…church attendance has fallen substantially among the members of the white working class in recent years, just when they need it most. Though working-class whites earn, on average, more than working-class people of other ethnicities, we are in a steep social decline. Incarceration rates for white women are on the rise, white youths are more likely than their peers from other groups to die from drug overdoses and rates of divorce and domestic chaos have skyrocketed. Taken together, these statistics reveal a social crisis of historic proportions. Yet the white church — especially the evangelical church that claims the most members — has seemingly disappeared.
Though many working-class whites have lost any ties to church, they haven’t necessarily abandoned their faith. More than one in three identify as evangelical, and well over 75 percent claim some Christian affiliation. But that faith has become deinstitutionalized. They may watch megachurch broadcasts or join prayer circles on Facebook, but they largely avoid the pews on Sunday. Consequently, many absorb the vernacular and teachings of modern Christianity, but miss out on the advantages of church itself.
J.D. Vance, “When Paranoia Replaces Piety”, The New York Times (26 June 2016), SR8.