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Is the Religious Right to Blame for Christianity’s Decline?

No one will be surprised to learn that religious beliefs, affiliations, and activities are important predictors of political attitudes and actions. This is one of the more well-studied subjects in the field of political behavior. Most of the literature examining this relationship, however, assumed a causal arrow that points in only one direction: religion influences politics. The stack of books and papers considering whether trends in politics influence trends in religion is much shorter. This is starting to change, and the results of this research increasingly suggests that the Religious Right played at least some role in America’s declining religiosity.

As the number of Americans that identified with no religion began increasing in the 1990s, scholars and journalists began to look for explanations. Especially among pundits, these explanations typically favored their own cultural, theological, and political prejudices. To lay my own cards on the table, I am persuaded [1] that fertility rates are one of the best predictors [2] of a Christian denomination’s long-term health. That said, it would be remarkable if politics did not have any effect on religious trends, given the degree to which American religion has been so politicized since the rise of the Religious Right in the late 1970s.

For a time, it was frequently argued that Christianity was on the decline because Americans were fleeing liberal mainline denominations. This was not implausible. Looking at trends in American religion in the late 20th century, it was easy to discern that, on average, the mainline Protestant denominations were declining rapidly. And until recently, the more theologically-conservative evangelical denominations continued to experience growth, or at least hold steady.

This led the Religious Right to crow [3] that their more conservative theological and political stances were yielding dividends in the pews. They argued that liberal churches had abandoned biblical teachings in favor of more fashionable political causes, but these efforts to “get with the times” failed to bring in new members. Even worse, it caused them to lose existing members to secularism, or nudged them toward more conservative expressions of Christianity, especially evangelical Protestantism.

One does not often hear this argument anymore.

As plausible as this theory may have appeared a decade ago, recent trends in American religious life suggest it is incomplete, if not entirely wrong. The more traditionalist evangelical denominations have now begun a nosedive of their own. And to make matters worse for those denominations that once formed the backbone of the Religious Right, the growth we do see among evangelicals comes largely from Pentecostal denominations, which, on average, are not especially (politically) conservative [4].

The decline of many evangelical denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, seems to give new credibility to the argument that the Religious Right was, overall, a detriment to Christianity in the United States. Such a claim, however, is difficult to demonstrate empirically.

In the most influential article on this subject [5], Michael Hout and Claude Fischer made this case in 2002. They argued that, as the Religious Right became increasingly visible and militant, it became associated with Christianity itself. And if being a Christian meant being associated with the likes of Jerry Falwell, many people—especially political moderates and liberals—decided to simply stop identifying as Christians altogether. This was especially true of people whose religious attachments were already weak.

The results of Hout and Fischer’s analysis were congruent with their hypothesis, though given the limitations of their methods, one could reasonably claim that they failed to decisively prove their case. But in the subsequent decade and a half, additional research has further strengthened their argument. American Grace [6], by Robert Putnam and David Campbell, for example, argued that declining levels of religious affiliation can be partly attributed to the Christian Right. A subsequent study [7] by Hout and Fischer provided similar results.

Our understanding of this subject took a significant step forward recently thanks to a new article by Paul Djupe, Jacob Neiheisel, and Anand Sokhey. In “Reconsidering the Role of Politics in Leaving Religion,” [8] the authors provide new evidence that disagreement with the Religious Right was a catalyst for some people’s withdrawal from Christianity. These scholars approached the subject somewhat differently, focusing on affiliation with a particular congregation, rather than personal identification with a particular religion.

The focus on congregational affiliation is important, as it arguably has greater social consequences than religious identification. One can wonder, after all, how much it really matters if a person who engaged in no religious activities to begin with stops telling pollsters that he is a Christian, but otherwise changes nothing.

The studies conducted by Hout and Fischer indicated that the Religious Right inadvertently drove down religious identification among liberals and moderates. Using three separate data sets, however, Djupe, Neiheisel, and Sokhey showed that the Religious Right may have also driven some evangelical Republicans from their congregations. Specifically, Republican evangelicals that disagreed with the Religious Right were more likely to leave their churches.

It is important not to overstate these effects; as the authors noted, congregational disaffiliation due to disagreement with the Religious Right was most common among people who were weakly attached to their churches to begin with. The declining levels of every measure of religiosity in America can be attributed to multiple causes, and no one is arguing that the Religious Right is the sole (or even the primary) culprit.

Given the Religious Right’s record of success on other fronts, however, the finding that it expedited the decline of Christian identification and affiliation is a damning indictment of the movement.

In the realm of politics, the Religious Right was an abysmal failure. It was an effective fundraising tool for Republican politicians, but its lasting victories in terms of social policies are difficult to name. Stopping the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 1970s was perhaps the movement’s sole permanent achievement. And that victory occurred before most of the major institutions of the Christian Right were even established. On abortion, gay marriage, prayer in school, and other social issues, conservative victories were typically fleeting.

Despite the hundreds of thousands of Americans that formally joined institutions associated with the Religious Right, and the untold millions spent on lobbying and activism, the movement’s long-term impact on public policy seems negligible. It is hardly surprising that the Religious Right is no longer even perceived as a relevant force in U.S. politics. Far from a kingmaker in the political arena, the Christian Right is now mostly ignored.

Many political movements flop, and those sympathetic to the Religious Right may want to at least give the movement credit for fighting for its beliefs, however ineffectual it was. Lots of political non-profits have an abysmal return on investment. But if the research on religious decline and the Religious Right is correct, and the movement played even a small role in expediting the decline of Americans’ religiosity, it deserves to be judged as one of the most dramatic failures in American political history.

George Hawley (@georgehawleyUA) is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama. His books include Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism [9], White Voters in 21st Century America [10], and Making Sense of the Alt-Right [11] (forthcoming).

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97 Comments To "Is the Religious Right to Blame for Christianity’s Decline?"

