The lead essay of the most recent The Christian Century magazine names “10 religious trends of the 2010’s,” written by Baylor University professor of history Philip Jenkins. There’s actually quite a bit of good news amidst the trouble. Here they are in the order he presents them, roughly chronologically in their emergence.
The rise of the nones: US adults naming their religious affiliation as “none” is up from 15% in 2007 to 26% today, making them a larger group than evangelical Protestants or Roman Catholics.
The papacy of Pope Francis: Along with being the first pope from the Global South (Argentina), Francis has been sharply critical of capitalism and brought “a more pastoral, less dogmatic approach to abortion, homosexuality, contraception, and transgender issues.”
Obergefell and the redefinition of marriage: The Supreme Court decision moved same-sex marriage into the mainstream, while various denominations, including Mennonites and Methodists, continue to wrestle with the legacy and harm of traditional theologies.
Charleston murders and the problem of whiteness: The horror of continued racially targeted violence has been met with an incredibly important development – white people dealing with the problem of whiteness and listening to the leadership of people of color.
Climate change and Laudato si: During our Winter Seminar this past weekend Amy Huser shared how Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006) was a turning point for her personally regarding climate change activism. This past decade “the scope and intensity of concern increased immeasurably.”
Trump and evangelicals: Uggghhh.
Gender and identity: Understandings of gender fluidity and support for transgender folks was barely visible ten years ago, yet “this cultural revolution is only beginning.”
Me Too and women’s leadership: Jenkins adds that the “Church Too movement…went far beyond specific allegations of misconduct to more general protests against persistent patriarchy in religious life.”
Crisis in seminaries: “Closures and mergers reflected plunging student numbers and coincided with a severe contraction in the number of churches able to employ full-time clergy.”
Fertility rates and faith: Americans are reproducing a whole lot more like Europeans – not much, officially below replacement level. Because churches have often sustained themselves through family growth, this will continue to impact congregational vitality.
Did he miss anything? Time to set some trends for the next decade.