POLITICAL AFFILIATION & Distribution of party affiliation in various denominations. #graph via @RyanBurge

In the 2020 CCES, there are 44,131 white respondents. There are 1,892 Southern Baptist Republicans. There are 1,107 non-denom Republicans. There are 1,102 United Methodist Republicans. Democrats in the UMC, ELCA, ECUSA, ABCUSA, DoC, CoC, and PCA combined are 1,296.

ENTHUSIAST & advice on voting: 1) vote, 2) speak no evil & 3) take care your “spirit is not sharpened” against others – John Wesley www.Enthusiast.life

John Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley, October 6, 1774:

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them…

  1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy

2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and

3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

For more inspiration, experience the exciting world of the men, women and children of a movement that changed the world through 30 days of fast-paced, daily devotionals in the book by Wesley scholar, Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, ENTHUSIAST! Finding a Faith That Fills and at www.Enthusiast.life

Enthusiast.life

MEGACHURCHES & Report discovers they continue to grow as they emphasize small groups, embrace modern worship and diversify, but steer clear of politics.

by Bob Smietana, Relcion News Service.

A pre-pandemic, national survey of megachurches from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found the median megachurch draws about 4,100 attenders to its worship services, up from about 3,700 in 2015. 

The average megachurch budget is $5.3 million, up from $4.7 million in 2015. Seven out of 10 have more than one location. Six out of 10 (58%) say they have a multiracial congregation.  

Despite the decline among Christian groups overall, most megachurches seem to be doing well, said Scott Thumma, professor of sociology of religion at Hartford Seminary and director of Hartford Institute.

“They continue to do things that other congregations should be doing,” Thumma said.

Thumma said the use of contemporary worship — along with a focus on small groups and international diversity — has helped megachurches continue to grow. Megachurches, in general, he said, also tend to steer clear of controversy, staying away from culture wars or political battles.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2020/10/29/report-megachurches-continue-to-grow-and-diversity-steer-clear-of-politics/

GOVERNMENT & 8 facts about religion and government in the United States. #PewResearch

by Dalia Fahmy, Pew Research, 7/17/2020.

Here are eight facts about the connections between religion and government in the United States, based on previously published Pew Research Center analyses.

The religious makeup of the 116th Congress

While the U.S. Constitution does not mention God, every state constitution references either God or the divine. God also appears in the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance and on U.S. currency.

Congress has always been overwhelmingly Christian, and roughly nine-in-ten representatives (88%) in the current Congress identify as Christian, according to a 2019 analysis. While the number of self-identified Christians in Congress ticked down in the last election, Christians as a whole – and especially Protestants and Catholics – are still overrepresented on Capitol Hill relative to their share of the U.S. population.

Almost all U.S. presidents, including Donald Trump, have been Christian, and many have identified as either Episcopalian or Presbyterian. But two of the most famous presidents, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, had no formal religious affiliation. Most U.S. presidents have been sworn in with a Bible, and they traditionally seal their oath of office with “so help me God.”

Roughly half of Americans feel it is either very (20%) or somewhat (32%) important for a president to have strong religious beliefsaccording to a survey this past February. But only around four-in-ten (39%) say it is important for a president to sharetheir religious beliefs. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say it is at least somewhat important for a president to have strong religious beliefs (65% vs 41%).

Half of Americans say Bible should influence U.S. laws; 28% favor it over the will of the people

Americans are divided on the extent to which the country’s laws should reflect Bible teachings. Roughly half of U.S. adults say the Bible should influence U.S. lawseither a great deal (23%) or some (26%), and more than a quarter (28%) say the Bible should prevail over the will of the people if the two are at odds, according to the February survey. Half of Americans, meanwhile, say the Bible shouldn’t influence U.S. laws much (19%) or at all (31%).

More than six-in-ten Americans (63%) say churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics. An even higher share (76%) say these houses of worship should not endorse political candidates during elections, according to a 2019 survey. Still, more than a third of Americans (36%) say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political matters. (The Johnson Amendment, enacted in 1954, prohibits tax-exempt institutions like churches from involvement in political campaigns on behalf of any candidate.)

Read more at … https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/07/16/8-facts-about-religion-and-government-in-the-united-states/

TRENDS & Is the Political Left Becoming More Religious? What sociologists found. #OxfordUniversity #AssociationForTheSociologyOfReligion

Is the Religious Left Resurgent?” by Joseph O Baker, Gerardo Martí, Sociology of Religion, Volume 81, Issue 2, Summer 2020, Pages 131–141, https://doi.org/10.1093/socrel/sraa004 Published: 08 April 2020

Abstract:

Journalistic sources seem to suggest that there has been a resurgence of the American Religious Left (i.e., politically liberal Christians who support progressive agendas) in the wake of the strong support from the conservative Christian right in the 2016 presidential election of Donald J. Trump. Using quantitative analysis, we draw on survey data from the General Social Survey, the Public Religion Research Institute, and the National Congregations Study to assess the possibility of a resurgence among the Religious Left. In comparison with a speculated rise, our analysis indicates a notable decline in both the prevalence and engagement of Americans who self-identify as both religious and politically liberal. Not only is the constituency of the Religious Left shrinking, they have also been steadily disengaging from political activity in the last decade. Especially when looking at more recent elections, it has been those among the Secular Left who have been the most politically engaged. We summarize these empirical patterns in relation to the Religious Right and consider the potential for influence among the Religious Left aside from electoral politics. We also briefly consider other possibilities for their political impact and reflect on the inadequacy of the label “Religious Left” for capturing important dynamics. In the end, we urge greater attention to politics among sociologists of religion, providing a set of research questions to consider in light of the upcoming American 2020 national election.

Read more via … https://academic.oup.com/socrel/article-abstract/81/2/131/5818067?redirectedFrom=fulltext

CHURCH HISTORY & Historian Marvin Olasky on the very different presidential leadership traditions of Woodrow Wilson & Grover Cleveland.

“Evangelicals engaging American History” an address by Marvin Olasky given to the Jonathan Edwards Institute, July 6, 1999.

…I’ll describe how Biblical history suggested to me some new avenues for exploring the American past.

The Bible has much to say about the relation between personal values and societal events. Noah’s faithfulness preserves mankind. Sodomy and other sins doom a city. So it goes up to the time of David, when his adultery has tragic consequences for the entire nation. Look at the capsule histories of monarchs and consequences found in the second book of Kings. In Chapter 17, King Jehoshaphat is faithful, so the kingdom prospers. In Chapter 24, King Joash and his officials worship the fertility goddess Asherah, which means they followed the church growth strategy of bringing in shrine prostitutes, and the country loses a war. In Chapter 26, as long as King Uzziah “sought the Lord, God gave him success”—but when his pride becomes ascendant, the nation descends. In Chapter 33, when King Manasseh practices sorcery and kills his own children, he and the entire country suffer—but in his distress, he turns to God, and life improves for himself and everyone.

This is not to say that the connection of actions and results is always quickly evident. Sometimes immorality deserves punishment but God holds off. Sometimes a nation is so close to the bottom of the slippery slope that a righteous king like Josiah only delays the crash for a little while. Overall, though, false ideas and actions have terrible consequences in ancient Israel.

It’s possible for some evangelicals to push aside that Biblical, historical evidence. Maybe those connections applied to God’s chosen people—chosen for trouble, most often—but are not universally applicable. Look, however, at the general wisdom of the book of Proverbs. Adultery has consequences in Chapter 6: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? … So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.” Lies have consequences in Chapter 10: “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” Private sins have public implications in Chapter 11: “Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.”

Let’s look at Woodrow Wilson.

Until 1908, when he was 50, Wilson was known as a Presbyterian preacher’s kid who had grown into an upright professor and a long-married university president. Then he had an adulterous affair that he covered up with financial payoffs that allowed him to be elected governor of New Jersey and then president of the United States in 1912, both times running as a candidate of private and public morality. Because Wilson did not want to see himself as a sinner, he developed a sophisticated public theology in which his adultery was excusable because he was comforting a lonely woman. He also learned to lie in public: He won reelection in 1916 with the slogan, “He kept us out of war,” while privately telling Cabinet members that the United States would go to war. One month after his second inauguration, Wilson led the United States into World War I and enjoyed its successful—for the United States—completion in 1918.

Temporary success bred arrogance. A million Parisians chanted “Wilson, Wilson” as he rode through the city. French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau said there was no greater reception “in the history of the world.” Wilson began claiming direct divine inspiration for the League of Nations agreement he had put together: It came about “by no plan of our conceiving but by the hand of God who had led us into this way.” Wilson, however, was far from omniscient. He stitched together on maps countries like “Czechoslovakia” without having any understanding of ethnic divisions.

Wilson said he was “the personal instrument of God” in Paris, but after the 1918 congressional elections, when many of his supporters were voted out of office, he was barely the personal instrument of the United States. Still, he wanted to produce a newer testament: According to British Prime Minister Lloyd George, Wilson once said that “Jesus Christ so far [has] not succeeded in inducing the world to follow His teaching because He taught the ideal without devising any practical scheme to carry out his aims.” The League of Nations, according to Wilson, was the wise plan Christ had missed. Wilson, who had grown up with the Westminster catechism with its question about man’s chief purpose—“To glorify God and enjoy Him forever”—was working to glorify himself.

The Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919, represented the worst of both worlds. It was punitive enough to contribute to the German economic collapse that made possible the rise of Hitler. It was so high-minded that French and English leaders who put their hopes in it became lax about the military preparedness that could have forestalled the dictator’s early success. When the U.S. Senate refused to support the treaty, Wilson refused to examine his own arrogance, but instead traveled the country by train, hoping to rally voters to his side—only to find little trust in a man who had last stumped the country on a no-war pledge. Then came the crushing blow: Wilson suffered a paralyzing stroke, and his presidency effectively ended. Even then, the lying did not end. He refused to step down, and Wilson’s second wife was the real president during his last year and a half in office.