#1 Comment By J May On June 6, 2017 @ 2:40 pm

KevinS writes, “I know this is a comforting narrative. But on the issue of gay marriage, it was not the judiciary. The battle of public opinion in the was moving dramatically for a host of complex reasons. You were losing the wider culture war, not just the judicial battles. You should recognize that as well.”

There is certainly truth to that, but, living in Washington State, I saw a far more nuanced and less pro-LGBT reality when it comes to the passage of gay marriage laws. The LGBT marriage campaign was well funded by billionaires to the tune of 4x the traditional marriage campaign. It used that money to run very deceitful ads about their campaign. So decietfuk that the newspaper in my liberal city actually called them out for it. The ads stated the campaign was gain rights for the LGBT community when every conceivable state right had already been granted in previous laws. The campaign masked the true intention which was to have a symbolic victory (changing the state defiition of the word “marriage” instead of having a parellel “civil union” with the same rights that already existed) in order to win the broader culture war through propagandistic means. Even still, the law barely passed. A poll was done that clearly explained the reality of the Referendum in terms of what the LGBT community was gaining, and, in that scenario, the Referendum would actually have been shot down by 20 points. Add this to Hollywood and other powerful media stakeholders holding views that are very out of step of centrist and conservative views, and a picture emerges there was a lot more smoke and mirrors in this whole thing than most people realized.

#2 Comment By Cynthia McLean On June 6, 2017 @ 2:51 pm

President Donald Trump claims to be a Christian and VP Mike Pence is a hardcore promoter of the Christian right’s attacks on women’s reproductive rights and the civil rights of so many marginalized Americans. That’s enough to send many, many young people fleeing the faith.

#3 Comment By cajomu On June 6, 2017 @ 3:36 pm

The idea that Christianity is declining presupposes that we can know how many Christians there are at a given time, but we can’t. All we can do count the people sitting in the pews.

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungry, and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Naked, and ye clothed me. I was sick, and ye visited me. I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

#4 Comment By Adriana I Pena On June 6, 2017 @ 3:40 pm

The Religious Right problem was to get involved in partisan politics.

As I pointed out above, you cannot in the same breath decry moral relativism, and cooperate with those for whom moral relativism is their bread and butter (“choosing the lesser evil”). That need to cooperate has led more than one devout Christian to espouse evil deeds, and call them good.

I can tell you about my own experience. I have family in Argentina, and one of my cousins was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered in the “Dirty War” in the seventies. When I talked about my concern, one devoted Christan said that the US had a right to defend itself and that I should ask forgiveness for being bitter about it. I shared my concern with my former pastor (I had moved away), saying that the news I had were not good. His answer was “Do not believe everything you read in the papers”.

As you can imagine, I am VERY bitter towards the Religious Right, and that bitterness has led me to think at times that Christianity is just a con job.

And again and again, I see this cognitive dissonance. Moral relativism is bad, but choosing a political course of action that causes suffering is good if it advances our cause.

So, yes. I can see how the Religious Right is pushing people away from Christianity

I

#5 Comment By Harper On June 6, 2017 @ 3:58 pm

JonF:

“If you’re just talking about religious people who argue for universal healthcare or against abusive policing, that’s not something committed Christians would object to.”

That’s the problem. I know of several dozen people in my parents’ Baptist church in NJ who claim that universal healthcare, and even Obamacare, is completely anti-Christian.

And Peter?

“Consider that abortion was illegal in every state prior to Roe v. Wade.”

That’s not factual. “Therapeutic” abortions had always been legal (meaning available for white women with money.) Hawaii and NY legalized abortion in 1970, a full 3 years before Roe V Wade, with Washington state and Alaska both legalizing in 1971.

#6 Comment By Spectator On June 6, 2017 @ 4:56 pm

@Kurt Gayle

The Discovery Institute? With the millions of $$ they’ve absorbed, what have they discovered?

On the other hand, those evolution-besotted scientists have very recently discovered gene-targeted means to attack cancer, and even while this is still an experimental field, several cancers that had a 5-year survival rate of 5-10% have now 30-50% survival among those who’ve been treated thus far.

Since the Discovery Institute is favored by God, unlike those deceitful scientists (so they tell us), why don’t they fill in the gap and get that 5-year up to 99%? Sounds like they’re withholding lifesaving knowledge, perhaps some Biblical justice is in order.

#7 Comment By Jon S On June 6, 2017 @ 5:23 pm

Like others have pointed at here, tying Christianity to a political party was a death knell. It is the same thing in Europe.

To the younger generation raised in secular households, what does Christianity even mean? And when viewing it from a political perspective it seems to mean worship of the guiding hand of the Free Market.

#8 Comment By JRP On June 6, 2017 @ 6:10 pm

The Religious Right may well have impacted Christianity negatively to some degree but its not the sole reason. We are witnessing an all-out rejection of God by the majority of mankind favoring the exaltation of himself.
Christianity may well cease to exist if it succumbs to espousing the false/deceptive memes of evolutionary science and/or caving to the cultural acceptance of alternate sexual preference or running away with its tail between its legs from a satanic ideology currently gobbling up Western Europe rather than proclaiming the soul saving message of the Gospel. We’re seeing first hand deliberate delusion and suppression of the Truth on the part of a Snake bitten world. And we wonder why this world is in such chaos.

#9 Comment By Larry Bradley On June 6, 2017 @ 7:25 pm

God chose those whom he would save before Creation, and none of those chosen fail to come to him. Thus, in the strictest theological sense, it is impossible for Christianity to “decline.”

#10 Comment By JonF On June 6, 2017 @ 7:33 pm

RE: know of several dozen people in my parents’ Baptist church in NJ who claim that universal healthcare, and even Obamacare, is completely anti-Christian.

JonF’s First Law: In a nation of 320 million people you can find anything that does not violate the laws of nature.

