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Quote of the Day: The Decline of White Evangelical Christianity

Republicans control the White House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. They have 27 governorships and governing trifectas in 21 states. But many conservatives — particularly Christian conservatives — believe they’re being routed in the war that matters most: the post-Christian culture war. They see a diverse, secular left winning the future and preparing to eviscerate both Christian practice and traditional mores. And they see themselves as woefully unprepared to respond with the ruthlessness that the moment requires.


Robert Jones, president of the Public Religion Research Institute, estimates that when Barack Obama took office, 54 percent of the country was white and Christian; by the time he left office, that had fallen to 43 percent. This is largely because young Americans are less white, and less Christian, than older Americans. Almost 70 percent of American seniors are white Christians, compared to only 29 percent of young adults.

In 2018, Americans who claim no religion passed Catholics and evangelicals as the most popular response on the General Social Survey. That arguably overstates the trend: The GSS breaks Protestants into subcategories, and if you group them together, they remain the most populous religious group, at least for now. But the age cohorts here are stark. “If you look at seniors, only about one in 10 seniors today claim no religious affiliation,” Jones told me. “But if you look at Americans under the age of 30, it’s 40 percent.”

These are big, dramatic changes, and they’re leading Christians — particularly older, white, conservative Christians — to experience America’s changing demographics as a form of siege. In some cases, that experience is almost literal.

The political commentator Rod Dreher blogs for the American Conservative, where he offers a running catalog of moral affronts and liberal provocations. He doesn’t simply see a society that has become secular and sexualized, but a progressive regime that insists Christians accept and even participate in the degeneracy or fall afoul of nondiscrimination laws and anti-bigotry norms.


The irony of all this is that Christian conservatives are likely hastening the future they most fear. In our conversation, Jones told me about a 2006 survey of 16- to 29-year-olds by the Barna Group, an evangelical polling firm, that asked 16- to 29-year-olds for their top three associations with present-day Christianity. Being “antigay” was first, with 91 percent, followed by “judgmental,” with 87 percent, and “hypocritical,” with 85 percent. Christianity, the Barna Group concluded, has “a branding problem.”

It seems unlikely that that branding problem will be fixed by a tighter alliance with Trump, who polls at 31 percent among millennials and 29 percent among Generation Z. If young people are abandoning Christianity because it seems intolerant, judgmental, and hypocritical — well, intolerant, judgmental, and hypocritical is the core of Trump’s personal brand.

— Ezra Klein, Vox, The post-Christian culture wars, November 26, 2019


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    Melissa A Montana

    I think this is why they are so desperate to change laws. Their brand of Christianity is going the way of Zeus and Thor. Trouble is, when they all die, the laws will change anyway. Talk about fighting for a lost cause.

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      If conservative Republicans, Independents, etc. wish to remain relevant, they MUST dump god. It is a plank in their platform that is dragging them down.

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    Brunetto Latini

    “Branding problem” indeed. What it means is that too many people see through the branding to the truth. A city set on a hill, and all that.

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    Let it die off, the sooner the better. One reason I believe young people are forgoing Christianity I believe is economic. How much of David Ramsey’s crap and the Republican party’s BS do young people who are far poorer want to listen to? I was in my 40s while in the latter years in IFB/Calvary Chapel churches, and the economic realities they presented had nothing to do with my life. I tired rapidly of the IFB pastors going on about “those who don’t work don’t eat”, railing against welfare, and Social Security and telling me, my household was low income because God didn’t decide to “bless us”. Still remember one smarmy IFB pastor with his new 50,000 dollar truck, giving my husband judgments about being in gig employment after newspaper lay-offs. Economic realities will force the young [by young I mean under 60–Gen X etc] to walk because the evangelical churches live in a world where Ronald Reagan is king, and well, most of us know that’s when the bottom fell out. The young are noticing how they have been screwed over, and the churches offer nothing but more oppression and support for a political and economic system that is destroying their lives. I would have left even if I still believed, I don’t, because of this stuff alone.df

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    There are still swaths of hyper-religiosity in the USA, but I can see that a good number of the Gen X cohorts that I grew up with in super fundamentalist evangelical church and school are more moderate than we were taught to be. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a good number of super fundies.

