By Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition.
How diverse are America’s religious groups and denominations? Pew Research recently attempted to answer that question and provides the data in a handy infographic:
The graphic seems to show at a glance that some denominations, such as the Seventh-Day Adventist, include a relatively balanced mix of racial and ethnic groups, while others, such as the National Baptist Convention, are racially and ethnically homogenous. But the chart doesn’t tell us as much about diversity in denominations as it might appear. And it would be a mistake to use such data to make assumptions about what levels of diversity there should be in America’s denominations.
Before we examine those claims, let’s clarify what an average or baseline level of diversity would presumably look like. The most obvious standard, and the one many people implicitly use, is what we could call a “census quota”—each racial and ethnic group should be represented within denominations in percentages that correspond to their representation in the broader U.S.
According to Pew Research, those percentages for all U.S. adults are: White (non-Latino), 66 percent; Black, 12 percent; Latino, 15 percent; Asian, 4 percent; Mix/Other, 4 percent. Based on the census quota standard, the Churches of Christ would have the closest to the “ideal” level of diversity. No other group even comes close to having such a preferred “balance.”
We might assume that when it comes to diversity the Churches of Christ are doing something right and everyone else is doing something wrong. And that may well be the case. But it’s more likely that we are simply using the flawed method of measurement.
Related article from Pew Research Center: The most and least racially diverse U.S. religious groups