Spiritual crisis in the white working class

Heroin used to be a problem mainly for the big cities.  Today it is also ravaging rural communities in the American heartland, a cheap alternative to pain pills and crystal meth.  In the white working class, divorce is soaring, marriage rates have been plummeting, and single parents have become the norm.  And this demographic, which used to be the heart and soul of evangelical Christianity, has the lowest rates of church attendance.  From boarded up small towns to rustbelt cities where the factory has closed down, the white working class is in a state of economic, moral, cultural, and spiritual crisis.

This is chronicled in the bestselling Hillbilly Elegy:  A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance, who grew up in a family plagued by all of these dysfunctions, but whose church-going grandparents pulled him out of the mire.

While churches build mega-congregations in the suburbs and concentrate on trying to reach affluent millennials, the truly unchurched who are arguably in most need of evangelism and spiritual care are often ignored, déclassé as they are.

Terry Mattingly interviews Vance on the religious dimensions of the crisis he documents. [Read more…]

Correlation is not causation in study of ELCA racial diversity

More evidence that scientists–especially social scientists–need to study philosophy, particularly the complicated question of what constitutes causality:  A study of ELCA congregations has found that the more racially diverse  a congregation is, the more it has declined in attendance.  The implication being that white people leave when minority races show up.  This effect is especially evident, the study says, in older congregations.

But there are lots of reasons that ELCA congregations have been declining in membership!  The study says nothing about the theological shift leftward that has caused so many members to leave.  Or, even more to the point, neighborhood demographics.  “Older congregations” originally started in big cities are nearly always in decline as assimilated immigrants and young families move to the suburbs.  These congregations do pick up some racially diverse members from the neighborhood, but since African-Americans don’t have a tradition of becoming ELCA Lutherans (though they could well be Missouri Synod Lutherans, which has a long tradition of black membership), there will be a net loss.  But to interpret this as racism is grossly inaccurate.  To use statistical terms, correlation is not causation. [Read more…]

What members of the LCMS actually believe

That Pew Religious Landscape study we blogged about last month now has denominational breakdowns.  This includes information about demographics, political beliefs, religious beliefs, and moral beliefs.

Members of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (categorized under “evangelical,” “Lutheran family”) are not as conservative as their church is (though the same could be said of other “conservative” church bodies).

After the jump, some surprises that pastors need to know about. [Read more…]

“Nones” are fine with denominations

Contrary to the common assumption, “Nones”–people with no religious preference–have positive feelings about most Christian denominations and denominations in general, according to a LifeWay study.

The most favorable impressions among non-believers are Baptists and Catholics.  Baptists scored 61% favorable, 19% unfavorable, and 20% not familiar enough to have an opinion.  Catholics scored 57% favorable, 23% unfavorable, and 20% not familiar enough.

Lutherans (46% favorable, 22% unfavorable, 33% not familiar enough) were down on the list, third from the bottom, with Pentecostals (38% favorable, 27% unfavorable, 35% not familiar enough) coming in with the lowest numbers.

See details after the jump and go to the link for another interesting category:  “not for me.” [Read more…]

America’s most “churchless” and “dechurched” cities

The Barna group has data about which American cities are the most “unchurched,” breaking that category down further into “churchless” (people never having been involved in a church) and “dechurched” (people who used to be involved in a church but aren’t now).

English teacher that I am, I disapprove of the twisted grammar that went into those terms–using the noun “church” as a verb so as to add -ed to it, making it a past participle, and then using that as a noun again. But I’ll let that go.  I sample some of the findings after the jump.

At the link, for $99, you can buy a detailed study of individual American cities, showing the religious breakdown, the denominational percentages, and other useful demographic information. [Read more…]

Who are the churchless?

The Barna Group has finished a major study of people who do not go to church.  (They used to be called the “unchurched”; this study calls them “churchless.”)  And it has some surprises.  For example, the churchless tend to be less educated than those who go to church, are mostly white, men, unmarried, and young.  Also, nearly two-thirds of the unchurched consider themselves to be Christians.  See Barna’s “Ten Facts” about the churchless after the jump. [Read more…]