In light of what I said earlier, this is particularly interesting:
"Religious attachments fade in the face of visible Christian right policy victories," writes a research team led by Denison University political scientist Paul Djupe. "There is clear evidence that people—probably those without strong relationships with houses of worship—use the Christian right as a proxy for religion as a whole, and discontinue their religious identities as a result."Color me unsurprised.
"A preponderance of the states appear to have experienced some degree of growth in religious 'nones' in recent years," they report. "This particular pattern holds whether the individual state in question is generally thought of as being a 'red' or 'blue' state."
But the rate of growth varied considerably from state to state—and not in the way one might predict. "Rising 'none' rates are more common in Republican states in this period," they report.
To determine why, the researchers measured the political clout of Christian right organizations in each state (utilizing the expertise of journalists and scholars). They also noted when and where these groups sponsored high-profile initiatives—usually ballot measures to prohibit gay marriage.
The researchers found that, while such efforts were often successful, they created a backlash "that did not redound to the benefit of organized religion in general." They estimate that, in states where such campaigns—and their backers—were widely publicized and debated, "religion lost somewhere between 2 and 8 percent of the population."
Still not surprised. As the saying goes: live by the sword, die by the sword.
"The decision to de-identify and disaffilate with religion are not solely individual, psychological processes," Djupe and his colleagues conclude. Rather, that deeply personal shift can be driven by reactions to "specific policy skirmishes that gather public attention and shape decision-making."
Let us keep in mind the "nones" have always been with us, and always will be. If you bother with that link and read all the posts there, you'll learn about the "Great Master Mechanic of the Universe" (who would now be the Great Programmer?) and how as recently as this past Easter we were berated for not being more "like God" and less like our congregations (because nothing improves an institution's function like telling everyone in it how wrong they've been doing it!), and even how I've argued before the problem is the modern world Eliot described over 100 years ago (and I stand by that argument, though I'm too lazy to look up all my links to "Choruses: From the Rock"), and even "didn't we know this already, already?" Yes, we did. For a long, long time now:
The Church must be forever building, for it is forever decaying
within and attacked from without;
For this is the law of life; and you must remember that while
there is time of prosperity
The people will neglect the Temple, and in time of adversity
they will decry it.
It's life that scares us, with it's forever decaying what we have built and forever forcing us to replace and rebuild it. Yes, we need to disconnect from politics, at least to the degree we are all about politics and not about being a church in any guise whatsoever. We need to reclaim the narrative from the evangelicals who are "Christianity" in the media telling; but how we do that is anybody's guess, without becoming what the evangelicals are. No, we need to claim our narrative, and let it tell our story for us, by telling our story to ourselves. That's what got the Israelites through the Exile. We know how to do this; we just have to commit ourselves to it. We have to stay true to what we believe, and build the institution as best we can to serve the people who need to be served, and to make servants of them, because we should be servants of all.
As for numbers and figures, when that "nones" figure hits 59% of the U.S. population, wake me; we'll have caught up with 1906, about the time Eliot started publishing poetry. Until then, the prayer:
Grant that thy Church may be delivered from traditions which have lost their life, from usage which has lost its spirit, from institutions which no longer give life and power to their generation; that the Church may ever shine as a light in the world and be as a city set on a hill.
HEAR OUR PRAYER, O LORD.