A Historical Look at the Status,
Engagement and Implications
of the Ta Ethne Immigration to
the United States from 1775 to
A Version Developed for the
NAMB Leadership Celebration
Documentation of This Look At
Immigration from 1775 to 1950
Will Herberg’s and Oscar Handlin’s works, along
with John Hansen’s work, stand today as the classic
works on immigration to the USA up to the 1950s.
through major research of their own, which included
Their research was based upon the work of
hundreds of other social researchers of their era.
That body of research when joined with research
from the 1960s to now provides clarity and vital
understanding of our situation today.
Exploring The Ta Ethne Migration
from 1775 to 2006 A.D.
An old proverb says: “those who do not
consider and pay attention to history are
doomed to repeat it.”
There is a more biblical focus. A look at
Israel in the Old Testament era tells us that
when Israel ignored God and history, God
warned them and instigated their downfall.
The Three Periods that Led to
Future-Altering Changes in the USA
The first of the three periods occurred between
1775 and 1924. We will extend this date to 1950 to
include the religious data parameters.
The second period of change occurred between
1945 and 1960. (This period is an overlap period.)
The third period of change occurred between 1960
and 2006 A.D. and will likely continue to the
extreme. Many Christians are unaware of issues.
A Look At 1775 to 1950--The
Main Historical, Social and
Religious Factors Related to
Immigration to the USA
Will Herberg’s & Oscar Handlin’s
Basic Research Findings
Oscar Handlin said in the 1950s: “Once I thought to
write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I
discovered that the immigrants were American
history” The Uprooted, The Epic Story of the Great
Migrations that Made the American People. (p. 3.
Little Brown, 1957)
This is the most significant and critical reality for
America and American Christians to understand-then and now. We will explore the “then” followed
by a look at the “now.”
A Look At 1775 to 1950—America, A
Nation of “Panta ta ethne” Immigrants
America was founded, grew and flourished in terms of
ethnic peoples, population, religious adherents and
their churches. We will explore those categories.
Herberg described America following 1607 saying: “The
colonists who came to these shores from the time of
the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to the outbreak of
the Revolution were mostly of English and Scottish
stock, augmented by a considerable number of
settlers of Dutch, Swedish, German, and Irish origin.”
A Look At 1775 to 1950—America, A
Nation of “Panta ta ethne” Immigrants
Herberg and Handlin said in separate research
documents in the 1950s: “At the time of the
Revolution, this British-Protestant element (usually,
though inaccurately, known as ‘Anglo-Saxon’)
constituted at least 75 per cent of the 3,000,000
whites who made up the new nation (in 1775)”.
• “In addition, there were about three quarters of a
million (750,000) negroes.”
• “The great influx (of ethnics) came in the next century.”
• In three huge waves, stretching over something more
than a hundred years, over 35,000,000 men and
women left Europe to come to continental United
A Look At 1775 to 1950—America, A
Nation of “Panta ta ethne” Immigrants
• By 1924 when the great migrations were past,
the British-Protestant element had been
reduced to less than half the population, and
Americans had become linguistically and
ethnically the most diverse people on
earth.” (Herberg and Handlin) That situation
has continued to increase since 1924 to 2006.
A Look At 1775 to 1950—America, A
Nation of “Panta ta ethne” Immigrants
• The melding force from 1775 was a
combination of the frontier, economics and the
continuing waves of ethnic immigrant arrivals
from 1775 to 1924.
• Immigrants found plenty of opportunities to
work on the Westward moving frontier and
came in waves seeking frontier jobs.
• First generation immigrants rose from menial
jobs to middle class manager/business status
The Economics of Immigrants
“From 1830 to 1930, Irish, Bohemians, Slovaks,
Hungarians, and many other peoples followed
each other in the service of the pick and shovel,
each earlier group, displaced by newcomers,
moving upward in the occupational and social
scale…If successive waves of immigration
served as the ‘push’ in this pattern of
occupational advancement, education and
acculturation to American ways provided the
immigrants with the opportunity of making
the most of it,…” (Herberg)
A Look At 1775 to 1950—America, A
Nation of “Panta ta ethne” Immigrants
• The second generation of immigrants assumed
the jobs of the vacated first generation
immigrants who moved up on job ladder.
• As the frontier moved farther westward and as
new waves of immigrants came to America, the
movement from menial to managerial jobs
• This kept immigrants from wholesale settlement
within ethnic enclaves, except in cities.
A Look At 1775 to 1950—America, A
Nation of “Panta ta ethne” Immigrants
The Americanization process did produce in the
somewhat melded population a fairly common
English language among the ethnics.
