December 7, 2017

Evangelical

Working at Spark No. 9 means that we need to leave our echo chamber—you know, that place on social media where everyone agrees with you—almost every day. Each new product or business we work on usually means increasing our understanding of people with attitudes and behaviors that are different from ours.
Lately, we have been exploring a large audience with a high proportion of members who identify as evangelical Christians. While we all have friends and family members who are part of this group, we found that we didn’t know much about this important segment of the US population. So we set off to get a sense of who they are and what their echo chambers might look like.
Here is what we learned.

Miniskirts Are Back, Too

Most of the Spark No. 9 team is in New York City, which is generally not a great place to get to know people with evangelical Christian beliefs (this terrific interactive map is a great guide to the geography of religion in America). Looking closer, though, it turns out that Flushing, where current levels of evangelical Christianity are similar to what they were in 1645, is an exception. 

Magnum Opus

In the service of thoroughness, we are going to do something a little nutty: recommend a 700-page book in a newsletter that prides itself on brevity. In The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, author Frances Fitzgerald traces the progress of evangelical churches and their fiery leaders from the time when America was just a concept. If you're a history buff, it's a fascinating read: Fitzgerald explains how evangelical churches mutated and evolved to become a powerful force in the development of the US.Bet you can guess when the book ends.

What's Next?

We would be remiss in discussing the state of any institution, religious or otherwise, without exploring the impact of millennials upon it. As elsewhere, there is hand-wringing galore about the influence of younger demographics on evangelical Christianity. Indeed, new publications like Relevant Magazine show that faith may be changing shape. While the words "disrupt" or "reinvent" do not appear, the quirky mix of topics suggests real change is afoot.

Losing My Religion

For centuries, organized religion has been closely integrated with structures of community, no matter the culture or faith. The Atlantic takes a hard look at increasing American secularism and its impact on worldview, culture, institutions—and, um, politics. Some of the observations—like that those who rarely attend religious services are less likely to believe in the American dream—may surprise. 

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