It’s a sad story of one who could have been great, brought low…

The personal history of a third Presbyterian president, Grover Cleveland, is different.

The knock on Biblical evangelicals is that we are looking for perfect people to become presidential candidates. Actually, however, we know that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and Cleveland shows the process of sin and redemption. In 1874, 10 years before he ran for president, Cleveland fathered a son out of wedlock. He made some restitution, giving the child his last name, financially supporting the mother, and then arranging for adoption. But his past practice became an issue after he received the Democratic presidential nomination in 1884. Republicans chanted, “Ma, ma, where’s my pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha.”

Cleveland made sure the facts got out, but he never attacked his critics as President Clinton did. Perhaps he showed awareness of a good journalistic rule, “Never spit when on a roller coaster.” Cleveland won the election, and during his presidency you see him minimizing his own importance. One journalist, Frank Carpenter, noted that “The hall and the stairs that brought us to the President’s office are covered with an old piece of carpet which was good once, but which has been patched, sewed, and resewed. It would not bring fifty cents at an auction.”

Cleveland worked hard to glorify the country by sticking by the Constitution and vetoing special interest bills. You also see him glorifying God in many ways. He showed his need to listen with his choice of churches. Washington residents expected Cleveland to attend the famed and fashionable New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Instead, he attended the First Presbyterian Church even though—no, because—its fiery old Pastor Sunderland had opposed Cleveland’s election, saying he was morally unfit for the White House. Cleveland knew that he needed to hear not preaching that would tickle his ears, but that would discipline him when he needed it.

Read more at … https://world.wng.org/content/evangelicals_engaging_american_history

CHURCH HISTORY & Christian Smith explains what happened in the 1990s that led to a surge in the “nones” – the religiously unaffiliated.

by

In the early 1990s, the historical tether between American identity and faith snapped. Religious non-affiliation in the U.S. started to rise—and rise, and rise. By the early 2000s, the share of Americans who said they didn’t associate with any established religion (also known as “nones”) had doubled. By the 2010s, this grab bag of atheists, agnostics, and spiritual dabblers had tripled in size.

Christian Smith, a sociology and religion professor at the University of Notre Dame, America’s nonreligious lurch has mostly been the result of three historical events: the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11.

This story begins with the rise of the religious right in the 1970s. Alarmed by the spread of secular culture—including but not limited to the sexual revolution, the Roe v. Wade decision, the nationalization of no-fault divorce laws, and Bob Jones University losing its tax-exempt status over its ban on interracial dating—Christians became more politically active. The GOP welcomed them with open arms…

The marriage between the religious and political right delivered Reagan, Bush, and countless state and local victories. But it disgusted liberal Democrats, especially those with weak connections to the Church. It also shocked the conscience of moderates, who preferred a wide berth between their faith and their politics. Smith said it’s possible that young liberals and loosely affiliated Christians first registered their aversion to the Christian right in the early 1990s, after a decade of observing its powerful role in conservative politics.

Second, it may have felt unpatriotic to confess one’s ambivalence toward God while the U.S. was locked in a geopolitical showdown with a godless Evil Empire. In 1991, however, the Cold War ended. As the U.S.S.R. dissolved, so did atheism’s association with America’s nemesis. After that, “nones” could be forthright about their religious indifference, without worrying that it made them sound like Soviet apologists.

Third, America’s next geopolitical foe wasn’t a godless state. It was a God-fearing, stateless movement: radical Islamic terrorism. A series of bombings and attempted bombings in the 1990s by fundamentalist organizations such as al-Qaeda culminated in the 9/11 attacks. It would be a terrible oversimplification to suggest that the fall of the Twin Towers encouraged millions to leave their church, Smith said. But over time, al-Qaeda became a useful referent for atheists who wanted to argue that all religions were inherently destructive.

Read more at … https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/atheism-fastest-growing-religion-us/598843/

EVANGELICALISM & where the term came from and why politics is now fracturing it.

by Alan Jacobs PhD, Baylor Univeristy, The Atlantic, 9/22/19.

The Scopes Trial—especially as reported by H. L. Mencken’s outraged mockery of William Jennings Bryan’s insistence that Darwinian theory and Christianity are incompatible—established evangelicals in the American public mind as ignorant yahoos who could safely be ignored. (That Mencken had great respect for more thoughtful evangelicals, including the conservative Presbyterian J. Gresham Machen, went unnoticed. It’s instructive to contrast Mencken’s obituary of Bryan with his obituary of Machen.) This general dismissal by journalists and intellectuals lasted until the rise of self-declared evangelical Jimmy Carter, which led to Time magazine declaring 1976 The Year of the Evangelical.