• However, pronounced (pun intended) regional,
and some sub-regional, dialectical accents,
worldview expressions and word choices
remained unmixed within the various ethnics.
• Some immigrants stayed in cities and often
duplicated their ethnic status there.
A Look At 1775 to 1950—America, A
Nation of “Panta ta ethne” Immigrants
Americanization of the various European ethnics:
• even though they learned English for economic
reasons, this language melding did not erase all
of their ethnic identities.
• As will be seen, this language melding did not
erase their religious identity from the old
country. Of all their ethnic qualities, their
religious identity came over from old country.
A Look At 1775 to 1950—America, A
Nation of “Panta ta ethne” Immigrants
Most of the regional dialectical and
worldview differences can be traced to ethnic
heritages that persisted. Consider the Cajuns
in Louisiana. German dairy communities
spotted the nation. For other examples see the
DVD package entitled The Appalachians and
the San Antonio, Texas Catholic Missions video
produced by the US Parks and Historical
A Look At 1775 to 1950—America, A
Nation of “Panta ta ethne” Immigrants
American frontier history shaped and “melded”
only to a degree the European ta ethne
• Over a two-hundred year period these multiple
ethnic groups were melded mainly into an
“Anglo Saxon” or Anglo-Saxon-oriented
population, at least in terms of language. It is
out of this process that the WASP arose—
White Anglo Saxon Protestant.
A Look At 1775 to 1950—America, A
Nation of “Panta ta ethne” Immigrants
American religious denominations, beginning in 1775
and continuing until 1950, underwent classic
changes which were only minimally theological.
In the American religious landscape Protestantism
dominated from the 1700s to the 1900s.
American Indians, who were almost the only
Americans in the 1500s and 1600s, and who existed
in many ethnic groupings, are said by various
historians to have suffered the most between 1775
and 1924 as the European ethnics came and settled
the American frontier from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
The American Indian from 1600 to
• The first change was the overrunning of the
American Indians by the European
• Of an estimated 300 plus original languages
spoken within the American continent, 175
living languages remain (National Museum of
the American Indian, the Smithsonian Inst.)
• Optimum estimates of pre-Columbian
population was 15,000,000 to 18,000,000 (R.
David Edmonds of UTDallas)
The American Indian from 1600 to
• By 1860 in the continental USA there were
official government counts or estimates of
339,421 American Indians (James Collins,
Native Americans in the Census, 1860-1890)
• By 1880 the American Indian count was
305,543. (Collins)
• Like all early US Census data, this was based
upon a projected sample. The issue is the
decline from 15,000,000 to 306,543.
Immigration from 1775 to 1924
“The ‘epic story of the great migrations that
made the American people” came to an end
substantially with World War I and with the restrictive
legislation of the 1920s.”
• 35,000,000 Europeans had reached these shores:
4,500,000 from Ireland,
4,000,000 from Great Britain,
6,000,000 from central Europe,
2,000,000 from the Scandinavian lands,
5,000,000 from Italy,
8,000,000 from eastern Europe,
and 3,000,000 from the Balkans.
(This was America.” Much of Will Herberg’s data
came from Handlin’s study cited earlier. See
Herberg, p. 8.)
The Religious Situation In The
USA from 1775 to 1950
The First Period of Change from
1775 to 1924
There was the status of Christianity in 1775
and the changes within the population in light of
Christianity during this period.
– It was clear that the main reason that people
migrated to the New World was primarily for
religious freedom. There were other minor reasons.
– The percent of Christians in the colonies in 1775
was about 12% and the majority were
– The Bill of Rights & the Western frontier resulted in
a marked change in religion in America
The Six (6) Leading Church
Groups in the Colonies in 1780
Congregational (745 churches)
Anglican/Episcopal (405 churches)
Presbyterian (490 churches)
Lutheran (235 churches)
Methodist (Less than 200 churches)
Baptist (About 200 churches)
Catholics are not included in this comparison
The Six (6) Leading Church
Groups in the USA in 1850
(See Neil Braun’s Laity Mobilized Master’s Thesis for
more discussion of this dynamic within US history.)
The Six (6) Leading Church
Groups in the USA in 1950
Baptist was first
Congregational was last
(See Jim Slack’s and Jim Maroney’s IMB study of the
principles and practices of church planting.)
Discerning The Lay of the Land
In fact, the seven in 1775 were exactly
reversed by 1950.
By 1850 Methodists were the largest
Protestant denomination in the USA and
Baptists were second.
By 1950 Southern Baptists were the largest
of the seven and Methodists were second.
Discerning “The Lay of the Land”
It is very informative from a historic
evangelization and missiological perspective to
follow and compare the growth dynamics among
the 7 largest Protestant denominations in 1775 with
the 7 largest Protestant denominations in 1950.
