ICTG is interested to learn more about how trauma experiences factor, if they do, into the "constant movement" and senses of being "unaffiliated."
Presently, no denomination has intentionally tracked the patterns of membership behavior, including participation in worship, mission and stewardship, following trauma events. Also, interestingly, no denomination has intentionally tracked the rise and fall of membership participation in light of trauma affects after the World Wars. In America, Protestant congregations often refer to the 1950s as a golden era of membership, with significant declines beginning the in the late 1960s and the 1970s, with some never returning to their former sizes.
Consider this: On September 3, 2013, interviewer Terry Gross, host of National Public Radio's Fresh Air, spoke with jazz musician John Zorn. At one point Gross asks Zorn, "What is the Jewish music you were exposed to when you were young and what is the Jewish music you investigated?"
Zorn replies, "Well, my parents were not outwardly Jewish. They came out of a generation where being a Jew was not only a disadvantage, it was actually a death sentence. And they escaped all of that and . . . we celebrated Christmas. We didn't have Jewish music in the house." A few minutes later he says further, "I think they found it difficult to understand why I wanted to reconnect with being Jewish. My father literally said to me, 'Hey man, I gave you a way out of this.' Because I went to a Protestant church when I was growing up. And that was a little confusing."
"Why did they do that?" Gross wonders.
Zorn responds, "Well, they were trying to help me. They were trying to save me from what they thought was disadvantage. And I never really gave it a second-thought . . . but as I got older, and I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood and I had Jewish friends all my life, as I started making music and I started thinking about it in my conscious brain I began to realize that a lot of these cats are Jews. Why is that? Why am I attracted, why am I more comfortable with this . . . in asking those questions, a bunch of friends got together . . . and we began to talk about it . . ."
This meeting of friends eventually leads to Zorn's acclaimed Radical Jewish Culture series of concerts.
Presumably, there were other people like Zorn, whether Jewish or not, whose parents raised them among Protestant or other faith groups to "protect" them in some way. Could some of the movement that we are seeing among religions today in America be explained, in part, because of movements after trauma – both movements toward particular religious practices, as appears to be the case in the 1950s, as well as movements away from religions, which may be the case in more recent years following cases of sexual crimes, suicides, arson, and other kinds of congregational traumas?
ICTG is interested to learn more about the factors involved in religious practice, or the absence of religious practice, in the aftermath of trauma and how those factors may inform us for best practices of care and human health in the future.
You can join this project by participating in the surveys we have posted on our website and by sharing the surveys with congregation leaders.