Make no mistake about it. A surface review of America's Changing Religious Landscape research report from the Pew Research Center is a downer. A more in-depth review does not change the fact that it is a downer, but it does explain some things and remind us that the measuring criteria for religious passion and participation has changed significantly during the past several decades in the USA. We cannot count things the way we once did.
This means that religious affiliation cannot be measured in the same way as before, and that trend research using old categories or perspectives do not tell the real story. We must think more deeply and more broadly. In spite of protestations to the contrary, no research is purely objective. All research has a bias and a prejudice.
When the research is reported and publicly analyzed it almost becomes editorial opinion rather than solid truth. Different people can look at the same research results and come up with radically different insights, discernments, and strategic initiatives. As a consumer of these various perspectives you have to pick one you like and follow it, or become your own prognosticator of the meaning of the research. I choose the latter.
The Pew Research Center report and the early articles about it have the same characteristics and must be questioned and challenged in order to get to the deeper and broader meanings. This is one of the values of good research. We hope the researchers have a mature dimension of emotional health so they can respond appropriately to the debate.
While to this point I have not read the full research--and probably will not take time to do that--the overview reports already call for very significant questions to be raised to deepen and broaden our thinking. This is not to say the research is wrong. It may very well be right on target. It is to say that this type of research calls for us to ask more questions and raise more issues to give greater meaning to the research.
OOPS! This introduction is longer than I intended. Look for my next post or two to see the questions or issues I would raise. The 2nd random reactions click HERE.