Baptists in 1775, who had not yet divided into
two major Baptist groups (Northern and Southern),
were the smallest of all seven Protestant
denominations. Methodists were next to last.
What happened that caused this turn-around?
Why Did These Groups Grow & Why
Did the Order End Up Reversed?
Congregationalists whose polity was thought to
be best fitted for the frontier went though an “Old
Lights” and “New Lights” theological controversy
followed by a comity agreement with Presbyterians.
Neither of them recovered from that missiological
Yet, it was Congregationalists who brought the
initial and major political and religious group with a
manifesto to the New Land. And, in 1900,
Congregationalists had 1,000 missionaries on foreign
fields, only to see them dwindle during the 1900s.
Why Did These Groups Grow & Why
Did the Order End Up Reversed?
Anglican churches were identified with the
English colonizers, with the causes of the
Revolution and never overcame that image until
they changed their name. Few realize that
many of the Puritans and what today are Low
Church Anglicans had gone with Wesley,
forming the foundations of the Methodist church
in both England and the Colonies/USA.
Why Did These Groups Grow & Why
Did the Order End Up Reversed?
Presbyterians suffered from the comity
agreement between them and the Congregationalists,
and like the Episcopal churches, their institutional
preference of land and building, and requirements for
a theologically degreed, denominationally chosen and
installed pastor kept them off the edges of the frontier.
The institutional denominations lagged an average
of 200 miles behind the frontier where more settled
communities were like them and could afford them.
Why Did These Groups Grow & Why
Did the Order End Up Reversed?
Lutherans seem to be the strange
anomaly among the six denominations.
Lutherans did make it to the frontier and
did grow. However, persecution and lack
of a colony base in New England pushed
Lutherans to Missouri territory and
northward into Canada where they settled
& grew some distance from persecution.
How did Methodists become First in
1850 and Remain Second in 1950?
Methodists had a strategy, a carefully
defined and carefully managed geographic
circuit plan that fitted the frontier. Their plan
was the “method” found in “Methodist.” The
plan, designed by Wesley for England, which
was never accepted there fit the US frontier
“beautifully.” (This is in quotes for a reason.)
How did Methodists become First in
1850 and Remain Second in 1950?
• “When the rigors of circuit riding in the early days, as
the Church moved over the country, are brought
before the mind and imagination, the question is
frequently asked, ‘How did they stand it?’ The answer
is: ‘They didn’t.’ They died under it. No group of men
ever lived up more fully to the truth, ‘He that looseth
his life shall find it.’ (pp. 42-43, Halford E. Luccock,
Endless Line of Splendor. The Advance for Christ and
His Church of The Methodist Church publisher,
Chicago, Illinois, 1950)
How did Methodists become First in
1850 and Remain Second in 1950?
• “They died, most of them, before their careers
were much more than begun.” Of the 650
preachers who had joined the Methodist
itinerancy by the opening of the 19th century,
about 500 had to ‘locate,’ a term that was used
for those too worn-out to travel further. Many of
the rest had to take periods for recuperation.
Others located not because of health, but by
reason of lack of support and the desire to
marry and establish a home.” (Luccock)
How did Methodists become First in
1850 and Remain Second in 1950?
Of the first 737 circuit riders of the Conferences
to die—that is, all who died up to 1847
– 203 were between 25 and 35 years of age
– 121 between 35 and 45.
– Nearly half died before they were 30 years old.
Of 672 of those first preachers whose records we
have in full,
– two-thirds died before they had been able to render
12 years of service.
– Just one less than 200 died within the first five
years. (Luccock)
How did Methodists become First in
1850 and Remain Second in 1950?
“Many circuits were from 300 to 600 miles in length…For instance,
in 1791, Freeborn Garrettson was assigned to a circuit which
included almost half of what is now the state of New York…In
1814 James B. Finley, on the Cross Creek Circuit, Ohio, had a
circuit covering more than two counties, and preached 32 times
on every round. The salary schedule has an eloquence of its
own. Cash was almost unknown. In 1821 Benjamin T. Crouch
records receiving only $38 toward his year’s allowance. The
same year Peter Cartwright received the highest salary in the
Kentucky Conference--$238. But when he moved, with his wife
and six children, to the Sangamon Circuit, Illinois, he received
$40, all told, for the year.” (pp. 44-45, Luccock)
How did Baptists become Second in
1850 and Grow to First by 1950?
“Methodism grew faster until after 1850,
but Baptist growth from 1800 to 1960 is
unparalleled. From a little over 100,000 in
1800, they were approaching 20 million by
1960.” (Gaustad: 1962 as quoted by Braun)
The basic reason is that Baptist theology
and polity fitted them better for the frontier
than any other denomination of churches.
