Introduction / History
The American people group is the second largest worldwide and therefore diverse in its ethnic expressions. Only the Han Chinese, Mandarin in China is larger. Understanding the modern American people group starts with knowing how its unique melding of nationalities, ethnicities and races made it what it is today.
Rising from the original thirteen British colonies, the United States (US) declared independence from Great Britain in 1776. By 1776, people of English, Irish or Scottish decent mostly inhabited the colonies, though Native Americans and African slaves were severely mistreated at this time and were not considered citizens. After independence, immigration from other European countries such as Germany and Italy increased. As the US quickly expanded its geographic borders during the 19th century, newly arriving immigrants tended to settle in cities and towns founded by others from their home country. Today, remnants of this can be seen from the Irish influences in Boston, Massachusetts to the German towns of South Texas and throughout the country.
The American people group was formed during the 19th and 20th centuries as: 1) African slaves were freed after a bloody civil war; 2) Culture was developed through the melding of European traditions and expressions of Christianity and 3) Racial equality improved. The latter half of the 20th century also experienced a massive immigration of Mexicans and others from Latin America, especially into southern states. This trend is estimated to change the demographics in the four Mexico-bordering states to be majority Mexican decent by 2050. By the 2nd or 3rd generations most Latin Americans integrate, at least somewhat, into the English speaking American people group. The variety of races and vast geographic area Americans cover makes defining this people group difficult.
Where are they located?
The US has never seen a significant diaspora of Americans outside of its borders. Within the US, the population distribution across the country has changed over the last two centuries expanding from the east to the west coast. Early in its history, American culture differed appreciably by state and even town or city. Today, due to the industrial revolution--which urbanized much of the country’s population--and the information age, many Americans move often, with extended families often living in different states.
What are their lives like?
Today, most Americans have access to technology, education and relatively stable employment opportunities compared with most of the non-Western world. Their cultural values, food, music and art stem from the melding of immigrant cultures that populated the country. Americans have a more individualistic than group mentality. Typically, individual achievement is valued over brining honor to one’s family, as seen in most Asian contexts. Once children reach eighteen years of age (or shortly thereafter) both men and women are usually expected to move out of their parent’s home. Today, most American couples live together before they are married and more than half of children are born to parents who are not married.
What are their beliefs?
Christianity has influenced most aspects of American values, morals, laws and customs since European colonist first settled on the continent. Each of the original 13 colonies (states) were shaped by the particular stream of Christianity its founders brought with them from Europe. Though the US government, by Constitution, never established an official religion or “church”, before 1850 each of the founding States maintained laws referring to Christianity. Though Christianity has undergirded American life for most of its history, economic and political ideology has had a greater influence on beliefs that are common among the people group.
Today, fewer Americans attend church and call themselves Christian compared with any other time in history. Among Western peoples, Americans are still the most involved with Christianity, but theological liberalism and secularisation have drastically changed American culture. American’s value of individualism extends to religion in that individuals are encouraged to choose their religion over simply accepting their family’s beliefs and practices. Often, the political ideology of the freedom to chose one’s religion is held higher than the actual beliefs and practices of the religion itself.
Immigration from Asia and Africa has changed the American religious landscape to include all major world religions. Though most first-generation immigrants still maintain strong ties to their home people group, they often integrate themselves and their beliefs into the American people group by the 2nd or 3rd generations. Christianity is still common among Americans, but the faith has largely been marginalized to personal devotion. The historic influence of Christianity over the broader culture has mostly been lost.
What are their needs?
Most Americans are able to provide for their physical needs or are served by charitable organizations, but a severe lack of affordable health care has proved to be the largest factor dividing the people group economically. Christianity faces two main challenges: First, millions of Americans raised in a church environment are leaving Christianity. Second, the theology and priorities of many denominations and churches have drifted away from what Christianity has historically believed and the Bible itself. Though Christianity is the majority religion of the American people group, one great need is for the American people to be re-evangelized with the Gospel of Christ.
* That a revival would occur among America Christians that would stir them to deepen their faith in Christ, not just their Christian heritage as Americans.
* That the American church would be a spiritual light to the non-believers who immigrate to America.
* That God would preserve the American church as it faces a secularized culture that seeks to pervert and change its beliefs and purposes.
Text source: Eric DeGrove
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