What you describe is hardly general or even common in Christianity. Indeed, the Catholic church, the largest Christian body in both the US and the world, is a strong advocate of universal healthcare.

#11 Comment By Adriana I Pena On June 6, 2017 @ 8:08 pm

And the Religious Right is proud to stand by this man….

[12]

If this is what it means to be a Christian, call me a Pagan

#12 Comment By Mac61 On June 6, 2017 @ 8:10 pm

Handing down the faith — or even just keeping it relevant and meaningful — has a lot to do with there being important leaders that people, Christian or no, can look up to. As a young boy in an atheist household, Dr. Martin Luther King made a tremendous upon me. But then ask young adults now who were the people they viewed as important or influential Christians. The witness of George W. Bush, who famously consulted his Higher Father when deciding to invade Iraq, may stand as the most important Christian of 2000-2008 for a generation of Americans. My perspective as a traditional Catholic is that neither the Republican nor the Democratic parties represent anything approximating Christianity. But to another generation of young Americans, they see that Trump was supported by conservative Catholics and Evangelicals as the best hope for Christianity. How Jesus Christ ended up needing Donald Trump to do His work on Earth is a mystery to me. I don’t think Jesus Christ needs any politician in this world to accomplish anything for Him. The idea that Donald Trump, moral idiot, was the strongman Christians saw as necessary in some way illustrates how twisted the heresy of Constantianism has become.

#13 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 6, 2017 @ 8:29 pm

“Now you lament “why is Christianity in decline?” Because you told us we couldn’t be Christians. The Religious Right has failed politically, and it has failed the faith.”

oh stop. no one old you you could not be christian. But there are methods of evaluating christianity. One method is from the vantage point of scripture. And for those who rest on scripture, there are practices that are simply not acceptable. And by not acceptable, I mean, should err, they don’t attempt to condone it. That is the most significant difference. The idea of shame and its impact. For most christians, violating the tenants of scripture, means shame. And with repentance a commitment not to to do so again. The lot of what is passing for christianity today is long on good feeling, less on commitment. Walking the walk of Christ is very tough fare.
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“As you can imagine, I am VERY bitter towards the Religious Right, and that bitterness has led me to think at times that Christianity is just a con job.”

I’ll raise you ten my bitterness against yours(kidding). But the goal and the turn is that christianity is not faith in others, for what it means, but ultimately Christ.

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“To the younger generation raised in secular households, what does Christianity even mean? And when viewing it from a political perspective it seems to mean worship of the guiding hand of the Free Market.”

If one is looking for what Christianity means, its fair to ask christians. but it’s richer to seek out what it is from where Christianity is derived from in spirit and in scripture. And while money is the second or third most discussed or referenced topic, free market as we understand it is not. But there are plenty of references to wise stewardship of one’ money. I think the median income is around 68 to 72k for christian households. hardly sounds like the mammon worship you are suggesting. And there’s not a single scripture that condemns wealth. It indicates that it will be a burden in following Christ. But Christ hung out with wealthy followers as well.
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“Baptist church in NJ who claim that universal healthcare, and even Obamacare, is completely anti-Christian.”

And I bet if i heard why they thought so, I would understand that it has nothing to do with being uncharitable, mean spirited, bitter or anything else.
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I don’t generally reference Wikipedia for obvious reasons, however, they have a fairly extensive record for christians in science:

[13]

That list is extensive enough to lat to rest any suggestion that christians are anti-science. Whether the contemporary christians who lean heavily on scripture or apart of the so called “religious right” is unknown.
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“As I pointed out above, you cannot in the same breath decry moral relativism, and cooperate with those for whom moral relativism is their bread and butter (“choosing the lesser evil”).”

There are lots of places to cooperate with others who engage in unchristian practices, even have them as friends, close friends. I don’t know single person outside of scriptural faith and practice who supports celibacy. But I can certainly point to any number of relationships and areas of cooperation those who don’t see celibacy as a viable option. There are people going to work every day who effective working relationships with people who are pagan, agnostic or atheists.

The position you are attempting to paint is entirely unreasonable and hardly reflective of Christ who hung out with all manner of moral relativists, no doubt. He just did not participate in activities he condemned as reflected in his father’s will.

#14 Comment By Michael J. Machnica On June 6, 2017 @ 8:29 pm

The main problem with the professing church is their failure to obey the word of God.

2 Timothy 2:15 KJV
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Most of the corrupt perversions that are in use do not state that command clearly and precisely to differentiate between God’s plan to reconcile the earth through the nation Israel.

Luke 1:70 KJV
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:

Acts 3:21 KJV
Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

God raised up a new apostle, Paul, to go to the Gentiles after he set aside dealing with the nation Israel. He will reconcile the heavenly places back to himself with the “new creature” that can function in the heavenly places.

2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

The information in Paul’s writings was kept secret until they were revealed to him.

Romans 16:25 KJV
Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

Paul uses the term “my gospel” three times. He did not preach the gospel of the Kingdom, which a lot of misguided people are trying to usher in today.

Ephesians 3:2-5 KJV
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [3] How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [4] Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) [5] Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

Something “kept secret” and not made known CANNOT be the same thing as something declared “since the world began”.

For the most part, the professing church does not know or acknowledge they have a final authority in a book they can trust. When they do look to it, they mix the prophetic law program given to the nation Israel with the mystery program revealed to Paul, which is extending salvation by grace apart from works.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; [2] By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. [3] For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; [4] And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.

#15 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 6, 2017 @ 8:33 pm

” . . . hardcore promoter of the Christian right’s attacks on women’s reproductive rights and the civil rights of so many marginalized Americans.”

Pray tell, just what these attacks. I have never net any christian who wants to be any woman’s bedroom dictating their relational behavior.

