01: Recent immigrants are less likely to practice their faith than in their home countries, especially in the period when they first come to the U.S., according to a new study.
In a preliminary study of the religious involvement of new immigrants, Phillip Connor of Princeton University found a decline in active religious participation among respondents from 64 percent during the pre-migration period to 42 percent in the post-migration period. There has been considerable variation and debate regarding the issue of the impact of immigration on religious belief and practice.
Connor, who presented his findings at the November meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Tampa, based his findings on the newly released National Immigrant Survey (NIS), which is among the few studies to track the immigrants from pre- to post-immigration time periods. Increasing levels of religious pluralism in the two periods were associated with lower levels of religious participation.
Although there was a general decline among immigrants in religious observance, there was some variation. Higher ages among Catholics predicted more probability of religious involvement, while the reverse was true for Eastern Orthodox and other religions. Among Muslims, being male predicts a higher probability of religious participation, a finding supported in past studies. Connor points out that the NIS study only studied the period immediately after immigration, and that further study is needed to ascertain if these changes persist as new immigrants become more settled.
02: A study of Seventh Day Adventist churches finds community involvement and service more than intentional evangelism projects are the main factors in church growth.
The current issue of the Adventist magazine Spectrum (Fall) reports on research by church researcher Monte Sahlin, who surveyed 647 Adventist churches in the northeastern U.S. He found that no correlation existed between the number of Bible seminars (evangelism meetings conducted by local churches) and “soul-winning.” Such programs are run as regularly by churches that do not grow as by churches that do. In contrast, Sahlin’s research found that the strongest correlation with church growth was engaging with the community in active service.
But he concludes that “very few Adventist churches are involved in the types of programs that have the strongest correlation with church growth.” The correlation between church growth and community involvement was also found in sociologist Peter Ballis’ study of Adventists in New Zealand. The early dramatic growth of Seventh Day Adventism occurred as Adventists “found themselves joining committees, speaking before audiences that under different circumstances would have been inaccessible to them, and, at times, cooperating with clergy of other denominations. All this has the effect of creating a favorable image of the church …. Such interaction with the public served to acquaint Adventists with large numbers of their community.”
(Spectrum, P.O. Box 619047, Roseville, CA 95661-9047.)
03: Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the founding fathers meant the U.S. to be a Christian nation, according to a survey conducted by the First Amendment Center.
Of that total agreeing that the founders meant to establish a Christian nation, 46 percent strongly agreed and 19 percent mildly agreed. The Christian Century (December 11) reports that the survey also found that more than half of the respondents (38 percent strongly agreeing, with 17 percent mildly agreeing) believe that the U.S. Constitution established a Christian nation.
Twenty-eight percent also believe that the provision for freedom of worship never meant to give such liberty to groups that the majority of Americans consider to be on the religious fringe.
04: Exposure to theistic affirmations emphasizing God’s love and self-acceptance tended to improve women’s body image, according to a recent study in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (December).
Bucknell University researchers conducted an experiment where one group of college women were given theistic, Christian-based affirmations to read, while another group read general spiritual affirmations. Members of a third control group were given random statements to read about campus issues. After they read such statements, the women viewed photos of “thin ideal” fashion models in order to generate concerns about body image.
Finally, the women underwent a test on their images of and esteem for their bodies. Even for young women who were not religious, the reading of religious affirmations with a theistic-Christian as well as a generic spiritual tone subsequently felt better about their bodies than did the women in the control group. The study also showed that women reading the theisticChristian affirmations had a more positive subsequent body image than did those reading the spiritual statements.
It could be that the more explicit statements rich in imagery about the body being holy and sacred may have been important in influencing “body esteem.” The researchers conclude that these “positive affirmations about one’s looks seem to have offered a constructive counterpoint—even for our young women who were not highly religious—to the ubiquitous messages and images women receive about their appearance.”
(Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Commerce Place, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148.)
05: As college students move toward graduation, there is a rising interest in integrating spirituality into their lives, even though their attendance at religious services does not show any related increase, according to a recent study.
The study, conducted by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, followed a group of 14,000 students from their freshmen year in 2004 to the spring of 2007, when they were juniors. The survey found that more than 50 percent considered “integrating spirituality into my life” essential in 2007, an increase of more than 10 percentage points from 2004.
But while their spiritual interests increased, their worship attendance did not. Slightly more than half the students said they attended services in college at about the same rate at which they attended them in high school. Almost 40 percent said they worshipped less frequently.
Only seven percent said they worshipped more, reports the National Catholic Reporter (Dec. 28).
06: A survey widely reported to reveal the problems of the pioneer megachurch Willow Creek also shows the shortcomings of other churches, reports Charisma magazine (January).
The study, known as Reveal, was first conducted among the Willow Creek Church in 2003, and gained wide publicity when it was found that nearly one of every four members of the church was “stalled in their spiritual growth or dissatisfied with the church—and many of them were considering leaving.” The survey was subsequently expanded to 30 other congregations outside of the “seeker” or megachurch movement, and is currently including an additional 500 congregations.
The findings from these larger samples still largely show that the church plays a primary role in the early stages of an individual’s spiritual life. But as a person develops “spiritually, it shifts to a secondary role … disappointment with the church was significantly higher among ‘spiritually stalled’ and mature believers.”
(Charisma, 600 Rhinehart Rd., Lake Mary, FL 32746.)
07: Although charismatics and Pentecostals make up only slightly more than one percent of all 26 million Protestants in Germany, they account for 20 percent of worshippers on an average Sunday.
These figures, reported by the German news service Idea (December), were released during a recent gathering of German charismatic leaders. The mainline Protestant churches have 25 million members on their rolls, but only about four percent worship on a regular Sunday. Of the 26.6 million Catholics in Germany, about 14 percent attend Mass.
(Idea, P.O. Box 1820, D35528 Wetzlar, Germany.)