Christian Century: Gallup chief sees signs of religious revival
Despite a deep drop in the number of Americans who identify with a particular faith, the country could be on the cusp of a religious renaissance, says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll.
Grounded in more than a million Gallup interviews, Newport’s new book, God Is Alive and Well, argues that the aging of the baby boomers, the influx of Hispanic immigrants and the links between religion and health could portend a bright future for faith in America. [The following interview was edited for length and clarity.]
Why did you write this book?
I think religion is extremely important in America today. All of our research shows that, and I wanted to get empirical data about religion out there, rather than just speculation.
We here at Gallup have had a tracking project since 2008. We do 350,000 interviews a year, which is a huge and unique dataset that nobody else has. And personally, I grew up in a religious background and always found it interesting. ...
Of course, this caught my eye ...
You write that mainline Protestants are pretty much doing everything wrong in terms of growing their churches. Why is that?
For any group to grow, whether it’s a country or a church, you have to have more people coming in than going out. For example, the Catholic Church holds its own in terms of percentage of the American population because of the in-migration of Hispanics. But there is no massive in-migration of Protestants.
Second, there’s been no evidence that they’ve been able to evangelize effectively. And third, one way you grow is to have high fertility rates. Mormons are doing that well because their theology encourages big families. But Presbyterians, for example, have fewer children on average [than other Americans]. So, if you look at all the ways churches could grow, the mainline Protestants haven’t been able to hit the nail on the head with any of them. —RNS