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« Break the chain, please | Main | Chickens and eggs, browsing and ads ... »
Wednesday
Oct102012

Feel like a minority yet?

Protestants in America made big news this week -- by oficially becoming a minority. A major study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in 2007 showed that American Protestants, at 51.3 percent of the population, were "on the verge of becoming a minority Protestant country."

From the Pew Forum on Religion and Public LifeA smaller, 2012 study by the Pew Forum shows that we've clearly crossed the line: just 48 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Protestant, down from 62 percent in 1972. Other denominational preferences include 22 percent reporting as Catholic, two percent are Mormon, one percent are Orthodox, and six percent who belong to another faith.

The biggest factor in the shrinking Protestant numbers is the rise of the "nones," people who identify with no religion at all, now 20 percent of the population. These include those who identify as atheists and agnostics (about two percent together), with 14 percent saying "nothing in particular" and two percent checking "don't know."

It comes as no surprise that younger adults are more likely to be unaffiliated: more than a third of "younger millenials" (age 18-22) indicate no religious preference, while only five percent of those 80 and older and nine percent of Americans 67-79 state no religious affiliation.

Younger generations are showing a steady erosion in religious involvement: in 2012, 21 percent of Gen Xers (now 32-47) and 15 percent of Baby Boomers (age 48-66) describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew report, both up three percentage points (from 18 percent and 12 percent in 2007).

Church leaders, of course, continue to scratch their heads, wondering why religious affiliation continues to skid, fearing that America will follow Western Europe, where church attendance has plummeted.

Any number of factors come into play as culture and society evolves, and as the stigma of being religiously unaffiliated lessens. I don't claim to have an answer or any survey data to back it up, but one thing remains true, I think: the appeal of any religious group hinges largely on the public perception of those who profess it.

If Protestant Christians are perceived as judgmental, hypocritical, or uncaring, their numbers will continue to decline. If we're seen as accepting, hopeful, loving people who care for each other and the world, we have a much better chance of attracting others. Who doesn't want to feel acceptance, hope, and love? If the secular world does a better job of demonstrating those things than the church, we should not be surprised to see the numbers continue to swing.

Reader Comments (9)

Tony I think you have hit the nail on the head that the unchurched and even the churched see Protestant Christians as judgmental or hypocritical. Part of that stems, I think, from the media attention given to those groups who are purposefully trying to exclude segments of the American population, as was witnessed in the Chick-Fil-A saga from a few months ago. While those of us who are trying to reach the unchurched don't necessarily want or actively seek media attention, is it becoming necessary to now seek the attention so that non-Christians can see that not all of us are hateful or excluding?

Oct 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Vandergriff

The U.S. is sliding into European non-religious mode and there is little hope except an inordinate visitation from God into his Creation (actually the U.S.) to stop it. The slide began in earnest with the boomers – the hippy-dippy flower-children, dope-heads and free-lovers of the 1960s-70s. Their progeny continued the slide and subsequent progenies have done the same. Your last paragraph is essentially wrong. Your words: “If we're seen as accepting, hopeful, loving people who care for each other and the world, we have a much better chance of attracting others.” The “accepting” president, a professing and highest-profile Christian, believes men should marry men, thus aiding and abetting perversion in direct contradiction of the teaching of Jesus…all in the name of “love.” To show you’re an “accepting loving person,” you may agree with him. Another highest-profile Baptist, “caring” Jimmy Carter, believed in official, legal sanction of same-sex unions, also approving of perversion. But, even at that, “attracting others” has not happened, indeed, just the opposite.

Your words: “If Protestant Christians are perceived as judgmental, hypocritical, or uncaring, their numbers [Protestants] will continue to decline.” They’re declining, just as you’ve noted but not for those reasons. The so-called moderates (loving, accepting, hopeful) are declining in number far more rapidly as they’ve accommodated themselves to political correctness, not obvious (like the ten-commandment thing) Biblical mandates. The hypocrisy is obvious and un-connected with caring or uncaring. You most likely are judgmental about something(s) or someone every day. Judgmentalism has its place, and the sooner serious Christians understand that fact the better off their efforts will be. Unbelievers are not impressed by believers who are just like them – accepting of everything since everything is relative. The example used here has to do with sexual preference because it’s so recognizable, but there are other areas as well in which compromise of principles is accepted, ordination, for instance, or abortion.

There actually is little hope, save a sweeping “revival” like that of the late 1800s through 1950 or so. That would be a miracle but one wonders brashly if God believes this country is worth saving. Apparently, Europe wasn’t, and could it be that Islam may win the day?

