Article

Familial Ties, Location of Occupation, and Congregational Exit in Geographically-Based Congregations: A Case Study of the Amish

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Abstract

Background While many studies have examined the relationship between social ties and joining social movements and religious groups, few studies have investigated the relationship between social ties and the likelihood of exiting such groups. Additionally, research has not considered how geography affects the membership dynamics of geographically-based congregations, specifically whether factors associated with residential mobility may also affect congregational exit in geographically-based congregations.PurposeThe purpose of this study is to examine how familial ties and place of employment affect congregational exit in geographically-based congregations. Drawing on social network and residential mobility research, this study hypothesizes that having parents and/or adult children in the same congregation and having minor children decreases the likelihood of congregational exit and working farther away from the congregation increases it.Methods This study draws on longitudinal archival data from one Amish congregation in the Holmes County Ohio Settlement. It tests the hypotheses using logistic regression models.ResultsThe results show that having one’s parents/adult children in the congregation and working close to the congregation are associated with a reduced likelihood of congregational exit. Having minor children in one’s household is not associated with congregational exit.Conclusions and ImplicationsThis is one of the first studies to consider how geographical requirements for congregational membership has implications for congregational exit. Given the results, congregations may be able to increase member retention by creating multigenerational ministries that support extended families and by advertising in local places of employment. As occupations increasingly shift to being primarily outside the home, Amish congregations in particular may experience more member turnover and membership instability.

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Scholars have speculated that the influential de facto congregationalism hypothesis applies to Catholics as well as to Protestants and recent immigrants. Considering that parish choice is central to that hypothesis, we present data from 49,604 Catholic families in the Detroit Archdiocese regarding parish membership in relation to residence. While findings indicate that 43% of these families attend parishes outside their home parish boundaries, which are consistent with the hypothesis, we conclude that the scope conditions of the hypothesis should be questioned in the case of Catholics. As a modification of the hypothesis, we propose a mixed-process theory in which de jure factors stemming from Vatican II combine with secular trends in American society in an elective affinity that might better explain Catholic congregationalism.
Article
Among the processes most thoroughly analyzed by social scientists studying religion have been conversion/affiliation and, more recently, deconversion/disaffiliation (Snow and Machalek 1984; Bromley 1991). Recent theory and research on these processes have been stimulated by a variety of developments, such as the historic, absolute decline in mainline church membership coupled with an unanticipated surge in conservative church membership, a mass exodus from traditional religious orders, the rapid growth and subsequent decline of controversial new religious movements, and widespread experimentation with a diverse array of New Age and quasi-religious groups. The primary focus of research has been on the nature of individual transformation and the process by which it occurs, which has concentrated theory and research at a microsocial level. Indeed, in assessing recent theory and research on conversion, Machalek and Snow (1993: 69) observe that "it is somewhat ironic that sociologists have shown little reluctance to subordinate social contextual variables to individual variables in their efforts to explain the causes of conversion" and call for a shift in analytic focus "to the role of temporal, organizational and macrosocial factors." The same observation can be made about deconversion/disaffiliation. In fairness, there is a long history in sociology of analyzing "role types" that emerge in specific social contexts (Klapp 1954), and there have been some attempts to create types of conversion/affiliation (Lofland and Skonovd 1981) and deconversion/disaffiliation (Richardson et al. 1986) in a manner that potentially would link role and organization structure. The exit typology developed here and applied to religious organizations constitutes an effort to connect that social process and its accompanying interpretive narrative to organizational context. I argue that the process of exit and the way that it is interpreted is significantly determined by the power and social location of the organization from which exit occurs. Specifically, I begin by specifying three types of organizations in contemporary American society based on level of tension with the surrounding environment -- Allegiant, Contestant, and Subversive -- and three corresponding types of exit characteristic of these organizational forms -- Defector, Whistle-blower, and Apostate. The form of exit analyzed here is not the typical leavetaking that occurs in organizations of all kinds. Rather, I examine cases where exiting is contested. But these are particularly significant events because they reveal the capacity of organizations to exert power when it is in their interest to do so. I employ a variety of illustrative cases of exit to articulate the way in which the position of the organization in the social order influences the way that the exit process is structured.