But this is where the strangest, and perhaps the most consequential, chapter in the history of American evangelicalism began. For in the 1980 election the newly confident evangelical movement, in their self-understanding as the Moral Majority, supported not their coreligionist Jimmy Carter but the divorced former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan. And that inaugurated the affiliation of white American evangelicals with the Republican Party that has lasted to this day. As Kidd explains,

Forming the Moral Majority freed [Falwell] from tax regulations against direct political advocacy by churches. Unlike [Billy] Graham, Falwell did not begin by seeking access to the top levels of power. Instead, he sought to mobilize fundamentalists and evangelicals to change the occupants of political offices. He told Christians that it was sinful not to vote. Asking pastors to hold voter registration drives, Falwell told them that they needed to get people “saved, baptized, and registered” to vote. The agenda of the Republican evangelical insiders was born.

The precise contours of what happened to evangelicals during the Carter administration are still hotly debated by historians. Certainly abortion rights—which Carter supported and Reagan did not—played a major role, even though that was a recent priority for evangelicals. More generally, the social conservatism of many evangelicals, especially in the South, made them feel less and less at home with the comparatively progressive sexual and racial politics of the Democratic Party. And the fact that Reagan could speak openly of God—in the Sixties, well after his divorce and remarriage, he had had some kind of religious awakening, and became a regular attender of Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles—sweetened the pill.

But, it seems to me that, of all the traits that attracted evangelicals to Reagan, perhaps the most important was Reagan’s sunny and fervent patriotism. Already white American evangelicals had a tendency to associate Christianity closely with the American experiment, and to think of their country as a “Christian nation,” or at the very least actuated by “Judeo-Christian values.” But as the decades passed and American church leaders in almost all denominations became less interested in traditional Christian doctrines and more interested in what some scholars have come to call Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, a larger and larger proportion of white evangelicals became what Pew Research calls “God-and-Country Believers.” These folks, almost all of whom are white, may not attend church often or at all, and they may not be interested in, or even aware of, the beliefs that have typically characterized evangelical Christians, but they know this much: they believe in God, and they believe in America, they love Donald Trump because he speaks blunt Truth to culturally elite Power, and when asked by pollsters whether they are evangelicals they say Yes.

… there are many millions of non-white evangelicals in America, and not very many of them voted for Donald Trump. So we now have a peculiar situation in which people who don’t know what the term “evangelical” historically connotes and who massively distrust one another—God-and-Country Moralistic Therapeutic Deists on the one hand, and a press that simply doesn’t get religion on the other—have combined to take the term away from those of us who know and care about its history.

Read more of Evangelical Has Lost Its Meaning at …https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/the-end-of-evangelical/598423/

EDUCATION & The Resilience of Religion in American Higher Education

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I would encourage my academic colleagues and administrators to read carefully this book. It offers strategic insights, as well as some cautions on the way forward.

“The Resilience of Religion in American Higher Education” by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Education, January 11, 2019.

William F. Buckley Jr.’s 1951 book God and Man at Yale popularized a view of higher education as hostile to faith. A new book, however, The Resilience of Religion in American Higher Education (Baylor University Press), finds faith alive and well in American higher education. The authors find that resilience evident both at public and private institutions. And they find it at religious institutions with varying ideas about their missions.

To be sure, the book does not present issues of religion in American higher education as simple or without tensions. But they find “a surprising openness” to religion in academe.

The authors are John Schmalzbauer, a professor of religious studies at Missouri State University and the author of People of Faith: Religious Conviction in American Journalism and Higher Education, and Kathleen A. Mahoney, a senior staff member at the GHR Foundation and author of Catholic Higher Education in Protestant America: The Jesuits and Harvard in the Age of the University. They responded via email to questions about their new book.

Q: Many people think of religion and higher education as a topic related to religious colleges. Your book also discusses student religious life at secular institutions, many of them public. What do you see as the major trends in student religious life at these colleges?

A: Public and nonsectarian private universities are some of the most religiously diverse places in America. Since the ’60s, they have witnessed an increase in the sheer variety of religious activity, reflecting the rise of campus evangelicalism, the revitalization of Jewish student life, a surge in new immigrant religions and the emergence of alternative forms of spirituality. At the same public university where Coach John Wooden and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar forged an interfaith friendship, religious diversity flourishes. Today the University of California, Los Angeles, is home to nearly 50 religious groups, including the first Campus Crusade chapter, the first Chabad House, a large Hillel building, a 54-year-old Muslim Student Association, a Coptic Orthodox Christian club, a Methodist cafe and a University Buddhist Association. Across the country, private philanthropy has supported dozens of ventures at secular institutions, including the Lilly Endowment’s recent vocation initiative and Yale University’s $75 million Roman Catholic center.