Oct 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Clark

Actually, as a "none" that was raised in the Baptist church, I see so much truth in this post. The comment advocating for "judgement" is exactly so many of us are fleeing the church.

Oct 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter"a none"

“Actually, as a "none" that was raised in the Baptist church, I see so much truth in this post. The comment advocating for "judgement" is exactly so many of us are fleeing the church.”

And you should be fleeing because those who stand for nothing will fall for anything. Establishing beliefs involves making judgments about most everything and everybody every day. Only the rankest hypocrite claims not to make judgments. Will any church call as pastor a drunk, for instance, or a womanizer or just on the basis of whether or not he’s a Calvinist or a Muslim? I think not, unless pulpit committees are totally unnecessary.

Oct 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Clark

Dr. Cartledge, life gets tedious, doesn't it? Everyone is sure of the reason and it almost always syncs with his/her agenda. I suspect there are many reasons. I don't suspect that God has deemed Europe or the USA unworthy "of being saved." Paul would have chuckled if that poll was taken in Athens, wouldn't he? Things didn't look so good for the unknown God. I'm pastor at a church in one of the most diverse areas in the USA (DC). We go about our business each day, striving to present an authentic image of who Jesus is; not who the politicians proclaim him to be; not who the Pharisees of the day proclaim him to be. Then, having done all we can do, we allow (!) the Spirit to go to work. All the breast-beating in the world won't reverse the trend.

Oct 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Clements

Then, having done all we can do, we allow (!) the Spirit to go to work. All the breast-beating in the world won't reverse the trend.

Since Athens, unlike the U.S., was not settled and developed by Christians, I fail to understand the analogy but agree that God was unknown there. Since breast-beating of a sort is what preachers seem to do, I assume you have little hope of the current trend featuring hedonism being reversed, at least in your milieu. I wonder when “all we can do” becomes all that’s been done, so that the Spirit can take over. I wonder at the identities of the breast-beaters to whom you refer.

Oct 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Clark

As a person who was brought up in the church, but who rarely attends today, the reasons that I have become disenchanted are numerous. Hypocritical Christians who call for the death of gays, the President, and unruly children, but who at the same time are womanizers, closet gays, child molesters, etc are one reason. The church's involvement in politics and the attempts to destroy the separation of church and state by trying to force religion into government is another. The waste of millions of dollars on giant edifices, with sports complexes, spas, and full service cafeterias with paid staff. Covered dish suppers are a thing of the past. The congregations are furnished with menus and and pay for their meals. These complexes or "campuses, are little more than congregations' monuments to themselves. Members point out their churches, bragging on the amount that was spent. Bascially they are little more than social clubs. These same congregations do little or nothing for the starving people in their towns and at the same time get together and pray that welfare and healthcare for the poor be abolished. They get all excited about abortion, but do nothing for the poor children, who are under fed and clothed. I could go on, but it is sickening to many, especially to the younger generations.

Oct 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRalph Reed

The president does not say that "men should marry men". What he said is that the legal system should not bar marriage between two men or two women. That is advocating not for gay marriage, but for the freedom of gays to marry. I advocate for that freedom, but fully advocate that people should marry those of the opposite gender or remain celibate. We need to separate the religious aspects of marriage from the civil aspects, as a matter of civil rights.

Oct 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArce

RR:

As a person who was brought up in the church, but who rarely attends today, the reasons that I have become disenchanted are numerous.

I agree on the point of wasting money on unneeded facilities, and I think churches are over-staffed. I’m a member of a church that carries out, along with other churches in the city, many activities that you accuse them of shunning. You obviously have little or no knowledge of what many churches are doing. You’re right to condemn imperfect people in churches, but not the churches. As for hypocritical (and therefore imperfect) Christians, in order to successfully hide behind one and whine, you have to be smaller, i.e., even more imperfect than he is.

A:

What he said is that the legal system should not bar marriage between two men or two women.

As a civil matter, marriage defines a child’s identity and posits the responsibility for his welfare and support. As a biblical matter, it is defined as a reproductive mechanism, not fun-and-games, ruling out indiscriminate “joining” (even animals can “do it”) and affording accommodation to reproduction, something that homosexuals can’t accomplish. As a social matter, the prez put his imprimatur on unacceptable, aberrant behavior violating the obvious biology of the creation made in God’s image. That’s blasphemy.

Oct 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Clark

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