Article
Stark and Glock, among others, argue that there is a general tendency in this country for persons to switch to denominations more liberal, theologically, than those of their parents. A closer look at their own data using a factor analytic technique, however, suggests that this hypothesis may be too simple. Denominational switching occurs essentially without reference to the liberal or conservative stance of the denominations involved, and changes of denomination are made in such a way as to preserve similarity along other dimensions. These other dimensions include a Protestant-Catholic cleavage, accessibility (in both the geographic and social status senses), and liturgy. No net intergenerational change in one direction or the other is observable along any of these dimensions. While switching does occur so as to maintain similarity along these dimensions, the direction of change along any one of them is essentially random.
Article
The 1988 General Social Survey included a new measure providing information on the number of times people have switched religious preferences and why. Data show that one-third of all religious switchers are multiple switchers who tend to be male, well-educated, and concentrated in the Mountain region more than anywhere else. Marriage, family, and friends are the most-cited reasons given for switching.
Article
Combined data from six U. S. national surveys conducted from 1973 to 1978 were used to study patterns of interreligious marriage in the mid-1970s and to indicate changes since the Current Population Survey gathered data on interreligious marriage in 1957. Data on current religious preference showed an important degree of increase in religiously mixed couples from 1957 to 1973-1978. Data on the religions in which individuals had been raised indicated no extremely strong barriers to religious outmarriage except among Jews—the fairly high degree of homogamy in current religious preference apparently being achieved to a large extent by religious switching after marriage or in anticipation of marriage. Protestant-Protestant marriages were highly homogamous in current denominational preference but not in denominational background. Tests of regression models designed to estimate the effects on marital happiness of heterogamy involving combinations of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews indicated moderate negative effects for males but no effects for females. Overall, the findings suggested a strong continuing trend toward secularization of the institution of marriage.
Article
Which Americans remain in the religious communities and traditions within which they were raised? Which move to different traditions within their own religion, switch to different religious traditions altogether, or become non-religious entirely? And what social factors influence these outcomes and processes? This article engages the extant literature on religious retention and switching by using measures of religious tradition self-identification, instead of denominations, and by highlighting the dissimilarity of social factors predicting retention and switching for different traditions. Analysis of the 1996 Religious Identity and Influence survey shows that different social factors influence different groups of people in diverse religious traditions in dissimilar ways. The discussion attempts to theorize these findings.
Article
Past examinations of differential recruitment to and the differential growth of social movements have typically sought explanation at a social psychological/motivational level of analysis. That focus has recently been called into question by scholars concerned with the process through which movement organizations expand their ranks and mobilize support for their causes. Yet, as Useem (1975) and Zald and McCarthy (1979) have noted, there has been little systematic research conducted on the details of the influence process. Drawing on data derived from a synthesis of existing research and two primary sources, this paper attempts to shed greater empirical and theoretical light on the movement recruitment process. The findings indicate that differential recruitment is not merely a function of dispositional susceptibility, but is strongly influenced by structural proximity, availability, and affective interaction with movement members. The findings also indicate that a movement organization's network attributes function as an important determinant of its recruitment strategies and growth.
Article
This paper develops a dynamic model of the religious economy. In the model, individuals with higher incomes prefer less strict denominations. If individuals remain within their parents' denominations, intergenerational social mobility may alter denominational class composition, inducing change in denominational strictness. New denominations then form in the market niches abandoned by older denominations. I characterize the dynamics of the model through a series of examples. In one case, the model generates the pattern of denominational secularization and sect formation observed in the American religious economy; the rise and fall of particular denominations is consistent with stability of the religious economy as a whole. However, the model may generate other dynamic patterns in which denominational strictness levels are stationary or denominations become desecularized through time. Two 'religious capital' parameters, characterizing the strength of denominational loyalty and its relationship to denominational strictness, play key roles in determining which pattern emerges.