Growth Characteristics of Baptists
• Each local church was autonomous
• Churches were congregational in polity
• Baptist church members going west
were encouraged to plant a church if no
Baptist church existed where they settled
• Churches that emerged met in homes,
saloons, hardware stores, barns,
stables, school rooms, under trees, etc.
Growth Characteristics of Baptists
• Local churches found their pastor within the
maturing believers in their emerging church
• Local churches called, recognized and
ordained their own pastors
• Experienced pastors tended to itinerate,
pastoring 2-4 other churches
• As frontier towns settled in and grew, some
churches sought pastors from more settled
frontier towns to the east
Growth Characteristics of Baptists
• By the mid to late 1800s, in settled
territory behind the frontier’s leading
edge, as churches there increased in
number, in membership size and
stability, with pastors of longer tenure in
the pastorate, requests arose for training
• This led to Baptist schools being started
The Most Common Growth Reason
• Sweet, Herberg, Latourete, Braun and
multiple other historians said that the
most common growth factors were: 1)
the starting of churches in homes where
land and building for a church was not a
condition for having and being a church;
and 2) lay preachers and pastors, most
of whom were bi-vocational.
The Lay of the Land Discerned
Over time, for sure by the early 1900s, as religious
status became the leading characteristic of an
American, the Bible Belt was forming. The American
culture was developing a stronger Christian ethic, with
Christian values as its base. This base was “in
practice” for some, and only in the “awareness” or
“conscience-ought to stage” for others. It is out of
this base that the terms “WASP” (“White Anglo-Saxon
Protestant”) and “Judeo-Christian” emerged in the
The Major Concern of the Immigrants
by the 1900s
“Their big concern was the preservation of
their way of life; above all, the transplanting of
their churches.” (pp. 10-11, Herberg.)
In his footnotes Herberg quotes Marcus L.
Hansen’s research in The Problem of the Third
Generation Immigrant (Augustana Historical Society,
Rock Island, Ill., 1938, p. 15 who said: “The church
was the first, the most important, and the most
significant institution that the immigrants
By 1950, Who Was an American?
• By the early 1900s being an “American” came
out of a degree of melding of three generations
of ethnic groups into being “Americans.”
• Herberg’s research discovered that by the
1930s, A ‘Triple Melting Pot’ situation in the US
had developed as the norm. Ethnic migration
saw their language and some of their culture
receded somewhat to the background. English
had become a practical acquisition of most
ethnics, but their religion persisted to
become the ethnics major identity.
By 1950, Who Was an American?
The singular most identifying characteristic
among most ethnics who migrated to the USA
from 1775 to 1924 was their religious status.
As their language became mostly English and
as they gave up some of their cultural identity,
the sum of their status as “Americans” settled
into three acceptable identifying religious
markers—Protestant, Catholic or Jew.
So, by the 1950s in the USA the identification
of an American was according to one of these
three categories—Protestant, Catholic or Jew.
A Look At Culture and Religion
in the USA:1945 to 1960
Again, the three primary researchers and
authors of what have become classic works
concerning American immigration were Handlin,
Hansen & Herberg.
By 1950, Who Was an American?
In review of what went before, the singular most
identifying characteristic among most ethnics who
migrated to the USA from 1775 to 1924 was their
religious status. As their language became mostly
English and as they gave up some of their cultural
identity, the sum of their status as “Americans” settled
into three acceptable identifying religious markers—
Protestant, Catholic or Jew.
So, by the 1950s in the USA the identification of an
American was according to one of these three categories—
Protestant, Catholic or Jew.
The USA Religious Scene in 1950
• In 1775 church members were only 10 to 12%
of the US population
• By 1910 church members had grown to 43%
• By 1960 church members had grown to 60%
(pp.33-34, Herberg)
The USA Religious Scene in 1950:
A Consideration of Conversions
“Conversions from one community to the other
take place, but they seem to be very small and do not
appreciably affect the over-all picture.” (Herberg, p.
160) (Herberg quotes the Yearbook of American
Churches, edition for 1960, pp. 261-262 for his data.
In the research Herberg quotes 140,414 as the
Catholics record of conversions to Catholicism from
Protestantism and he used The 1959 National
Catholic Almanac, p. 407 for this information. This
data is for the year 1957. For a more in-depth study,
see Thomas J.M. Burke’s “Did Four Million Catholics
Become Protestants?, America, April 10, 1954.
