Religion and the Church in America Today

I am teaching a class at Hyde Park Community UM Church for a few weeks about current trends in American religious life and what this means for the church today. The assessment of religion in America comes from the book, “American Grace” by Robert Putnam and David Campbell. They see both polarization and pluralism in our society.

“The nation’s religious polarization … has resulted from three seismic societal shocks, the first of which was the sexually libertine 1960s. This tumultuous period then produced a prudish aftershock of growth in conservative religion, especially evangelicalism, and an even more pronounced cultural presence for American evangelicals, most noticeably in the political arena.”

“The first aftershock was followed by an opposite reaction, a second aftershock, which is still reverberating. A growing number of Americans, especially young people, have come to disavow religion. For many, their aversion to religion is rooted in unease with the association between religion and conservative politics.

Polarization and pluralism characterize religion in America today. Do you agree? This paradox creates a very different kind of challenge for the church today than it faced 50 years ago before the three seismic shifts described in “American Grace.”

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