3rd Dick Staub left his 3-Hour Daily broadcast of the Dick Staub Show to concentrate his efforts on the Center for Faith and Culture he founded in 1997.

In later January 2004 he launches a web-cast of Dick Staub Interviews at Those interested in receiving updates about Dick’s work AND invitations to local events sponsored by the Center for Faith and Culture should Register for CW (see left column under Culturewatch.) or e-mail and request to be placed on the list.

Below is an article by veteran journalist Dan Wooding

Broadcaster Dick Staub Moves On

By Dan Wooding

SEATTLE, WA (ANS) — Since 1987, the intelligent, informative and slightly irreverent Dick Staub Show has been serving up a wonderful blend of insights regarding life on planet earth to audiences across America.

In a show where “belief meets real life” listeners have been challenged to think through their beliefs on issues drawn from the headlines, new movies and music releases from the popular culture or interviews with best-selling authors.

The Dick Staub Show first originated from NBC affiliate KING Broadcasting in Seattle starting in 1987. In 1991 The Dick Staub Show moved to Chicago launching as a local show and then as an SRN nationally syndicated, daily afternoon drive-time show. In 1999 The Dick Staub Show then moved back to Seattle where it originated from radio station KGNW.

His award winning signature interviews, which have been described as “a cross between Studs Terkel and Charlie Rose, have resulted in numerous honors including the Cardinal’s Award for excellence in broadcasting. Each Tuesday a current Dick Staub Interview is featured at

But now, after years of interviewing the shapers of American culture-authors, business leaders, educators, politicians, futurists, theologians, filmmakers, musicians and trend-watchers, Dick Staub is leaving the airwaves for the time being in a bid to help the American Christian public think through their faith.

“I am a fully devoted disciple of Jesus Christ who is called to think, live and communicate from the intersection of faith and culture. My work has allowed me a macro overview of both faith and culture and I am troubled by what I see,” he said.

“I am distressed about American Christianity where beliefs and behavior reveal ignorance about what it means to be a fully devoted disciple of Jesus Christ and about what it means to be a loving, transforming presence in culture. Instead of influencing culture, Christians are often impotent–cocooned, combative or conformed to culture.

“This at a time when spiritual lost-ness and yearning are revealed daily in our culture through the arts (movies, books, music, games); through the news and events of the day; and through the people we meet in everyday life. I think God is distressed by this. I feel it and need to do something more about it.”


“At the age of 55, my thoughts are especially drawn to the next generation which has been overwhelmed by popular culture, is rejecting the inauthentic expressions of faith they’ve seen in their church and home, and are often relatively clueless about the alternative, which is nothing short of a radical departure from what is today called Christianity.

“I can envision a generation of Christians for whom it is considered normative to devote themselves fully to Jesus Christ, to be fully engaged in faith and culture, to ¢â‚¬Ëœget it’ about both faith and culture; to be biblically and appropriately culturally literate; to be shrewd and discerning in culture; to fulfill their calling as artists in, aliens from and ambassadors to culture; to possess special skills to fulfill their calling.”

In 1997 Staub founded the Center for Faith and Culture to help people understand and communicate their beliefs in the context of popular culture. The web site blends commentary on faith and culture with provocative quotes and articles useful to what he calls the “culturally savvy Christian.”

The web site reflects what listeners already know about Dick Staub. He is a man who loves learning about people’s ideas and the personal journey that shaped their views. He is an engaging, broadly informed listener who consumes a vast amount of information each day and has communicated his observations and insights as a broadcaster, writer and public speaker.

For Dick Staub’s legion of listeners will miss his on-air fun loving, mere mortal personality there is good news, “In January (2004) we will launch an available-on-demand, weekly web-cast of interviews with cultural influencers.”


Asked WHAT”S NEXT? Staub said,
1) PRAY and listen to the voice of God.

