Survey: Christianity 'Resilient' in Unchurched Cities

While it's no surprise that the highest proportion of self-identified Christians reside in the South, a new survey reveals that even in the most unchurched U.S. cities, nearly three out of four people say they're Christian.

According to Barna Group, the most unchurched cities – where around four out of ten adults have not been to a religious worship service in the last six months – are San Francisco; Portland, Maine; Portland, Ore.; Boston; Sacramento; and Seattle. Many of these cities also have the highest percentage of atheists or agnostics.

Yet in each of these cities, 68 to 76 percent identify as a Christian.

David Kinnaman, who directed the research project, concluded that Christianity in America is "remarkably resilient and mainstream."

"Nearly three out of four people call themselves Christians, even among the least 'Christianized' cities. Furthermore, a majority of U.S. residents, regardless of location, engage in a church at some level in a typical six-month period," he said in the report Monday.

"The real differences spiritually between various regions are not so much what they call themselves; the faith gaps are more likely to be issues of belief, practice, politics and spiritual emphasis – how people think about, prioritize and express their faith."

Barna Group saw wide gaps when it asked survey participants specifics about their beliefs.

When asked to agree or disagree with the statement "the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches," nearly three-quarters of residents in Charlotte, N.C., and Shreveport, La., held Scripture in high regard, according to the research group. But just over a quarter of residents in Providence, R.I., and San Francisco agreed.

Regarding evangelism, a majority of residents in Birmingham, Ala., (64 percent) and Charlotte (54 percent) said they agreed strongly that a person has a responsibility to share their beliefs with others. Meanwhile, only 14 percent and 17 percent of Providence and Boston populations, respectively, agreed.

Politics was found to be another significant faith gap. Practicing Christians who are registered Democrats are most likely to be found in Shreveport (63 percent); Harlingen, Texas (53 percent); Lexington, Ky. (49 percent); and Memphis, Tenn. (48 percent).

Practicing Christians who are affiliated with the Republican Party, meanwhile, are most likely to reside in Wichita, Kansas (54 percent); Springfield, Ill. (50 percent); Harrisburg, Pa. (49 percent); and Knoxville, Tenn. (49 percent).

Other findings show that weekly church attendance is highest in Birmingham (67 percent), Baton Rouge, La., (62 percent), Salt Lake City (62 percent) and Huntsville, Ala. (60 percent).

Notably, cities with the highest proportions of Christians who attend large churches (of 1,000 or more people) include Las Vegas, Orlando, Dallas, San Diego, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., and Houston. Small church (100 or fewer people) participation is highest in Charleston, W. Va.; Lexington, Ky.; Little Rock, Ark.; Scranton, Pa.; Shreveport; and Pittsburgh.

The results are based on nearly 40,000 telephone interviews conducted over the last seven years by Barna Group.

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