Survey: Dramatic Rise In Young Women Leaving The Church

News Image By Sarah Holliday/Washington Stand April 11, 2024
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In a society increasingly pushing liberal agendas, it's no surprise to see an accompanying escalation in disdain for biblical truth. With the rise of LGBT ideology alone, basic biology is under attack, marriage is mocked, and those who proclaim what Scripture says are labeled as hateful bigots. 

Jesus said in Matthew 10:22a, "And you will be hated by all for my name's sake," because those apart from Christ hate His objective, unchanging truth. And what do we see as a result of this? Well, in addition to the slander, we see that many choose to walk away from the church scene.

And while this concept is nothing new, a survey conducted by the Survey Center on American Life released last week found that, unlike previous years, a staggering number of young women are walking away from the church. "Over the last two decades, which witnessed an explosion of religious disaffiliation, it was men more than women who were abandoning their faith commitments," wrote the American Enterprise Institute's Daniel A. Cox and Kelsey Eyre Hammond. But as the survey revealed, this time around, "the pattern has now reversed."

Cox and Hammond continued, "Older Americans who left their childhood religion included a greater share of men than women. In the Baby Boom generation, 57% of people who disaffiliated were men, while only 43% were women. Gen Z adults have seen this pattern flip. [Fifty-four percent] of Gen Z adults who left their formative religion are women; 46% are men."

According to the results, the primary factors that tied into this increase of women leaving the church were a rise in self-proclaimed feminists and self-identified liberals.

Several of the participants (65%) in a previous poll by the same group felt "churches do not treat men and women equally," the authors of the survey results noted. And they added that many women in this current climate find "professional ambition and concern with personal success and growth" outweighs their desire to grow in areas of religion or familial concerns, describing the latter categories as "lower priorities."

But more significantly, the survey highlighted a second overarching aspect in that, "Since 2015, the number of young women who identify as liberal has rapidly increased." The authors emphasized that abortion and LGBT issues could play a major role in why these women are leaving the church. In fact, a poll conducted by the nonprofit PRRI found, "In 2016, approximately three in ten people who left their religion cited negative teaching about or treatment of gay and lesbian people as an important factor in their choice to disaffiliate (29%)." And last year, "that number rose to 47%."

To summarize the survey's findings, the authors concluded "for most young women who leave it's not about any one issue," but rather "a steady accumulation of negative experiences and dissonant teachings that made it difficult or impossible to stay." The authors continued to express, "None of this is good news for America's places of worship. ... The decline in religious participation and membership has provoked a good deal of concern and consternation, but these latest trends represent a four-alarm warning. I'm not sure there will be any answer."

But then, that conclusion begs the question: Are there any solutions? How should the church interpret this information, and how should we respond to it? Thankfully, David Closson, Family Research Council's director of the Center for Biblical Worldview, shared his insight with The Washington Stand.

"I think these results are interesting, but not surprising," he said. Closson noted that FRC has done research that indicates "the percentage of those who have a biblical worldview in the broader culture has been going down for some time, and the percentage of those with a biblical worldview that regularly attend church has also been going down for some time." Additionally, "Most research shows that the younger the person is in the United States, the less likely they'll have a biblical worldview."

As such, "I'm not surprised at all that recent survey's research shows that those numbers are coming down," Closson emphasized. But interestingly, he saw that while this may not be good for culture, "It could be good for the church."

He continued, "We no longer live in a culture that privileges Christianity. There's nothing to be gained by identifying with the church. And so, for someone ... to identify as Christian, for them to go to church, it's because they are legitimate followers of Jesus. They're actual disciples, and they actually want to order their lives according to the teachings of the Bible." For believers, this is good news.

However, "when it comes to issues related to women in the church," Closson added, "throughout the history of the church, almost every major denomination has understood the Bible to teach very clearly in Genesis 1 and 2, that both men and women are created in God's image and have inherent value and dignity." Considering this, faithful churches should be treating men and women equally as human beings. But what's interesting, as Closson pointed out, is that "for most of the church's history, it has also not been controversial to say that there are different responsibilities and roles assigned to men and women as it relates to the home and church."

It's no secret that the role of women in the church has become increasingly controversial within the last 100 years. But Closson stated, "From a historical perspective, we need to realize that for the vast majority of the church's history, it has been utterly uncontroversial to assert that the qualifications that Paul gives in the New Testament apply to qualified men." But nonetheless, he continued, "I think the church needs to make sure they're doing a good job of explaining" why this is the case.

Despite how the women in the survey felt about religion, Closson contended that Christianity actually elevates women, and it would be fruitful for the church to emphasize that more. "It's Christians who have looked at men and women and taught that there's equality between the sexes. It's Christians who have elevated widows and orphans. It's Christians who have abolished things like slavery," he contended. "And I think Christians need to do a better job of telling that story to show that it's not patriarchal, it's not misogynistic."

Ultimately, "if young women believe the lies of the culture, they will think that churches are not for them," Closson said. "And the culture has done a good job of peddling that message." 

Originally published at The Washington Stand

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