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Brunch is the New Church

Eating Brunch (Credit: michelleamock via fotolia)Brunch is the Netflix of meals. Where Netflix gratifies our entertainment cravings and restful—sometimes slothful—needs, this hybrid meal satisfies our appetite and communal longings. Netflix is the result of an on-demand, customized culture. Brunch is the meal that lets you sleep in, savor the delights of a breakfast lunch amalgam, all the while with people you enjoy.

But has the recent popularity of brunch come at the expense of church attendance?

Gallup reports that approximately forty percent of Americans are regular church attendees. However, they also note what they term as the "halo effect." This describes the difference between what people tell pollsters they do and what they actually do.

Skeptical about the numbers, other groups have sought a more representative figure that takes into account the halo effect. David Olson, director of church planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church, concluded that it was more like 17.7 percent. This was confirmed by the research of Hadaway and Marler, writing in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. In another study, which focused on attendance at mega-churches, the weekly median attendance has declined over the past five years, from 3,800 to 2,696.

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The transgender bathroom controversy

 FILE- In this Aug. 23, 2007 file photo, a sign marks the entrance to a gender neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt. For opponents of transgender rights, a favorite line of attack is to oppose policies that would allow people to choose whether to use a men's or women's bathroom based on gender identity.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)Time magazine calls the debate over transgender people and bathrooms "the latest civil rights fight". A year ago, this issue was unknown to most of us. Today it is dominating headlines across the country.

What are the issues involved? What does God's word say?

This controversy is complicated—the biological, psychological, social, and legal issues involved are still evolving and hotly contested. The following essay is intended to provide brief responses to the most common questions associated with the transgender debate.

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Georgia Governor Vetoes Religious Liberty

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during a press conference to announce he has vetoed legislation allowing clergy to refuse performing gay marriage and protecting people who refuse to attend the ceremonies Monday, March 28, 2016, in Atlanta. The Republican rejected the bill on Monday, saying, On Monday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced he would veto a modified version of a religious liberty bill. Some said this bill would discriminate against the LGBT community. For others, House Bill 757 sought to safeguard church, religious schools, and "integrated auxiliaries," allowing them to work out their religion in the public square for the common good. One side cheered, as this was seen as another step towards equality and liberty for all. But the other side lamented because this was the perceived as the continuation of a forced march of intolerant tolerance.

House Bill 757 would have provided shelter for clergy from having to officiate same-sex weddings. It would have prevented faith-based organizations from being forced to hire someone who publicly undermines their mission. Also, it would have also prohibited the state government from discriminating against churches and their affiliated ministries because they believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. What is so striking it that this modified version of the original bill did not offer protections to bakers, florists, and other wedding service providers that have been in the news as oflate. Yet, even this watered down bill did not pass.

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Engaging Culture: Explainer of the Benedict Option

Chasing a Life Worthwhile on St Benedict via Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic SchoolsBefore she was a fashion icon with her ruby slippers, Dorothy was a tornado survivor who talked to her dog. After literally bringing the house down on the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy keenly observed that the tornado had taken her and her little dog away from Kansas to Munchkinland in the world of Oz. Cautiously observing their new surroundings, Dorothy utters the unforgettable line, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Like Dorothy, the Church has had to respond to new situations and circumstances that she finds herself in. Challenges themselves are not new concept to the church, but they do have a new flavoring, especially in the American context.

Enter Rod Dreher's Benedict option.

Dreher, a prolific writer and keen thinker, has introduced the concept of the Benedict option. Named after the fifth century monk Benedict of Nursa, this is a response for the church to the world. As Dreher writes, "The Ben Op is about the church re-learning how to be the church in a time of chaos and collapse."

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The benefits of ignoring things

Three wise monkeys or Three Mystic Apes sacred ancient iconChances are most of us are familiar with Fyodor Dostoyevsky's thought experiment, or some variation of it, from Winter Notes on Summer Impressions (though, if you're like me, you probably didn't know it before today). In Winter Notes, Dostoyevsky quipped, "Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that cursed thing will come to mind every minute." Perhaps you've heard of a similar challenge with a purple elephant or some other creature. Either way, the basic premise is the same: the more you try to ignore something the more persistently it sticks in your mind. As The Atlantic's Adrienne LaFrance notes, that principle is called Ironic Process Theory and, until recently, was thought to be beyond dispute.

However, a new study from John Hopkins challenges that assertion in an important way. While Dostoyevsky's observation is initially true, researchers found that our brains can learn to disregard that which we tell them to ignore. The key to such improvement appears to be two-fold. First, we have to be sufficiently familiar with what we're trying to ignore in order to recognize it without having to spend time processing its presence. Essentially, the sooner we recognize something, the sooner we can move past it to focus on something else. That brings us to the second key: having another target to replace the thing we are trying to ignore. Being told to ignore something is only helpful if we are given something else to focus on or search for instead.

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