In the last few chapters of Chaves’ book, he summarizes the changes and fluctuations which have been observed in American Religion in the past few decades. One of these major changes has been the steady increase and stabilization of practicing Conservative Evangelical Protestants versus the decrease of practicing Liberal Mainline Protestants. He discusses how Conservative Protestants are becoming more conservative, and Liberal Protestants are becoming either less religious/unaffiliated or moving to more Conservative Churches later in life. He also points out though, that Americans seem to be, overall, becoming more liberal. Although the more liberal stance on social and political issues has been increasing much more slowly among those who are more religiously and politically conservative, it is still happening. For example, even among conservative congregations, homosexuality has become more acceptable and tolerated.
Chaves discusses the increasing polarization among religiously/politically liberal and conservative individuals, providing evidence that division among them has increased since the 1970’s. I found it somewhat striking that despite America’s trend toward more liberal views, the Conservative Christian Church seems to be growing, or at least staying steady. When I was reading this, my mind went back to chapter two of McGuire’s book when she mentions the term, “anomie”. If a Conservative Congregation feels pressured to conform to social norms, even if they go against the Church’s teachings, they may feel that their morals are being threatened. This can potentially increase secularization within the church or, at the very least, push the congregants to hold tighter to their beliefs and follow them more strictly.
When Chaves mentioned that the term “Christian” has come to denote the Evangelical Protestant, it finally gave me a potential answer as to why I have come to be an adult who no longer feels she can call herself a Christian. Politically, I consider myself to be “left of center” and I typically lean more toward the Democratic political party. I also found it interesting when Chaves stated that the largest group of Mainline Protestants are Methodists, as I went to a Methodist Church as a kid. It appears I would be one of the many Americans who have moved from a more liberal religious stance to being religiously unaffiliated.