#16 Comment By Jeff K On June 6, 2017 @ 9:25 pm

Like most article on TAC, it is very thoughtful. And the comments are fantastic. Kudos to all for their insights and respectfulness.

I am a Presbyterian that hasn’t been to church in quite awhile. And I am not especially literate in the deep teachings of the bible. But I pray somewhat regularly. And I always pray to offer thanks for what I have, and never pray because I want the Lord to deliver some material thing for me.

Also, I am quite spiritual, in part because I was actually visited by the spirit of my step father one Christmas eve. I remarked to my wife ‘I wish Dick was here to see our son (his namesake) growing up’ as we sat around the kitchen table. Within seconds of saying that, the last gift he gave to my son, a Christmas train setup around the Christmas tree, turned on, went around the tree a few times, and shut off. My wife and I sat there in awe. It never turned itself on before or after that. Clearly I believe in the afterlife, but I do not believe in what organized religion pushes as ‘the answer’.

I am very dismayed at how religions in general, and many of it’s adherents, have sold their souls to false prophets (profits?). As my grandmother used to say ‘Hell is full of such Christians’.

How many of the pious and self assured within the religious community see nothing wrong with endless wars, racism, blind greed, and outright hostility to universal health care? Way too many.

And then there are the Republicans, which is the party that I am registered with, but disavow. It seems like nothing is more important to them than tax breaks for the rich, who already hold a greater percentage of wealth than they have ever owned historically. Yet they want more, and look down upon those barely getting by with the attitude ‘Well, if they just made good choices (like going to the Joel Osteen church of self aggrandizement or getting into the right Ivy League school) they would not be in the sorry shape they are in. They caused their problems, and they need to work them out themselves.

So I have consciously disassociated from both groups. Many of whom will have a real surprise on judgement day when their riches and their weekly attendance at the local megachurch stands for nothing in light of all of their transgressions against those less fortunate and not of the same color/religion/sexual preference as them.

As the old saying goes ‘Often wrong, but never in doubt’.

#17 Comment By Michael J. Machnica On June 6, 2017 @ 9:44 pm

As my previous comment is sure ti rankle some feathers, since I cannot edit it, I have to add that I left out an important verse to support my version statement.

2 Corinthians 2:17 KJV
For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

There are plenty of verses about God preserving his Word forever, so one will suffice:

Luke 21:33 KJV
Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

#18 Comment By GJackson On June 7, 2017 @ 1:01 am

When the “religious right” vigorously opposes same-sex marriage at the same time it remains almost completely silent on the devastating culture of divorce and remarriage and throws it’s arm around Donald Trump, a serial adulterer who proudly stated he doesn’t ask God’s forgiveness, intelligent people anywhere will rightly assume that the term “religious” in their moniker, is purely decorative. Twas hypocrisy that killed the beast.

#19 Comment By Ann Lo On June 7, 2017 @ 6:18 am

Christian conservative evangelicals who supported Donald Trump made a bargain with the devil. Faust could have told them that this never turns out well.

#20 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 7, 2017 @ 6:58 am

“Obamacare, is completely anti-Christian”?

Considering it was written by Wall Street and their Big Pharma and Big Insurance cronies, putting an Aunt Jemima label on the cover was no more than their usual crock of deceptive marketing.

#21 Comment By Kevin On June 7, 2017 @ 7:46 am

This line caught my eye “…the growth we do see among evangelicals comes largely from Pentecostal denominations..” many of which are non-Trinitarian and therefore not Christian but cults. I said many, not all, my beloved Charismatic brothers and sisters.
Church attendance is falling because cultural “christians” don’t bother any more.
However, the concept of American Christianity (not conservative) is also responsible. “American” Christianity teaches poor doctrine (pre-Trib Rapture, financial prosperity as a function of holiness, no suffering for the faith) and has therefore nothing to offer.

#22 Comment By JLF On June 7, 2017 @ 9:17 am

“Hawaii and NY legalized abortion in 1970, a full 3 years before Roe V Wade, with Washington state and Alaska both legalizing in 1971.”

And in at least one city in the heart of the Bible Belt classified ads in 1972 offered a discrete, weekend abortion package, including plane fare, hotel room, and theatre tickets. Obviously, it wasn’t cheap. But just as obviously, it was available for the “right sort” of people . . . and legal.

#23 Comment By Adriana I Pena On June 7, 2017 @ 11:36 am

EliteCommC

When I talked about those for whom moral relativism is their bread and butter I mean politicians and government officials. They have a knack for choosing to do the wrong thing because “it is the lesser evil” and “you cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs”

Think Henry Kissinger.

And yes, for a congregation to back such a candidate and become allies with him/her is to be complicit each time they break eggs.

I still call the Christian Right complicit in the torture/murder of my cousin. And that’s why I do not fully trust Christianity

#24 Comment By Adriana I Pena On June 7, 2017 @ 11:38 am

EliteCommC

Any Christian who seeks to deny a woman access to birth control is INTRUDING IN HER BEDROOM. Telling her that she cannot have sex unless she wants to risk pregnancy.

#25 Comment By Adriana I Pena On June 7, 2017 @ 11:42 am

EliteCommC

Evaluating from Scripture? I prefer to evaluate the behavior of those who claim to live by it.

The world is full of high minded documents that its followers do not abide from. As a humorist put it, it is difficult to read the Constitution of the USSR without tears of admiration. But it is also true that it is a very serious crime in the USSR to ask for your Constitutional Rights.

So, I am not fazed by Scripture. Show me how people behave, because that’s what we have to deal with day in and day out.

#26 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 7, 2017 @ 1:52 pm

” . . . many of which are non-Trinitarian and therefore not Christian but cults . . ., et al.

I have known these groups and have affiliated with many. And I would be hard pressed to call them cults. The body of Christ has many arms and legs. Unless there is some clear contradiction of scripture, this is sounds close to a wheat for the tares press.

