Salt Lake City Utah, USA
While Pew’s report focused on what some think churches do, studies of what believers saythey do (such as this one) indicate faith is the strongest predictor of generosity, altruism, trust and civic involvement among Americans. So why this gap between the perception of some and the experience of others? How can this gap be bridged, and whose responsibility is it to do that?
In part, this Pew report could simply be a reflection of a growing unawareness of religion. After all, the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated continue to rise, creating a sizeable chunk of U.S. adults (nearly 25 percent) who are likely unaware of the day-to-day happenings inside churches. But we know this isn’t the only possible cause because Pew’s finding also show that not even all regular churchgoers think their houses of worship are solving social problems.
Another reason for this gap could be rooted in respondents’ understanding of survey terminology. In the words of Martin E. Marty of the University of Chicago Divinity School:
What does “solving social problems” mean? Are the big ones “solvable,” or are they only “addressable”? Who really pictures the epochal refugee crises of our day as being “solvable”? Or the destructive human issues in “climate change”? And are any religious institutions capable of addressing the issues on such a vast scene that it is fair to ask thus about them?
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