Religion in USA in the 1950s: A
Consideration of Conversions
Burke’s article, a survey by the American Institute
of Public Opinion (a Gallup poll) in 1955 indicated that
of an adult population of 96,000,000, only about 4
per cent no longer belonged to the religious
community of their birth; of these: 1,400,000 were
Protestants who had originally been Catholics, and
1,400,000 were Catholics who had originally been
Protestants, about 1,000,000 had made changes of
some other kind. See also John A. O’Brien, You Too
Can Win Souls (Macmillan, 1955).” (Herberg’s
footnotes on pages 170-171.)
A Study of Marriage Patterns from
1870 to 1940
“In the early 1940s, Ruby Jo Kennedy undertook an
investigation of intermarriage trends in New Haven from 1870
to 1940. She published her findings in the American Journal of
Sociology for January 1944 under the significant title, ‘Single or
Triple Melting Pot?’…The years 1870, 1900, 1930, and 1940
were isolated for detailed examination…’The large nationality
groups in New Haven,’ Mrs. Kennedy found, ‘represent a
triple division on religious grounds: Jewish, Protestant
(British-American, German, and Scandinavian), and
Catholic (Irish, Italian, and Polish)…’ In its early immigrant
days, each of these ethnic groups tended to be endogamous;
with the years, however, people began to marry outside the
group. (Herberg’s quote of Kennedy data on page 33)
A Study of Marriage Patterns from
1870 to 1940
Kennedy found: Irish marriage was 93.05 per
cent in 1870; 74.75 per cent in 1900, 74.25 per cent
in 1930, and 45.06 per cent in 1940; German inmarriage was 86.67 per cent in 1870, 55.26 per
cent in 1900, 39.84 per cent in 1930, and 27.19 per
cent in 1940; for the Italians and the Poles, the
comparable figures were 97.71 per cent and 100
per cent respectively in 1900, 86.71 and 68.04 per
cent in 1930, and 81.89 per cent and 52.78 per cent
in 1940. But, ‘while strict ethnic endogamy is
loosening, religious endogamy is persisting…”
(Herberg’s quote of Kennedy data on page 33)
The USA Religious Scene in 1950: A
Consideration of Inter-Marriage
By the 1950s, religion not only divided into
the three ‘pools’; but those in each religious
category tended to marry only within their
pool. Hollingshead found in a study that:
– 97.1% of Jewish pool married only Jewish spouses
– 93.8% of Catholics married only Catholic spouses
– 74.4% of Protestants married only Protestant
spouses (pp.33-34, Herberg. He is quoting the
study of Hollingshead.)
A Study of Marriage Patterns from
1870 to 1940
“Members of Catholic stocks married Catholics in 95.35 per cent of the cases in
1870, 85.78 per cent in 1900, 82.05 per cent in 1930, and 83.71 in 1940; members of
Protestant stocks married Protestants in 99.11 per cent of the cases in 1870, 90.66
per cent in 1900, 78.19 per cent in 1930, and 79.72 per cent in 1940; Jews married
Jews in 100 per cent of the cases in 1870, 98.82 per cent in 1900, 97.01 per cent in
1930, and 94.32 per cent in 1940. ‘Future cleavages,’ in Mrs. Kennedy’s opinion,
‘will therefore be along religious lines rather than along nationality lines as in the
past….Cultural [i.e. ethnic] lines may fade, but religious barriers are holding
fast….When marriage crosses religious barriers, as it often does, religion still plays a
prominent role, especially among Catholics,’ in that such marriages are often
conditioned upon, and result in, one of the partners being brought into the religious
community of the other.’” ‘The traditional ‘single melting pot’ idea must be
abandoned, and a new conception, which we term the ‘triple melting pot’ theory of
American assimilation, will take its place, as the true expression of what is happening
to the various nationality groups in the United States….The ‘triple melting pot’ type of
assimilation is occurring through intermarriage, with Catholicism, Protestantism, and
Judaism serving as the three fundamental bulwarks…The different nationalities are
merging, but within three religious compartments rather than indiscriminately…A
triple religious cleavage, rather than a multilinear nationality cleavage, therefore
seems likely to characterize American society in the future.’” (pp. 32-33, Herberg)
The Breadth and Depth (Evidences) of
these Religious Characteristics
By 1950, one’s personal identity, political
qualification, social status, marriage, and a
few other functional American categories were
primarily determined by their identify with one
of the three that was most appropriate for
ethnic background and geographic location in
the USA.
(See Will Herberg’s Protestant-Catholic-Jew.)
The Consequences of this
Religious Environment
It was beginning to be true in the late 1930s,
increased as being true in the 1940s, throughout
the 1950s and into the early1960s that, to be
elected to a significant state and national office
in the USA, the candidate had to represent, or
make the public think they represented, JudeoChristian values or he or she was seldom
elected to a major offices.
