Younger Americans Disaffected by Conservative Church

Robert Putnam and David Campbell sum up the findings of their new book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, in the LA Times:

Just as this generation moved to the left on most social issues — above all, homosexuality — many prominent religious leaders moved to the right, using the issue of same-sex marriage to mobilize electoral support for conservative Republicans. In the short run, this tactic worked to increase GOP turnout, but the subsequent backlash undermined sympathy for religion among many young moderates and progressives. Increasingly, young people saw religion as intolerant, hypocritical, judgmental and homophobic. If being religious entailed political conservatism, they concluded, religion was not for them.

via Religion, politics: Walking away from church –

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  • trandyrandy

    But isn’t that the polar opposite of what killed the emergent church movement? “If emergent theology entailed political liberalism, they concluded, emergence was not for them.”

  • That’s about what it was for me.

    Trandy – I think that what happens with movements like emergent (a larger social movement the encompasses the church one, by the way), is that if it is not an outspoken conservative movement people assume it is liberal. I know many conservatives who are emergent.

    The weird thing about liberals is that, in their attempt to try to be unifying, they always lose their influence. One of my professors told me that a Democratic majority always screws up their power (as we’ve seen) because they are naive to think others will be as dialogically minded as they. When really, the right often wants to fight. The left, however, is too afraid to look like the right because so ends up being trampled on.

  • Tony,

    I’m reading through American Grace. It’s an interesting and worthwhile read. Premise is that the conservative religious movement is in many ways an aftershock to the sexual “libertinism” of the long 1960s. By the time you and I (a decade apart) went to college, we were involved in that conservative aftershock. Mainline churches weren’t seen as standing firm against the moral depravity of the age, and so we joined conservative churches. What we’re seeing now is the second aftershock — a response among the younger ones to the conservative overreaction. Only many are moving out, rather than moving to more open forms of faith.

  • Kevin

    It seems too convenient to blame churches’ opposition to homosexual causes as a major discrediting factor. The explosion of internet porn use seems more to blame in undermining young people’s understanding of Christian chastity.

    Many young people today have a great deal of difficulty condemning any form of sexual deviancy, and have witnessed many more deviant acts than any previous generation.

    Since homosexuality has an advocacy movement and a public opposition to it, this just happens to be the issue the media asks questions about.

    If the churches were more vocal against pornography, I’d bet you’d see a similar backlash.

  • The primary areas of difference aren’t over homosexuality or pornography, but premarital sex.

  • ben

    Bob – can you explain a bit? Difference between generations? Difference between liberal / conservative theological camps? Just trying to understand your point.

  • Ben,

    The differences are generational. Those who came of age in the 1960s were more likely to embrace a more open lifestyle, which led to a reaction in the 1970s and 1980s, which was more conservative. It’s at this point that the conservative churches began to grow at a higher rate. The Evangelical growth rate apparently peaked in the 1990s, when the next generation (Millennials) began to reject the strictures of the conservative churches, but instead of going to liberal churches, they moved to none. I’m going to try to lay this out in greater detail in some blog postings at my site. But it’s interesting.

  • classic reap what you sow – its just that that moral majority didn’t fully know what they were planting.