2) RESEARCH AND STUDY. “I need to continue my work of recovering a sound understanding of the thoughtful, practical and actionable integration of faith and culture through reflection and study,”

3) WRITE HIS NEXT BOOK. He has already written one book titled “Too Christian, Too Pagan,” the thesis of which is that if you truly follow Jesus you will seem “too pagan for your Christian friends and too Christian for your pagan friends.” Now he now plans to write a second book on the topic of “Culturally Savvy Christianity.”

4) COMMUNICATE IN MANY WAYS what he has learned. “I plan to teach, speak, articulate, explain, inspire, motivate, encourage, present, instruct, consult and teach the next generation and those who influence them.

When asked how he will fund these efforts it is clear Staub is no stranger to stepping out in faith. Staub says that he realizes that he needs to be paid for what he does. “I do not know specifically how this will happen,” he said. “Very few make a living writing books and speaking. Perhaps an alliance with a like-minded organization like a Christian University or Seminary is the ticket, or maybe CFC will receive sufficient funding. I just know I have to be faithful to what God has weighed on my heart.

Staub graduated cum laud from Simpson College and Gordon-Conwell Seminary and took additional courses at Harvard Divinity School and University of Washington. His educational emphasis included Communications, Philosophy, and History. He loves to learn but finds many academics possess “a lot of degrees but no temperature.”

Dick Staub says that he is “joyously married” to Kathy with four kids (Josh, Jessica, Heidi and Molly) a granddaughter and grandson (Mia & Eli) a daughter-in-law (Bonnie) and a West Highland Terrier (Keltie).

You can find out more about Dick Staub on his website which is and you can e-mail him at

Posted in News, Staublog in January 1, 2004 by | No Comments »

Nicholas Kristof: I am Smart, Evangelicals are not. (But I am not denigrating anyone¬â„s beliefs!)

I like Nicholas Kristof. I’ve interviewed him. He’s from Yam Hill, Oregon and I was born in Portland, Oregon, good geographic roots to say the least. He has lived abroad and his insights on geopolitical issues are often useful. To his credit, he is one few editorialists who understands the importance of religion as a dominant and shaping force in the 21st century.

Alas, his interpretation of religion’s significance is severely flawed. The problem starts with an uncritical acceptance of “scientific certitude,” which when applied by liberal theologians to the miracle accounts of scripture resulted in a relegation of ALL these accounts to matters of faith to be believed as opposed to actual events. To Kristoff these liberals are the intellectual, ‘acceptable’ religionists, and he is dismayed by today’s America, where 83% believe in the virgin birth and only 28% believe in evolution.

He seems unaware that the steadfast confidence in ¢â‚¬Ëœevolution,’ a term he uses in vague and undefined ways, has been shaken not just by “evangelicals” on a theological basis, but by scientists as a result of doing good science. Award-winning journalist, Larry Witham documents this masterfully in a new book, “By Design,” which chronicles the erosion of confidence in major aspects of Darwinian “evolution” across virtually every scientific discipline.

Kristoff’s unquestioning embrace of “evolution” is matched by a naƒ¯ve endorsement of liberal theology as “intellectual,” and a dismissal of evangelical belief as “less intellectual and more mystical.” Describing evangelicals in this way is tempting if one forms their perception of evangelicalism on sound bites from fundamentalists “Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell,” but it is not an accurate portrayal of even their ilk. Way back in February 1993, Washington Post writer Michael Weisskopf learned this the hard way, when he glibly and inaccurately described their followers as “poor, uneducated, and easily led.” His comments were so out-of-touch with reality that none other than David Broder himself confessed to me that it was the Post that was uneducated when it came to evangelicals. The paper ran a correction (Correction: An article yesterday characterized followers of television evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command.” There is no factual basis for that statement. (Published 2/2/93).

Such a caricature is even less fitting of the broader world of evangelicals in America, who are more educated than the general population, and are engaged in vigorous dialogue about ideas that matter. It is hard to imagine Kristoff, given the learning opportunity provided to his craft in 1993, would still be operating with such an insufficient and stereotypical view. It damages his credibility as a serious observer of the American religious scene.

Kristoff’s smug comments send the message, “I am smart, you are not.” He bemoans the loss of influence of liberal Protestant (and Catholic) influence because he seems to think they are people an intellectual could do business with! He seems to yearn for the importation of a faithless European worldview into an America.

