Friday January 19, 2018

Bible Reading Marathon concludes at USA Capitol

"The percentage of Americans who say they believe in God has dropped a little"

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Holy Bible, Wikimedia Commons
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Hundreds of Christians gathered recently in front of the United States Capitol building on a cold and rainy day.

They began a public reading of their holy book, the Bible.

They kept reading for 90 hours.

The event is called the U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon. It marks the National Day of Prayer and has been taking place for 27 years.

File:Americana Wedding The Preacher (138526524).jpg
Holy Bible, Wikimedia Commons

Pastor Jeffrey Light of NOVUM Baptist Church in Reva, Virginia spoke to VOA about the event. He said its goal is to show the importance of religion in American life.

“It’s foundational for who we are as human beings to know our purpose, and our purpose comes from our creator,” Light said.

Few know the part of religion in America better than Alan Cooperman. He leads study of the subject for the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

Related article: Is Christianity under threat in Middle East?

The center did two major studies on religion in the U.S. in 2007 and 2014. The research found that the American public is growing less religious.

“The percentage of Americans who say they believe in God has dropped a little,” Cooperman told VOA. He explained that the percentage of Americans who say they pray daily has dropped, along with the percentage who say they go to religious services at least once a month.

Cooperman said the share of Americans who do not identify with any religion has been rising very quickly.

In his words, “It’s gone from 7 percent in 2000, 16 percent in 2007, to 23 percent overall today.”

Cooperman believes the drop in religious involvement reflects a generational change. Young Americans are growing into adulthood with looser ties to religion. The children of today are also less involved in religious activities than the children of past generations.

Religion and politics

But lawmakers and government officials are more likely to be religious than the general public. Organized faith appears to still play an important part in U.S. politics.

More than 90 percent of the United States Congress is Christian compared to 70 percent of the general public. At a recent Senate discussion, members of Congress talked about how they balance faith and politics.

File:Mike Fitzpatrick at Prayer Breakfast.png
Mike Fitzpatrick at Prayer Breakfast, Wikipedia Commons

Senator James Lankford is a Republican from Oklahoma. He told VOA that faith is “the lens” he looks through.

He added, “If it’s a faith, it affects everything.”

Many religions are represented in Congress. Along with Christian legislators are Muslims, Hindus, and Jews. There are also some atheist lawmakers.

‘Overwhelmingly religious’

For Cooperman, even the increasing number non-religious Americans may not be enough to change the role of faith in American life and politics.

“…the American public remains overwhelmingly religious,” he said. In his words, It’s a very religious country. Three-quarters of Americans, about 77 percent of the population, still identify with a religious group.

Pastor Jeffrey Light agrees. He said the role of religion will continue to play an important part in this year’s presidential election.

“For me and those that are seekers of the word of God,” he said, “we will certainly seek a leader who honors God.” (VOA)

 

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Will sexual misconduct scandals make Men more cautious towards Women?

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Sexual scandals may wary men's behavioral instincts
FILE - In a Feb. 3, 2015, file photo, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is photographed at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Some women, and men, worry that the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about harassment could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues. Sandberg recently wrote that she hoped the outcry over harassment doesn’t “have the unintended consequence of holding women back.” (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
  • Sexual Scandals are the new low in business industry
  • Americans were already edgy about male-female encounters at work
  • Gender comes as a barrier in interaction

Some women, and men, worry the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about sexual misconduct could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues.

Forget private meetings and get-to-know-you dinners. Beware of banter. Think twice before a high-ranking man mentors a young female staffer.

“I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire women,’” Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a recent post .

“So much good is happening to fix workplaces right now. Let’s make sure it does not have the unintended consequence of holding women back,” said Sandberg, author of the working women’s manifesto “Lean In.”

Sexual Scandals
From left, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., accompanied by Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois., and former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, speaks at a news conference where she and other members of congress introduce legislation to curb sexual harassment in the workplace, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. Gillibrand and fellow female Democratic senators have united in calling for Sen. Al Franken to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Ana Quincoces, a Miami-based attorney and entrepreneur who owns her own food line, says her business and its success involves working mostly with men, and sales and other activities are often concluded over lunch or drinks. Those opportunities, she says, are dwindling, because many of the men she knows through her business “are terrified.”

“There’s a feeling of this wall that wasn’t there that is suddenly up because they don’t know what’s appropriate anymore — it’s disconcerting,” Quincoces said. “I feel that they’re more careful, more formal in their relationships with co-workers. And I can’t say I blame them, because what’s happened is pervasive. Every day there’s a new accusation.”

She said many of the men she knows are now avoiding one-on-one social occasions that were normal in the past.

“This is going to trickle down into all industries. … It’s going to become the new normal,” Quincoces said. “It’s a good thing because women are not afraid anymore, but on the other side, it’s a slippery slope.”

Americans were already edgy about male-female encounters at work: A New York Times/Morning Consult poll of 5,300 men and women last spring found almost two-thirds thought workers should be extra careful around opposite-sex colleagues, and around a quarter thought private work meetings between men and women were inappropriate.

But in a season of outcry over sexual misconduct, some men are suddenly wondering whether they can compliment a female colleague or ask about her weekend. Even a now-former female adviser to the head of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party suggested on Facebook that men would stop talking to women altogether because of what she portrayed as overblown sexual misconduct claims.

Certain managers are considering whether to make sure they’re never alone with a staffer, despite the complications of adding a third person in situations like performance reviews, says Philippe Weiss, who runs the Chicago-based consultancy Seyfarth Shaw at Work.

Philadelphia employment lawyer Jonathan Segal says some men are declaring they’ll just shut people out of their offices, rather than risk exchanges that could be misconstrued.

“The avoidance issue is my biggest concern, because the marginalization of women in the business world is at least as big a problem as harassment,” Segal says. A recent report involving 222 North American companies found the percentage of women drops from 47 percent at the entry level to 20 percent in the C suite.

Vice President Mike Pence has long said he doesn’t have one-on-one meals with any woman except his wife and wants her by his side anywhere alcohol is served, as part of the couple’s commitment to prioritizing their marriage. The guidelines have “been a blessing to us,” the Republican told Christian Broadcasting Network News in an interview this month.

Employment attorneys caution that it can be problematic to curb interactions with workers because of their gender, if the practice curtails their professional opportunities. W. Brad Johnson, a co-author of a book encouraging male mentors for women, says limiting contact sends a troubling message.

“If I were unwilling to have an individual conversation with you because of your gender, I’m communicating ‘you’re unreliable; you’re a risk,’” says Johnson, a U.S. Naval Academy psychology professor.

Jessica Proud, a communications professional and Republican political consultant in New York City, said it would be wrong if this national “day of reckoning” over sexual misconduct resulted in some men deciding not to hire, mentor or work with women. She recalled a campaign she worked on where she was told she couldn’t travel with the candidate because of how it might look.

“I’m a professional, he’s a professional. Why should my career experience be limited?” she said. “That’s just as insulting in a lot of ways.” VOA