Churches are declining in numbers. A non-religious conservatism is on the rise. More people are self-describing as “nones” when it comes to religious affiliation. It is a common assumption that the political Left is more secular while the political Right is more religious. But is this true? Maybe. But, if it is, it is not as true as it once was. In an essay written for the New York Times, Nate Hochman appears to both bewail the diminishing religious right and pragmatically give reasons the religious conservatives should join forces with social conservatives and apparently tolerate white nationalists in waging the new culture war. I hope to demonstrate how this will implode.
Atheists are by definition non-religious. But people can be non-religious and still believe in some form of God. Deism comes to mind as an example. Non-religious does not mean anti-religious. Being non-religious means adhering to a vague set of unexamined beliefs. While we know The majority of Trump supporters were non-religious people. We are aware that the majority of white evangelicals supported the candidacy of Donald Trump. But they were only 32% of Trump’s voters in 2016. The share of Republicans who went to church has declined during the time from 2010 when it was 75% to 63% in 2021. The rise of non-religious people appears to make for more cruelty in the culture.
A Vague Cause
Republican politicians are talking in less religious terms too. They discuss being “anti-woke” and appeal to a threatened “American way.” The most important aspect of the agenda is no longer what they stand for but what they stand against. America is being overrun by people they do not like. Church leaders know this too. The WCA/ GMC splinter group in the UMC is waging a similar campaign. The appeal is not to Jesus Christ but to who we are afraid will be in charge. Our way of life is being threatened. It is the same song with a new tune. But potential allies who offer analysis of the cause are rebuffed as elites and held in suspicion.
Once again, church leaders have been getting this message too. The TED talk format of sermons neglect any real work with the Scriptures. The themes run from “God wants a better life for you” to “God is an American patriot.” Culture wars are distractions from class wars. The pressure is on Church leaders to deliver messages that are non-religious in nature.
Non-Religious Right Wingers
One pollster showed in 2018 that non-religious Trump supporters were more likely to support a boarder wall, tighter restrictions on legal immigration, and some out-right bans of certain people entering the United States. Church attendance, according to the same pollster, softened people’s attitudes toward issues of race, identity, and immigration.
Progressive Christians tend to attack the religious right on these issues. But it appears the non-religious right is more susceptible to bigotry. Yet, the apparently are more open gay rights and abortion rights than their religious counterparts. It is a mixed bag. Live and Let Live is all right to some extent. But compassion for the plight of others is lost. The non-religious right has replaced their church leaders with people such as Tucker Carlson. According to Hochman, this development scares Andrew T. Walker of the Ethics and Policy Center. He speaks about opposing “woke lunacy.” Walker then concludes the politics of “functional pagans…causes Christians to adopt or excuse the disposition of cruelty and licentiousness.”
We Warned You
History shows both Hochman and Walker are arriving late to these conclusions. The cruelty and licentiousness was always a part of the conservatism they uphold. Political policies allowing people to be hungry, suffer, and die from lack of care so very wealthy people can have another yacht are nothing but cruel libertinism. The only option for Christians is to oppose such an ideology. Live and Let Live is meaningless when we let people die from want. We told you so. And you are hearing it again.
History also shows people eventually stop the cruelty for a time. Changes do not come on battlefields. They come when enforcers of the status quo stop enforcing it. Christians need to remind ourselves of this. We stake our moral viewpoint on Love.