Desktop version

Home arrow Religion

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font


<<   CONTENTS   >>

Behaviors

Robert Wuthnow has discussed two different theoretical perspectives from the sociology' of religion that predict opposing patterns for the impact of Southern California on Evangelical behaviors and beliefs (Wuthnow 2007). The first is Peter Berger’s theory of “Plausibility Structure” (Berger 1967). Wuthnow explains, “Like-minded people go through life without questioning what they do or what they believe ... But put people in a more diverse context, Berger argued, and questions start flying” (Wuthnow 2007, 92). An opposite prediction comes from R. Stephen Warner’s “New Paradigm” perspective: “Religious diversity,” Warner contends, “actually increases the likelihood that people that

TABLE 17.6 Size of congregation for Anglo Evangelical

About how many people belong to the church or house of worship where you

attend religious services most often? Just your best estimate will do. you say... ?

Would

Region /sub-region

Less than

100 (%)

Between 100 and 500 (%)

Between 500 and 2,000 (%)

Or more than 2,000 (%)

Total (%)

Southern

17

47

21

16

100

California Ring

Central Valley

19

46

22

14

100

Bay area

24

38

24

13

100

Los Angeles

24

36

28

12

100

County

Other NorCai

16

54

20

10

100

Other West

28

44

20

9

100

South

29

46

16

8

100

Northeast

28

50

15

6

100

Midwest

26

48

19

7

100

All USA

28

47

18

8

100

Pc.001.

people will believe in the tenets of their own faith ... [because] a free market stimulates competition and thus causes all boats to rise. Religious entrepreneurs work harder to spread their message and attract members” (Warner 1993, 93). Wuthnow conjectured that both perspectives can be correct: “Perhaps diversity does weaken orthodoxy, as Berger suggests, but perhaps this weakening is counterbalanced by the competition that Warner posits” (Wuthnow 2007, 93). The following analysis of Anglo Evangelical behavior and belief in Southern California indicates that Wuthnow was correct in surmising both processes at work among Anglo Evangelicals who cling to their conservative Southern religious roots along some dimensions while resembling their Southern California neighbors in others.

Using questions in the Pew 2007 Religious Landscape Survey, I created separate indexes for religious behavior and orthodox Christian beliefs. The Religious Behavior Index (RBI) uses the following nine behaviors:

  • 1. How often do you participate in prayer groups, scripture study groups, or religious education programs ... - would you say at least once a week, once or twice a month, several times a year?
  • 2. How often do you read scripture outside of religious services... - would you say at least once a week, once or twice a month, several times a year, seldom, or never?
  • 3. How often do you share your faith with non-believers or people from other religious backgrounds - would you say at least once a week, once or twice a month, several times a year, seldom?
  • 4. How often do you speak or pray in tongues... - would you say at least once a week, once or twice a month, several times a year, seldom, or never?
  • 5. Now, thinking about some different kinds of experiences, how often do you receive a definite answer to a specific prayer request-would you say at least once a week, once or twice a month, several times a year, seldom, or never?
  • 6. Aside from weddings and funerals, how often do you attend religious services ... more than once a week, once a week, once or twice a month, a few times a year, seldom, or never?
  • 7. And still thinking about the church or house of worship where you attend religious services most often, please tell me how often, if ever, you ... participate in social activities, such as meals, club meetings, or other gatherings there ... more than once a week, once a week, once or twice a month, a few times a year, seldom, or never?
  • 8. Outside of attending religious services, do you pray several times a day, once a day, a few times a week, once a week, a few times a month, seldom, or never?
  • 9. Are you or your family official members of a local church or house of worship?

An index is the associated numerical score. Items 1-7 in the RBI were coded 1 through 5 where 1 represents “never” and 5 signifies “at least once a week.” Three items did not have 5 response categories, so to make them comparable I recoded them to assign the highest category a value of “5.” Item 6 had 6 categories, so “seldom” and “never” were combined and both coded as “1.” Item 8 had seven categories so the two highest categories (“several times a day” and “once a day”) were combined and assigned value of “5”; the two lowest categories (“seldom” and “never”) were combined and assigned a value of “1.” Item 9 was coded 5 for “yes” and 1 for “no.” All nine items were thus re-coded in a range from 1 through 5 so that each item contributes equally to the RBI. Otherwise the strongest response would receive a “5” for some items, a “7” for the eighth item, and only a “2” for the ninth item. Without a uniform coding system the eighth item would have too much impact and the ninth item not enough. The highest possible RBI score would be 45, signifying that the respondent scored a “5” on all nine behaviors. The lowest would be 9, meaning that the respondent scored a “1” on all nine. The highest actual score was, in fact, a 45, and the lowest actual score was 10. More than a quarter of the Anglo Evangelicals had no score for the RBI because they refused to answer at least one of the nine items.

The mean RBI score for all Anglo Evangelicals was 32.4 as compared with 27.8 for Anglos in Mainline Protestant denominations, 26.2 for Anglo Roman Catholics, and 35.1 for Anglo Mormons (data not shown). This confirms that Anglo Evangelicals are more engaged religiously than other Anglos, save for Anglo Mormons. Chart 17.7 shows the mean RBI for all Anglo Evangelicals by geography.

The RBI is highest for Anglo Evangelicals in the Central Valley (33.3) and the South (33.0), once again confirming the lasting influence of the Dustbowl migration described by Dochuk. The RBI is lowest in Los Angeles County, which is consistent with Berger’s “plausibility structure” theory: Los Angeles County had the lowest proportion of Anglo Evangelical respondents, and Anglo Evangelicals in L.A. County were older than elsewhere, implying that they had resided in in Southern California for a long time and thus had greater exposure to their non-Evangelical neighbors. The high RBI scores in the Central Valley and the South are also consistent with Berger’s “plausibility structure” hypothesis; these are geographies where Anglo Evangelicals are most prevalent and thus most influential.

 
<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics