Lessons From The Numbers on American Christian Demographics

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Protestantism is dying, and not just “liberal” Protestantism. Only one Protestant group now survives 50 years. Crisis Magazine discusses what it takes for a religion to survive in a degenerate culture:

America’s traditional Mainline Protestant denominations are bleeding out so quickly they will likely be gone within 20 years. That is not my prediction, but their own. The ELCA (the main Lutheran branch) projects they’ll only have 16,000 worshippers by 2041; the PCUSA (the main Presbyterian branch) lost almost 40% of their members in the last decade, causing one analyst to note, “At its current rate of shrinkage the PC(USA) will not exist in about 20 years;” and data for the Episcopal Church shows the same 20-year timeline until the denomination runs out of people in the pews.

More conservative denominations used to chuckle at these headlines and say, “If only they preached the Gospel instead of liberal activism, they’d be growing like us.” But they don’t say that anymore. The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest of the Evangelical churches, has lost 14% of their members since 2006; the Methodists are losing members while in the middle of a brutal split; and for Catholics, according to Bishop Robert Barron while speaking at the 2019 bishops’ annual conference, “Half the kids that we baptized and confirmed in the last 30 years are now ex-Catholics or unaffiliated.”

This is an ugly picture for American Christianity. The Amish are the only Protestant group showing any growth. Ditto for Haredis among Jews and Traditional Catholics. Religions with communities and codes of conduct stick around, and grow. Con’t from above:

“The ones who grow through proselytization, like the evangelicals, they don’t have this kind of explosive growth,” Kaufmann said on journalist Andy Ngo’s podcast. “It’s the groups, like to some extent the Mormons but definitely the Amish and the Ultra-Orthodox…they’re not out there proselytizing. It’s growing your own and walling yourself off from the modern world. That’s the most consistently successful evolutionary model for religious growth. And you retain the children in the fold. So you have a very limited loss of membership to the main secular society.”

Laurence R. Iannaccone’s 1994 study “Why Strict Churches Are Strong,” which has been frequently cited and confirmed since, gives more detail on the success of certain community codes.

Iannaconne found that groups can be strict on items as long as they provide a “close substitute.” Think, for example, of banning social media but then providing a lot of new in-person social opportunities to make up for that sacrifice.

“Strictness works,” he says, but the rules can’t be so strict they make people miserable and drive them away, or as Iannaconne says, “Arbitrary strictness will fail just as surely as excessive strictness.” The rules do have to be strong enough, though, to keep “free-riders” from claiming the benefits of the community without participating. He called these rules “costly signals,” like the sacrifices the Amish make by limiting their clothing styles and technology use. A person would be very unlikely to go through all of those costly steps for community benefits they could get more easily elsewhere. By eliminating free-riders—whose “mere presence dilutes a group’s resources, reducing the average level of participation, enthusiasm, energy, and the like”—they see the reverse, very high levels of participation, enthusiasm, and energy.

So in such an environment, one of our first priorities as Catholics is to educate oour own children and pull them out of government schools, which preach Darwinism, sodomy, feminism, and socialism. This is why resources for replacing secular services are important. In that vein, we direct you to a new podcast on homeschooling, from LifeSite News:

We will address the raw questions and situations head on from our unique perspectives – like how to handle vaccinating and masking our kids, the work-mom-life balance, protecting our children’s innocence, facing the loss of a child, and much more.

Check it out and stay prayerful.

Saint Pius X, ora pro nobis!