Scottsdale, Arizona - I do a lot of reading each day about various subjects that are of interest to me. Today I happened across a report just released called, "U.S. Religious Landscape Study for 2008", by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
I spent the first 16 years of my life in a town called Middleville, Michigan which was about 20 miles south of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The rest of my extended family lived essentially in the Grand Rapids area.
Grand Rapids has a large Dutch population and their conservative protestant faith still permeates the area today. For example, many retail establishments are closed on Sundays to make room for their employees to attend church and spend time with their families.
As I was growing up, my grandmother, the spiritual patriarch of the family, insisted that on Sundays we unplug from the busy doings of the rest of the week and preserve the Sabbath for God. As a child this meant that we couldn't even go fishing on Sunday! I never really got that one.
In the school system, when I was growing up, it seemed that everyone was essentially from a protestant, catholic or no church background.
When I was a junior in high school, my family moved to Okemos, Michigan (a suburb of Lansing). With Michigan State University just down the road, I was exposed to a considerably larger pool of ideas. This was 1972 and women were burning their bras, high school kids were smoking pot, free love was far more apparent and as such, I found myself swimming in a swirling sea of ideas. Much to my teenage glee, in the summers there were gravel pits behind my house where hundreds of college kids were "skinny dipping" every day! I called my friend Marvin Carol and he made a very quick trip to the "big city" to see what all the excitement was about.
Fortunately for me, I ran into Kathy Wilkinson in an advanced math class. She invited me to attend her youth group at East Lansing Trinity Church. I found a home there and this church helped me form the beginnings of my faith in Jesus Christ.
Now fast forward several decades to 2008 and I find myself in Scottsdale, Arizona. Once again I found that the culture here is significantly different than what I was accustomed to. Scottsdale is a very wealthy town and north Scottsdale in particular is home to one of the nations largest collections of "cash millionaires" (people with $1,000,000 in liquid cash assets). I also noticed that the "new age" movement has a significantly greater grip on the culture. There also was, it seemed to me, a larger portion of the culture who professed no faith whatsoever.
As I was reading the Pew report, their findings seems to substantiate my feelings. Here is the "religious" make-up of our nation according to their findings. If you click on the map for Michigan and then compare that to Arizona there are some striking differences:
- In Michigan 76% protestant to 65% in Arizona
- Evangelical 26% in Michigan to 23% in Arizona (somewhat similar)
- Mainline Protestant in Michigan 19% to 15% in Arizona
- Catholic's in Michigan 23% to 25% in Arizona
- Unaffiliated in Michigan 17% to 22% in Arizona (non-church goers)
There are large crowds of people, in Arizona, who share significantly different spiritual beliefs from me. I am not saying that this is good or bad, just noticeably different. It tends to challenge what you believe in, that is good.
Another significant finding in the report is that the nation is moving quickly on a trend to where the protestant beliefs are in the minority. The nation currently stands at 51% protestant and is slipping from year to year.
The report is 143 pages long and certainly worth a read and some reflection on its findings. Here is a link to the full report.