Responding to this diversity, the field of student affairs is rediscovering a more holistic understanding of student development that recognizes religious, secular and spiritual identities (the focus of two recent NASPA gatherings). A growing number of secular institutions have constructed multifaith chapels and meditation spaces, catering to both people of faith and the spiritual but not religious. A burgeoning interfaith movement has tried to connect these diverse communities, though recent findings from the IDEALS survey suggest that universities could do more to foster an inclusive climate.

Q: What is your sense about the directions of scholarship about religion at secular institutions?

A: Over the past 50 years, religion departments have proliferated at public and nonsectarian private institutions. Religion-oriented centers and institutes can be found at Columbia, Colorado, Indiana, New York University, Princeton and the University of Southern California. Most of these centers focus on “religion and” topics, exploring the role of faith in politics, health care and popular media. In the wake of the 2016 election, scholars in history, sociology and political science have investigated the roots of religious nationalism in America and around the world. While some religion scholarship is a version of “knowing your enemies” (Peter Berger’s apt expression), others have cultivated a more empathetic approach, though the current political climate has strained this capacity for scholarly empathy. In the face of resurgent racism, sexism and xenophobia, religion scholars are taking a stand.

Read more at … https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/01/11/authors-discuss-their-new-book-religion-american-higher-education

POLARIZATION & New research-based book describes 7 political “tribes” of Americans & their percentages.

by Yascha Mounk, The Atlantic, 10/10/18.

As scholars Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon argue in a report published Wednesday, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” the authors argue, seven distinct clusters emerge:

  1. progressive activists,
  2. traditional liberals,
  3. passive liberals,
  4. the politically disengaged,
  5. moderates,
  6. traditional conservatives,
  7. and devoted conservatives.

…According to the report, 25 percent of Americans are traditional or devoted conservatives, and their views are far outside the American mainstream. Some 8 percent of Americans are progressive activists, and their views are even less typical. By contrast, the two-thirds of Americans who don’t belong to either extreme constitute an “exhausted majority.” Their members “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.

Most members of the “exhausted majority,” and then some, dislike political correctness. Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that “political correctness is a problem in our country.” Even young people are uncomfortable with it, including 74 percent ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent under age 24. On this particular issue, the woke are in a clear minority across all ages.

Read more at … https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/large-majorities-dislike-political-correctness/572581/

STRANGE BUT TRUE & Most Americans choose a political party before choosing whether to join a religious community or how often to attend religious services. #NewYorkTimes

“When Politicians Determine Your Religious Beliefs” by Michele Margolis, New York Times, 7/11/18.

Michele Margolis is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship and the Political Environment Shape Religious Identity.”

… a key fact: Most Americans choose a political party before choosing whether to join a religious community or how often to attend religious services.

Faith often becomes a peripheral concern in adolescence and young adulthood — precisely the years when we tend to form stable partisan attachments. Religion typically becomes relevant again later, after we have children and start to think about their religious upbringings. By that time, our political views are set, ready to guide our religious values and decisions.

…I find that twentysomething Democrats and Republicans were equally secular: Most had pulled away from religion after high school, and Democrats and Republicans did so at similar rates. But nine years later, Republicans had become much more likely to attend church than their Democratic counterparts. In contrast, even those who bucked the secular trend and remained religious in their 20s were no more likely than less religious members of their cohort to join the Republican ranks in their 30s.

…In other words, those who were already Republican sought out kindred political spirits at church, while Democrats opted to spend their Sundays elsewhere.

Read more at … https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/11/opinion/religion-republican-democrat.html

CHRISTIAN & New book looks at the many varied ways the label has been applied in the last 150 years.

“What Does It Mean to Be Christian in America?” by Eric Miller, Washington Univeristy is St. Louis, 6/19/18

…In his new book, Christian: The Politics of a Word in America, historian Matthew Bowman documents a few of the many forms that Christianity has assumed over the past 150 years. Beginning just after the Civil War and working forward to the rise of Donald Trump, Bowman demonstrates how the faith has been claimed and counter-claimed by a wide variety of American actors, lending itself to a fascinating array of campaigns and causes, and always revising itself along the way.

Bowman is associate professor of history at Henderson State University. His previous books include The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith and The Urban Pulpit: New York City and the Fate of Liberal Evangelicalism. Eric C. Miller spoke with Bowman about the project over the phone. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

R&P: What is a Christian in America?

MB: I argue that there is no single definition of that word. Instead, Christianity can be understood as an essentially contested concept—an abstract notion like justice or art that is by its very nature disputed because there is no single authority to render a definitive judgment.

Throughout American history, Christianity has been endlessly disputed and, by virtue of that disputation, has injected a great deal of dynamism into American politics and society. Paradoxically, by lending itself to so much appropriation and contestation, it has helped inspire religious, social, and political pluralism in the United States—which is not the way Americans are accustomed to thinking about the role of Christianity in their society.

R&P: What is Christian republicanism?

