01: Protestants still tend to harbor pro-market attitudes, “indicating the lasting legacy of the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism,” according to a recent study.
The study is based on a survey in the Detroit area conducted by sociologists Wane Baker and Melissa Forbes and published in Society magazine (January/February). The researchers found that overall, “moral absolutists” tend to hold pro-market attitudes (emphasizing the importance of work, personal responsibility, and holding that the U.S. is a land of opportunity) while those with secular and relativistic values tend to be anti-market.
This split was evident even when controlling for the alternative factors of socioeconomic class interests. Protestants did not believe that less emphasis on work is a good thing nor that income differences in the U.S. are too large. But while pro-immigrant attitudes are generally considered pro-market, the Protestants tended not to believe that immigrants are good for the economy. Since most immigrants today are not Protestant, this opinion could also indicate their preference for an identification with the Protestant heritage of America, according to Baker and Forbes. (Society, 390 Campus Dr., Somerset, NJ 08873)
02: Megachurches hold stricter beliefs than commonly thought, and they are growing without heavy marketing and evangelistic programs, according to a new study.
Megachurches Today 2005 is the latest report from the Hartford Seminary and Leadership Network, updating findings on these congregations with attendance of over 2,000 from five years ago. The report finds that there are now 1,210 Protestant churches in the U.S. with weekly attendance over 2,000, nearly double the number that existed five years ago. Many of the patterns of megachurches have persisted. Their greatest concentration continues to be in the Sunbelt, though they have spread to most states since the last survey. It was also found that 50 percent of megachurches are now found in the new suburbs.
Researchers Scott Thumma, Dave Travis and Warren Bird found that none of the many evangelistic and marketing efforts have had a strong influence on the variable growth of these mega churches. “If anything the increased rates of growth seem to be more due to the characteristics of worship and the active involvement of the membership in recruitment.” The researchers conclude that most megachurches are not based around spectator worship and entertainment; the data shows they demand a lot, have high spiritual expectations and serious orthodox beliefs and preaching.”
03: A new survey finds that the percentage of Hispanics in the U.S. who are Catholic has remained steady at 70 percent.
The study, conducted by the Hispanic Churches and American Public Life Survey, found that the continued immigration flow from Latin America compensates for the losses to other churches. The study found that Latino Catholics in the U.S. are more numerous than all mainline Protestants, with the former representing 29 million and the latter 22 million, reports Americamagazine (January 16).
04: China scores high on a new index of governmental regulation of religion but is relatively low on social regulation.
That is one of the unexpected findings from a newly developed index that allows researchers to examine the impact of regulating religion throughout the world. China is shown to score a high 9.2 (on a scale between 0 and 10) on the government regulation index, but falls to 4.8 on the social regulation index. Vietnam falls even further, going from 7.8 to 3.0 Other countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, remain high on both indexes.
While there have been attempts to measure government regulation and favoritism (usually in the form of state subsidies and privileges for selected religions), unofficial social actions that may also restrict religion have been largely ignored. Social regulation may take the form of pressure on one religion by another religion or from the wider culture.
The indexes are presented in a new study by Brian Grim and Roger Finke in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (Volume 2, 2006). The lifting of religious regulations has been shown to sharply increase the supply and activity of religion in Latin America, Asia, the United States, Europe, and in Muslim countries, write Grim and Finke. They add that the indexes should stimulate research on such questions as the relationship between religion and social conflict and on how religious regulation may be related to violence and armed conflict.
Grimm and Finke found that the annual International Religion Report, issued by the U.S. State Department, offers comprehensive and largely non-biased information on religious restrictions and abuses of freedom unavailable to Western researchers. Since such material is mostly qualitative, the researchers converted its findings into statistical codes, using a 243-item coding instrument for 196 countries.
05: By 2005, the proportion of all Christians who were from Europe and North America had dropped to under 45 percent, according to recent figures compiled by global Christianity specialist Todd Johnson.
The growth of Christianity in the Southern hemisphere has been well-documented and discussed, but Johnson provides updated figures on the evangelicals–the main source of Third World Christian growth (ranging from 250 million to 688 million). While evangelicals continue to grow globally, in the U.S, they are declining as a “raw percentage of the population.” In a breakdown according to denomination, Baptists are found to represent the largest number of evangelicals, and independent immigrant churches were the fastest growing.
(The study is available at:http://www.lausanneworldpulse. com)
06: American Shiite Muslims are less likely to report discrimination than other Muslims, reports a recent study. The survey, conducted by the Quinoot Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit group, found that nearly 80 percent of American Shiites who were victims of “post-9/11 discrimination,” reported these incidents either only to their families or to no one.
The survey also found that few Shiites reported such incidents to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a national advocacy group that seeks to represent all American Muslims.
07: According to data presented by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, in a few years Israel will have become home to the world’s largest Jewish community. Based upon research by leading demographer Sergio DellaPergola, the study found that there are at this point only 45,000 more Jews in the USA than in Israel.
Globally, the diaspora gathers 7.75 million Jews, which means it is 2.25 million smaller than it used to be 35 years ago. Reporting these trends, the Jerusalem Post (January 19) suggests that the survival of the diaspora is vital for Israel and that the next Israeli government should consider the revitalization of the diaspora as a strategic aim.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer, RW Contributing Editor and founder of Religioscope
08: There are currently some 150,000 evangelical believers in Switzerland, representing about 2.2 percent of the Swiss population, according to a new study.
There are 1,500 congregations and two-thirds of these belong to an evangelical federation, according to Swiss evangelical minister and sociologist of religion Olivier Favre, who submitted his doctoral thesis at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, on January 30. RW attended the public discussion preceding the granting of the doctoral title. The research was based upon the results provided by detailed questionnaires answered by 1,100 evangelicals belonging to 60 local churches.
According to Favre, there are three main camps among Swiss evangelicals: Pentecostal (about one third of evangelical believers), “moderate” (50 percent) and conservative (around 10 percent). Although there are no significant differences between evangelicals and their fellow citizens, their marriage rate are higher and divorce rates lower. Similarly, the evangelical birthrate is higher compared to other Christian groups in the country – which is not surprising, since the rate of evangelical women devoting themselves entirely to their family is also higher.
Half of the Swiss evangelicals vote for one of the two openly evangelical political parties (which together have a total of 5 MPs in the Federal Parliament.) Favre remarked that evangelical political orientations are not determined by a right-or-left choice, but rather for moral reasons. Pentecostals have grown most: 50 percent of Pentecostals had no evangelical parent and are converts, while the percentage falls down to 25 percent if one considers all evangelicals taken together.
Beside evangelical churches, there are also evangelical believers within the established Reformed Churches. And much research remains to be done on another, relatively recent element: the development of ethnic evangelical churches among immigrants. In the meantime, Favre’s doctoral thesis is one more addition to a recently emerging body of sociological literature on evangelicals in French-speaking Europe.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer