Rural Counties Are Making A Comeback As Urban Counties Lose Luster

Some new census data found rural counties, not cities, are making a comeback—which spells good news for our country.

Last week, findings from Pew Charitable Trusts’ “Stateline” blog found that rural countries saw sizable growth in 2016 and 2017. This marked the first time since 2010 where rural areas saw a noticeable spike in population growth. This blog was founded in 1998 on the pretext of “daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy” rooted in “non-partisanship, objectivity, and integrity.”

The study also found that rural areas grew approximately 33,000 residents nationwide during this time frame, despite losing over 15,000 residents in the year prior. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines rural areas as “counties outside cities and their suburbs.” They cited Jackson County, Georgia, as a prime example of a rural area benefitting from this population shift:

One of those growing areas is Jackson County, Georgia, a rural county that is convenient to Atlanta and Athens, where farm-equipment manufacturing and distribution center jobs have helped fuel a population increase of more than 2,500, almost 4 percent, after a population loss as recently as 2012. In the years since, the county’s population growth has been on a steady upward trend. The county added 428 people in 2013 and 1,603 people in 2016, leading up to this year’s larger boost.

The census data also found population growth in major urban outposts has started to decrease. It stated that growth in urban counties “dropped back to about 900,000 between 2015 and 2016 and to a little more than 700,000 for the period covered in today’s release of census data.” Chicago’s infamous Cook County lost the most residents between 2016 and 2017—totaling 20,000 residents. These findings also mentioned that urban counties surrounding Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Detroit and Brooklyn had seen a loss of residents during this time, as well.

Per census findings from December 2016, those who reside in rural counties are more likely to own their own homes, serve in the military, and live in their home state.

Over the years, people have been gravitating towards metropolitan areas to seek more opportunities. Politically speaking, urban outposts tend to be managed by Democrats and more secular in their worldview. This also has presented problems for those in the fishing and hunting industries, as increased urbanization—with 80.7% percent of the U.S. population now residing in or close to major cities (2010 U.S. Census)—has been shown to contribute to declines in participation.

Will cities be too big to succeed to succeed? Time will tell. In the meantime, it’s encouraging to see rural areas—the bread and butter of America—make a timely comeback.

No, Christianity is Not Actually in Decline

The New York Times has a breathless report on the decline of Christianity in America. Much of the lefty twitterverse is celebrating the decline.

The Christian share of adults in the United States has declined sharply since 2007, affecting nearly all major Christian traditions and denominations, and crossing age, race and region, according to an extensive survey by the Pew Research Center.

Seventy-one percent of American adults were Christian in 2014, the lowest estimate from any sizable survey to date, and a decline of 5 million adults and 8 percentage points since a similar Pew survey in 2007.

But that really does not paint an accurate picture.

“Christian” like “Catholic” and “Jew” have become expressions of ethnicity or culture in this country. Being an actual Christian, as opposed to calling yourself one because you were born into a supposedly Christian household, is a completely different thing.

In fact, actual practicing Christianity in America isn’t that bad off. Consider this from the same New York Times story:

Not all religions or even Christian traditions declined so markedly. The number of evangelical Protestants dipped only slightly as a share of the population, by 1 percentage point, and actually increased in raw numbers.

Yes, the Christian cultural traditions in the United States are in decline. But that corresponds to the number of denominations that have actually left the faith. Sure, they still go to church on Sunday as ceremony. But they’ve drifted from a Bible-centered, Christ as God centered faith, to a secularized, civil religion of ceremony and secularized liturgy. Emo, weepy Jesus who bakes cakes for gay weddings has replaced the actual Jesus who spent more time talking about hell than anyone else in the Bible and said he is the only and exclusive path to Heaven.

Christians who actually believe the Bible is inerrant and that one must surrender all to Christ are still there and “increas[ing] in raw numbers” “dipp[ing] only slightly as a share of population.”

It is too complex for your average reporter to understand, but cultural Christendom and actual Christendom are not the same. The former is dying off as its chief priests give way to the world. But the later remains strong, vibrant, and resurgent.

In the grand scheme of things, this is not necessarily a bad thing for the church itself, though looking to European church decline, it suggests a far less stable future for the nation.

Turns out guys like Francis Schaeffer and . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . Joseph Ratzinger, yeah that guy, were right. Serve up fluffy, worldly nonsense as Christianity and watch the flock sniff out the scam and go in search of real soul nourishment while the poseurs get consumed by the wolves.

What All the Partisanship Narratives Forget

Ron Fournier at National Journal, among others, has been wringing his hands over the latest Pew research on partisanship. The research shows a growing gap between left and right.

Naturally, a lot of scholars and members of the media are blaming conservatives because the scholars and members of the media are more ideologically aligned with the left. Some admit it. Most think that where they’ve planted their flag is called Moderateville and these conservatives are icky, fringe disrupters intent on anarchy and theocracy.

In reading a lot of commentary on the Pew study and pieces like Ron Fournier’s latest, I find a common missing element.

For the hell given toward partisans of both sides, some fair and some not, there is an organized effort on the Republican side, by its activists, to beat its entrenched incumbents. The media typically reports this in terms of ideological purity. Allegedly, conservatives just want someone more pure and less likely to reach across the aisle.

That’s actually flawed thinking, but is indicative of the thinking that comes frequently from inside the Washington bubble where access to power and the need to kiss ass perverts one’s view of what’s happening in fly over country. As a bit of a tangent, look at the shift in conservative media coverage toward Kevin McCarthy.

Once the House GOP rallied, a good many members of the Republican political press in DC, instead of covering the angst and machinations, went straight down on their knees in front of Kevin McCarthy and started writing oppo dumps on any potential challengers, etc. Their tweets changed from chronicling the chaos to championing their new source.

The press in Washington contributes to the problem and also exacerbates the problem in terms of what is covered, how things are covered, and what is not covered. Many members of the press, regardless of politics, pride themselves for their trips outside the bubble. But their outside the bubble coverage reads more like a Dian Fossey study of gorillas in the mist than coverage of actual people the press really relate to.

Away from the tangent and back to the point, what the circle of jerks in Washington sees as a conservative quest for purity, many of those in flyover country see as fighting against out of touch, entrenched elements in their party who’ve grown far too cozy with lobbyists and Wall Street. The conservative fight in Mississippi, Virginia, Texas, and elsewhere is mocked and ridiculed by a left-leaning and establishment oriented press when, in reality, it is overwhelmingly a response to a Washington that has grown out of touch. Yes, the grassroots want more conservative members of Congress, but they want them because they believe the people there are in the pockets of special interests and the politicians have abandoned their core beliefs for cash and connections.

Had Howard Dean and Ned Lamont been successful candidates, the left-leaning elements of the press would probably not be so prone to ridicule these current grassroots efforts. But because conservatives have been far more successful at defeating entrenched interests, the media instead casts it as a quest for purity instead of a demand from the people that Washington must work for them, not billionaire donors, K Street, and Wall Street.

That inability to give a fair hearing to the grassroots on the right only compounds the problem. It is also the nature of the beast and hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is Citizens United giving the grassroots the ability to beat the monied interests for the first time. And even that, inside the bubble, is misreported as allowing billionaires never before granted access into politics. In reality, the billionaires have always had the access. After Citizens United the grassroots do now too. And the circle keeps circling while the jerks keep … um …

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