MB: Christian republicanism refers to one way in which Americans have defined what Christianity is and what implications it has for American politics and society. It derives from American Protestantism and associates Christianity with two essential elements.

The first of these elements is individual liberty. Protestants have long stressed individual autonomy and the importance of an individual encounter with God and Jesus Christ for salvation. In the American context particularly, that notion has influenced Americans’ political emphasis on autonomy and personal liberty.

It’s tempered, though, by the second element, which is the emphasis on virtue. This is owed in part to the traditional Protestant understanding of what it means to be a Christian, but it’s also derived from the early American admiration for classical societies like the Greeks and the Romans. The Roman writers that the American founders were reading emphasized that a self-governing society requires a virtuous citizenry. Christianity provided an effective means for promoting civic virtue because of its particularly Protestant emphasis on character and moral behavior.

This way of thinking about Christianity has been common—though not uncontested—throughout American history. It has taken different forms at different times in different places and been spoken of in a variety of different ways, but the presumed relationship between Christianity and American democratic government has been widely present since the founding.

R&P: The Christian republicanism that you document is very white and very Western—it arises in Europe and culminates in the triumph of “Western Civilization.” How have African American Christians responded to this standard Christian story?

MB: At points, many African Americans have seized upon Christian republican ideology, asserted their faith in it, and then used it to attack white Americans’ complicity in and complacency with slavery, segregation, and racism. These African Americans have argued that, for Americans to live up to the ideals of Christian republicanism—including liberty, autonomy, and virtue—slavery and racism and injustice must be rejected.

Read more at …http://religionandpolitics.org/2018/06/19/what-does-it-mean-to-be-christian-in-america/

POLITICS & Research indicates political posturing by Christians may be linked to rising rates of nonreligious people.

Abstract:

Hout and Fischer have made the repeated, controversial claim that the dramatic rise of “religious nones” in the United States is due to the prominence of the politics of the Christian Right. As the argument goes, the movement’s extreme stands on gay rights and abortion make religion inhospitable to those who take more moderate and liberal positions. We take another look at this proposition with novel data drawing on expert reports and interest group counts that capture the prominence of the movement in each American state from 2000 to 2010. We attach these data to decennial religious census data on the unchurched, as well as estimates of the nones from Cooperative Congressional Election Study data. At stake is whether religion is independent of political influence and whether American religion is sowing its own fate by failing to limit taking extreme stands. Rising none rates are more common in Republican states in this period. Moreover, when the Christian Right comes into more public conflict, such as over same-sex marriage bans, the rate of religious nones climbs.

The marquee religious trend in the United States over the last thirty years is the rapid rise of the “religious nones”—those who claim no religious affiliation in surveys—from just 6 percent in the early 1990s to about 25 percent today (PRRI 2016; Thiessen and Wilkins-Laflamme 2017).1 Perhaps not coincidentally, that meteoric rise started around 1994, just when the Christian Right rose to prominence within the Republican Party in government, as Republicans swept the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years.2 As the argument goes, the Christian Right is the most visible manifestation of religion in the United States, and the extreme positions taken by the movement on abortion and especially gay rights made all religion inhospitable for liberals and moderates (Hout and Fischer 2002, 2014; see also Evans 2016). We aim to revisit this claim by taking one of the mechanisms seriously—Is there a relationship between Christian Right presence in (state) politics and the supply of nones?

We define the Christian Right in much the same way as others have: “as a social movement that attempts to mobilize evangelical Protestants and other orthodox Christians into conservative political action” (Wilcox and Larson 2006, 6). Moreover, we acknowledge that the Christian Right encompasses a wide variety of different actors, including “everyone from movement leaders to activists to ordinary group members and those sympathetic to its political and religious agenda” (Klemp 2010, 25). As discussed later, our measures capture multiple facets of the movement, including a specific focus on the social movement organizations (see Miceli 2005; Rozell and Wilcox 1996; Wilcox 1992), as well as more holistic sense of anything elite observers would lump together as the movement. We use the term “Christian Right” throughout the paper to refer to both, and in this way our operational definition of the Christian Right captures both sides of what Rozell and Wilcox (1996, 7) cover: “organizations that attempt to mobilize orthodox Christian religious views behind a very conservative political agenda.”

Our works draws on a decade and a half of data gathering, surveying elite observers in the electoral moment regarding whether Christian Right organizations were active and influential in their state’s politics. Taking place in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2016 (Conger 2010a, 2014), we attach these elite perception data to survey estimates, religious census, and U.S. Census data, in addition to other data sources, to assess why the supply of nones changed in the states. We argue that the rate of change is uneven across the states, driven by the salient policy controversy linked to Christian Right activism. Our findings suggest that Christian Right influence in state politics seems to negatively affect religion, such that religious attachments fade in the face of visible Christian Right policy victories.

