A colleague sent me this link. He knows I am deeply interested in denominations and in the concept “evangelical.” See: www.usatoday.com/news/graphics/pew-religion-08/flash.htm
(I tried both keyboarding it here and copying it here from the actual web site but in neither case would it display as a hyperlink.)
Here are some things that grab my attention (not that they all necessarily surprise me):
1) The states where the greatest portion of the population identifies as “evangelical” (mostly in the South) are also the states with the highest rates of illiteracy, infant mortality, poverty, etc. Now there are at least two possible interpretations of that: a) evangelicals are unconcerned about these matters or not sufficiently concerned to fix them, and/or b) poor people and people in distress are more likely to turn to God in an evangelical way (promise of heaven upon simple faith in Jesus, etc.).
2) Evangelicals supposedly make up the highest or second highest portion of the population (or the religious portion of the population) in many unexpected places (e.g., the Upper Northwest).
3) “Evangelical” must be a very broad category to include so many people in states like Iowa. (I’m from Iowa so I kind of know about it!)
I have to wonder what exact question was put to people that led to so many identifying as “evangelical?” If that many are really “evangelical” I worry about its meaning. The media uses the term as virtually synonymous with “politically and socially conservative.” Do some people think of themselves as evangelical simply because they oppose “gay marriage” and abortion on demand, etc.?
I prefer a map (and I’ve seen some) that breaks it down more (more religious categories such as “Pentecostal-Charismatic” and “Lutheran” and “Christian Science” and “Unitarian”) even by counties. I once saw such a map (I’m sure it’s available somewhere on the internet) and looked to see if there are any counties in the U.S. that are predominantly Pentecostal (as that’s the faith tradition in which I was raised an many of my relatives are still that). There were a couple counties in Missouri where that was the dominant religious identity (not majority but plurality).
In any case, I’m very suspicious of this particular graphic. I seriously doubt that many people are really evangelical in the spiritual-theological sense. I would ask “Which of these faith traditions do you primarily identify with?” and then have as the descriptor of “evangelical”: “Believing that authentic Christianity requires a conversion experience involving repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that involves striving to live a holy life, faith in the Bible as God’s inspired, written Word, that Christ’s death on the cross is the atonement for sins, and that communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ to others and inviting them to ‘accept Christ as Savior’ is of paramount importance. It also involves believing in the basic doctrines of Protestant orthodoxy: supreme authority of the Bible for Christian faith and practice, the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Trinity and salvation by grace through faith alone.”
Somehow I suspect many fewer would identify as “evangelical” if this robust definition/description were used!