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Monday, October 23, 2006

Changing from a blue state to a green

Despite the headline, this post has nothing to do with politics - at least not directly. I recently became aware of this interesting map, which is based on data from the Glenmary Research Center. (Hat tip: the Informational Inflammation blog.)

The blue states on this map are those which only had between 1% and 3% of the population in evangelical churches in the year 2000. The Northeastern states and Utah have the lowest percentage of Evangelicals, owing to the large populations of Mormons and Roman Catholics in those areas relative to the rest of the country.

No real surprises here, I suppose, although my (unscientific) observations lead me to think that Connecticut is changing color to green.

Based on the criteria of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research (2000+ average weekly attendance) we now have 3 megachurches: First Cathedral (Bloomfield); New Life Christian Fellowship (Darien); and Kingdom Life Christian Church (Milford). And certainly we have other churches with an attendance of over 1000: Gateway Christian Fellowship (West Haven), Black Rock Congregational Church (Fairfield), and Walnut Hill Community Church (Bethel) come to mind immediately, and I'm sure there are some others.

The many stories we're hearing of growth in all areas of the State leads me to believe that God is doing something in our day and sending a fresh wind of revival to New England.

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Anonymous said...

Just what we need, more ignorant "evangelical christians".

If there was a god, it certainly wouldn't appreciate blind worship like you folks give it.

Nick said...

Umm, thanks for stopping by.

What kind of worship would God appreciate?

Nelson Blaha said...

Just what we need, more ignorant atheists.

I can't tell thus far from what I've read in your blog, but I would really love to know if you're in the crowd of evangelicals who want to make America an official 'Christian Nation' (i.e., religion in schools, fundamentalist legislation) or the kind of Christian who promotes a secular government. I'm just trying to sort Christians into 'enemy' and 'friend' piles at the moment, and I want to know what's behind your blog.

Nick said...

For Nelson,

I've never had a comment before from an upside-down person. It's very exciting! It's probably taxing for you but I'm guessing that the increased blood flow helps you with your CSE studies.

Anyway, some clarity in terms is important. I'm not sure what threshold we would cross to become an officially "Christian nation," but we are already are one in the sense that Malaysia is a Muslim nation or Thailand is a Buddhist nation, aren't we? What I mean is that all our laws or at least our ethos have of course been based on Protestant Christianity since historically Protestant and Evangelical Christians have comprised anywhere from 60-90% of our population depending on what time period we're looking at.

What there can never be constitutionally is an establishment of religion, which is something altogether different from creating an absolute separation of church and state. (Before you ask, yes, I am a lawyer.) You're an educated person, so I presume you know that the First Amendment means there can never be a "Church of the United States" the way there is a "Church of England."

Interestingly enough, even after the passage of the Bill of Rights, individual states of the Union did have established state religions which were taxpayer-supported and which had special privileges. Connecticut supported the Congregational Church until 1818. I think Massachusetts did until long after that. I'm not even close to supporting that type of regime, just pointing out that the people who lived in the era when those documents were written actually understood them and applied them correctly.

People may not like the fact that this is what our country was, but it's a fact beyond all dispute.

And to answer your question more directly, one of my goals is to keep this blog as apolitical as possible, while recognizing that it is not completely possible for the committed Christian to remain apolitical forever. The Gospel makes demands of us that will always be at odds with one secular orthodoxy or another, be it of the left or the right.

And it's important to realize that there are secular orthodoxies which are just as limited, confining, and oppressive as the various religious orthodoxies which have wreaked havoc in our world. The secular othodoxies of the West (be they Left or Right) just seem more so much more clever than the religious ones.

In your own case, I suspect that you are coming from the "Left" because of your use of the term "fundamentalist legislation." In historical context, what most liberals or progressives refer to as fundamentalist legislation is merely the societal mores which were viewed as normative by the entire Western World up until the mid-20th century.

American governments from 1789 on have been of course completely secular. English-speaking governments have all been essentially secular since 1215.

Unfortunately, the poor history and civics education in the U.S. and the inability to think critically have led people to think, for example, that "de-constitutionalizing" abortion on demand and returning decisions on abortion polity to the states is somehow equivalent to a theocracy. Theocracy as the left uses it is the most poorly-used buzzword of 2006.

America is not and never has been in danger of becoming a real theocracy (such as Iran) if only because Christians themselves are so shamefully divided against each other.

So, while this is not a conservative blog per se (see my earlier post here) I suspect I would be in your enemy pile. And that's unfortunate. Assuming you've stuck with me to the end, thanks for reading and I wish you well in your studies and your career.

Anonymous said...

I think the real issue is the inane belief that if we post a couple Ten Commandments on a building and force kids to robotically regurgitate some prayer or pledge, the World will be right.

