The bad news: White American evangelicals are the strongest proponents of a political agenda that advances harsh immigration policies, misconstrues “religious liberty” into a license for discrimination, and distributes its moral outrage according to the politics of the recipient rather than the misdeed.
The good news: They are in clear decline — which, despite their best efforts, will continue.
Yesterday, ABC News/Washington Post revealed an analysis of various polls from 2003-2017 that showed an overall drop in Protestants from 50 percent to 36 percent of the US population during that 15-year timeframe. Those who identify specifically as white evangelicals dropped by eight points to 13 percent of the American population in 2017.
Ever wondered why so many white American evangelicals are so fearful of social change — and often so hostile toward immigrants and other ethnic/religious groups? It’s because their status as “so many” is so clearly dropping.
They realize the cultural dominance and favored treatment they’ve enjoyed for so long is coming to an end — and, unlike many Christian communities worldwide and throughout history, they aren’t sure how to live without a propped-up religious faith.
Therefore, they are willing to toss aside the basic teachings of Jesus for a political agenda that gives some hope of stemming the tide. However, my hope resides elsewhere.
“Aren’t you concerned about this decline?” someone asked. Well, yes, but not alarmed.
Rather I celebrate the decline of a tarnished brand of religious faith used to mask a political ideology that reveals little to nothing of Jesus. May their tribe decrease!
Then, perhaps, this dwindling religious/political gig — that marries opportunistic preachers to self-preserving politicians — will give way for a more hopeful expression of faith that relies, not on majority status that seeks the helping hand of government and marginalizes those who look and believe differently, but on the One revealed in Jesus Christ — whose embrace is wide and promises are sure.
If such evidence of Jesus’ love, grace and mercy begins to appear more clearly and naturally — rather than the politics of exclusion — there’s a good chance the growing number of “non-religious” might take notice and interest.
Faith, hope and love tend to be more attractive than fearful efforts to secure one’s own status.