Why The Youthful Turn From Religion?
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This week's Newsweek presents an article by David Sessions on "The GOP's Secularism Problem" (Oct 15, 2012):
The latest sign came in a Pew study released last week that found that one in five American adults now claims no religion, and that 34 percent of those younger than 30 consider themselves irreligious.What's the Republican Party got to do with this?
The GOP's own base may be partly to blame. The data echoes a landmark 2010 study, American Grace, by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, which linked the new chilliness toward organized religion to the rise of the religious right. Other recent studies bear out their hypothesis: in March, Pew found that a majority of the electorate, including nearly half of Republicans, is uncomfortable with the amount of religious talk in political campaigns.Not all Republicans like religion in politics, then, and the shift is linked to the battle over homosexuality in the culture war:
The shift away from religion is especially pronounced among those younger than 30, who began abandoning churches in greater numbers at exactly the moment conservative Christians made gay marriage their signature issue.As I implied in a couple of previous blog entries, whereas the older generation of evangelicals sees homosexuality as a moral issue, the younger generation sees it as a human rights issue. Even Christianity Today has begun to recognize the crisis, for in "The Love We Dare Not Ignore," a book review of Justin Lee's Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate (Jericho Books, 2012), Wesley Hill insists:
It's a profound mistake to neglect our gay brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.Justin Lee is a gay evangelical, and as one might well have guessed, Wesley Hill himself has come out:
Full disclosure: I am a celibate gay Christian. Like Lee, I grew up Southern Baptist. Like him, I discovered during puberty that I was exclusively attracted to others of my own sex.These two gay evangelical Christians differ over the issue of celibacy, but both argue that Christians need to change their attitude toward homosexuals, and note well, these two are those of the younger generation who don't turn to secularism!
The issue isn't just about homosexuality, of course, but the larger tendency on the political right to mix religion with politics in an attempt to force people to be "moral," As the Newsweek article notes concerning the increasing secularization of America, "Some evangelicals are openly worried about the trend," and it cites "the late Chuck Colson, a religious-right leader, [who] said [shortly] before his death":
"We made a big mistake in the '80s by politicizing the gospel . . . . Now people are realizing it was kind of a mistake."I vividly recall the so-called "Moral Majority" of the early 1980s, some of whose more unrealistic members wanted the federal government to pass laws against adultery and use police to enforce such laws! Neither they nor the evangelical right got all that they wanted, but they did succeed in re-branding Evangelicalism, which had previously emphasized persuasion, into a force that promised coercion.
Iranian theocrats found that the mixing of coercive religion and politics turned people against Islam, and something similar may be happening with Christianity in the US for mixing religion and politics.