The collapse of the white Christian voting bloc hasn’t gone unnoticed by the religious right. It’s the latest sign that they don’t dominate American politics the way they once did. From same-sex marriage nationwide to Antonin Scalia’s death to theocrat candidates flaming out and crashing, they’ve had one reminder after another that their era is passing.
And it’s immensely entertaing to see the fundamentalists and religious conservatives realize it. From denying the problem, to promising they’ll pray harder for revival, to raging at an increasingly godless culture, to depression and resigned acceptance of their approaching minority status, their reactions span all five stages of grieving. Here are some of the more notable ones I’ve seen in the last week.
Michael Voris from Church Militant, a Catholic ultra-fundamentalist site, prefers the blame-shifting route. He says that it’s the Protestants’ fault:
We have said at various times that Protestantism leads to atheism, and here are reports back from the political front lines proving the truth of that statement.
…Protestantism eventually gives way to atheism, because philosophically, it is atheism. What, after all, is atheism? It is a-theism, no God. What does Protestantism, with its me-centered theology, produce? That you become your own God. You determine your morality. You determine the meaning of Scripture. You determine your own theology. There is no longer room for God, because the individual assumes the throne — kind of the working definition of atheism.
I’m sure Voris felt very smug about this opportunity to throw stones across the theological aisle, but there’s a little problem that he doesn’t mention or allude to: Catholicism is declining in exactly the same way. Just like white Protestantism, its next generation is drying up, its churches shrinking and closing, its priesthood graying and dwindling. That’s just what we should expect, since archaic social conservatism is what’s driving young people away from religion, especially when it comes to gay rights, and the Catholic church is just as inflexible in its opposition as any evangelicals.
The religious-right fever swamp WorldNetDaily goes the gloom-and-doom route, as in this article, Pastors speak out on rise of atheist America:
The numbers are in, and the verdict is indisputable. America is turning against God. And pastors warn God may soon turn against America.… “It is the continuation of what took place in the 1960s when America began consciously and officially removing God from its public square – and particularly from the lives [sic its children,” he told WND. “You cannot do that without reaping a mass harvest of consequences. And it is the absence of God that allows for the presence of darkness.”
WND brings in a parade of apocalypse-real-soon-now pastors to rend their garments and preach doom – God will “pass judgment” on us, we’re “exchanging our light for darkness”, we’re “full steam ahead going over the cliff”, we’re facing a “mass harvest of consequences”, and so on.
But, reading the whole column, the overall impression I got is one of hesitancy. While they all warn about dire consequences, they’re notably vague about what those consequences might be. Nor will they commit to any kind of timeline. It makes you wonder if they’re starting to lose faith in their own apocalyptic theology, since the world keeps rolling on and doom keeps not showing up as predicted. Of course, I have no doubt that if any bad thing happens anywhere in the country any time in the next decade, they’ll immediately jump on it and proclaim it the fulfillment of all their warnings.
And while bewilderment isn’t a stage of grief, it’s an apt description of kill-the-gays evangelist Kevin Swanson, who can’t understand why God hasn’t destroyed America yet:
“It’s amazing that God has not judged America in 1973,” he said, “hard to believe that God didn’t judge America in 2001 [sic] with the Lawrence v. Texas decision, it’s hard to believe that God didn’t judge America with Obergefell.”
Like other self-deluded prophet-wannabes, Swanson predicts disaster every time society goes against his beliefs about what God wants, and every time he’s proved wrong. The religious right in general has a long record of crying wolf: Roe v. Wade was over forty years ago, Lawrence v. Texas was in 2003 (not 2001 as he says), Obergefell is now more than a year old. If God existed and wanted to show his displeasure, he’s had ample time to do it.
But not only do the threatened disasters keep not happening, our society just keeps getting freer and more peaceful. The fundamentalists, who believe that civilization can’t exist if it doesn’t conform to their rules, have no way to explain this other than to insist that there must be even worse disasters coming down the line. This can only mean that, as the world gets better, their worldview will paradoxically get darker and their prophecies of doom even more outlandish.