Changing religious landscape in U.S. not reflected at Biola

Pew Forum survey results reflect changing religious landscape in America.

Katie Nelson and Julia Henning

Correction: Jonathan Lunde was originally misidentified as Ryan Lunde. The Chimes regrets this error.


A survey on the religious views of Americans, recently released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, showed a decline in Protestant adherents nationwide.

“I’m not sure it was necessarily a sudden change of direction,” said Biola biblical studies professor Jonathan Lunde. “I think it’s just a slow fade that’s been going on for some time, and all of a sudden the percentages have finally changed … I would expect that this has been a trend that has been going on for quite some time.”

The shift away from Protestantism is due to a gradual disappointment in the church, according to Lunde.

“It certainly is a sign of the times, this religious pluralistic society that we’ve gone into, and it’s a sad commentary on the relative ineffectiveness of the Protestant church,” he said.

Young people falling away from organized religion

This disillusionment particularly affects young adults, according to the survey statistics. According to the Pew Forum, nearly 30 percent of people 30 years old or younger do not claim any one religion.

"Young adults today are much more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations were at a similar stage in their lives," the report said.

The Pew Forum also reported that there is a growth in nondenominational Christians who can no longer be categorized as Protestant.
Another factor contributing to the shift in religious identification stems from the evidence shown in the survey that 20 percent of American Christians are labeling themselves as nondenominational.

Thirty-eight percent of Biola students declared themselves to be nondenominational in 2011, according to the office of the registrar. That year, there were 2,355 nondenominational students at Biola — 4 percent greater than the percentage of students who classified as nondenominational in 2007 and 2008. The second largest represented group on campus is Baptists, making up 15 percent of the student body in 2011. Eight percent of students said that they would classify themselves as belonging to the Evangelical Free Church.

Differences in beliefs

Although the majority of Biola students fall under the umbrella of Protestant evangelicals, there are many who do not fit the mold.

“The bigger problem I’ve found I had is trying to know how I can bring up Orthodoxy in class with other students who are definitely not Orthodox and come from very evangelical backgrounds,” said junior English major Christian Bearup. He considers himself Antiochian Orthodox, which falls under the category of Eastern Orthodox.

He explained that he experienced a lot of awkwardness while talking to other students about his beliefs.

Junior political science major Beatriz Delgadillo identifies herself as Catholic. She explained that not only was she raised this way, but this is also the denomination she chose to be her own when she was a sophomore in high school.

“[My friends and I strive to] lead each other closer to the truth, and as long as we’re sincerely with our whole heart following Jesus, I have no doubt in my mind we will go wherever we need to go and God will give us the grace in those times where we don’t go the right way,” Delgadillo said. “But there definitely is a pressure being a minority to be well-read and understand what I believe.”

She said it was hard for her to adjust to classes because she would be defensive whenever people talked about Catholics. Delgadillo said that she experienced a lot of hurt from students who she described as being ignorant and from professors’ remarks about the Catholic church.

She said Biola has enriched both her life and her faith.

“We all come, each individual comes, with our own perspective and I realize that the more and more that I’ve been here that I’m not the only one who’s coming here with a different perspective,” Delgadillo said. “Even within evangelical circles, there’s people who come from different perspectives. I’ve grown to appreciate these differences and understand where I’m coming from.”

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