As for the charismatics and the gifts of the spirit. You’ll have to explain to why and how the spiritual warfare of the first churches are different from the spiritual warfare of today before I take a jaundice eye to those tools and encouragements.

In my view it’s the same forces doing what they have always done, in fact maybe even more so as psychiatry and philosophies replace faith and practice.

#27 Comment By ficino On June 7, 2017 @ 2:44 pm

@ Adriana I Pena:

I think there is good reason to conclude that Christianity is a con job, i.e. it’s a human construction.

I started out with the sense that my church was taking unjust and oppressive political stances. Eventually I started to be aware of the contradictions, falsehoods and fallacies in the system itself.

#28 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 7, 2017 @ 10:10 pm

Excuse my late responses, I wasn’t avoiding them. I just hadn’t gotten back to this article or i missed them. No disrespect or evasion intended.

“When I talked about those for whom moral relativism is their bread and butter I mean politicians and government officials.”

Uhh, no. And uhhh absolutely false. You contention makes an for something near I impossible for any christian to engage in public life. As a premise, it is fallacious, the standard is so narrow merely to coddle your position.

And that is the case even if you are talking about politicians. The standard you posit.

But i will take it as you offer it.

1. Choosing the lesser of two evils is not necessarily a choice about moral direction or options. Its choosing a course that doesn’t get you the optimum vale or goal one seeks. Suppose I want eggs for breakfast. Eggs are a good source of protein. but eggs also have cholesterol considered harmful to the heart. Or I could have a high protein bar for breakfast, also loaded with carbs (sugars) bad for the heart and adds to weight issues.

A choice of deciding which of harm potential harm to take is generally a debate about what would cause the least harm. Neither choice is necessarily right or wrong. it’s not even right or wrong if one decides the matter on the basis of choice.

Lesser of two evils:

People in Somalia are starving.
Feeding them risks multiple risks of intervention and possibly war

The two evils starving verses nonintervention

The idea that a christian must refrain from supporting a particular rep because of those choices just makes no sense. What choice would be correct or wrong dependent on several factors, none of which is known based on your over generalized advance.

Intervention in one Somalia may exactly the call to make but but intervention in say Crete may not make any sense at all.

Christians in this country who are US citizens are entitled to wrestle with those choices and the representatives they elect to make them as are any other citizen.

In order to make any kind of assessment concerning wrong, you’d have to know what a christian believes in some context they comprehend. In my view, its scripture. That is the founding document for faith and delineates its parameters in fairly clear terms.

I support completely enforcing our immigration laws which means no one here illegally gets any benefit at all in any way aside from safe passage back to their home country. There is not a single scripture that contradicts that expectation of law or ethic, not one. Mr Trump says he supports that position. But Mr. Trump also supports same sex marriage, something I cannot support or endorse. On other hand a candidate such as Sec Clinton supports not enforcing immigration laws, and supports same sex marriage.

For me the lesser of two evils on policy means I support Mr Trump. The wrong choice as you reference it would be to support a candidate who would advance less of what I agree with.

Once can certainly make an omelet without breaking a single egg. Think low carb. You posit this egg analogy as though its relevant and it isn’t.

No. They don’t have to break eggs. They support the issues the candidate advances that is line with their beliefs and they reject those the candidate supports that is out of line with their beliefs. In other words, they aren’t necessarily supporting the candidate at all but certain issues the want to see enacted.

While I support Pres Trump in the general, I certainly do not endorse everything he says o does. And I think my comments as poorly written as they may be are clear on that point.

Furthermore,

Suppose breaking the eggs is the right thing to do. That valuation is something that christians who are citizens are entitled to participate in.
If the eggs you are talking about is the Soviet Union, I can only say – ok. Even if the Soviet Union were around today the example would not be relevant to this discussion. And Christians here do have rights and right or wrong, relative or solid steele they have right to participate as all others on every issue in every manner available to them.

______________________
“Evaluating from Scripture? I prefer to evaluate the behavior of those who claim to live by it.”

Skipping the the fact that you have completely taken my comment out of context.

Short answer, unless you know scripture, you have no idea whether said claims as linked to Christianity are in fact what christianity says.

Context, the argument or suggestion was that someone was being told they were not or could not be christians.

1. I don’t think that is accurate, especially minus even an anecdotal example.

2. The valuation I suspect is based on behavior in relationship to what scripture indicates christians behave like, including and perhaps, most importantly what they endorse. Clearly christians make mistakes — but it would be odd to hear a christian call their mistake something endorsed/condoned by God.

It really doesn’t matter whether scripture impacts you at all. We are talking a means of valuating others behaviors and choices. I don’t think anything in my position suggests that behavior and rhetoric should match. But based on your initial comment, it might be a good idea to actually know what it is they say they live by (i context) before you go making accusations about whether or not they are hypocrites.

In my view, there’s plenty of cause for breaking eggs if the eggs represent a damaging policy or ethos to the US and her citizens. Break away —-

1. enforcing immigration breaking the strangle hold that illegals wedge against US citizens is a fine egg to smoosh into a thousand pieces.

2. Regime change for the purpose of installing democracy is another egg to just crush into pieces.

There are others, and if you can find a single cause in scripture why those choices are incorrect have at it.
————————–

“Any Christian who seeks to deny a woman access to birth control is INTRUDING IN HER BEDROOM. Telling her that she cannot have sex unless she wants to risk pregnancy.”

I say this at risk of dog chasing tail discussions, but I have yet to have you note a single christian in any woman’s bedroom denying her access to either her relational life or her right to prevent pregnancy.

I am certainly open to hearing your case for such.
______________

For the last several years, longer no doubt there has been increasing argument to disenfranchise people of faith, especially christians from exercising their rights as citizens. And i for one have no intention of giving in to what is a nonsensical position.

