At Dave’s family reunion in July, I found myself in conversation with a young relative about the apparent gender transition of a cousin of his generation. How do we witness and bless such major life events when so many people are un-churched these days, I wondered. And on the way home I heard a book review about a novel in which a couple develop an app to create custom rituals for non-religious people. The app goes viral, creating all sorts of disruptions in their lives and the life of the world. So I was primed to listen carefully later in the week to an interview on Radio Times with Robert P. Jones, founder and CEO of PRRI, the Public Religion Research Institute about recent changes in religious affiliation. This major survey, based on half a million interviews in which people self identify, has data right down to the county level, and includes Unitarian Universalists as a separate group, not lumping us under “all other” as usual.
What did I learn about the religious landscape? Here are the headlines:
- Two-thirds of the population are different kinds of Christians
- Five percent are non-Christian religious
- Two percent are UU — just behind Hindu and Others
The NONES – atheists, agnostics and those not affiliated with any religion have increased to one-quarter of the population.
White evangelicals have declined starkly from about 25% in 2008 to 14.5% in 2020. They are declining especially among the young. The result is that their median age is 56 – not far off from the UU median age of 53, both above the median age of 47 for all Americans.
In the interview, Jones said that younger people are leaving some forms of Christianity over values like LBGTQ rights, reproductive freedom, the climate crisis, leaving the liberal faiths looking like 30 year-olds and the more conservative religions looking like 70 year-olds.
What does this mean for this congregation? Might those young NONES realize they could benefit from a spiritual community that reflects their values? Maybe they will come looking for liberal religious education for their children and life passage rituals for their families? Might you find ways to welcome them warmly, to offer them nurture and challenge, and to receive the new ideas and skills and challenges that they would bring? What will your new normal look like? Who do you want to be? How do you want to bless the world?