In a recent issue of Rhode Island Catholic, Lauren Clem highlighted the local findings of a study into Americans’ drift from Christianity:
A study released July 11 by The Barna Group rated America’s major metropolitan areas on residents’ engagement with the Christian faith and ranked the Providence-New Bedford area the fourth-most “post-Christian city in America” based on factors such as lack of belief in God, low attendance at church services and lack of active participation in church life.
Unfortunately, a more-detailed review is more expensive than this quick post justifies. To qualify as “post-Christian,” a survey respondent had to reply negatively to nine out of 13 questions, and the particular questions could make a big difference. For example, “not born again” could be a drag on this highly Catholic region, as could having not attended Sunday school within the last week. A person could believe in God, state that faith is important in his or her life, believe the Bible is accurate, and declare a commitment to Jesus and still qualify as “post-Christian.” In other words, Barna’s questions would be a better measure of evangelical Protestantism than Christianity more broadly.
That said, it would be difficult for somebody who regularly attends church to be “post-Christian,” and that is a problem in the area, not just from the religious perspective, but also because involvement in religious activities has benefits for health and behavior, increases one’s sense of community, and spreads some of a community’s power away from centralized government.