#29 Comment By Scarlett Cocker On June 8, 2017 @ 9:04 am

The basic idea in this article was articulated in a book several years ago by Steve Deace and Gregg Jackson titled, We Won’t Get Fooled Again. In a long string of interviews with leaders of the “religious right” what they found was that almost without exception, those leaders had exchanged the principles of their purported mission for “a seat at the table” and the power and cash that came with it.

#30 Comment By Jacob On June 8, 2017 @ 9:56 am

Absolutely. They turned two thousand years of rich, vital culture into a pathetic bumper sticker on the vehicle of big business.

#31 Comment By Serving Kids in Japan On June 8, 2017 @ 1:24 pm

Dear EliteCommInc.

“Pray tell, just what are these attacks? I have never net any christian who wants to be any woman’s bedroom dictating their relational behavior.”

In person, you mean? Neither have I (thank God for small favours). But I’ve heard of plenty of them. They’re loud, obnoxious, and make lots of money telling women what they’re required to do for their husbands in bed.

Mark Driscoll is one of the more egregious. He once admitted from the pulpit to counselling a married woman that she was biblically required to perform oral sex on her husband, no matter how uncomfortable she was with it. He also used one sermon series to try to make the Song of Solomon into a kind of sex manual.

There are others, too. Doug Wilson (a truly misogynistic and backwards-thinking man) is on record as saying that sex isn’t meant to be “an egalitarian pleasuring party”. One of the most bizarre came from a homeschooling loudmouth named Kevin Swanson — he claimed that women who take the contraceptive pill end up with wombs filled with dead embryos. Fear-mongering at its most heinous.

#32 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 8, 2017 @ 3:44 pm

“In person, you mean? Neither have I (thank God for small favours). But I’ve heard of plenty of them. They’re loud, obnoxious, and make lots of money telling women what they’re required to do for their husbands in bed.”

As long as you are willing to grant that no such state exists. I would entertain the change of subject. However, I am disinclined to venture into any details and i tread lightly on what transpires between husband and wife and what teachers they choose attend to.

#33 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 8, 2017 @ 3:47 pm

“Kevin Swanson — he claimed that women who take the contraceptive pill end up with wombs filled with dead embryos. Fear-mongering at its most heinous.”

However, none of them are preventing women from doing anything against their will. A woman may still choose. These extreme examples don’t get you where you wish to go either.

#34 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 9, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

“But to another generation of young Americans, they see that Trump was supported by conservative Catholics and Evangelicals as the best hope for Christianity. How Jesus Christ ended up needing Donald Trump to do His work on Earth is a mystery to me. I don’t think Jesus Christ needs any politic . . . that Donald Trump, moral idiot, was the strongman Christians saw as necessary in some way illustrates how twisted the heresy of Constantianism has become.”

It’s apparent that you have no idea why christians supported Mr Trump. And seem unaware that many did not. Of all the candidates he best represented to grasp of their interests. No one and I mean no one who was a christian and supported Mr Trump thought that Christ needed him.

No other candidate spoke to those issues such as the demand that christians participate in same relational weddings, beyond the pail or that Catholic institutions or other entities must violate their faith and practice in providing abortions or in the Catholic circumstances birth control.

Christians of all types may have their issues like ll else, bu the business of disfranchising them from their faith needed someone in government to say — this is a violation of the constitution. He made the point that he thought it was over the top —

That coupled with other issues about which these US citizens agreed were cause for their support.

#35 Comment By Serving Kids in Japan On June 9, 2017 @ 12:55 pm

“As long as you are willing to grant that no such state exists.”

No such state exists yet. If the Dominionists and Reconstructionists have their way in the U.S., that might very well change.

“However, none of them are preventing women from doing anything against their will.”

Why, because the evangelical big boys can’t use the power of law or the police to enforce their disgusting teachings? Those things aren’t necessary to scare women (or anyone else) into following dangerous, nonsensical doctrines.

Once a pastor or demagogue sets up his own interpretation of the Bible as “the only faithful one” (or his church or group as “the True People of God”), it’s easy to cow sincere and conscientious believers into accepting and following anything he says. All the wolf needs is threats of excommunication or shunning, or the threat of hellfire for any kind of disobedience.

I’ve no doubt that Driscoll or Swanson or any other of these fools would dearly love to have the power of the state at their disposal. But strictly speaking, they don’t need it in order to have some modicum of control over “uppity” women.

#36 Comment By Joel Gardberg On June 9, 2017 @ 2:35 pm

I’ve had my fill of religion. Churches are hospitals for sinners and hypocrites. Religion is supposed to be in charge of morality – not doing so well in that area. Understandable why attendance has declined.

#37 Comment By Michael Powe On June 9, 2017 @ 9:15 pm

Christ founded no churches. Such churches as have arisen are bound by rules made by men, not rules made by God.

There are numerous admonitions in the Bible that strangers are to be cared for “because you were strangers when I brought you up out of Egypt.” These strictures are universally ignored by American (Evangelical) Christians who regard an imaginary man-made line between two man-made abstract entities called “countries” as more important than God’s word.

Something like 2,000 Biblical verses command the care of the poor, forgiveness of debts; yet we’re overrun with Christians who abhor the poor and denounce debtors.

That is not God’s church. That is a church made by men for the purposes of men, with God’s name tacked over the door.

American Evangelicals have made the church into an exclusive social club, in which “following the rules” has become the sole arbiter of acceptance. Jesus broke rules every day of his ministry. He would not be granted membership in these man-made churches.

I don’t have The Answer (unlike many people here), but I am convinced that God did not put me on this Earth to make life miserable for others. The opposite: I’m here to help. “Here I am Lord: send me.” I hope that Evangelicals are awakening to that mission.

#38 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 9, 2017 @ 11:02 pm

“Why, because the evangelical big boys can’t use the power of law or the police to enforce their disgusting teachings? Those things aren’t necessary to scare women (or anyone else) into following dangerous, nonsensical doctrines.”