He says “The heart is a wonderful organ, but so is the brain.” His own work as a journalist would be enhanced if he would aggressively seek to understand and explain something he confesses he does not profess to understand (but should) namely, “why is America so much more infused with religious faith than the rest of the world?”

Today’s NYT column illustrates what I mean.

Believe It, or Not

Today marks the Roman Catholics’ Feast of the Assumption, honoring the moment that they believe God brought the Virgin Mary into Heaven. So here’s a fact appropriate for the day: Americans are three times as likely to believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus (83 percent) as in evolution (28 percent).

So this day is an opportunity to look at perhaps the most fundamental divide between America and the rest of the industrialized world: faith. Religion remains central to American life, and is getting more so, in a way that is true of no other industrialized country, with the possible exception of South Korea.

Americans believe, 58 percent to 40 percent, that it is necessary to believe in God to be moral. In contrast, other developed countries overwhelmingly believe that it is not necessary. In France, only 13 percent agree with the U.S. view. (For details on the polls cited in this column, go to

The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time. The percentage of Americans who believe in the Virgin Birth actually rose five points in the latest poll.

My grandfather was fairly typical of his generation: A devout and active Presbyterian elder, he nonetheless believed firmly in evolution and regarded the Virgin Birth as a pious legend. Those kinds of mainline Christians are vanishing, replaced by evangelicals. Since 1960, the number of Pentecostalists has increased fourfold, while the number of Episcopalians has dropped almost in half.

The result is a gulf not only between America and the rest of the industrialized world, but a growing split at home as well. One of the most poisonous divides is the one between intellectual and religious America.

Some liberals wear T-shirts declaring, “So Many Right-Wing Christians . . . So Few Lions.” On the other side, there are attitudes like those on a Web site,, explaining the 2000 election this way:

“God defeated armies of Philistines and others with confusion. Dimpled and hanging chads may also be because of God’s intervention on those who were voting incorrectly. Why is GW Bush our president? It was God’s choice.”

The Virgin Mary is an interesting prism through which to examine America’s emphasis on faith because most Biblical scholars regard the evidence for the Virgin Birth, and for Mary’s assumption into Heaven (which was proclaimed as Catholic dogma only in 1950), as so shaky that it pretty much has to be a leap of faith. As the Catholic theologian Hans Kƒ¼ng puts it in “On Being a Christian,” the Virgin Birth is a “collection of largely uncertain, mutually contradictory, strongly legendary” narratives, an echo of virgin birth myths that were widespread in many parts of the ancient world.

Jaroslav Pelikan, the great Yale historian and theologian, says in his book “Mary Through the Centuries” that the earliest references to Mary (like Mark’s gospel, the first to be written, or Paul’s letter to the Galatians) don’t mention anything unusual about the conception of Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke do say Mary was a virgin, but internal evidence suggests that that part of Luke, in particular, may have been added later by someone else (it is written, for example, in a different kind of Greek than the rest of that gospel).

Yet despite the lack of scientific or historical evidence, and despite the doubts of Biblical scholars, America is so pious that not only do 91 percent of Christians say they believe in the Virgin Birth, but so do an astonishing 47 percent of U.S. non-Christians.

I’m not denigrating anyone’s beliefs. And I don’t pretend to know why America is so much more infused with religious faith than the rest of the world. But I do think that we’re in the middle of another religious Great Awakening, and that while this may bring spiritual comfort to many, it will also mean a growing polarization within our society.

But mostly, I’m troubled by the way the great intellectual traditions of Catholic and Protestant churches alike are withering, leaving the scholarly and religious worlds increasingly antagonistic. I worry partly because of the time I’ve spent with self-satisfied and unquestioning mullahs and imams, for the Islamic world is in crisis today in large part because of a similar drift away from a rich intellectual tradition and toward the mystical. The heart is a wonderful organ, but so is the brain.

‚© CRS Communications, Dick Staub 2003

Posted in News, Staublog in August 15, 2003 by | No Comments »