God's Country

Randall Stephens

A new Purdue University study shows that as America becomes more religiously diverse, views of America as a Christian Nation gain in strength as well. According to the Purdue University News Service: "[Jeremy Brooke] Straughn and co-author Scott L. Feld, a professor of sociology, looked at two waves of public opinion data from the General Social Survey, which was collected by the National Opinion Research Center. They found that between 1996 and 2004 the percentage of people who said Christian faith was a very important attribute of being 'truly American' rose by more than 11 percentage points, from about 38 percent to 50 percent. The findings are published in the current issue of the journal Sociology of Religion."

This shift in thinking has gone hand-in-hand with a rise in religious diversity. Christians make up 78% of the population, though the number of Protestants has steadily decreased. I'd like to know more about what accounts for the rise in the "Christian Nation" view. Readers: Any thoughts about that?

Here's the paper's abstract:

"America as a 'Christian Nation?' Understanding Religious Boundaries of National Identity in the United States"

Jeremy Brooke Straughn and Scott L. Feld

Though predominantly Christian since the time of its founding, the United States has become more religiously diverse in recent decades. Yet since the mid-1990s, the proportion of Americans who see their country as a "Christian nation" has reportedly increased. Though initially paradoxical, these trends are less mysterious if the idea of a "Christian America" (CA) is understood, not as a description of religious demography, but as a discursive practice that seeks to align the symbolic boundaries of national belonging with the boundaries of the dominant faith community. Using data from 1996 and 2004 General Social Survey, it is shown that the growing prevalence of CA was restricted to Americans of Christian faith, thereby widening an existing religious divide over the meaning of American identity.

All that I can say is . . . I'm happy to plug this in to my current co-authored book project!


Robert Cornwall said…
This helps explain the "let's take back our country" attitude seen on political stumps. People like Sarah Palin are massaging this fear that the "other" might be taking over.
Tom Van Dyke said…
I think we'd find most who use "Christian" in reference to America are equally comfortable with "Judeo-Christian." Too much has been made of the term, too little of the concept behind it: One God, providential, the creator, the endower of unalienable rights.

To not read too much innuendo into my old pal Pastor Bob's comment, "the other" is more a philosophical difference in American self-perception, multiculturalism or E pluribus unum.

Economic liberty and communitarianism.

Pluralism or laïcité.

"The other" here is European-style secularism/progressivism, which does not recognize the "laws of nature and nature's God." Natural law is passé, God is irrelevant.

That this "other" may be "taking over" is indeed a fear, and not an irrational one.

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