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In today’s first “On The Square” article, Joe Carter notes that country music reflects our cultural values but is nonetheless viewed with suspicion by its peer genres of popular music. What’s left in the lyrics is, Carter argues, just as consequential as what’s left out.

An examination of the sixty most popular country songs of 2010 reveals that faith and family are recurring themes within the musical genre: Fathers are mentioned in ten of the songs, mothers in seven, and children in five; six of the songs allude to marriage; mentions of prayer, preachers, church, heaven, and God are heard discussed in three songs; and the Bible is named in one. Altogether, twenty-three of the sixty songs include at least one of these themes.

Second is George Weigel ‘s weekly column. This week, he reports on some startling recent figures on global Christianity. On the one hand, persecution is as alive as ever:
The provocation in the 2011 report involves martyrdom. For purposes of research, the report defines “martyrs” as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives, prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” The report estimates that there were, on average, 270 new Christian martyrs every 24 hours over the past decade, such that “the number of martyrs [in the period 2000-2010] was approximately 1 million.” Compare this to an estimated 34,000 Christian martyrs in 1900.

On the other hand, there’s plenty of good news on the demographic front:
Africa has been the most stunning area of Christian growth over the past century. There were 8.7 million African Christians in 1900 (primarily in Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa); there are 475 million African Christians today and their numbers are projected to reach 670 million by 2025. Another astonishing growth spurt, measured typologically, has been among Pentecostals and charismatics: 981,000 in 1900; 612,472,000 in 2011, with an average of 37,000 new adherents every day—the fastest growth in two millennia of Christian history.

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