Recent events like the shootings in a church in Charleston, questionable shootings by police, and the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement have highlighted the issues of race in our nation, and lifted up awareness of how much our communities are still segregated. For many years, it’s been said that “Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week,” pointing out that religious communities do not come out looking much better than the neighborhoods surrounding them, and in many cases are even worse.
How do religious communities stack up as groups that do more than favor diversity but in fact display diversity? A new analysis of data from the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study offers some surprising facts. Researchers looked at five categories of racial and ethnic groups: Hispanics, non-Hispanic whites, blacks, Asians, and a composite group of people from other backgrounds. They they identified the percentages of each group that self-described themselves as being a part of specific religious communities, and compared the numbers.
A “perfect” score of 10 would indicate that all five categories were present in equal numbers, that is, one-fifth (20%) of the total population would come from each of the groups. The highest-scoring group overall was the Seventh Day Adventist Church, with a total score of 9.1. The Adventist movement dates from the 19th century in America, and includes 37% white, 32% black, 8% Asian, 8% “other,” and 15% Hispanic.
The second most diverse group, however, is the Muslim community (8.7), with 38% while, 28% black, 28% Asian, 3% “other,” and 4% Hispanic. This diversity can be attributed in part to the fact that many American Muslims come from the African-American community, where Islam has been present since Muslim slaves were brought from Africa, and in part to the fact that the largest Muslim country in the world is Indonesia.
The largest and most diverse American Christian group is the Roman Catholic Church, with a score of 6.7, and the largest mainline Protestant community is the American Baptist Church, at 5.5. Other Mainline Protestant churches fall farther down the scale: Southern Baptists (3.4), Presbyterians (2.8), United Church of Christ (2.5), and Episcopalian (2.3).
The least diverse groups included the historically black African Methodist Episcopal Church (1.4) and National Baptist Convention (.2), as well as Hindus (2.1), United Methodists (1.4), and Lutherans: Missouri Synod (1.2) and Evangelical Lutheran (1.0).
For the full chart and further information, see the Pew Research Center.