If I get up from my desk, go to the door and look straight down the long hallway I might see Bryant Erickson.

Bryant works at the other end of our long hallway.  He’s in the social services department.  A few months ago in the hallway Bryant told me of a presentation he heard based on a book.  He was impressed and suggested American Religion:  Contemporary Trends (Princeton University Press, 2011) by Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University.

Mark Chaves

Mark Chaves

It’s a slender book with a few surprises.  For instance, religion is having a resurgence in America?  Nope.  Chaves shares conclusions of religious trends using data from the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study.

American Religion concludes that “no indicator of traditional religious belief or practice is going up”.  Other conclusions:

  • continued religious activity with some decline
  • increased religious diversity
  • “a tighter connection between religious service attendance and political, social, and religious conservatism”
  • an increase in a broader range of spirituality but with less religion

Chaves muses that if religion is not growing “why do people sometimes think it is?”  Visibility and influence, in two ways:

  • because of the heightened connection between religiosity and conservatism
  • “increasing concentration of churchgoers within very large churches”

I’ll share one more observation.  Chaves points out that current religious trends have taken place at the same time America has experienced a “century-long movement … from rural areas into cities and suburbs”.  A less religious America has entered the Urban Millennium.

A number of you who follow this blog are involved in religion.  Chaves’ conclusions may have you thinking.

At present I am a minister without a congregation.  If I were again leading a corps as a Salvation Army officer I might want to consider how the gospel could best be preached and how God’s people could meet human need in this place called America which recognizes spiritual life in a way that less and less is understood in religious terms.

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