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LaSalle Street Church—a small church in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood—is putting its members ability to pay it forward to the ultimate test. Last Sunday, the church straight up split $160,000 between each of its 300 members in $500 chunks with one request: use it for good. According to Senior Pastor Laura Truax, her first thought upon giving out the money was "Holy crap, we might just be squandering 160,000 bucks, which is a big deal because we're not even meeting our budget this year," which is at least honest. "It felt a little ludicrous, and it felt super bold, and it felt good," she went on to say.

The church called it "Fishes and Loaves" and pleaded with each member to take a few weeks to pray over the best way to use the money. "After several weeks of prayer, you will likely have an idea of how these resources are to be used," Truax told the church. "Put your money to work as you've been led, then talk about your experience." According to her, many members plan on combing their funds for large service projects in Niger and Ebola treatments, but she stressed that "doing good" might also look like paying off debt or a college fund. "That's what this was all about," Truax told reporters. "Putting it to work within the community" ... Discuss

A new Pew Research study has some interesting findings on some very surprising trend reversals over the past few years, and maybe the most curious findings involve American perceptions on faith and politics.

Back in 2010, research indicated that fewer Americans were interested in mixing faith and political issues. Today, that's changing. 49 percent of Americans say they want houses of worship to “express their views on day-to-day social and political issues." That's up six percentage points since 2010. 41 percent of Americans say politicians show “too little expression of religious faith and prayer,” which is a four percent increase over 2010. Perhaps most surprising: 32 percent of Americans say they want clergy to endorse candidates from the pulpit. That's an eight percent jump from 2010, but it's still a long way from the majority. Nearly twice as many don't want their religious leaders weighing in on who to vote for ... Discuss

Hillsong United's 'Oceans' has become a new worship staple, and as is the case with new staples, artists are lining up to give their own spin on it. Some are more successful than others, but this hero drummer gives it his all, and we think you'll agree it's just the manic shot of energy the song needs. Some people might call it "overpowering" but, then again, some people called Galileo insane. Play on, hero drummer ... Discuss

In truly sad, infuriating news, the Iranian government has sentenced the young men and women in the YouTube video below to six months in jail and 91 lashes for dancing to Pharrell's "Happy." Tehran's chief of police has reportedly called the video, "a vulgar clip which hurt public chastity" ... Discuss

The Satanic Temple continues to mine the worst tricks from church subculture in what is either a misguided effort to win new followers or an attempt at parody. In either case, they're capitalizing on an Orange County ruling last year that allows religious adherents to hand out pamphlets at schools. The ruling came at the behest of a Christian group called The World Changers of Florida, but cracked the door for the Satanic Temple to distribute their own literature. And children's Satanic literature is, as you might expect, interesting. As with a lot of material from the Satanic Temple, it's not entirely clear how much is genuine and how much is tongue-in-cheek, but don't expect kids to be able to tell the difference either ... Discuss

According to new research from Duke University’s Mark Chaves, several kinds of Christian worship experiences—including speaking in tongues—are on the rise among American churchgoers. As The Atlantic explains:

Since Chaves and his team started tracking these trends in 1998, the portion of congregations that see hand-waving during services has increased by 11 percentage points; spontaneous jumping, shouting, or singing has increased by 9 percentage points; and speaking in tongues has increased by 5 percentage points.

Commenting on his National Congregations Study, Chaves told the outlet that the current trend in American religion is for worship and church experiences that are “more emotionally engaging, not just intellectually engaging” ... Discuss

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