Church and Politics

From E.J. Dionne, Jr.:

Two things are thus true simultaneously: Nonreligious Americans are a very important part of the liberal constituency, yet the majority of liberals have ties to religion. The survey found that African Americans, who are deeply loyal to most liberal causes (and to the Democratic Party), are among the most religious people in the country. For liberalism to thrive, there needs to be acceptance and, even better, some respect across the boundaries of belief and nonbelief.

Yet if liberals face obstacles when it comes to faith, conservatives have problems of their own. The most serious? The religious conservatism that is such an important component of the right and the Republican Party is deeply unattractive to the rising generation of voters. In addition, many, across age groups, who are quite conservative in their theological views are rather progressive when it comes to economics, especially on issues such as raising the minimum wage.

The generation gap on religious commitment is stark. In the Silent Generation (Americans 68 and older), 47 percent are religious conservatives, while only 12 percent are religious progressives and 10 percent are nonbelievers. These figures are reversed for Millennials (Americans 33 and under), only 17 percent of whom are religious conservatives, while 23 percent are religious progressives and nearly as many, 22 percent, are nonreligious. (The remainder in both groups were moderates.)

These trends should disturb conservatives looking to the future, but they should also give pause to religious leaders. The association of religion, and particularly Christianity, with conservatism appears to be turning off substantial numbers of young Americans from faith.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Kyle J

    Love the concluding paragraph of that piece:

    Conservatives need to pay attention to the power of justice and compassion. Otherwise, they will find their cause undercut, even within their religious base, by a refusal to grapple with the economic system’s unfairness. As for progressives, they would be foolish to push away religious allies who are instructed by scripture of the Almighty’s ambition to “loose the bonds of injustice” and “let the oppressed go free.”


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