Why US Church Membership Reached Today’s Lowest — Part II.

I wasn’t ready for feedback from Last week’s columnI emphasized that in a Gallup survey that found that the number of members of the US place of worship had reached its modern lows.

Church membership decreased from 70% in 1999 to 47% in 2020. Gallup saysThe lowest level since the voting organization started tracking membership over 80 years ago.

I have provided a list of informed guesses about why this is happening.

My email inbox was full of replies from all over the country, so I’m finally not known to me, but Yahoo! I found a column featured by. news.

I was unknowingly pressing the hot button. Some of the answers were so interesting that I decided to pass a sampling. On top of that, I’ll give you another point of my own that I couldn’t work on last week’s work.

▪ ▪ Some readers pointed out that I did not mention an important contributor to reducing church membership: the exclusion of women from their leadership roles. Yes, it was an unintentional but obvious omission.

The two largest denominations of the United States, the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, kept women out of the clergy, especially the Baptists, who were very grumpy about it. However, these organizations are no exception.

Many women, including Beth Moore, an evangelical Bible teacher, are fed up with what they consider to be reprimands and misogyny of their denominations, breaking their relationship with, in some cases, church letters. I am.

▪ ▪ I argued that both religious right and religious left were so involved in secular politics that they could sometimes become non-identifiable Christians. I said that politicization has alienated many Americans.

If the email I receive is any sign, readers consider politicization to be a more common sin for the right than for the left.

Some defended what I described as an annoying awakening of some liberals. But no one defended the Christian right loyalty to Donald Trump and the Republicans.

Readers said they had left the evangelical faith or completely left Christianity because they felt that the conservatives had effectively made Trump their master and savior.

Interestingly, in a 2017 survey by the National Association of Evangelicals, 89% of evangelical leaders said that preachers should not support political candidates from the pulpit. A similar poll by Lifeway Research found that 79% of congregational members found it inappropriate for pastors to teach them how to vote.

▪ ▪ One reader, a historian, suggested that the escape from the church could have been burned into the same American system that gave us religious freedom from the beginning.

I think I explain this exactly. But I understand that one of the geniuses of our system is that he emphasized the tolerance of the religious views of others.

No denomination could declare itself to be the true executor of faith that everyone should obey. This allowed the madly diverse Presbyterians, deists, Anglicans, agnostics and infidels to live on the same street without killing each other.

The paradox is that, across generations, this same tolerance erodes the authority of each sect, even within its own walls. Creeds are watered down for open mind and peace.

In the end, your idea will be as valid as mine. It’s not better than the idea of ​​someone walking down the street. Whatever you feel is right is right. If so, there is no reason to stick to a particular church or belief.

“The principle of tolerance is necessarily the end of legitimacy, and the end of belief,” historians said, saying that this is no more definitive statement than scholarly speculation.

▪ ▪ Finally, last week, Gallup’s new report should have been put on a longer historical background. I’ve run out of space and omitted this.

Despite the ax-wielding religious advocacy controversy, the United States did not begin as a devout, overwhelmingly “Christian nation.” Until the 20th century, church membership was significantly lower than it is today, and much lower in the early days.

For example, 1776, the year our ancestors declared independence from England, Only 17 percent It belonged to the church in the population.

The number of members of the worship hall increased slowly over the next 125 years, but it was not until 1906 that the number of members reached a majority of 51%.

Then, as it is now, various social and demographic reasons explained a smaller number.

For one thing, early on, young single men far outnumbered women and married men. Even at that time, young men were least likely to be interested in religion.

Apart from that, many Americans lived in isolated frontiers where there was no church they could attend, even if they wanted to.

And so on.

Importantly, during half the history of our country, the United States was less religious than it is today, and much of that era was even less religious.

Paul Plaza is a pastor of the Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You can email him at [email protected]