Saturday January 19, 2019

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

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.

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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.

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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)

 

Next Story

Kim Jong-Un And Donald Trump To Meet In late February

The White House has not confirmed the location of the next Trump-Kim summit

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President Donald Trump talks with Kim Yong Chol, left, former North Korean military intelligence chief and one of leader Kim Jong Un's closest aides, as they walk from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, June 1, 2018. VOA

The White House has announced that a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be held at the end of February, at a place to be announced “at a later date.”

The announcement was made after Trump met Friday with Kim Yong Chol, North Korea’s top nuclear envoy in the Oval Office, which the White House said was to “discuss efforts to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program.”

Trump’s meeting with the former North Korean spymaster, who often is referred to as Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man, lasted 90 minutes.

After the meeting, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters the administration is continuing “to make progress” on this front.

“The United States is going to continue to keep pressure and sanctions on North Korea until we see full and verified denuclearization,” Sanders said, adding they have seen “good faith from the North Koreans in releasing the hostages and other moves.”

Earlier on Friday, Kim Yong Chol met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a Washington hotel. The meeting’s aim was to revive nuclear negotiations, which have been postponed for months over what U.S. officials say is Pyongyang’s refusal to meet Washington’s demand for a detailed inventory of its nuclear and missile programs.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo escorts Kim Yong Chol, North Korea’s lead negotiator in nuclear diplomacy with the United States, into talks at a hotel in Washington, Jan. 18, 2019. VOA

The latest announcement is being met with some skepticism by analysts about whether enough progress has been achieved in the negotiations to justify a second summit.

There is a “missing ingredient,” said Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea Studies at the Council for Foreign Relations. “Is there some kind of understanding behind the scenes, even at the framework level, that provides a basis or justification for going forward that simply can’t be seen based on public evidence today?”

Snyder said that from Trump’s perspective, a second summit is to be expected because the first summit generated “good ratings.” He noted, however, that in order for a second summit to be successful, “the bar will be higher.”

Denuclearization

On several occasions Trump has expressed his confidence about North Korean denuclearization.

“With North Korea, we have a very good dialogue,” the president said Jan. 6, adding that it’s “very special” and that with “anybody else but me, you’d be in war right now.”

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A man looks at a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump shaking hands before their meeting in Singapore, in Tokyo, June 12, 2018. VOA

But critics point out that Pyongyang has not taken measurable steps toward disarmament since the first Trump-Kim historic summit in Singapore last June.

At the United Nations on Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres encouraged both countries to continue talks.

Also Read: Human Rights Situation in North Korea Needs Reforms

“We believe it’s high time to make sure the negotiations between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea start again seriously and that a road map is clearly defined for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Guterres told reporters. “We won’t advocate for any anticipation of other measures before a clear negotiation is put in place, aiming at denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula with a road map.”

The White House has not confirmed the location of the next Trump-Kim summit, but American media reports have quoted sources as saying that Danang, Vietnam, is being discussed as one of the likely venues. (VOA)