There is a case that churches are failing poorer Americans. But the problem isn’t how they spend money or play politics. It’s a more basic failure to reach out, integrate, and keep them in the pews.
This is the striking story of the last 30 years: Despite the stereotype of religion as something that people “cling to” (to quote a different moment of condescension from this president) in desperate circumstances, actual religious practice has collapsed more quickly among Americans with weaker economic prospects than it has among the college-educated upper class.
Mere religious affiliation has weakened for the poor and working class as well. The much-discussed rise of the “nones” — Americans with no religious affiliation — has been happening in blue -collar America as well as among the hyper-educated.
From a religious perspective, this a signal failure: A church that pays out to help the poor, but doesn’t pray with them, looks less like a church than what Pope Francis has described, unfavorably, as merely another N.G.O.