By Melissa Wuske
The Reality of Doubt
About a quarter of Christians (26 percent) say they currently experience doubt, according to recent research by the Barna Group. Of those who currently or formerly had doubts about their faith, nearly half (45 percent) stopped going to church during their time of doubt, and 40 percent turned to friends and family for answers to their questions. More than half (53 percent) said their doubts made their faith stronger.
“This should lead pastors and spiritual mentors to view seasons of spiritual doubt in their constituents as fertile soil—not as dangerous ground,” said Roxanne Stone, editor in chief of Barna Group. “The challenge here for leaders is that people experiencing doubt have a tendency to withdraw from Christian institutions and practices: church, Scripture, prayer, their pastor. Much of the journey through spiritual doubt, then, falls on their closest relationships: spouses, friends, family. How can pastors equip Christians to walk with their friends and family through seasons of doubt? How can churches institute closer, mentor-like relationships that can persist even when people pull out of other formal Christian community?”
Religion Versus Sexuality
What happens when religious freedom and sexual freedom are at odds? In those situations, nearly half of Americans (48 percent) believe that religious freedom is more important, and about a quarter (24 percent) think sexual freedom is more important, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.
“It’s clear Americans value religious liberty,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “But when it comes to sex, they aren’t sure religion should have the final word. That’s especially true for younger Americans and those who aren’t religious.”
When asked “What do you think motivates sincere religious believers who oppose sexual freedom?” about half (49 percent) said faith, but “about one in five Americans—often those who aren’t religious—suspect these disputes are driven by hate,” McConnell said. “And a third aren’t sure. That’s concerning.”
Visitors to Pope Francis’s office may be surprised by the sign he placed outside his door. It reads “No whiners,” in Italian. The sign was given to him by Salvo Noé, a psychotherapist. According to the sign, the consequence for whining is “a syndrome of always feeling like a victim and the consequent reduction of your sense of humor and capacity to solve problems”—and the “sanction is doubled if the offense is committed in the presence of children.” Instead the sign encourages visitors to the Pope’s office to have a positive attitude: “To get the best out of yourself, concentrate on your potential and not on your limitations. Stop complaining and take steps to improve your life.”
The Cause of the Common Ice Cream Headache
What causes the dreaded sphenopalatine ganglion neuralgia, more commonly known as an ice cream headache? “On the roof of your mouth there are a lot of little blood vessels, capillaries. And there are a lot of nerve fibers called nociceptors that detect painful or noxious stimuli,” explained Dr. Kris Rau of the University of Louisville in Kentucky. The rush of cold from the ice cream causes the vessels to constrict, and “it happens so quickly that all of those little pain fibers in the roof of your mouth . . . interpret that as being a painful stimulus.” The fibers send a message to the brain, which has to figure out where the problem is. The pain finally registers on the top of the head: “it’s a very similar phenomenon to the referred pain that is experienced by people who have heart attacks,” Rau said.
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).