The Religion Guy confesses that, like so many writers, he has tended to depict U.S. Protestantism’s two-party system of “Mainline” vs. “Evangelical” mostly in terms of newsworthy LGBTQ issues. In more sophisticated moments, he might briefly note the underlying differences on Bible interpretation. But maybe something even more basic is occurring.
While scanning an important new research work, “The Twentysomething Soul: Understanding the Religious and Secular lives of American Young Adults” (Oxford), The Guy was gobsmacked by a graph on page 32.
You want news?
How about the prospect that U.S. Protestantism does not just involve that familiar biblical rivalry but could be evolving toward a future with two starkly different belief systems.
All U.S. religion writers and church strategists are anxiously watching the younger generation, and there’s been important research both here (care of Princeton University Press), here (make that Oxford University Press) and finally here (Oxford, again).
The project published as “The Twentysomething Soul,” led by authors Tim Clydesdale (sociology, College of New Jersey, email@example.com) and Kathleen Garces-Foley (religious studies, Marymount University, firstname.lastname@example.org), surveyed an unusually large sample of Americans ages 20 to 30 and could fully categorize religious identifications, beliefs and practices.
The graph that grabbed The Guy involved who God is.
In this question’s option one, he is “a personal being, involved in the lives of people today.” Hard to think of a Christian belief more basic than that. In other options, God is “not personal, but something like a cosmic life force,” a fuzzy New Age-ish idea. Or God only created the world “but is not involved in the world now,” what’s known as Deism. Or the respondent lacked any sort of belief in God.