FAITH FILE: ‘Post-Christian’ Cities Are Richer, But They’re Less Generous & More Dangerous, Too

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Mark Tapscott Executive Editor, Chief of Investigative Group
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Would you rather live in a city whose residents make a lot of money but aren’t very generous and have to cope with high violent crime rates, or one where incomes are lower but the people give liberally to charitable causes and don’t worry so much about things like aggravated assaults?

Meet the 10-most “post-Christianity” cities in America and the 10-least such cities. Both groups are found in “The 100 Most Post-Christianity Cities In America in 2017,” a massive survey by George Barna of 76,505 adult Americans over a seven-year period. Barna specializes in longitudinal surveys tracking religious trends.

Barna measures responses to these 16 characteristics. People who meet nine or more are considered “Post-Christian,” while meeting 13 or more means they are “Highly Post-Christian:”

  • Do not believe in God
  • Identify as atheist or agnostic
  • Disagree that faith is important in their lives
  • Have not prayed to God (in the last week)
  • Have never made a commitment to Jesus
  • Disagree the Bible is accurate
  • Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
  • Have not attended a Christian church (in the last 6 months)
  • Agree that Jesus committed sins
  • Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
  • Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
  • Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
  • Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
  • Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
  • Bible engagement scale: low (have not read the Bible in the past week and disagree strongly or somewhat that the Bible is accurate)
  • Not Born Again

At first glance, Barna’s results aren’t surprising. Eight of the most-10 cities are in the Northeast or New England and the other two are on the West Coast. In other words, Blue America is strongly post-Christian. All of the 10-least cities are in the South where evangelical churches, especially Southern Baptists, remain prominent. No news there.

But digging deeper in the data produces some significant surprises. Expect a cosmopolitan mega-city like San Francisco or New York to be the most post-Christian? Guess again, because the Portland-Auburn, Maine, Designated Market Area (DMA) tops Barna’s list, with a population of just over 300,000.

Two other entries in this top 10 — Albany/Schenectady/Troy, New York, and Burlington, VT and Plattsburgh, NY — are much more like Portland/Auburn than San Francisco, New York, Seattle or Boston.

Conversely, the least Post-Christian city in America, according to Barna, is Shreveport, Louisiana, followed by Jackson, MS, Memphis, TN and seven other mostly medium-sized cities in the Southern heart of Red America.

Vital quality-of-life differences between the 10-most and 10-least Post-Christian cities emerge, too, when the Barna data is combined with data from other sources.

Consider average median family income. For the most-10, the average in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), was $70,876, compared to a much more modest $58,619 for the least-10. For the U.S., the figure is $68,260, so the most-10 cities enjoy somewhat higher incomes, while the least-10 are noticeably lower.

Despite making lower incomes, people in Red America are way more likely to contribute to charities and churches than those in the country’s bluest precincts. Oddly, Shreveport is not in Barna’s 50 Most Generous Cities, but Charlotte is second and Memphis is third.

The average ranking in Barna’s 50 for the least-10 is 20. By comparison, residents of the most-10 cities are … let’s just say, really stingy. The most-10 average ranking in Barna’s 50 is 84. These people don’t part easily with their money.

Then there is the violent crime issue. According to FBI data for 2014, the most recently available year, per capita violent crime rates in the most-10 cities averages 1,227.9, compared to 863 for the least-10 cities. The same pattern is seen when the measure is per capita aggravated assaults — 643.5 for the most-10 and 530 for the least-10.

These measures — the influence of Christianity, median family income, generosity and violent crime — don’t tell the whole quality of life story for these cities. Even so, it’s seems clear the quality of life for everybody in town improves when Christianity remains influential.

What do you think? Be sure and indicate in your comments how you scored on those 16 measures above.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor and chief of The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group. Follow Mark on Twitter.

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