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Our Future Foretold

NEW OXFORD NOTEBOOK

By Pieter Vree | April 2023
Pieter Vree is Editor of the NOR.

Look out, folks, the latest figures are in, and, as predicted, they’re not good. Predicted? Yes. By whom? By yours truly, of course (’scuse me while I pop my collar). But seriously, any old lunkhead could have seen this coming.

In my column “Will the Coronavirus Lockdowns Usher in a Mustard-Seed Church?” (Sept. 2020), I wrote that the policies our leaders put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic “could portend the diminution of the Church in all phases.” Once the coronavirus “has run its course, and life generally returns to normal,” it will be “a time of reckoning” for the Church, at which point we “should brace for an uncomfortable contraction.”

We have reached that crossroads. Prepare to be discomfited.

This January, the Survey Center on American Life at the American Enterprise Institute released the findings of research conducted on its behalf by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. The report, titled “Faith After the Pandemic,” reveals that the percentage of Americans who attend religious services post-pandemic is “significantly lower” than before the lockdowns went into effect.

How low is significantly lower? In March 2020, right before the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, 25 percent of Americans said they never attend religious services. As of spring 2022, when we’d largely moved beyond most lockdown-related restrictions on public gatherings (including corporate worship), that figure was 33 percent. That represents a 32 percent change in the number of our countrymen who never darken the door of a house of worship — we’re not talking only occasionally, mind you, but not ever — in the short span of two years.

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