This was especially true in the Bible Belt of the
USA. However, except in pervasively Catholic
areas, it was difficult for a Roman Catholic to be
elected to a national office.
The Consequences of this
Religious Environment
These Judeo-Christian values that can be seen in
the background of the US Constitution, had emerged
as the broad American ideal by the mid-1800s and
were commonly taught and nourished in the US public
schools from the 1800s to the 1970s.
It was the 1960s before the USA elected a Catholic
as president for fear that a Catholic president would
allow the Pope in Rome to influence American political
decisions in ways unfavorable to Protestants and
Protestant values. Until Reagan, no divorcee had
every been elected as President of the USA.
The Consequences of this
Religious Environment
Southern Baptists, by 1950, not only emerged as
the largest and most influential Protestant denomination
in the USA, they existed predominantly in the “Bible
Methodists and Southern Baptists were the major
denominations that produced the “Bible Belt.”
The people who produced the Methodist and Baptist
denominations and the Bible Belt were migrant peoples,
mostly from Europe, mostly northern Europe.
Most of these had fled Europe looking for religious
freedom, while the others came to the colonies looking
for decent work, land, a better lifestyle and freedom.
The Consequences of this
Religious Environment
Southern Baptist evangelism and church
planting methods, or approaches, developed in
the midst of this history and upon this base of
Judeo-Christian values. They were assumed to
exist by most citizens in the USA.
These Judeo-Christian values permeated
the justice and legal system of the USA and
were assumed to be the best rules to live and
do business by in the USA. (See Herberg’s
book Protestant, Catholic, and Jew.)
The Lay of the Land Discerned
• Consequently, Southern Baptists, and other
evangelical denominations, and Para-church
agencies such as Post-WWII Navigators,
Campus Crusades, Inter-Varsity, and others,
understood the assumptions and aspirations
of typical Americans in the USA during this
era. Thus, this was the situation just prior to
the next stage of immigration and history.
Looking Back on this Period from
1945 to 1960
We now look back on the period from 1945
to 1960 as America’s most formative and
significant religious ingathering period in
American history. This does not minimize the
affects and the magnitude of the Great
Awakenings in the 1700s, or the Great Prayer
Revival in 1850. However, the growth of
religious denominations—Protestants, Catholics
and Jews—within this period speaks for itself.
Southern Baptists grew by 100% in this period.
A Troubling Reality of the Most
Homogeneous and Religious Era
“This is at least part of the picture presented by religion in
contemporary America. Christians flocking to church, yet
forgetting all about Christ when it comes to naming the most
significant events in history; men and women valuing the Bible
as revelation, purchasing and distributing it by the millions, yet
apparently seldom reading it themselves. Every aspect of
contemporary religious life reflects this paradox—pervasive
secularism amid mounting religiosity, ‘the strengthening of the
religious structure in spite of increasing secularism…America
seems to be at once the most religious and the most secular of
nations…can there be much doubt that, by and large, the
religion which actually prevails among Americans today has lost
much of its authentic Christian (or Jewish) content.” (p. 2-3,
Major Missiological Issues to Notice
As the American population became
sociologically more homogeneously Anglo and
as most of the American population had come
to see itself as either Protestant, Catholic or
Jew a number of things occurred:
• Most any kind of evangelism program that a
Christian “worked” tended to “work” (meaning
produced fruit);
• Programs and methods tended to work across
minor cultural boundaries
Major Missiological Issues to Notice
• Programs, methods, approaches, whatever one
wants to call them, became more and more
generic. This was especially the case with
Southern Baptists who were mainly in the Bible
• Consequently Southern Baptists came to
believe that “one size, meaning one model, fits
all,” and they did to a great degree then,
especially in the Bible Belt;
Major Missiological Issues to Notice
• However, when Baptists “hit the road” and took
their evangelism teams to the Northeast, to the
Midwest and to the Northwest, they tended to
attract primarily transplanted Southerners who
had a firm Christian base.
• And, when the Baptists were out of the
Protestant Bible Belt and in Catholic territories
of the 1950s they met the “we don’t swap
religions” ethnic identify that created America
and Americans of the 1950s.
Major Missiological Issues to Notice
• Those transplanted churches were soon sealed off
those churches from the locals. For, when the few
locals who did come to see what church was all
about, they saw “foreign southern folks,” heard
sermons that assumed evangelical, Christian values
& assumptions with southern Bible Belt terms.
• Most locals did not stay and join those non-local,
southern churches, for they did not engage the
locals’ worldview. Fifty years later, most of those
churches are as they were then, or smaller.
