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Category: Demographics

I Live in the Suburbs

I Live in the Suburbs

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I live in the suburbs.

It’s a pretty good place to live. I am two miles from the office. I have  house and a yard. I mow the grass on Saturdays (actually, my kid usually mows it) and I water it on Wednesdays and Sundays. The mail is delivered right to the little box at the end of my driveway, by the sidewalk. I haven’t been downtown in over a month and I don’t miss it.

The suburbs get a bad rap. Some say they are “sprawling” and need to be contained. Others say they are too private, narcissistic and consumer driven. Maybe that is all true.

It doesn’t matter. We had better figure out to do ministry in the suburbs: half of all Americans live in them.

World magazine’s Anthony Bradley calls Platt, Piper, and Chan to task for championing a more “missional” way of life. Why? They are supposedly the anti-suburbanites (I am not sure I agree with Bradley’s take, but it reveals some of the ideas behind suburban slander). Eric Erickson (who I really appreciate as an outspoken evangelical) wrote about suburban angst over at Red State.  Stanley Kurtz has written extensively about the Obama administration’s war on the suburbs. Why all this suburban hate? Where is the suburban love?

Certainly, megachurches have done well in the suburbs. One of my hopes is that our little house church network will begin to crack the hard shell of the suburbanite. In the fall, our network will be hosting a one day event focused on suburban outreach. It should be good!

Me? I enjoy living in the suburbs. I can’t be all wrong on this: so do most Americans. The suburbs are the current front runner in the “best places to live – vote with your feet” competition. And we need to figure out how to minister effectively to people who live in suburbs. I find it rather amusing that almost all seminaries have an “urban ministry” track but I have never heard of one offering a “suburban ministry” track. I guess it’s not sexy enough.

But the suburbs are where the people live. And where people live is where mission lives.

Demographics and the Self-Destruction Principle

Demographics and the Self-Destruction Principle

As my last post indicates, I have been reading up on demographics lately. One of the things that I find interesting is that non-religious population blocs are self-destructive. They don’t have babies at the same rate as religious people (of any faith) do and therefore deplete their ranks over time.

The practical implications for this are many. Goldman’s writes, in his book “How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam is Dying, Too), that religious “nones” will top out in the USA at less than 20% and the slightly decline. This is because the total fertility rate driving their movement is abysmal (conversion probably won’t be substantial enough to raise the numbers much). Eric Kaufman sums up the point: “Liberalism’s demographic contradiction – individualism leading to the choice not to reproduce – may well be the agent that destroys it” (as quoted by Goldman). I call this the “Self-Destruction Principle” and its what we see happening places like Western Europe and Japan.

Conversely, the total fertility rates among religious people is much higher. In the regard the US is forging a much different path than our European counterparts. For example, the stereotype of large Catholic families is true: they lead the pack with a higher TFR than Protestants. This has led some researchers to conclude that Catholics will ultimately win the battle over which of the two will make up the largest percentage of the US population. Catholics have been aided by hispanic immigration to the US. Most of the projections include this factor. However, I think this is changing and it will mean that Protestants, particularly conservative Evangelical Protestants, will enjoy a surge.

A couple of factors indicate that this may be the case. First, hispanic immigration to the US has substantially slowed. Both the economic downturn in the US and the rising economic situation in Mexico have contributed to this reversal. Second, so many hispanics have converted to Evangelical brands of Christianity that we can no assume that all of these immigrants are Catholic. So, among the hispanic immigration flow we have a shifts.

Additionally, widespread religious persecution globally is forcing many people to immigrate to the US. A recent article in the Orange County Register (a good location if one wants to understand Asian immigration) notes:

Christians, who make up some 42 percent of Asian-Americans, face surveillance and repression, particularly, in China, where religion is tightly regulated, and dissent from the party line can land adherents in jail. Over half of Asian immigrants, Pew notes, cite freedom of religion as a key advantage of living in America. New faith-based migration could also be seen soon among Christians fleeing increasingly Islamic regimes in Egypt, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. (link to the article)

These are not “chreasters” (Christians who come to church on Christmas and Easter). They are fervent believers who want to spread their faith. I imagine that we will see an uptick in outreach programs, both here and abroad.

The secular mind is unable to comprehend an American future that is more religious than the current America. It could be that the Obama era is the high-water mark over the next century for secular liberalism. This will be due in part to demographic shifts that are slowly, but inexorably, filling the US populace with more religious people.

After that, all best are off as global population decline will alter humanity as never before, staring sometime around 2075.