01: A new study on the religious attitudes and beliefs of baby busters confirms that they are a lot like baby boomers in their individualism and few attachments to institutions — only more so.
The study, conducted by Jackson Carroll and Wade Clark Roof, surveyed 1,150 people in North Carolina and southern California about their beliefs, worship styles, and church-going habits. The Christian Century (Jan. 7-14) reports that Roof and Carroll found that 45 percent of the busters or Generation Xers went through some sort of family disruption, such as divorce of parents, compared to 27 percent of baby boomers and 23 percent of the pre-boomers.
Such disruption may be a cause of Xers loose attachments to congregations. The survey shows that 35 percent of Xers indicated religious involvement while growing up, compared with 45 percent of boomers and 53 percent of pre-boomers.
The main differences were found not between Xers and boomers as much as between pre-boomers and the later generations. Xers and boomers are more interested in autonomy, freedom, independent thought and religious exploration, with less institutional commitments. Carroll finds that for both Xers and boomers, the most successful churches are those that function “like a shopping mall. People pick and choose among small groups that meet their particular needs like a variety of shops and boutiques. And they come in and out.”
(Christian Century, 407 S. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60605)
02: The well-educated and well-off are not so different in beliefs from most other Americans, while those defined as the “cultural elite” are quite different from both groups, according to a recent poll in the New Yorker (Jan. 5). Conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland, the survey identified three groups: some 400 randomly sampled adults identified as “Main Street.” The second was “Easy Street”, a sampling of six hundred members of the economic elite, that is, colleges graduates under sixty earning at least $100,000 annually. Third was “High Street”, some 400 adults, all of whom subscribed to the New Yorker.
In the religion category, they found that 92 percent of MainStreeters answered “yes” to “Do you believe in God?” Close to 90 percent of the Easy Streeters also said yes. But with High Street respondents only 61 percent said they believed in God. On the question of what each understood by “God,” 47 percent of Main, 41 percent of Easy and 24 percent of High said this was “a supreme being who sometimes intervenes in human affairs.
Some 22 percent of Main, 27 percent of Easy and 22 percent of High said “the force that created the universe and its laws, but does not intervene in the working of that creation.” Finally, as to the definition of God as “the name people give to the sacred spirit within each person” some 20 percent Main, 21 percent Easy and 38 percent High Streeters agreed.
The same differences appeared when the pollsters asked about personal attitudes on gay tolerance, marijuana use, and the future of the nuclear family. Mostly, Main Streeters and Easy Streeters were less likely to approve same sex unions or condone the use of recreational drugs compared to the High Street respondents. In summary, writer Hendrick Herzberg points out that the cultural elite is out of step with both the economic elite and “Main Street” on most issues.
— Erling Jorstad
03: Are Americans are giving less to religious causes?
The American Association of Fund Raising Counsel, Inc. (AAFRC) recently reported that religious, benevolent, and charitable contributions to religion was $8.6 billion in 1968 but that it had risen to $66.3 billion by 1995 and has given every sign of continuing its increase. But figures recently issued by Empty Tomb, Inc., a group surveying religious giving patterns, are substantially lower than those of the AAFRC, according to Sightings (Jan. 9), the electronic newsletter of the Public Religion Project.
Empty Tomb finds a base of $8 billion in 1968 and a rise to only $44.5 billion, not $66.3 billion, by the mid-nineties. The organization contends that giving increases are not keeping up with inflation, and that in most aspects of giving, there are not even many increases. “Church member giving to Benevolences declined as a portion of income for an unprecedented tenth year in a row.”
(Benevolences include gifts to and through denominations and local and global agencies.)
For the first time since 1992, giving as a percentage of income decreased not only to benevolences but to everything, including funds to keep congregations in operation. In 1968 giving as a portion of income was 3.11 percent, but by 1995 it had decreased to 2.46 percent. Mainline Protestants experienced a continuing decrease in finances. More unexpected was the greater proportional decrease among the growing evangelicals. In 1968 they gave 6.14 percent of their income to religion, but that had dropped by a third to 4.08 percent in 1995.
04: The clergy and religious leadership in England has a lot of directors and resource people who try to get things done, but few critics and creative thinkers in their ranks.
That is one of the findings by the Christian Research Association when it polled 202 of its Christian leaders-members. The association newsletter Quadrant (January), reports that the highest scoring characteristics of the respondents’ leadership were resourcers (22 percent), shapers (15 percent) and directors (15 percent), while creative people were at only seven percent; critic — 10 percent, team person — nine percent and “complete finisher” (those who finish a whole task) at nine percent.
There were also differences by denomination: Anglicans had more resourcers; Baptists had a high number of critics, Presbyterians more often selected “team people,” while Pentecostals were task people and directors. Lay people were more likely to be creative and task people than clergy (Anglican clergy in this case), who were more likely to be resourcers. Women were less likely to be directors and more likely to be “team people” than men (which may be explained by the higher rates of ordained men clergy).
The newsletter concludes that the dominance of resourcing gifts stands out in the survey. “Perhaps with so many clergy in a `one-man’ role, they have to have or develop resourcing skills to survive.”
(Quadrant, 4 Footscray Rd., Eltham, London SE9 2TZ England)
05: Young Greeks find faith far more important than politics, according to an opinion poll.
The German news service Idea (Jan. 20) cites the poll as showing that 84.6 percent of 22-and 23-year old Greeks consider faith to be very important. A majority — 59.1 percent — trust the Greek Orthodox Church, while 86.9 percent mistrust politicians. Political analyst Maria Bossis says the “results indicate a radical change. 20 years ago, young people were interested mostly in politics.”
(Idea, e.V., Postfach 18 20, D-35528, Wetzlar, Germany)