The Third Period of American History:
The most homogeneous era and the most
religious period in US history soon:
• eroded into the most secular period the US has
ever known;
• entered, became and continues to escalate into
a “separation of church and state” era that
never existed in previous US history and that is
totally out of character with the intentions of the
founding fathers;
The Third Period of American History:
The most homogeneous era in US history and
the most religious period in US history soon:
• saw a renewed influx of ethnic immigrants who
are on their way to surpassing the numbers
which occurred from 1775 to 1924;
• began experiencing ethnic immigration that,
except for ethnics coming from Latin America,
come from very different cultural, worldview,
and religious stock;
The Third Period of American History:
The most homogeneous era in US history and
the most religious period in US history soon:
• was faced with a large percentage of ethnics
from many different ethnic groups who want to
keep not only their religion as did those of the
1800s, but who in addition want to keep their
own language and their own culture as well;
• had ethnics, some of whom are compromising
enough to learn English at a work level;
The Third Period of American History:
The most homogeneous era in US history and
the most religious period in US history soon:
• experienced immigrant ethnics who want the
American dream but who do not want to
assimilate into American culture to the point of
giving up language, culture and religion; yet,
who want all of the rights of any traditional
American citizen; and who soon
• met Christians who do not see them as, or
relate to them as, Jesus’ “panta ta ethne.”
Missiological Issues This Generation
• Attempts to revive and repackage methods and
approaches used during the most
homogeneous and religious period in US
history, that of the 1950s;
• Following the lead of secular, market-driven,
demographic, sociological categories, that
adequately locate and define ethnic Anglos, an
ever-shrinking pool within the American
population as very diverse ethnics increase;
Missiological Issues This Generation
• Assuming and search for generic, silver-bullet,
models that will work among each and every
one of the ethnic groups throughout the USA;
• And, this is when the old 1950s methods do not
even work today among a very different pool of
Anglos from those of the 1950s;
• Post-modern Anglos of today do not resemble
nor respond to programs of homogeneous and
religious Anglos of the 1950s;
Missiological Issues of Today
• The American population continues to move
away from Judeo-Christian values
• Two entire generations of school kids have not
been introduced to Judeo-Christian values and
worldview assumptions
• This is very much the truth in the cities and on
college & university campuses
Missiological Issues of Today
• The political landscape has changed
drastically. The attempt is to move Christianity
out of the market place and out of public view
into the privacy of homes or church buildings.
• Political campaigns are not friendly to up-front
declarations of Christian truth and obvious
Christian positions.
Missiological Issues of Today
• Based upon biblical and pedagogical evidence,
each ethnic group should be engaged in the
idiom of its heart language. (See the Acts 2
miracle of the Pentecost visitors hearing in their
own heart language.)
• Worldview is at the heart of “ta ethne”
engagement, yet is a hardly understood and
followed concept today;
• Worldview is laid down in the life of each
person in the idiom of their heart language;
Missiological Issues of Today
What is beneath the issue of heart language
and worldview?
• Pedagogy, psychology, psychiatry and
anthropology tells us that by the time a child is
4-5 years old, he or she, has accrued from 4560% of his or her worldview. These same
researchers tell us that by 11-12 years of age,
80% of a person’s worldview is formed.
• To engage and influence a person’s worldview
in favor of a Christian worldview it should be
engaged in the person’s heart language idiom;
Missiological Issues of Today
What is beneath the issue of heart language
and worldview?
• Generic approaches and generic content that
does not work in a person’s heart language and
that does not address a person’s specific
worldview issues has little opportunity of
influencing that person’s worldview;
• To not engage a person’s worldview is to face
syncretism in that person’s life;
Missiological Issues of Today
What is beneath the issue of heart language
and worldview?
• Even if an ethnic learns English, the worldview,
to be engaged, should be engaged in the
person’s heart language for that is the language
in which worldview beliefs, values and habits
• Today, a large number of the ethnics are
coming from Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist,
Animistic, Catholic and Post-Modern cultures;
Missiological Issues of Today
What is beneath the issue of heart language
and worldview?
• Copying materials developed for one ethnic
group and translating them into the language of
another ethnic group will not address the
second group’s worldview unless they have the
same language and worldview. The IMB did it
for years and reaped syncretism from it.
• The setting ethnics live in, such as urban or
rural, has less to do with evangelizing ethnics
than does their language and worldview;
Missiological Issues of Today
• As the US experiences the entry of record
numbers of different ethnic peoples with their
own individual languages that produced their
own peculiar ethnic worldview beliefs, values
and lifestyles, there is the high priority need to:
– Segment society according to each and every
ethnic group within the USA
– Encourage, learn about and assist in the People
Groups Info partnership between the IMB and
NAMB research departments
The Paramount “Ta Ethne”
Facing America Today
America’s Most Critical Hour
Multiple ethnic groups are migrating to the
US and Canada today who have various heart
languages, and various ethnic worldviews, yet
who embrace the same religion—Islam.
