01: Silicon Valley and other hi-tech centers are showing a loss of community life and religious participation, according to a recent study by political scientist Robert Putnam.
American Enterprise magazine (July/August) reports that Putnam’s Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey confirms that Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Boston, Phoenix and other “tech meccas” show weak social and interpersonal connections. On a scale where 100 equals the national average, Boston only scored only 81 for “religious leadership,” 71 percent for “giving and volunteering,” 78 percent for “membership in charities and other groups,” and 81 in social trust. The magazine notes that San Francisco and Silicon Valley had similar patterns.
(American Enterprise, 1150 17th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036)
02: There has been a 20 percent increase in employee requests for religious accommodations since 1997, according to a new survey.
The 2001 Religion in the Workplace Survey, conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, found that 49 percent of companies surveyed said they now treat religion in the workplace issues in their handbooks. Only one-third of the 535 companies surveyed, however, said they have an official written policy dealing with religious diversity, reports Religion Today.com (July 18).
Big companies tend to address religious issues company-wide, while smaller firms handle them case-by-case, said Cornelia Gamlem of SHRM. She adds that the biggest request is for time off to celebrate religious holidays.
03: A recent Gallup poll on denominational preferences shows a leveling out, and in some cases, an upturn in the appeal and strength of mainline Protestant denominations.
Emerging Trends (May), the Gallup newsletter on religion, notes that its audits of denominational preferences have been conducted since 1967. Back then, six percent of adults gave their religious preferences as Presbyterian. By 1984, this figure had fallen to two percent. Based on multiple Gallup surveys in 2000, the number is back up to five percent. Likewise, Episcopalians went from three percent in 1967 to two percent in 1978 and then back to three percent in 2000.
Lutherans declined from seven percent in 1967 to five percent and then rebounded to seven percent. However, 14 percent identified themselves as Methodists in 1967, but by 1984, the percentage had dropped by more than a third to nine percent, where it remains in the latest audit.
(Emerging Trends, 47 Hulfish St., Suite 215, P.O. Box 389, Princeton, NJ 08542)
04: There has been some debate and uncertainty about accurate figures in describing the extent of the Christian products industry.
As in book publishing, there is no centralized system for tracking retail sales. At its annual convention in July, the Christian Booksellers Association released the results of a recent survey of member suppliers, which showed sales through all retail channels at just more than $4 billion — an increase from the $3 billion to $3.5 billion figures the CBA has used for several years.
The e-newsletter Publisher’s Weekly BookLine (July 23) reports that figures from 539 companies — which include book publishers, and companies that produce music, gifts, apparel and other goods–provide the new data for the industry.
The survey data shows that $2.5 billion of the total is being sold through Christian retailers, $1 billion through general retailers, and $500 million direct to the consumer and channeled through Christian ministries. The breakdown by product category is $1.77 billion for books and Bibles, $822 million for various kinds of gifts, $747 million for music and $661 million for other items, including stationery, apparel, church supplies, curriculum, software and miscellaneous products. CBA reported a 4.4 percent overall annual sales gain for the industry in 2000.
05: While people in the knowledge professions, such as teachers and social workers, are often considered more secular than those in business and the skilled trades and production, the reverse seems to be the case in Australia, according to a recent poll.
Pointers (June), the newsletter of the Christian Research Association (CRA) in Australia, reports that a survey conducted in 2000 of those attending the mainline Uniting Churches found “very few business people or people involved in the technical professions, skilled trends or production in the churches. Among employed people, most were professionals working with people.” The same finding among people of other denominations turns up in the Australian Community survey (1998).
The largest occupational group in all the major denominations were people in professions working with people (consisting of 42 percent of Anglicans, 33 percent of Catholics, and 35 percent of Pentecostals under 60 but only 22 percent of the wider population under that age). In comparison, those in skilled trades or technical professions were considerably under-represented among these church attenders. While many women (who attend church more than men) are in professions working with people, the gender factor did not play a part in the findings; there are actually fewer business women in the church than there are business men.
It may even be that churches encourage people to take up knowledge class (or, more accurately in this context, people-oriented) professions: Those who attended church as children were more likely to move into professions oriented toward people.
(Pointers, CRA, Locked Bag 23, Kew, 3101, Australia; http://www.cra.org.au)