First let’s keep some boundaries. The contention was that women were being prevented from birth-control My comment pressed home the essential point —

And no responses indicated that women were being denied. not a single example.

Your responses are out of bounds in two areas:

1. they are not about you Unless you are attending these congregations, the positions of these pastors having to do with you

2. Even if these advances are to the public in general one is either obliged to abide by them or discard them.

There is but one item that is at issue. And i am not inclined to run from it. No killing children in the womb or out. That’s not just men, or Christians that believe that crosses the line. And is not part of the discussion here.

Your references deal with pastors and their congregations, again a matter of choice. I am going to reject your pre-emption argument here. And exceeding the bounds of the constitution. There are only two groups in this country that have been subject to mass arbitrary government intrusion as a population; blacks and to a lesser extent native americans. And on those whites liberal, conservative, and in between have successfully marginalized them via the tactics you advance.

Again, what teachers husbands and wives subject themselves to is their business. Unless they are preventing by force from leaving . . . that remains their choice, your unrealized fears and imagined future notwithstanding.

The point is that getting pregnant is a choice. If a woman doesn’t want to get pregnancy, she should prevent it. There are a myriad of ways to do so. Furthermore, she should pay for her protection to her own stead. If one cannot afford the same, maybe it’a good idea to abstain.

People will always be negotiating out their roles with one another. The bible is a better lead about a life in christ. But since this conversation began, it’s clear that whether christian or not people have the right and power to choose and that includes who they choose to teach them scripture.

#39 Comment By Serving Kids in Japan On June 12, 2017 @ 12:20 am

“No other candidate spoke to those issues such as the demand that christians participate in same relational weddings… or that Catholic institutions or other entities must violate their faith and practice in providing abortions or in the Catholic circumstances birth control.”

And for these reasons alone, Christian leaders deemed it necessary to help a misogynist, a crook and a fool into the White House. One who promises to hold religious rights sacrosanct (as long as they’re claimed by white Christians), while eroding all manner of other rights.

Ever since this blowhard was elected, I’ve been thinking to myself, “God help America”. I’m starting to wonder, though, whether American Christendom is simply beyond help.

#40 Comment By BeamMeUp On June 12, 2017 @ 11:58 am

“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people…religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” – Linus, The Peanuts (1961).

The Religious Right has gone to great lengths to mix religion and politics, and most people don’t like that. Last September, for instance, a Lifeway Research poll found that nearly 80 percent of Americans thought it was inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate in church. Maybe this goes back to that old advice that it’s best not to discuss religion or politics with friends or family. These topics can of course lead to very heated discussions. Many people enjoy the sense of community that comes with being part of a congregation. Most church members and pastors don’t want to disrupt that by injecting politics into the equation.

The Religious Right is quite the hive of intolerance, a big turn-off, especially for younger people. Even conservative young people, for instance, have fewer problems today accepting LGBT individuals than the older folks. But the Religious Right wants to use government to run people’s private lives and to spread its beliefs. They’ve wanted ban birth control, prohibit same-sex relationships, mandate school prayer, or mandate the teaching of creationism. They yearn for the days when LGBT individuals stayed in the closet, women stayed in the home, and religious minorities just kept quiet while a few Christians (but not all) bragged that their religion was the “true faith.”

Of course, another fact in the decline of church attendance and the growth in the number of non-believers is that more people are realizing religion is based on nothing more than superstition and ignorance. Religion grew out of fear of the unknown, namely fear of natural phenomena and fear of death. Quite simply, where’s the proof that a supernatural deity exists? Without the proof, religion – along with its fears and desires to please the gods – crumbles like a house of cards. The internet has made access to information on the criticism about religion easier than ever before.

“There are no Gods, no angels, no devils, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens the hearts and enslaves minds.”
— Robert Ingersoll

#41 Comment By Cheryl Robinson-Atwood On June 12, 2017 @ 7:25 pm

Religion is dying in huge part because our young people have access to the internet, and now understand that they’ve been lied to. You can’t put the genie of information back into the bottle. Long live the truth.

#42 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 12, 2017 @ 9:17 pm

“And for these reasons alone, Christian leaders deemed it necessary to help a misogynist, a crook and a fool into the White House. One who promises to hold religious rights sacrosanct (as long as they’re claimed by white Christians), while eroding all manner of other rights.

Ever since this blowhard was elected, I’ve been thinking to myself, “God help America”. I’m starting to wonder, though, whether American Christendom is simply beyond help.”

I don’t think the Pres could have won without Christians. However, he won because enough nonchristians voted for him as well. There are mountains of blame heaped on chrstians for this or that. But in reality, chistians are no more responsible than others who are not believers who voted the same way.

I don;t think there’s much in the way of evidence that Mr Trump is either a misogynist, a thief or a fool.

No. He does make any such claims. He does say that he will challenge any attempt to marginalize Christians from their rights as citizens. And if one pays attention he actually holds views that are an anathema to believers. But if he is willing to push back against the onslot of attacks, then certainly he will get their support. Nothing irregular in such support or thinking.

Just know that the people you are besieging have been concerned about God’s wrath since the end of:

1. prayer in school (even voluntary private groups)

2. the decision to kill children in the womb

3. Same relational behavior reclassification by the APA

4. No fault divorce

5. Church pastors declaring same relational conduct ordained by God or in any other manner honorable

No. Those are not the only reasons:

christians have invested just as much as all others if not more in the development of this country and those that chose Pres Trump did so for many reasons: immigration, employment, the economy, terrorism, etc.

I don’t think there’s any support for a case against christianity because of a vote for Mr Trump.

#43 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 12, 2017 @ 10:19 pm

“The Religious Right has gone to great lengths to mix religion and politics, and most people don’t like that. Last September, for instance, a Lifeway Research poll found that nearly 80 percent of Americans thought it was inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate in church.”

