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Continued: Segregated pews in age of diversity

  • Article by: DAVID BRIGGS
  • Last update: January 16, 2013 - 9:28 PM

People with no religious affiliation were not statistically more likely to be in intermarriages than evangelical or mainline Protestants or people from other religions, researchers from Baylor University reported at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion meeting. Joshua Tom and Brandon Martinez analyzed data from more than 12,000 ever-married persons in the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth.

The only exceptions were Catholics. Catholics were almost twice as likely to be in an intermarriage and Catholics who attended services more frequently were slightly more likely to be in an intermarriage, the researchers found.

“The growing Hispanic population probably has a lot to do with it,” Tom said. Researchers said Catholics also are more likely to attend the nearest parish than choose a congregation from a larger area to be in a more homogenous group.

In his research, Perry found that whites who more frequently engage in devotional practices such as prayer and reading sacred texts were more likely to interracially date and to be more supportive of interracial marriage.

The relative lack of interracial romance among churchgoers in racially homogenous congregations is “far more about racial segregation” than an inherent defect in faith traditions. “I don’t find that at all. In fact, I find the reverse,” he said.

Perry’s advice to pastors seeking to promote a society where love transcends race includes considering devoting a Sunday or a couple of Sundays to talk about the evils of prejudice. And to ask their flocks: “Are you walking the walk” of building bridges that cross boundaries.

Reflecting on prejudice in our time may be pretty good advice in general.

There is a tendency in watching movies such as “Lincoln” to look back at historical struggles against evil with a sense of moral superiority.

In this awards season, as honors are heaped upon the movie depicting the politicking necessary in the 19th century to produce social change, it may be helpful to consider how far we still have to travel on the journey to equality.


David Briggs, a national religion writer who holds a master's degree from Yale Divinity School, is executive director of the International Association of Religion Journalists. He wrote this column for the Association of Religion Data Archives.

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