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Religious dimensions

Religious beliefs and behaviors among Anglo Evangelicals provide the strongest challenge to geographic influences. Because Evangelicals belong to “strict churches,”

TABLE 17.4 Marital status for Anglo Evangelicals

Region /sub-region

Married (%)

Living with partner (%)

Divorced (%)

Separated (%)

Widowed (%)

Never married (%)

Total (%)

Los Angeles

48

7

9

4

5

26

100

SoCal Ring

57

8

9

4

7

15

100

Bay Ar ea

53

9

9

2

6

21

100

Other NorCai

53

10

10

2

6

20

100

Central Valley

57

8

8

4

6

19

100

West

57

8

9

2

7

17

100

South

55

6

10

3

9

18

100

Midwest

54

6

10

2

9

20

100

Northeast

52

7

9

2

9

21

100

All USA

54

6

10

2

8

19

100

The legacy of religious diversityboth belief and behavior are important to them and are reinforced by fellow congregants. In this section I examine the impact of geography in three different ways: the specific denominations of Anglo Evangelicals, religious behaviors, and religious beliefs.

Denomination and congregation

As previously discussed, the prevalence of Evangelicals varied by region and California sub-region among Anglo respondents, but the differences to not end there; the specific denominational identification of Anglo Evangelicals further differs along these same lines. Table 17.5 presents a breakdown of denomination among self-identified Anglo Evangelicals. Fully one-third (34%) of Los Angeles County Evangelicals identified as Baptist, surpassed only by the South (61%). This is an echo of Los Angeles’ strong Southern roots. Recalling that Anglo Evangelicals in Los Angeles County were the oldest, their heavily Baptist identification probably reflects the aging of migrants who arrived decades earlier. Evangelicals in the Southern California Ring, by contrast, were most likely to be non-denominational Protestant in the Evangelical tradition (36%). As will be discussed, this is because they belong to Megachurches. Megachurch members are typically unaware of the denominational roots of the church to which they belong (Center for Religion and Civic Culture of the University of Southern California 2014). Bay Area Evangelicals are either Baptists (28%) or non-denominational Protestants (28%). Evangelicals in the Central Valley had the highest percentage of Pentecostals (22% compared with 11% nationwide). They have remained closest to their Southern religious roots.

As discussed above, the Pew 2007 Religious Landscape Survey included a separate question on Evangelical identification, “Would you describe yourself as a ‘born-again’ or evangelical Christian, or not?” The Pew 2007 Religious Landscape Survey used this question primarily for classification purposes, but it is instructive for this project as well (Chart 17.6). Anglo Evangelicals in the Central Valley were the most likely to answer this question in the affirmative (90%) followed by those in the Other SoCal (87%). By contrast, only 77% of Evangelicals in Los Angeles County answered yes. Here again is a Los Angeles effect. Although there were not many of them in the Bay Area, Evangelicals there were more likely than their Los Angeles counterparts to identify as born-again. This is consistent with other patterns that will be discussed in which Bay Area Evangelicals tend to be more conservative than their Los Angeles counterparts.

Of particular interest in the sociology of religion has been the emergence of “megachurches,” defined as 2,000 members or more. Megachurches are most prevalent in Orange County (Wilford 2012). One of the most famous megachurches is Saddleback Church in Orange County and one of the earliest (now defunct) megachurches is the Crystal Cathedral, also in Orange County. Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Church, well known for its massive revival meetings, is

Region /sub-region

Baptist (%)

Non-denominational (%)

Pentecostal (%)

Lutheran (%)

Protestant non-specijic (%)

All others2 (%)

Total (%)

Los Angeles

34

14

12

13

12

16

100

Southern

17

36

6

4

13

24

100

California Ring

Bay Area

28

28

7

7

9

20

100

Other NorCai

29

18

16

6

13

18

100

Central Valley

20

18

22

8

16

18

100

Other West

24

25

14

8

11

19

100

South

61

8

11

3

4

13

100

Midwest

28

12

10

19

7

23

100

Northeast

25

14

10

7

10

34

100

All USA

44

12

11

8

7

18

100

P <0.001.

Notes

’These respondents would only identify their denomination as “Protestant,” but they also answered “yes” to a separate question “Would you describe yourself as a ‘born-again' or evangelical Christian, or not?”

“This consists of 11 different denominations, each of which accounts for 3% or less.

The legacy of religious diversity 243

CHART 17.6 White, Non-Hispanic (Anglo) Evangelicals who said they were “born again” or described themselves as “Evangelical”.

located in Riverside County, which abuts Orange County. His “crusades” are held at Angel Stadium in Orange County and draw from Inland Empire (San Bernardino and Riverside Counties) and Orange County churches. The Hartford Seminary tracks megachurches across the United States, and lists 221 in California. Of these, 40% are in the Southern California Ring, and 23% are located in Los Angeles County for a combined total 63%.3 This pattern is almost exactly mirrored in the sub-region of residence for Anglo Evangelical megachurch members in the 2007 Religious Landscape Survey: 39% live in the Southern California Ring and 23% live in Los Angeles County. The 16% of Anglo Evangelicals in the Southern California Ring who belong to a megachurch is the highest in California and twice the national rate (Table 17.6). Megachurches represent yet another distinct feature of Southern California religion, consistent with the openness of this region to religious innovation.

 
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