Trevin Wax|3:47 am CT

After the Boomers 9: Immigration

immigration.jpg22 million immigrants came to the United States between 1965-2000. Wuthnow cannot address the future of American religion without taking immigration into account.

The church must note the growing presence of Hispanic Catholics. The younger generation of religious Hispanics are deeply involved in issues of social justice. These young adults think about the church in international terms, rather than just its local manifestations. Hispanics are less likely to see themselves as members of a particular church.

Hispanic Protestants differ from Catholics in that they are more likely to have assimilated into the Anglo culture. Hispanic Protestants are more likely to see themselves as a member of their local church.

Asian American Christians show a special vitality. Among young Asian American Protestants, 77 percent are actually a member of their local congregation. That percentage is higher than all the Protestants in the same group. For many Asian Americans, religion is a means of assimilating into the United States. Protestantism does this for many Asian Americans.

Do immigrants feel welcome in the United States? Unfortunately, not by evangelical congregations. Statistics show that evangelicals are the least welcoming to Hispanics and Asians. In fact, the odds of not welcoming these immigrants are almost twice as great among young evangelicals than non-evangelicals.

Why is this the case? Several social factors might play a part. Men are less hospitable than women. Having children is associated with prejudice toward Asians. Those who live in small towns and rural areas are more likely to be unwelcoming.

The good news? Regular church attendance reduces the odds of being unwelcoming. Overall, most young adults view Asians and Hispanics. Church going must encourage young adults to be more accepting of other ethnic groups, although evangelicals (who attend church more than anyone else) tend to still be less accepting.

Wuthnow asks some tough questions. Could it be that churches are insulating us from ethnic diversity? Are churches somehow causing us to be less willing to trust others? Is church merely reinforcing interethnic contact and trust? Congregations remain homogeneous, although regular church-goers tend to be more involved in the community, and thereby meet and trust a more diverse set of people.

On Monday, we will look at The Virtual Church – religious uses of the internet.

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