Can these creeds adapt to changed cultural circumstances and renew their appeal? Sociologists such as Roger Finke and Rodney Stark provide evidence that it has happened before. At the time of the American Revolution, institutional religion was ossified and only about one-fifth of Americans were church members. Around the Civil War, it was perhaps a third. Today is it is more than half. Over a period of rapid social and economic change, Methodists, Baptists, then Pentecostals found ways to attract new members. "The churching of America," Finke and Starke conclude, "was accomplished by aggressive churches committed to vivid otherworldliness."
In religion, it is easy to measure what is dying; it is harder to locate the manger where something new is being born.
Michael Gerson's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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