From the CS Monitor:
Religious pollsters and demographers have long warned that young people were leaving churches in alarming numbers….What’s been less clear is why they’re leaving.Polls show that a lot of this is over the sexuality issue:
But according to Notre Dame professor David Campbell and Harvard professor Robert Putnam, the fusion of faith and partisan politics – particularly the conservative type – is at least partly to blame.
“The best evidence indicates that this dramatic generational shift is primarily in reaction to the religious right,” they wrote in the latest Foreign Affairs in an essay titled “God and Caesar in America: Why Mixing Religion and Politics is Bad for Both.” …
Mr. Putnam and Mr. Campbell point to the statistical growth of “nones,” those persons who claim no religious affiliation. This group has historically comprised between 5 and 7 percent of the American population. In the aftermath of the religious right movement in the 1990s, however, the percentage began rising. In the mid-1990s, it reached 12 percent. By 2011, it was at 19 percent. Between 2006 and 2011, the rise in young people aged 18-29 who reported never attending religious services was three times higher than the increase among those over the age of 60.
“In effect, Americans (especially young Americans) who might otherwise attend religious services are saying, ‘Well, if religion is just about conservative politics, then I’m outta here,’” Putnam and Campbell write.
Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) Millennials agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.And even the Evangelicals, like the Barna group of pollsters, are finding the same thing. It's not just a US phenomenon either.
Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, sounds the alert from the UK
“The fact that fifty years on [after the decriminalisation of homosexuality] the Church is seen as enemy No 1 of gay people is a disaster, both for our own morale and for our mission to the country. We have become the last refuge of prejudice.”Hardly Christ-like, is it?
Election-wise, it may still work mainly because young people aren't so good at voting. But long term, this toxic mixture of intolerant religiosity and politics will damage not only the churches themselves, but also the slowly imploding Republican party. After all, neither can survive without the young.
Meanwhile, it remains a vital necessity for the more liberal mainline to push back against the continued identification of the right-wing views as somehow "Christian" and to present themselves as a real alternative, tolerant of doubt, and committed to inclusion rather than judgment-- not only as individuals, but also as institutions.