Read more at … http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1065912918771526?cookieSet=1

TRUMP/CLINTON & Chaos or Community? MLK Jr. Book Has Insight on Where We Should Go From Here

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. After a divisive election, people are wondering what to do. The best insights may come from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last book which followed very divisive elections in America. He urged Americans to distinguish between three types of biblical “loves” (eros, philia and agape), suggesting only with agape love (loving the unlovely) can systemic change be brought that will change the situation of the increasingly poor segment of the US population. Here’s an overview of his last and perhaps most relevant book for 2017.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE: CHAOS OR COMMUNITY?

Introducer: Vincent Harding

King believed that the next phase in the movement would bring its own challenges, as African Americans continued to make demands for better jobs, higher wages, decent housing, an education equal to that of whites, and a guarantee that the rights won in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would be enforced by the federal government. He warned that ‘‘The persistence of racism in depth and the dawning awareness that Negro demands will necessitate structural changes in society have generated a new phase of white resistance in North and South.’’

King assesses the rise of black nationalism and the increasing use of the slogan ‘‘Black Power’’ in the movement. While he praised the slogan, he also recognized that its implied rejection of interracial coalitions and call for retaliatory violence ‘‘prevent it from having the substance and program to become the basic strategy for the civil rights movement in the days ahead.’’ Condemning the advocacy of black separatism, King maintained that there would be no genuine progress for African Americans ‘‘unless the whole of American society takes a new turn toward greater economic justice.’’ Despite King’s impatience with Black Power proponents, he ends the book on an optimistic note, calling for continued faith in the movement.

King maintained that there would be no genuine progress for African Americans ‘‘unless the whole of American society takes a new turn toward greater economic justice.’’

Reviews:

“Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the greatest organic intellectuals in American history. His unique ability to connect the life of the mind to the struggle for freedom is legendary, and in this book—his last grand expression of his vision—he put forward his most prophetic challenge to powers that be and his most progressive program for the wretched of the earth.” —Cornel West

Excerpt, From Vincent Harding’s Introduction:

… From this position of radical engagement it would have been relatively easy for King, if he chose, to confine his published writing to telling the powerful stories of the experiences he shared almost daily with the magnificent band of women, men, and children who worked in the black-led Southern freedom movement, recounting how they struggled to transform themselves, their communities, this nation, and our world. Instead, going beyond the stories, King insisted on constantly raising and reflecting on the basic questions he posed in the first chapter of this work—“Where Are We?” and in the overall title of the book itself, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

…Building on all of the deep resources of empathy and compassion that seemed so richly and naturally a part of his life, King appeared determined not only to pay attention but to insist that his organization and his nation focus themselves and their resources on dozens of poor, exploited black communities— and especially their desperate young men, whose broken lives were crying out for new, humane possibilities in the midst of the wealthiest nation in the world. Speaking later at a staff retreat of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King expressed a conviction that had long been a crucial part of what he saw when he paid attention to the nation’s poorest people. He said, “Something is wrong with the economic system of our nation. . . . Something is wrong with capitalism.” Always careful (perhaps too careful) to announce that he was not a Marxist in any sense of the word, King told the staff he believed “there must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism. . . . ” This seemed a natural direction for someone whose ultimate societal goal was the achievement of a nonviolent “beloved community.” But a major part of the white American community and its mass media seemed only able to condemn “Negro violence” and to justify a “white backlash” against the continuing attempts of the freedom movement to move northward toward a more perfect union. (King wisely indentified the fashionable “backlash” as a continuing expression of an antidemocratic white racism that was as old as the nation itself.)

Meanwhile, even before Watts, King and the SCLC staff had begun to explore creative ways in which they could expand their effort to develop a just and beloved national community by establishing projects in northern black urban neighborhoods. (The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, the other major Southern movement organizing force, was involved in similar Northern explorations by the mid-1960s, but both organizations were hampered by severe financial difficulties.) Partly because of some earlier contacts with Chicago-based community organizers, King and SCLC decided to focus on that deeply segregated city as the center of their expansion into the anguish of the North. By the winter of 1966, SCLC staff members had begun organizing in Chicago. At that point King decided to try to spend at least three days a week actually living in one of the city’s poorest black communities, a west-side area named Lawndale. From that vantage point, working (sometimes uncomfortably) with their Chicago colleagues, King and SCLC decided to concentrate their attention on a continuing struggle against the segregated, deteriorating, and educationally dysfunctional schools; the often dilapidated housing; and the disheartening lack of job opportunities…

In the face of such hard facts, King insisted on pressing two other realities into the nation’s conscience. One was his continuing plea for “a coalition of Negroes and liberal whites that will work to make both major parties truly responsive to the needs of the poor.” At the same time he insisted that “we must not be oblivious to the fact that the larger economic problems confronting the Negro community will only be solved by federal programs involving billions of dollars…”

From Dr. King’s conclusion:

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity . . . This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos or community.”