But it’s not inappropriate and it is not illegal. Nor is it a violation of the tax code. People in churches are entitled to their opinions as are all their citizens. And they are also entitled to their values and what impacts those values and politics as inter-related as it is, it is no different than the manner in which others bare influenced. Its clear that the 80 percent if that number is accurate are not very well informed about citizenship and the processes involved of how that gets formed.

I would not be surprised in you as well as these young people are confused by the difference between disapproval of an ethic or behavior and intolerance of the same. But as you seem fairly uninformed about what christians actually want, its easy to understand why you have this angst.

a. the only challenge on birth control has been to the killing of children in the womb. There is very little if any pushback, to preventing pregnancy. Though if Catholic the position is that each egg and sperm is valued and not action should be taken to terminate those entities that result n human beings – however, that I always a matter of choice. Providing birth control is another issue and not an attempt to ban it.

b. Aside from withing their own family dynamics, christians have not really been partial to sodomy laws and have since such laws were abolished, accepted that people under our constitution are entitled to engage in aberrant behaviors with consenting adults. And again, you are deeply misinformed. The rejection of same relational behavior is one embodied and practices among people whose faiths are not christian in any manner. It is still illegal in India I think – hardly a bastion of christian ethos. Also most relevant an ethic of nonchrstians in the US including agnostics and atheists.

c. the prayer in schools like many other issues you put forward, is not a press for mandated prayer, though many believe it is a community decision and not one that the federal government has any jurisdiction over., But the issue is that students who so desire should be able to congregate voluntarily for prayer and religious discussion of their own accord. That is a far cry from a mandate for prayer.

d. There are two theories of creation:
1. a spontaneous act
2. a deliberate act by a force of
intelligence
There are variations on that but that’s it in a nutshell. One says something from essentially nothing. The others says, there was a something that decided to create.

e. I have not asked all christians. So I should be careful to speak in their voice, my comments are general. But what you don’t know is insteresting. What you don’t know about the relational behavior of human beings in the Us is that by and large such behavior was kept and should be kept private. That was the general understanding for our society regardless of what believed. And if it was aberrant behavior, the more one should keep it to themselves. In the case of same relational behavior. it’s a retro practice and doesn’t contribute much to community – in fact nothing unique. Sure, I ten to think that mot people would keep their intimate lives in the closet — hardly anything outlandish in that.

f. the traditional model has served humanity well. And the US exceptional well. However, christians have dealt with two working parents since there have been christians. Furthermore as with most of these, they are not in any manner off base, detrimental, or in any manner demeaning. It remains the primary model for a reason, not merely because christians want it that way. It’s a model has effectively fostered humanity since there was humanity. But christians as I note, are familiar with two working parents. The push back was against the attack on family by liberals.

g. Most people of faith have that faith because they think it has value over others. And some express that opinion. You really have penchant for attributing ethos to christians that is hardly unique to them. Muslims think there religion is the ‘one’.

You are attempting to dictate that believers provide evidence for their belief that you reject. Why no do what the Constitution protects, you have your view and they have theirs. The growing press to disenfranchise christians because they have faith in God is in act a violation of the fairness you seem to be advocating. Worse your advocacy s not only a press for unfairness, it’s not accurate on the what the group you want to disenfranchise believes.

#44 Comment By Michael Glass On June 16, 2017 @ 11:28 am

The decline in religious belief is common to a wide range of countries, and not just Christian ones. It is also happening in Japan and Singapore.

#45 Comment By BadReligion On August 9, 2017 @ 12:10 pm

I just found this article, so this may be futile, but whatever:

EliteComm, there is no such thing as “children in the womb.” Embryos and fetuses are in the womb, existing as quasi-parasites, with no will to live, consciousness, and so on. In other words, they lack the qualities that make killing wrong, otherwise known as personhood.

Also, you’re not paying any attention if you’re thinking that there are no attacks on contraceptive access. The push to ensure that contraception is not covered under medical insurance ensures that the most effective methods (which collapse the abortion rate) are priced out of range for many women. That’s just one example.

This sentiment has been brewing for a long time:
[14]

#46 Comment By Charles Bacot On September 27, 2017 @ 8:30 pm

I can, without any research, tell you why Christianity is dying. The atrocities caused by Christianity in the past and present are common knowledge today. People are not programmed to blindly follow. You can only lie to yourself for so long. The biggest con in human history is unraveling. An awakening is occurring and it will benefit the mental, psychological and physical well-being of humankind.

#47 Comment By Toby Harshbarger On December 1, 2017 @ 11:45 pm

There is nothing “Christian” whatsoever about the “religious right”. They are 180 degrees out of phase with Christianity in nearly every regard. For example…the Bible is PRO ABORTION. Yes, you read that right, and go read Numbers 5: 11-28 if you don’t believe me. So why are these jackasses saying abortion is immoral when the Bible espouses it? How about disregarding Jesus proscription on accumulating wealth? “It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God”. Yet all the evangelists adored by the masses of religious righties are multimillionaires. Some who’ve already been to prison before for fraud (Jim Bakker, for example). How about doing your praying in a closet so God will reward you in Heaven? Nope: the religious righties delight in public displays of piety, sometimes from the biggest hypocrites imaginable (Trump, Moore, etc). How about rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, which seems a pretty clear direction on separation of church/state. Yet the hypocrites insist on inflicting their immoral standards, like forcing women to have rape babies, on the rest of us.

You’d better believe the American people have noticed. People are fleeing from the Church in the USA, and the other “sects” are harshly criticizing the religious right for their hypocrisy. Why so late on the criticism? For years people have been saying “why don’t the good muslims stop the bad ones?”. The same could be said of Christians and phonies pretending to be Christians for political purposes, and hateful purposes at that.