A reader sent me a link to this NRO article by Mark Tooley.
…Conservatives have often chided the mainline Protestant denominations for their dramatic membership losses, faulting the controversial liberal political advocacy of their churches’ officials. No doubt there is truth in this. Most mainline Protestants are still conservative leaning, despite the chronic leftism of their church hierarchies. Many react in frustration by leaving.
But the demographic implosion may also have other, deeper contributing factors. One out of every six Americans belonged to a mainline denomination 40 years ago. Today it is one out of every 15. Writing for The American Journal of Sociology several years ago, Catholic priest (and romance potboiler author) Andrew Greeley, with two other sociologists, asserted that mainline Protestant decline is actually created by decades of declining birthrates in comparison to those for conservative Protestants and Roman Catholics.
Though Greeley et al. did not address it directly, mainline Protestant hierarchs long championed legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade, culminating in their founding of RCRC in 1973. Undoubtedly this had some impact on abortion rates among their own flocks. The lower birth rate among mainline Protestants can probably be explained, at least partly, by some level of increased moral ease with and resort to abortion (the "Roe Effect").
So perhaps unrestricted abortion is fueling the decline of the very same churches who have most championed it. The irony is a sad one. [Source]
I am sure that there abortion support has had some effect, but it does make me wonder in this day and age of Church shopping how many children stay with the same denomination as their parents in Protestantism?
One thing about the Roe effect that I don’t seem to have ever read is that the effect is on more than just the number of children who were aborted. Those approximately 46 million missing children in just the U.S. also never lived to have their own children and so on and so on.
How many children stay with the same denomination as their parents in Protestantism? I don’t know. I know people in my own generation who have gone both ways–I probably know more who are in their ‘family denomination’ than have left for another. In my family, both my parents had left ‘our’ denomination before I decided to come home to Catholicism. So it’s not always the kids that leave.
One Protestant I rather admire, George W. Bush, has belonged to three mainline denominations–Episcopalian,Presbyterian, and now Methodist. He says he does not perceive much difference. His choices were based on the preferences of his parents and, later, his wife.
I think the Griswold effect may be even more to blame than the Roe effect. My last stop before coming home to the Church was a large suburban Presbyterian church (PCA–the conservative Presbyterians. PCUSA is the group that is more like the Episcopalians). The two or three families there (in a congregation of 2500 or so) who had more than 3 kids were regarded as very odd for choosing not to use artificial contraception. Most of these people can be heard railing against abortion but see the Pill as the only way to be “responsible” about the growth (well, lack thereof) of one’s family.
The disconnect between abortion and contraception is certainly very common even among evangelical Protestants. I’ve very seldom met an evangelical married couple who have more than two children. I know of one family that has eight, and I understand that the “three is the new two” effect is beginning to be observable, but among couples between about twenty years older and ten years younger than us, two is the almost universal rule.
Mainline Protestant denominations always included a lot of folks changing denominations for social status reasons, at least if one believes novels.
Typically, one started as something lower class and low church, stepped up to Presbyterianism, and then finally went Episcopal. Maybe people don’t feel the need to “trade up” anymore, or are going the other way.
And think about how many children could grow up and become Catholics. I’ve always wondered how many would have been my friends.
The reason you haven’t seen data about Roe-grandchildren is that Roe wasn’t that long ago. There wouldn’t be any children of aborted children who would now be of legal age to vote.