Even though they have their own individual
languages and worldviews, they share the aim
of living permanently in the US, along with their
aim of being the dominant religion in
America. They aim for it to be the only
religion in America.
America’s Most Critical Hour
Islam is already on its way to becoming the
dominant religion in Europe. Scholars who
seldom ever agree on any one issue, political or
religious or secular agree that Islam has Europe
in its grasp and will soon have Canada,
followed soon after by Islam’s possession of the
US. Possession to Islam means socially,
religiously, politically and economically without
any rivals.
Document prepared by:
Dr. James B. Slack
August 2006
For: NAMB-SBC Leadership Meeting
End of Presentation
• “No one who attempts to see the contemporary religious situation in
the United States in perspective can fail to be struck by the
extraordinary pervasiveness of religious identification among
present-day Americans. Almost everybody in the United States
today locates himself in one or another of the three great religious
communities. Asked to identify themselves in terms of religious
‘preference,’ 95 per cent of the American people, according to a
recent public opinion survey, declared themselves to be either
Protestants, Catholics, or Jews (68 percent Protestants, 23 per cent
Catholics, 4 per cent Jews); only 5 per cent admitted to no
‘preference.’” (p. 46, Herberg. Herberg gained this data from the
Catholic Digest, January 1953. The survey was conducted by Ben
Gaffin and Associates. Only adults over 18 are considered.)
“Much the same may be said about the high and growing repute of religion in the
American public mind. ‘Religion is given continued public and political
approval…’Godless’ is a powerful epithet…At least nominal public acceptance of
religion tends to be a prerequisite to political success (Herberg quotes Williams’
American Society, pp. 326, 336.)….It was not always so; there was a time when an
atheist or agnostic like Robert C. Ingersoll, who went around the country defying God
and making anti-religious speeches, could nevertheless occupy a respected and
influential position in American politics. Today that would be quite inconceivable, a
professed ‘unbeliever’ would be anathema to either of the big parties and
would have no chance whatever in political life.” (p. 51, Herberg)
Congressional Religious Affiliations-1957
“The contrast between the days of Ingersoll and our day, when every candidate for
public office is virtually required to testify to his high esteem for religion, measures the
position that religion as a ‘value’ or institution, has acquired in the American public
mind. Of the 528 members of the two houses of the 85th Congress, only 4 gave no
religious affiliation; 416 registered as Protestants, 95 as Roman Catholics, 12 as
Jews, and one as a Sikh.” (p. 52, Herberg. Herberg quotes the Report of the
Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress, released April 6, 1957.)
“The figures for church membership tell the same story but in greater detail.
Religious statistics in this country are notoriously inaccurate, but the trend is so well
marked that it overrides all margins of error. In the quarter of a century between 1926
and 1950 the population of continental United States increased 28.6 per cent,
membership of religious bodies increased 59.8 per cent; in other words, church
membership grew more than twice as fast as population. Protestants increased 63.7
per cent, Catholics 53.9 per cent, Jews 22.5 per cent. Among Protestants, however,
the increase varied considerably as between denominations; Baptist increase was
well over 100 per cent, some ‘holiness’ sects grew even more rapidly, while the figure
for the Episcopal Church was only 36.7 per cent, for the Methodist Church 32.2 per
cent, for the Northern Presbyterians 22.4 per cent, and for the Congregationalists
21.1 per cent. (p. 47, Herberg. Herberg found in Information Service, March 8, 1952
that “The trend continues. In the thirty-two years between 1926 and 1957, the
population of continental United States increased about 45 per cent while the
membership of religious bodies increased nearly 92 per cent, more than twice as fast.
(Yearbook of American Churches, edition for 1959, p. 294.)
“In 1950 total church membership was reckoned at 85,319,000, or about 57 per cent
of the total population. In 1958 it was 109,557,741, or about 63 per cent, marking an
all-time high in the nation’s history. (p. 47, Herberg. Data taken from Yearbook of
American Churches, edition for 1960, pp. 258, 279.)
The First Period of Change from
1775 to 1924
There were some noble human events
during this period of unprecedented migration,
but there were also so many ignoble events
when viewed from the perspective of the
American Indians.
– San Antonio as an illustration of Catholic mistakes
– Jonesborough and the Free State of Franklin as an
illustration of Baptist ethics and church planting
– There never has been a significant period of
evangelization of American Indians in US/Canada

To The Edges of Lostness in the United States