Dispatches > News
Patrick Flood

Minority report

And more news briefs

Issue: "Race to the finish," Nov. 3, 2012

Protestant Americans must bid farewell to a dynamic they long enjoyed: majority status in the United States. A study published in October by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported that Protestants have dropped to 48 percent of the U.S. population.

That doesn’t mean adults are converting to other religions. According to the Pew survey, it means that many aren’t claiming a religion at all. The study found 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, a 5 percent increase in five years.

Experts have predicted a Protestant minority for years, but the numbers suggest the country may have crossed the line long ago. In 2007, a Pew study reported that 60 percent of people who seldom or never attend religious services still identified with a particular religious tradition. In 2012, that number fell to 50 percent.

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For Protestants who believe that regular church attendance is one indicator of serious religious commitment, such statistics suggest their minority status may be deeper than experts think.

While some evangelicals lamented the study, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote about a bigger problem—Christian denominations that have abandoned Protestant principles: “Frankly, we should be more concerned about the loss of a Christian majority in the Protestant churches than about the loss of a Protestant majority in the United States.”

Child prize?

The Chinese government’s embrace of author Mo Yan’s win of the Nobel Prize in literature has some excited that the one-child policy may be coming to an end.

While the author has not been outspoken about the government like 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, Mo’s latest novel, Frog, looks at the horrors of the one-child policy, including forced late-term abortions and forced sterilizations, through the eyes of a rural gynecologist.  

“I personally believe the one-child policy is a bad policy,” he said in an interview with Hong Kong–based Phoenix TV in 2010. “If there were no one-child policy, I would have two or three children.”

He said that he compelled his wife to abort their second child in order to maintain his rank in the army and that left “an eternal scar in the deepest part of my heart.” 

Despite the book’s controversial topic, Frog passed national censors and went on to win the Mao Dun literary award because of Mo’s whimsical-realist writing style.

Births bottom out

With the economy in a rut, fewer Americans are having babies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the national birth rate in 2011 was just 63 births per 1,000 women—the lowest level ever measured. Both the rate and the number of babies born last year (3.95 million) dropped 1 percent from 2010. The decline was steepest among Hispanics, teens, and young women in their early 20s. (Births increased slightly for women older than 34.) The birthrate among teens between the ages of 15 and 19 has fallen 25 percent since 2007: More teen girls are remaining abstinent or using hormonal birth control, including the pill.

Mission Implausible

While Democratic politicians accused conservatives of politicizing the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, Pat Smith talked about the costs that transcend political concerns: the life of her son.

Sean Smith, 34, was one of four Americans killed in the Benghazi terrorist attack. Armed men also killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, both former Navy SEALs.

A month after the attack, Pat Smith told CNN her grief had deepened as information from White House officials grew scant: “I told them, ‘Please don’t give me any baloney that comes with this political stuff. … Just tell me the truth.” So far, Smith said, “They haven’t told me anything. They’re still studying it. And the things that they are telling me are outright lies.”

Discovering the truth about what happened in Libya took a new turn by mid-October, as a Senate committee announced it would investigate the assault. That news came a week after a congressional hearing revealed that the State Department had turned down requests for additional security in Libya before the Sept. 11 attack.

Vice President Joe Biden contradicted that testimony a day later in the vice presidential debate, saying: “We did not know that they wanted more security there.”

Meanwhile, a State Department official told reporters the agency didn’t believe that the attacks were the result of protests against an anti-Islamic video—a narrative the White House propagated for a week before admitting it was a terrorist attack.

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