Churchgoing Habits Formed Early

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Thursday, November 8, 2001

Churchgoing Habits Formed Early
New research suggests that the most likely predictor of adult church attendance is whether or not one attended church regularly as a child. A study conducted recently by the Barna Research Group of Ventura, California, found that a majority of adults who attended church regularly as children currently attend church (63%), while an even larger majority of adults who did not attend church as children continue to avoid doing so as adults (78%). Early church attendance appears to have less of an effect, however, on the younger generation. Some 68% of adults age 55 and older who attended church as children now attend church, compared to 53%-just over half-of their counterparts under the age of 35. Among those who did not attend church as youngsters but now attend as adults, the generational divide is also evident. More than one third of such adults age 35 and over now attend a Christian church, while only 16% of their counterparts under age 35 now attend. One somewhat surprising finding: Whether or not they now have children of their own appears to have no effect on whether “churched-as-children” adults now attend church. “Attending a church appears to be more a function of one’s personal experience when young than a sense of responsibility to one’s own children,” said George Barna, president of the company that conducted the study.

Denominational preferences vary between the two groups (churched-or unchurched-as-children) as well. Adults who attended church as youngsters tend to remain loyal to the denomination they attended then, and they are more likely than their unchurched-as-children counterparts to attend Catholic, Methodist and other mainline-Protestant churches, and relatively less likely to attend Baptist churches. Unchurched youngsters are also relatively more likely as adults to gravitate to smaller churches of less than 100 adults than those who attended church as children (one third vs. one quarter).

Whether they had a history of church attendance also seems to have an effect on the religious practices of adults. Those who attended church as children were twice as likely as their counterparts to read the Bible and to attend church and almost 50% more likely to pray during a typical week. Religious beliefs, however, are another story. Whether or not they attended church as children does not appear to have any discernable effect on adults’ theological views. A summary of the study on the Barna Research website states that both groups “held similar views-often at odds with biblical teaching-regarding the existence of the Holy Spirit, the reality of Satan, the means to eternal salvation,” and other matters. A larger number-although still a minority-of the churched-as-children adults described themselves as “born again” (44% vs. 24%). Only a minority of both groups believes in the existence of the Holy Spirit or of Satan, and a majority of both believe that good deeds are a means to salvation.

Human Nature Will Out
Among the most pernicious aspects of modern feminism is its insistence that, despite all evidence to the contrary, men and women are essentially the same in all respects and that apparent differences are merely a product of social oppression or conditioning. Yet some wise women have known better all along and have been saying so for years, among them distinguished writer and scholar Midge Decter. In a review of her new book, An Old Wife’s Tale: My Seven Decades in Love and War (Harper Collins, 2001), Hudson Institute scholar Stanley Kurtz sums up Decter’s lifelong critique of modern feminism: “Simply put, Decter believes that men and women are different, and that these sexual differences, denied and suppressed by our current cultural system, continually reassert themselves in hidden and distorted fashion Although she may not mean it in a literally Freudian sense, Decter is continually (and persuasively) pointing to the disguised fashion in which our masculine and feminine natures revenge themselves upon the sham of androgyny demanded by our reformed sexual system.” In her book Decter discusses-among other things-the ways that modern women attempt to live according to this “sham of androgyny,” mostly to their detriment. She has long argued, for example, that date rape is one way in which women create a means of protecting themselves from unscrupulous men in the absence of social norms that acknowledge their natural need for protection, a need that is at odds with the feminist ideal. By denying the differences that make such protective norms necessary, feminism has succeeded both in trivializing rape and in making young women more vulnerable to predatory men.

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