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Amanda Casanova

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.

The twin brothers made famous on YouTube for the “First Time Hearing” reaction videos are thanking God for being able to buy a car.

According to Faithwire, Fred and Tim Williams gained fans after posting a video of themselves listening to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” for the first time.

“I never thought we’d get this big, but we’re doing this to show people that it's ok to listen to different types of music,” Tim said in an interview in August.

This week, Tim Williams posted a vlog update saying that he had been praying for a car for “forever.” He bought a Dodge Challenger.

“I thank God for the opportunity I have to get this car,” Williams said. “It’s only God willing I’m able to even get this car. I appreciate the fan-love support, but God always first for everything. I’ve been praying for this forever, like for real. It’s just a dream come true, man.”

The mother of the boys, Tiffany King-Richardson, said in an interview with The U.S. Sun that she is proud of her sons. King-Richardson said she struggled with drug addiction and spent two years in prison.

“The boys were nine when I went to prison and 11 when I came out,” she said.

Today, she is an addiction recovery coach and mentor.

She said when her son Tim wanted to drop out of college to produce YouTube videos, she was doubtful.

“I said to him: ‘How are you going to earn a living doing that? That’s something you do on the side, for fun,’” she said. “But he was absolutely determined.”

She said Tim also worked at a local clinic while he worked on his YouTube videos.

Their videos have since gained a loyal following as the twin brothers listen to a range of musical artists from Frank Sinatra to Dolly Parton.

“We’re black and we’re supposed to listen to rap and that’s it. We want to change that. Music is for everyone and there ain’t no color to it,” Tim said.

Photo courtesy: TwinsthenewTrend Facebook

Video courtesy:  TwinsthenewTrend

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.

(RNS) — It’s known in the United Methodist Church as the “Cross and Flame.”

But the denomination’s logo — two red flames intertwined with a thin, black cross — means something else to the Rev. Edlen Cowley, pastor of Fellowship United Methodist Church near Dallas.

It reminds Cowley, who is Black, of the first burning cross he saw.

He was 10 years old, riding in the car with his family from Marshall, Texas, where his dad pastored Miles Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, to Shreveport, Louisiana. His mother pointed it out, burning alongside the freeway, explaining that the symbol was meant to instill fear in Black people.

“No longer should we be represented by an image that was devised to evoke fear in the minds of so many,” Cowley wrote this summer for United Methodist News Service.

Now one of the United Methodist Church’s regional conferences has taken up the call to replace the denomination’s logo because of its association for many with the racist imagery of a burning cross.

The North Texas Annual Conference voted 558-176 at its annual meeting last weekend (Sept. 19) to send legislation to the 2021 General Conference, the denomination’s global decision-making body, to begin the process for changing that logo.

“If the logo itself has become a stumbling block to part of the population we’re trying to reach, then it’s time for a change,” the Rev. Clayton Oliphint, who chairs the North Texas delegation to the General Conference, told United Methodist News Service.

The move comes as the General Conference’s quadrennial meeting in Minneapolis was postponed more than a year, from May 2020 to two weeks in late August and early September 2021, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Most notably, delegates at that meeting are set to discuss a proposal to split the denomination over a decades-long disagreement on same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy.

It also comes as the United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States, launches an initiative called Dismantling Racism.

It's unclear whether the General Conference will take up the legislation as a spokesperson for the United Methodist Church said the deadline to submit petitions for the 2021 meeting had passed.

Some in the North Texas Annual Conference questioned whether it was also the right time to discuss creating a new logo, according to United Methodist News Service.

But, Cowley told UMNS, “This would be a monumental change in a monumental moment.”


Article originally published by Religion News Service. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: Public Domain

(RNS) — People who identify as highly spiritual are more likely to say it’s important to make a difference in their communities and contribute to the greater good, a broad new study on American spirituality finds.

The study, “What Does Spirituality Mean to Us?,” found that 86 percent of Americans identify as spiritual to some extent. It also found that the more people define their spirituality through connection — to a higher power or to humanity at large — the more likely they are to volunteer, donate and vote.

Funded by the Kalamazoo, Michigan, Fetzer Institute, whose mission is to build a spiritual foundation for a loving world, the study included a nationally representative survey of 3,609 people, as well as 16 focus groups that met in 2018 and 2019. All the research was done before the coronavirus pandemic. (Fetzer is a past funder of Religion News Service projects.)

“What the Fetzer study has uncovered is how much people are talking about connection when they talk about spirituality — connection between the inner and outer world and with others in community,” said Omar M. McRoberts, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and an adviser to the study. “Spirituality is not a solipsistic endeavor where it’s just about individual experience or elevation.”

Still, only 45% of respondents said spirituality influences their political views; 36% said their spirituality influences their political actions and 41% said their spirituality leads them to hold politicians accountable.

In focus groups, the report said, people were ambivalent about the relationship between spirituality and voting and weren’t sure the two should be connected. Some described voting as a pragmatic choice based in logic or individual preference. Others said it was a profane rather than sacred act.

The report collected information about respondents’ political affiliations but did not provide that analysis in its report.

Spirituality is a burgeoning field of study in academia, especially as loyalty to religious denominations and institutions wanes. The past few decades have seen a rise of the “spiritual-but-not-religious” category as well as those who say they have no religious preference, the so-called nones.

From yoga classes to mindfulness practices, spiritual loyalties appear to be transferring from old institutions to various new ones.

But Nancy Ammerman, professor of sociology emerita at Boston College and a reviewer for the study, said there’s a lot of overlap between people who say they are religious and those who say they are spiritual. Indeed, the study found that 70 percent of respondents consider themselves both spiritual and religious. Just 16% said they were only spiritual; 3 percent said they were “only religious.”

Since multiple studies have shown that participation in religious communities is one of the primary drivers of civic engagement, it’s not clear whether spirituality or religion was moving people toward civic action.

“You end up having a finding that in effect tells you two things at once,” Ammerman said. “It’s framing things in terms of the effect of spirituality, but sitting behind that spirituality is the participation in religious communities that strengthens and sustains the spirituality.”

One of the study’s innovations was to ferret out what Americans consider spirituality to mean. The term is vague and can mean a lot of different things. The study had respondents draw what spirituality means to them in addition to trying to put it in words.

Some common illustrations captured symbols of the natural world (trees, clouds), as well as peace, love, a divine being, or a relationship with others.

Asked to describe spiritual people in words, respondents chose positive attributes: happy and joyful; calm, and centered; compassionate and caring.

“It gives social scientists and people interested in this a huge amount of material to work with that doesn’t involve just giving people a set of predetermined responses that they have to put themselves in different boxes but allows people to speak for themselves about what spirituality means to them,” said Ruth Braunstein, a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut who served as an adviser to the study.

In keeping with past studies, the Fetzer study found that spirituality has a positive valence with the American public. It was something people were working toward, something that could help them become a better version of themselves.

“People are becoming more spiritual as they age. There’s this aspirational quality to it,” said Gillian Gonda, a program director at the Fetzer Institute. “The more someone is spiritual, the more they aspire to be spiritual. It seems to be a never-ending search and journey that deepens for people over time.”


Article originally published by Religion News Service. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Hermosa Wave