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Which Americans make resolutions about religion?

A new survey from LifeWay Research investigates how common it is to make resolutions related to God

New Year’s fireworks go off in the sky above two churches in Erfurt, Germany.
Fireworks light the sky above the St. Severi’s Church, left, and the Mariendom (Cathedral of Mary), right, during New Year’s celebrations in Erfurt, central Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.
Jens Meyer, Associated Press

This article was first published in the State of Faith newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Monday night.

Religion has long been one of the most common sources of resolution inspiration, but its popularity has waned over the past six years.

In 2015, more than half of Americans (52%) said they’d made New Year’s resolutions in the past related to their relationship with God. By December 2021, that figure had dropped to 29%, according to a new study from LifeWay Research.

Both surveys found that African Americans and people who hold evangelical Christian beliefs are more likely than others to set goals related to their faith.

Unsurprisingly, religiously unaffiliated Americans are among the least likely to have crafted goals tied to God. Just 14% of religious “nones” said they’ve done so in the past.

Both the 2021 and 2015 surveys showed that health is the most common subject of New Year’s resolutions. Notable shares of all age groups, races and religious backgrounds expressed that they’d set goals related to their diet or weight.

Health was definitely top of mind for me last week as I debated what intentions to set for 2022. I’d like to work my way up to running a 10K and start cooking more meals at home; chasing both of these goals would likely help me lose weight.

What plans are you making for 2022? If you’re interested in setting some resolutions, whether about health, religion or some other topic, I encourage you to check out my colleague Mya Jaradat’s guide to goal-setting.


Fresh off the press


Term of the week: Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly

This week’s term is actually a person. Specifically, it’s the Rev. Leontine T.C. Kelly, who was the first African American woman to serve as a bishop in the United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Kelly, who passed away in 2012, was recently honored by the Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise. The church used a stained glass image of her as a replacement for an image of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. “The cathedral’s leadership wanted to (remove Lee) to demonstrate its members supported racial justice,” Religion News Service reported.

The new stained glass window cost about $25,000 to produce, the article noted. In addition to the image of the Rev. Kelly, it features a small image of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the last names of the United Methodist Church’s first Hispanic American bishop (the Rev. Elias Galvan) and first Japanese American bishop (the Rev. Roy Sano).

The Cathedral of the Rockies is not the only church reconsidering or redesigning its stained glass windows amid a national reckoning on race. The Washington National Cathedral also recently announced a plan to remove Lee and Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson from its windows, according to Religion News Service.


What I’m reading...

A couple of times each week, I stumble upon a religion story that makes me burn with envy. “Why didn’t I think of that angle?” I groan. Last week, the article that put me through this special kind of misery came from The Washington Post. It was a beautiful piece about how pastors who quit during the pandemic — due, at least in part, to professional burnout — spent their first Christmas away from the pulpit.

If you attend worship services weekly, you’re part of a shrinking segment of the American population. Most U.S. adults only rarely enter a house of worship and, therefore, only rarely enjoy the social benefits that come with attending church. In light of growing disengagement with organized religion, researchers are exploring where else Americans can go for the seemingly inconsequential but actually quite valuable social connections once provided almost exclusively by faith groups. In a recent edition of his American Storylines newsletter, Daniel Cox explains why coffee shops might be the best answer.


Odds and ends

How would faith groups react to the discovery of extraterrestrial life? I’ve heard this question debated during cocktail hours at professional conferences and at small and casual congregational events. It turns out, NASA is interested in the answer, too.

The Washington Post’s annual list of what will be in and what will be out in the new year is deeply amusing, as always.