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Paperback The Churching of America, 1776-2005 : Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy Book

ISBN: 0813535530

ISBN13: 9780813535531

The Churching of America, 1776-2005 : Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy

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Book Overview

Although many Americans assume that religious participation has declined in America, Finke and Stark present a different picture. In 1776, fewer than 1 in 5 Americans were active in church affairs. Today, church membership includes about 6 out of 10 people. But, as Finke and Stark show, not all denominations benefited. They explain how and why the early nineteenth-century churches began their descent, while two newcomer sects, the Baptists and the...

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Churching America

Critics of American Evangelicalism too often ignore the historical data detailed in The Churching of America 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, c. 1992) by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark. In America, at least, intellectuals have contributed little to church growth or to the preservation of orthodox doctrine. Instead, they have generally contributed to their demise. Rather than a Christian nation losing its complexion of faith, this nation has been successfully christianized during the past 200 years. This success story, "The churching of America was accomplished by aggressive churches committed to vivid otherworldliness" (p. 1). These churches have not generally enjoyed a friendly press. For example, historians have generally described folks "involved in the Holiness Movement" or backward Bible-belt Fundamentalists as "unsophisticated souls, sadly out of joint with modern times" (p. 5). They were, scholars declaim, "losers," incapable of meaningful dialogue with their world. Finke and Stark, however, insist they were winners, not losers. They may have lacked the intellectual acumen favored by scholars. But enthusiastic sects, not the more refined denominations from which they came, christianized the nation. As H. Richard Niebuhr understood, "'In Protestant history the sect has ever been the child of an outcast minor¬ity, taking its rise in the religious revolts of the poor'" (p. 43). So America's poor joined sectarian movements and the nation now testifies to their success. When George Whitefield preached, the people flocked to hear him, while established clergy (sounding much like David Wells today) denounced him. The faculty of Harvard published a Testimony against the Reverend Mr. George Whitefield and His Conduct in 1744. Harvard's professors disliked Whitefield's enthusiasm, his itinerancy, his emotional appeals. Yet the people (including Ben Franklin) heard him gladly. Somewhat later, between the War for Independence and the Civil War, Methodists and Baptists flourished. Few of their ministers were educated, and during their dynamic decades neither group established seminaries to train them. Older denominations (Congregationalists; Anglicans; Presbyterians) had an educated clergy, but they failed to match the evangelistic success of their more enthusiastic competitors. Following the Civil War, however, the Methodist "miracle" turned mirage-like as the movement slipped into the pattern marked by more mainline churches. The "confident, even boisterous, church" of Asbury and Cartwright took on the more starched-shirt qualities of New England academicians. The first Methodist seminary was established in 1847; by 1880 there were 11. Prosperous Methodists wanted educated clergymen, rivaling those in Anglican and Presbyterian pulpits. Revivals and camp-meetings, which had fueled Methodist fires, faded away. German-trained professors quickly o

Great Book - Highly Recommended

This book is for anyone especially Christians who want to know what ever happened to the 'Old Time Religion'. It carefully and thoroughly shows that the established 'Churches' lost their vision and thus the place in Americans' hearts. It is well written, researched and documented. I highly recommend it.

Exposing the myth of diminishing religious belief in the US

For years, Americans have been fed the story that religious belief in America is diminishing, as more citizens "drift away" from various churches toward secularism. The authors of this book, who examined thousands of church records and other documents from a more critical viewpoint, show this belief is false. The statistics, when evaluated objectively rather than through the typical "falling away from God" paranoia, show religious activity in the US has actually been rising since Colonial times. Data doesn't lie. While church membership was higher on paper during the Colonial period, this is only because Colonies and individual towns were managed directly through local churches. These churches collected taxes from all citizens. Therefore churches showed high "membership" rates since nearly all citizens were listed on their rolls. Anyone who paid taxes or fees for residency were counted as "members." Other, less objective researchers have missed this point, and claimed high membership meant a high level of religious fervor during the early Colonial period. This really wasn't the case. Remember, only 35 of the 105 Mayflower colonists were Puritans. The others were merchants, fishermen, trappers, and others who were simply traveling to America. Most histories don't note this. Why are Americans constantly bombarded by the idea that the US is becoming "less Christian" than it was before? Primarily it's because certain sects have lost members while others gained them. Some sects that were dominant in early America barely exist today. Another force is also at work here. Religious leaders love to portray the church as "oppressed" by evil secular forces. They'd rather appeal to followers' emotions and fears than admit that American churches are doing rather well. Doing so wouldn't give church leaders the opportunity to paint an "us vs. them" battle, or to insist that Christianity is under attack. Fincke & Stark have done a great service by conducting their statistical analysis of the reality of this situation. While church leaders will wail and gnash their teeth at the authors' conclusions, rational people may start to understand how the American public has been manipulated. That's a good thing.

Sociological study on the Inevitability of Temptation

This easy to read work intrigues. It does this by carefully challenging the previous conclusions of the churching of America, i.e. Ahlstrom et al.Starting with Colonial times, it reviews the quantitative analysis and the qualitative conclusions as well. It determined that much beginning from these times on has been distorted by bias and not using the best census material available.They deduce that successful church movements base their focus on otherworldliness, starting out thus as sects which grow. The tendency however is to eventually make minor concessions to the culture, thus shifting the emphasis away from what gave them success, high tension with their culture towards lowered levels. This cyclical pattern they have found repeated over and over, the sects becoming churches thereby giving birth to new sects that revitalize the church and grow.The pattern begins with the upstart Baptists and Methodists outgrowing the established Congregationalists, etc. Then themselves, especially the Methodists losing their dominant position to new groups.Their conclusions are fascinating, disputing much of the established findings of scholarly American Christian history. Rather than finding the changes in churched American as attributable to sudden cultural/societal glitches, rather the authors find "a long, slow and consistent increase in religious participation form 1776 to 1926--with the rate inching up slightly after 1926 and then hovering near 60 percent. Second, they conclude that the primary factor is what they term "the sect-church process" (roughly sketched out above) in supporting the progress in America.The future? They place confidence in humans as "rational beings, not puppets enslaved to the strings of history and always have the capacity to choose." Their surveys and literature they use suggest that American will continue to want and find or start movements which maximize otherworld rewards sufficient to inspire sacrifice.One must remember this is sociology speaking, not theology. Theology of the best kind tells of God's unfolding plan of salvation (heilsgesitche) which will occur exactly as God has planned. True faith, belief and membership in this salvation is His doing through His church, where His Word and Sacraments are truly spoken and distributed.

Required reading for any church leader.

In this book Finke and Stark take a very analytical and careful approach to why some denominations grow and others shrink. Rather than rehashing the same ideas and theories, the perform numerical analysis of the actual percentage of Americans in each denomination, state by state, from 1776 to 1990. The results are amazing.United Methodists: note that our church has been shrinking since _1850_ as a percentage of the American public. Basically since the circuit riders dismounted and we established seminaries.The conclusions are frightening and will make you reevaluate "what's wrong with our church". If this book is correct, most of the solutions suggested by other books will not address the core issues.You must read this book!!!
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