Large cities in the northeast like Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and so on, are often caricatured as wastelands of non-religious, unchurched, overtly secular theaters. Caricatures of this type seem odd given the fact that many of America’s oldest religious institutions are actively operating in those regions. One of my friends is quick to point out that every week people sit on church pews in northeastern churches that older than many states out west. For example, by looking at the Christian presence in the New York City area alone, research shows that the northeast might not be as religiously barren as many believe.
I recently contacted Tony Carnes, editor and publisher of A Journey through NYC Religions, to set the record straight on the New York City area. Since 2010, Carnes and his team have visited thousands of religious houses of worship, from all religious traditions cataloging the religious activity in New York City. In light of what he and his team have seen on the ground, Carnes has come to the conclusion that the best description of New York City is that it is a “post secular” city—a condition somewhere between a secular and sacred.
Within the Christian tradition alone Carnes reports, in the past two years there has, at times, been one new evangelical church founded every Sunday in Manhattan. “By September 2009,” writes Carnes, “there were 197 evangelical churches in Manhattan Center City, the part of the city below 125th Street on the West Side and 96th Street on the East Side. A majority were founded since 1988, 40% since 2000. The number of congregates in Manhattan Center City has tripled in ten years.”
Outside of Manhattan Center City, the number of evangelical and Pentecostal Christians is much greater and often goes unreported. Many of the churches outside of New York’s most expensive neighborhoods are populated by minorities and immigrants from Asia, Latin American, and Africa where Christianity is currently exploding. In all boroughs of New York City, the evangelical and Pentecostal Christians are growing. Carnes says that overall, “evangelical/Pentecostal Christians make up between 16-21% of the city, depending on how you count.” Roman Catholics make up about 36% of the metro New York population, and over 40% in New York City proper. Orthodox Christianity is present as well in New York City in smaller numbers.
In sum, in the total metropolitan New York City area (including the suburbs), Christians of all types make up 63 percent of the population. In fact, according to Carnes, “Nones,” the nonreligious, in NYC are less likely to be found here than in other major cities, including all areas of the South.
While these numbers obviously do not presume that all of those who identify as “Christian” have deeply rooted faiths and are actively involved on a weekly basis in parish life, it does call into question if calling New York a “secular city” is entirely accurate. In fact, New York City is such a hotbed of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that New York’s mayor Bill De Blasio has found himself in a position of championing religious liberty.
What, then, is New York, and other large northern cities like her? They are religiously plural, politically progressive, “post secular” cities.
For the Life of the World is an entertaining film series that explores the deeper meaning of Salvation. Have you ever wondered, “What is my Salvation actually FOR?” Is it only about personal atonement, about getting to heaven, or something that comes later? Is it just to have a “friend in Jesus?”
Join Evan Koons and his friends – Stephen Grabill, Amy Sherman, Anthony Bradley, Makoto Fujimura, John M. Perkins, Tim Royer and Dwight Gibson – as they discover a “new perspective,” the BIGGER picture of what it means to be “in the world, not of it.” This seven-part film series will help you, your friends, church or organization investigate God’s Economy of All Things – OIKONOMIA (a Greek word that has a lot to say about God’s plan for his creation, the world, and us.)
Explore how God’s purposes are woven into every area of our lives: family, work, art, charity, education, government, recreation and all creation! The Bible calls us Strangers and Pilgrims, living in "the now and not yet" of God’s Kingdom Come on earth. We are also called to be salt and light, to have a transforming presence among our neighbors. Rediscover the role of the church and how our lives lived on earth matter in God’s plan for the world.
Designed for deep exploration, the series invites viewers to watch the series again for new insights. Also, check out the companion Field Guide to jump-start group and individual investigation and enhance the film experience! FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD Field Guides are available in print or via streaming access at StudySpace.org.