Study connects views on race, church size

The study shows that the larger the church, the less likely its members are to see a connection between racism and socio-economic factors.

By Jeff Brumley

Christians who worship in “very large” congregations see racial inequalities differently from those who attend smaller churches, a joint Baylor University and University of Southern California study has found.

Members of the bigger institutions “do not tend to attribute social divisions between blacks and whites to discrimination or lack of quality education, but to something other than structural failings in society,” according to a summary of the report posted on the Texas school’s website.

“Size of the congregation matters above and beyond denominational affiliations, religious traditions and political beliefs,” said Ryon Cobb, a post-doctoral research associate at USC. “It’s not just that you attend or that you pray, but where you go.”

Cobb and Baylor sociologists Kevin Dougherty and Jerry Park, together with doctoral candidate Samuel Perry of the University of Chicago, presented their findings recently during the annual meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion.

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They drew their findings from a sampling of more than 3,000 people from the National Congregations Study and linked it to records from the General Social Survey, the Baylor report said.

“The larger the congregation, the less likely a congregant is to accept discrimination or other structural explanations for the economic gap between blacks and whites. It's hard to solve a social problem when people disagree about its source," said Dougherty, one of the Baylor researchers.