Religion Today Daily Headlines - December 26, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - December 26, 2012

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Poll: More Than One-Third of Americans See Signs of End Times in Extreme Weather
  • Iranian Pastor Shares Joy Despite Imprisonment in Letter to Christians
  • Out-of-Wedlock Births Society's 'New Norm'


Poll: More Than One-Third of Americans See Signs of End Times in Extreme Weather

More than a third of Americans -- 36 percent -- believe the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence that we are the "end times" described in the New Testament, the Religion News Service reports. "There is a significant proportion of Americans who see these phenomena through a theological lens," said Daniel Cox of the Public Religion Research Institute. "It's hardly a fringe belief. It's nearly four in 10 Americans who are embracing this." The conviction is particularly strong among white evangelical Protestants (65 percent), and less common among Catholics (21 percent) and the religiously unaffiliated (15 percent). But a majority of Americans connect recent extreme weather to climate change: 63 percent say the severity of recent weather is evidence of global warming, compared to 33 percent who disagree. Cox noted religious divisions among Americans on recent destructive storms, floods, snowstorms and heat waves. Sixty-nine percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans link dramatic weather to global warming, compared to 60 percent of Catholics and 50 percent of white evangelicals. "They're experiencing the same weather, but how they perceive it is very different," Cox said. The differences among Democrats and Republicans are even starker, with 70 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents saying unusual weather patterns are evidence of global warming, compared to 43 percent of Republicans. The survey also found that 29 percent of Americans believe God sometimes punishes nations for the political decisions of their leaders, though 65 percent reject this idea.

Iranian Pastor Shares Joy Despite Imprisonment in Letter to Christians

Jailed Iranian pastor Behnam Irani, who last month was denied hospitalization despite his critical condition, wrote a letter from his prison cell before Christmas, ministering to Christians in his country and thanking God for letting him share "very little of" Jesus' suffering on the cross, the Christian Post reports. "Despite the pressure and difficulties in prison, I am pleased to share, what is like a fountain, my Christian joy with you in the new Christmas days to come," wrote Irani, who is currently serving a six-year sentence. "My brothers and sisters, I love you all. Christ has given you to me on Calvary. Even if I were sentenced to many years behind bars for the salvation of one of you, there would never be any complaint." Before his arrest in 2011 for "acting against the interests of national security," Irani was leading the Church of Iran in the city of Karaj. He has been tortured in prison and was denied hospitalization for a bleeding ulcer. Several times he was found unconscious in his prison cell, raising fears for his well-being. His wife and two children have said they are afraid that unless the beatings stop and he is offered proper medical care, he could die in prison soon. Yet suffering has not robbed Irani of the joy Jesus gives. "I congratulate all the saints at Christmas and the coming new year," he wrote.

Out-of-Wedlock Births Society's 'New Norm'

The number of children being born outside of marriage has increased sharply, according to a new study by the National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values, CBN News reports. The report focuses on what it calls "middle America," the nearly 60 percent of Americans who complete high school but not college. Among that group, 44 percent of children are now born outside of marriage -- up from 13 percent in the 1980s. "Marriage in middle America is at a tipping point, with unwed childbearing threatening to become a new norm," said study co-author Brad Wilcox. Research shows children born or raised outside of marriage are more likely to suffer from a range of social and emotional problems, including drug use, depression, attempted suicide and dropping out of high school.

Publication date: December 26, 2012