Aug 25, 2011

Where are evangelicals Sunday morning?

An interesting stat reported in announcements of Mark Chaves' new book: 25 percent of Americans go to a religious service weekly.

The self-reported number is much higher (39 percent in Pew's survey). The problems with such self-reported numbers have been pointed out several times, along with why self-reported religious data is itself a problem.

If this new number is correct -- 25 percent -- it raises an interesting question.

Who's not going to church?

We know that 26.3 percent of Americans are classified as evangelicals. If evangelicals were the only people in a religious service on a weekly basis -- no Jehovah's Witnesses, no Catholics, no mainline Protestants, no Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. -- that still would mean evangelicals aren't all in church on Sunday. But it can't be only evangelicals are in church. There are Catholics at Mass, JWs at the Kingdom Hall, Buddhists at the temple, and so on. Episcopal churches may not be crowded, Unitarian Universalist services may be sparsely attended, but they're not empty.

So, are 80 percent of evangelicals in church weekly? 70? 40? 35?

And how does that change the perspective on what it means to be evangelical in America today?