While non Christian Japan is a symbol of Social responsibility, Evangelical GOP States lead the way in Divorce, Murder and Domestic Violence...

In fact, as a population segment, Evangelical Christians have higher rates of Divorce than Athiests!!!

The Wilson Quarterly discusses the article “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience” by Ronald J. Sider, in Books & Culture (Jan.–Feb. 2005)

“Whether the issue is divorce, materialism, sexual promiscuity, racism, physical abuse in marriage, or neglect of a biblical worldview, the polling data point to widespread, blatant disobedience of clear biblical moral demands on the part of people who allegedly are evangelical, born-again Christians,” writes Sider, a professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, near Philadelphia.

As a Catholic, all I know is that my Religion is considered a farce to the Protestant Evangelical mainsteam. SO let's keep them as far away from politics as possible!

e-e baby said...


I'm about to move to Connecticut and I was searching Blog search for "green connecticut" thinking I might find something about environmentalism. I did not think I would find info on how CT is becoming more evangelical.

Hey, man, I don't knock Christians because I am one. But let me tell you, what we don't need in CT or anywhere else -- is more insular, closed places that promote Jesus as some kind of Americanized freak.

I live in London, but I am from Iowa. I am a Midwest girl, but I am also a person of the world. My neighbors are Muslims and Jews and Sikhs and Baptists and Catholics and Buddhists and Atheists. I see them all and I see God's love in all of them. I share public transit with them, and they are all beautiful. Jesus loves them all.

It's a beautiful world, outside the white, Bible-banging churches. So here's my preaching to YOU: Jesus loves you and he wants to spread his MESSAGE. Not to the CHOIR of same people every week. NO!! Take the choir, and learn to use your hands instead. Jesus wanted us to get out and be show acts of mercy to everyone. To love the "least of my people"... the least of his people are at war with us, they are not the easy people to love. They Muslims and Jews and Atheists and smelly homeless people who just need our help. Not our scorn. Not our vision of democracy and "peace" and "religion." They just need mercy.

"Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy."

I would ask every "evangelical" Christian to rethink their faith. Jesus made his way through the world on foot. He did not traipse to the same church everyday. He climbed to hill tops, he walked roads, he prayed in deserts. He worked with the sick and lowly and the prositutes. He died next to thieves.

What image should we live in? What image were we created in?

Nick said...

For Anonymous:

Sounds as if you have had bad experiences with evangelicals, but if I can use an old-fashioned word, wouldn't it be rather un-American to exclude them from politics because they disagree with you religiously?

I partially agree with you in that the mere recitation of prayers is meaningless and of course was preached against by Christ Himself.

However, I fear that your arguments are perhaps a bit colored by your political viewpoints, as I'm not really sure what an "Evangelical GOP State" is. I never hear born-again Christians talking about "Catholic Democrat States" so this kind of rhetoric is unhelpful and simplistic. Besides, the media has been pointing out just how much the GOP has been taking advantage of us boor, ignorant Bible-thumpers ina thinly-disguised effort to keep us home and not voting on Novemeber 7.

Also, there are also many cultural factors involved with crime. The state with the highest murder rate is Louisiana, which is highly Catholic. Some of the other states with the 10 highest murder rates include Nevada, Maryland, and California - hardly hotbeds of evangelicalism!

Yes, there are good things to emulate perhaps in Japan and other places, but those nations are not without their own problems. Japan and post-Christian have a great deal of social tensions we Americans know little of, as reflected in those countries' very high suicide rates.

Nick said...

For e-e baby,

Come on in, the water's fine! You are in no danger of seeing Connecticut become Texas anytime soon, as a growth in our State from 3% to 5% evangelical shouldn't terrify anyone.

Many people in Connecticut are unaware of or uneducated about the Evangelical and Charismatic believers and churches around them and so have a great many prejudices and "knowledge holes" when it comes to them.

You might not have known that we are very active in feeding the poor, rebuilding communities and obeying the commands of Christ in general because some in the major media can present a one-sided picture at times. Do not engage in the conceit that these activities are the province of other denominations which are views as more "mainstream." I am suspicious of people who are trumpeting their good deeds before others, thus viewing themselves as the "good Christians," in contrast to the "bad Christians" who are "Bible bangers."

My own church has a number of people taking a week in Senegal as I write this in order to begin an orphanage which we will fully fund ourselves. These are not paid clergy but normal people from all kinds of backgrounds who are obeying the command to take Christ's love to the ends of the earth. We are not promoting Jesus as an "Americanized freak" but are grappling with what He has said to the American Church and every church.

While I appreciate your participation in these comments, it's wearying to have to deal all the time with the claim that we are preaching to some mythical choir.