Posted by on December 30, 2019 4:16 pm
Categories: Tech

Like the tumultuous adolescent years of human development, the changes during the teen years of the 21st century disrupted American identity as we’ve known it. These transformations have come upon us quickly, upending long-standing assumptions — particularly among white Christians — about the American social fabric. And as with teenagers, they have created a lot of anxiety and fear about the future.

Of all the changes to identity and belonging, the century’s second decade has been particularly marked by a religious sea change. After more than two centuries of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance, the United States has moved from being a majority-white Christian nation to one with no single racial and religious majority.

The United States has moved from being a majority-white Christian nation to one with no single racial and religious majority.

When I first identified this shift mid-decade in my 2016 book “The End of White Christian America,” I noted that the percentage of white Christians in the general population had dropped from 53 percent to 47 percent between 2010 and 2014 alone. Now, at the end of the decade, only 42 percent of Americans identify as white and Christian, representing a drop of 11 percentage points.

In the world of demographic measurement, where changes typically occur at a glacial pace, this drop in self-identified white Christians, averaging 1.1 percentage points a year, is remarkable. Changes of this magnitude are large enough to see and feel at the local level, as church rolls shrink and white Christian institutions hold less sway in public space. Related Opinion What Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays reveals about your identity

In addition to white American Christianity crossing the majority-minority threshold, the last decade also saw a particularly significant decline within one subgroup: white evangelicals. While the ranks of white mainline Protestants and white Catholics have been shrinking for decades, white evangelical Protestants had seemed immune to the forces eroding membership among other white Christian groups.

But since 2010, the number of white evangelical Protestants has dropped from 21 percent of the population to 15 percent. While white evangelical Protestants have enjoyed an outsized public presence over the last four years because of their predominance in President Donald Trump’s unshakeable base, it is notable that today they are actually roughly the same size as their white mainline Protestant cousins (15 percent vs. 16 percent, respectively).

The underlying tectonic forces producing these trends are the result of both demographics and departures. According to an analysis of U.S Census population projections by William Frey at the Brookings Institution, racial changes are partly fueling this trend.

In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that, for the first time, there was an absolute decline in the country’s white, non-Hispanic population. In other words, whites not only lost ground as a proportion of the population, but in actual numbers; there were more deaths than births. The U.S. Census Bureau now predicts that the U.S. will no longer be majority-white by 2045, and among children at every age below 10, whites are already a minority. Related Opinion We want to hear what you THINK. Please submit a letter to the editor.

But this is only part of the story. The simultaneous development in the religious landscape — the one that is turbocharging these trends — is the exodus of young people from white Christian churches and into the ranks of “the nones,” the growing number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation.

As recently as the 1990s, the percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans was in single digits. That number increased to 19 percent by 2010 and rose another 7 percentage points over the last decade to 26 percent today.

The explosive growth of religiously unaffiliated Americans is primarily driven by white Christians; African American Protestants and the relatively small block of non-Christian religious groups (e.g., Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus) are largely holding steady as a proportion of the population, while Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander and other nonwhite Christian groups are generally growing.

(Excerpts) Read the whole story at NBC News.

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