Read more at … http://www.thekinglegacy.org/books/where-do-we-go-here-chaos-or-community

See also The Role of Agape in the Ethics of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Pursuit of Justice by Jerry Ogoegbunem Nwonye, dissertation to the Faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, 1/2009 available at https://books.google.com/books?id=_0b6NTQGcKUC&dq=Where+Do+We+Go+from+Here:+agape&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Hashtags:  #WesleySeminary #DMinTL

GENERATIONS & Age difference shows split even more than political parties

Read more at … http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/age-difference-shows-split-even-more-than-political-parties/2015/07/06/be98beca-20c7-11e5-bf41-c23f5d3face1_story.html

POLITICS & Positions of American religious traditions: Different data, similar findings

By Tobin Grant, Religious News Service, 11/9/14

A couple of months ago, I put together a graphic showing the political positions of American churches and religions. My analysis was based on Pew’s 2007 Religious Landscape survey, which included more than 35,000 people.

My work received a lot of attention. One of the most fascinating pieces of the graph was the position of people who belonged mainline churches. Despite the liberal positions of clergy and church leaders, mainline Protestants are some of the most conservative on economic issues. Mainline Protestants favored a smaller government that provided fewer services. The mainline churches could be described as “libertarian” because they also favored a government that stayed out of policies protecting morality.

Evangelicals held about the same position on economics, but they were much more conservative on the role of government in protecting traditional morality. Black Protestants, too, were conservative on social issues. They were much more supportive a larger government on economics.

Dan Olson and Ben Pratt of Purdue University crunched a different set of numbers but came up with remarkably similar results. They presented some of their results at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion meetings last week…

Read more at … http://tobingrant.religionnews.com/2014/11/06/ideologies-churches-religious-traditions-olson-pratt-gss/

GENERATIONS & How age affects attitudes and voting behavior #PewResearch #InfoGraphic

François Guizot, originated the oft-mangled quotation, “Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head.”

By Drew DeSilver, Pew Research, 7/9/14

typology_age

The notion that age and political ideology are related goes back at least to French monarchist statesman François Guizot, who originated the oft-mangled quotation, “Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head.” But data from the Pew Research Center’s new political typology report indicate that, while different age cohorts do have markedly different profiles, the relationship is considerably more complex than young=liberal and old=conservative.

The report, based on a survey of more than 10,000 Americans, finds that among the oldest Americans (those ages 65 and up), nearly two-thirds are at opposite ends of the typology. 32% fall into the two strongest Republican-oriented groups (what we call Steadfast Conservatives and Business Conservatives) and 33% are either Solid Liberals or Faith and Family Left, the two strongest Democratic-aligned groups. (Steadfast and Business Conservatives are separated mainly by the latter’s more Wall Street orientation, while the Faith and Family Left tend to be more conservative on social issues than Solid Liberals.)

Looking at the youngest American adults, those ages 18 to 29, nearly one-in-five are what we call Young Outsiders — GOP leaners who favor limited government but are socially liberal. Almost exactly the same percentage are what we’ve termed the Next Generation Left, who tilt more to the Democrats but are wary of social-welfare programs. And many (17%) are Bystanders — not registered to vote, don’t follow politics and generally the least politically engaged. That’s the biggest share among all age brackets, though perhaps not entirely surprising.

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/09/the-politics-of-american-generations-how-age-affects-attitudes-and-voting-behavior/

POLITICS & To be Biblical is to be Political (by Jackson Wu) via @ScotMcKnight

by Jackson Wu, 5/2/14

“This book (Christian Political Witness) is loaded in significant discussion relevant both for Westerner and non-Westerner alike. Christian Political Witness draws on the insights of scholars across disciplines and backgrounds. Consequently, this anthology offers a wide range of perspectives and is provocative because of its content, not merely its tone.

CPW is a needed corrective in a conversation about a topic that many conservative evangelicals are reticent to talk about. Sometimes, this indifference comes from lack of awareness; others are afraid of the consequences of intermingling ‘faith and politics.’

Being Biblical is Political

In the opening chapter, Stanley Hauerwas claims that the church is inherently political.

He suggests that the question “What is the relationship between faith and politics” demonstrates the degree to which church has ceased to be the church (22). The very fact that we add “and” between faith and politics shows how much we have misunderstood the gospel and the mission of the church.

When the church ceases to grasp the significance of the incarnation, it yields to the whims of the nation-state and devolves into a voluntary society that must constantly defend its existence”

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/05/02/to-be-biblical-is-to-be-political-by-jackson-wu/

METAPHOR & The Danger Of Overusing Imagery

From a Canadian media director and student named Lorna, who writes, “Catch this little clip here on how many times your dear President gets caught using the same metaphor for  different countries ….a lovely distraction on the homework trail — 🙂  ”

This is a good example of how a metaphor can communicate visually and mentally, but can also be diluted if used indiscriminately.

Video of GENERATIONS & Trends

Generations and the Next America: Politics and Policy,
by Carroll Doherty, Pew Research Center