Article
Suburbia may not seem like much of a place to pioneer, but for young, religiously committed Jewish families, it's open territory." This sentiment--expressed in the early 1970s by an Orthodox Jew in suburban Toronto--captures the essence of the suburban Orthodox Jewish experience of the late twentieth century. Although rarely associated with postwar suburbia, Orthodox Jews in metropolitan areas across the United States and Canada have successfully combined suburban lifestyles and the culture of consumerism with a strong sense of religious traditionalism and community cohesion. By their very existence in suburbia, argues Etan Diamond, Orthodox Jewish communities challenge dominant assumptions about society and religious culture in the twentieth century.Using the history of Orthodox Jewish suburbanization in Toronto, Diamond explores the different components of the North American suburban Orthodox Jewish community: sacred spaces, synagogues, schools, kosher homes, and social networks. In a larger sense, though, his book tells a story of how traditionalist religious communities have thrived in the most secular of environments. In so doing, it pushes our current understanding of cities and suburbs and their religious communities in new directions.
Article
Much has been written in recent years about the decreasing importance of denomination among North Americans. The related assumption is that people ave abandoning loyalties and-to the extent they continue to want to participate in churches-gravitate toward congregations which are in touch with their needs, with little concern for denominational labels. The issue is an extremely important one, with critical practical implications for congregations-who they target for ministry, as well as what they should be doing to engage in effective ministry. In this paper: the author draws on Canadian national survey data for 1975 and 1995 to examine intergroup attitudes and denominational switching patterns over the last half of the century. The data sets include a core of 400 people who participated in both the 1975 and 1995 surveys, making both panel and trend examinations possible. Beyond probing attitudes and actual behavior the analysis looks at the role of a number of potentially significant correlates of ongoing religious identification, including parental identification childhood attendance and previous rites of passage, along with current factors such as spousal identification and personal participation and commitment. The author concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings for "the vanishing boundaries thesis" in Canada and the United States.
Article
If apostasy is to become well understood, social scientists must (a) distinguish it theoretically from other phenomena (e.g., denominational switching) and (b) conduct longitudinal research. This study proposes that apostasy be conceptualized as the process of disengagement from two major elements of religion: belief and community. A typology of religious careers was developed to approximate the dynamics of apostasy through cross-sectional data. Data were derived from self-administered questionnaires from Canadian and American undergraduates, with selected comparisons from interviews of a random sample of adults. The career types Apostates, Switchers, Converts and Stalwarts were compared in terms of origins, reported early family experiences, persistence of beliefs and sources of doubt. Finally, the consequences (concomitants) of apostasy-happiness, life-satisfactions, self-esteem, socio-political attitudes, gender traditionalism-were analyzed.
Article
Evaluates the contribution of the relational perspective to our understanding of individual activism by contrasting it to traditional rational choice theory. The author exposes the limitations of rational choice reasoning by noting that future expectations are often difficult to calculate and challenging the equation of social ties with prospects of future interaction. Alternatively, he emphasizes the dynamic role of activism in transforming lives and, by doing so, changing the meaning and the impact of the ties in which prospective activists are involved. The chapter shows how discussions of networks and collective action can illuminate our understanding of social conflict and cooperation in general.
Article
The Amish continue to amaze the non-Amish world with their ca-pacity to retain a distinct cultural identity. Rather than conforming to the values of modern society, they have insisted that being "in the world and not of the world" is the best adaptation of the New Testament model of Christian community. Their conscious effort to be different from the fallen world by consciously drawing symbolic boundaries between themselves and the society around them continues to mystify and intrigue. Questions frequently posed by non-Amish include: What keeps Amish people from being seduced by the modern world? And for those who leave, what factors lead to the decision to defect? This paper will examine some of the push and pull forces that influence Amish youth in their decisions regarding church membership. Factors to be examined include father's occupation, marriage and family dynamics, gender, urbanization, variations in degree of severity of Ordnung, and attendance at an Amish school. Data Sources The researcher obtained qualitative data for this paper in interviews with Amish informants in the Old Order Amish settlement of northeastern Indiana. That settlement borders the State of Michigan and is spread from about the middle of Elkhart County to just east of the center of LaGrange County, a distance of about 35 miles. 2 The statistical data were taken from the 1980 3 and 1988 4 editions of the Elkhart-LaGrange settlement directories.