"I Will Take Unpopular Stands to Defend My Faith."

by Albert L. Winseman, D. Min.
Religion and Social Trends Editor

This is the ninth in a series of articles examining Gallup's nine items of spiritual commitment.

The nine items that Gallup has discovered best measure the spiritual commitment of individuals in congregations (see "How to Measure Spiritual Commitment" in Related Items) can be divided into those describing attitudes (four items) and those describing behaviors (five items). This week, I'll explore the fourth behavioral item, "I will take unpopular stands to defend my faith."

The graph below shows responses to this question on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "strongly disagree" and 5 being "strongly agree."*

There is an element of courage involved in being a spiritually committed person. Sometimes the beliefs and practices of one's faith clash with cultural norms. For instance, some faiths may require their followers to abstain from various activities, such as consuming alcohol, engaging in sex before marriage, or eating certain foods. When a choice must be made between going along with the dictates of popular culture or standing firm and adhering to the tenets of one's faith, choosing the latter path is not always an easy thing to do. But those who stand up for what they believe in find strength in the very faith that they are defending.

When we drill deeper into the results of this question, we find some significant differences among the responses of different demographic groups:

Women are more likely to take unpopular stands on issues of faith than are men (63% to 55%).

Courage increases with age. Only 51% of those aged 18 to 39 strongly agreed with this item, while 64% of those aged 40 to 59 and 65% of those aged 60 and older strongly agreed.

Americans who are persons of color are more likely to take unpopular stands than white Americans. Fifty-eight percent of whites strongly agreed with this item, while 63% of African Americans and 72% of Hispanics strongly agreed.

Interestingly, Protestants are more prone to take unpopular stands than are Catholics, by a ratio of 61% to 54%.

Perhaps the most telling statistic is found in responses according to how often respondents attend worship attendance. Two-thirds (66%) of those who attended a worship service in the last week strongly agreed that they take unpopular stands to defend their faith, while fewer than half (47%) of those who did not attend a worship service strongly agreed.

The implication for congregation leaders: The act of gathering together on a weekly basis for worship and inspiration cannot be underestimated. Setting expectations among your members about the importance of attendance -- and then ensuring the worship experience meets your congregation's needs -- will not only deepen your members' faith, but also strengthen their resolve to stand up for what they believe in.

The SE25 items are protected by copyright of The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ, 2001. All rights reserved.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 729 adult members of a church, synagogue, or other religious faith community, aged 18 and older, conducted October through November 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3.6%.

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