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article imageColumnist: Jesus would love Portland

By Carol Forsloff     Jan 19, 2010 in World
Some people might think it a joke to consider calling Portland Jesus' favorite city, but some think it is, with a wink, and at the same time with some confidence. A newspaper columnist considers Portland a place where love your neighbor is made visible.
Tom Krattenmaker is a religion columnist in Portland, Oregon who recently reviewed the presentation by Christopher Hitchens, the well-known atheist, on religion and culture during a lecture at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall recently. He observes that whereas many progressive Christians, Jews and Muslims agree with Hitchens criticisms against the extreme forms of religion, they don't like being lumped into that category since they are proud of their compassionate beliefs associated with service.
Hitchens is the author of the book, "God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." His ideas have appealed to the militant anti-religionists with the ramp up of books echoing that old theme out of the 60's that God is dead or shouldn't be believed in anyway. Krattenmaker maintains Hitchens picked the right city for his presentation since Portland is the home of liberal theologians who concentrate on service. It is the home of Marilyn Sewell who has been a national voice for liberal religion and evangelist Luis Palau who with his son, Kevin, began the famed Season of Service that has been emulated by a number of religious leaders.
Nevertheless, Krattenmaker maintains, Hitchens seems to be ignorant of the good that Christians do, in the name of service, and throws out anything uniquely religious. His atheism, Krattenmaker argues, is as dogmatic and hard-core as fundamentalist believers Hitchens denounces.
Those who believe that the Christian life requires devotion to service, according to Krattenmaker, are fascinated with the service-orientation of the place where love your neighbor has given the city of Portland its reputation as a place where people care about one another.
In spite of all this caring, however, Portland ranks 40th in religiosity whereas religion is considered very important to 73% of the people of Louisiana, according to last month's research report by the Pew Forum ranking the various states in terms of the population's belief in religion as an important life variable.
Despite these accolades, however, there are areas of strong disagreement. For example, in 2008 Education Week ranked Oregon as one of five states receiving a "D" grade in quality of education. Presently it is one of the states ranked among the highest in unemployment. It is, however, among the states with the best health statistics, showing that Oregon is a mixed bag when it comes to perfecting its love-your-neighbor concept.
It may be Jesus would love Portland, as Krattenmaker says, but the ambiguity of the facts reveal that Jesus might still be looking for that favorite city, or Hitchens might be right in his belief there is none after all.
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