    My daughter is in college in Nashville (she grew up in NJ), and she says that within the city you see more politically and socially progressive billboards, but just outside Nashville you start seeing the “Creation museum” billboards and the ones warning of hell. She says going outside the city is like entering another world. Yet there are quite a number of students from those types of rural areas who are faced with diversity and progressive ideas every day on campus. She has had some interesting conversations with conservative students, some of whom are struggling with exposure to new ideas.

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    Evangelicals R NOT pro-right!! They R all Pro-Left. Evangelicals have a terrible problem dealing with what their nation was truly founded upon. It was NOT religion. The U. S. A. was founded on Darwinian principles. It was founded on the premise of Darwin’s theory (fact). That theory is one every true American should pledge to in public schools (not the religious pledge of allegiance). That is …. to keep America strong through the continual maintenance of Darwin’s Theory ….. that of “Natural Selection by Free Enterprise Competition”. Not this socialist crap I constantly hear from religion. They have lost their way and now totally reject Darwin’s Theory.
    Evangelicalism wants to establish a socialist dominance in the American hinterland. They have also forgotten their original immigrant roots. They fled Europe from both Protestant and Catholic persecution. And then they dragged all that garbage over here! They R not libertarians! They R socialists who can no longer compete in our world.

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      Wow, either you’re trying for satire/parody/Poe or you’re completely confused about reality. Either way, this is one big confused word salad of a comment.

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        dale mcinnes

        Scott! Please state who U R directing your comments to. It looks like U interjected on something and left it hanging in outer space. just saying.

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      Darwin’s theory of evolution via natural selection was first published in 1859, which is 83 years after the United States was established. The US was not founded on the basis of Darwinian theory, though of course it was not founded on the basis of Christianity either.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    A friend of mine, a semi-retired schoolteacher psychologist who is African-American, says the current regime is “Custer’s Last Stand.” That, she says, is the reason why they follow Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s health reports with bated breath: They want to pack the Supreme Court and essentially want to un-do anything that supports the First Amendment principles of free expression and separation of church and state, not to mention Roe v. Wade. Oh, and they want neoliberal economic policies that would mainly benefit people like themselves, most of whom are older, white, male and Christian (in some fashion or another).

    In short, they see the future and know they can’t stop it. So they want to saddle the young (or older folks like me who embrace diversity) with their legacy. To put it more crudely, they want to rape us and carry their child.

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    I often have wondered what Christianity and religion in general would have generated for Western society, if the focus had always been on kindness, helping others, not judging, not excluding, not harping on the going to hell and being saved BS and focused on taking care of our environment, our planet and the other creatures who share it with is.

    Seems like it would have been a win win…

    But instead they chose revenge, religious wars, blood sacrifice, obedience, fear, condemnation of others, bigotry, self righteousness, hate and all this abhorrent end times craziness.

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    MJ Lisbeth, you hit the nail square with the statement, “…they want to rape us and carry their child.” Best phrasing yet!

    By the way, I’m not the Dale from above who claimed our country’s roots are Darwinian.

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    Brian Vanderlip

    Greetings Dale! I agree wholeheartedly that MJ Lisbeth says it as it is! When I first read the statement, “they want to rape us and carry their child.”, I balked for a moment at the harsh reality. Then I realized that simple reality was being offered me and I immediately agreed to accept that truth. We hear on a regular basis via Christian alpha mouths that women are to be used by men as they please and that a man must answer to God for what he does.
    As God is absent and does not appear to exist, well, that gives men carte-blanche and its clear Christian men use it!

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    Ann Lo

    What Donald “grab ’em by the p*ssy” Trump and the evangelical church have in common is sexual assault. After the movie Spotlight came out, the public knew the Catholic church had a sexual abuse problem. What many don’t yet know is that currently, according to the organization GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment) is that complaints about sexual abuse from conservative Protestant churches now outnumber those from Catholic ones. #churchtoo #exvangelical

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      John Arthur

      Hi Ann, you are right.

      Bruce’s website shows numerous cases of sexual assault committed by Protestant Evangelical pastors. There was a website detailing numerous cases among Sothern Baptists called “Stop the Baptist Predators”. Most of this seems to be using sexuality as a means of power and control. It shows that in many Evangelical churches there is little real concern about compassion, healing-mercy and loving-kindness and treating others with respect and dignity.

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Bruce Gerencser