Why so many empty church pews? Here’s what money, sex, divorce and TV are doing to American religion
Because I sometimes blog about why people quit church, or the phenomenon of declining church membership, I am including this news story.
However, I don’t care that families are not attending or that young people are not attending, because there is already FAR, FAR too much attention paid by church culture to youth and married couples and the nuclear family. There is not enough attention paid to older single (as in never married) adults or widows / widowers.
- By W. Bradford Wilcox
March 26 2015
- America’s churches are in trouble, and they are in trouble in communities that arguably need them the most.
- One of the tragic tales told by Harvard scholar Robert Putnam in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” is that America’s churches have grown weakest in some of the communities that need them most: poor and working-class communities across the country.
- The way he puts it, our nation’s churches, synagogues and mosques give children a sense of meaning, belonging and purpose — in a word, hope — that allows them to steer clear of trouble, from drugs to delinquency, and toward a bright and better future, warmer family relationships and significantly higher odds of attending college.
- The tragedy is that even though religious involvement “makes a bigger difference in the lives of poor kids than rich kids,” Putnam writes, involvement is dropping off fastest among children from the least privileged background, as the figure below indicates.
- The picture of religion painted by Putnam, a political scientist and the foremost scholar of American civic life, is part of a broader canvass in his book showing that kid-friendly institutions — not just churches, but also strong families and strong schools — are withering, but almost entirely in less-affluent communities.
- American children from better-educated and more affluent homes enjoy decent access to churches, families and schools, which lifts their odds of realizing the American Dream, even as kids from less-privileged homes are increasingly disconnected from these key institutions, making the American Dream that much more difficult for them to pursue.
- Why is it that the country is witnessing not only a religious decline, but one that is concentrated among its most vulnerable men, women and children? Four factors stand out in understanding the emptying out of the pews in working-class and poor communities across the United States: money, TV, sex and divorce.
- …Sex, culture wars and divorce
- In the immediate wake of the sexual revolution, many young adults steered clear of churchgoing, sensing a tension between their own experiences with “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” and traditional religious life. In more recent years, the culture wars that emerged from the 1960s — over sex, abortion and gay marriage — have left many young adults viewing religion as an intolerant force they want nothing to do with: In Putnam and Campbell’s words, many “[young] Americans came to view religion… as judgmental, hypocritical, and too political.”
(Link): The Unchurched