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Youth Turned Off by Religion and Politics, Turn Away From Church


Young people are turning away from churches because they associate Christianity with Republican politics, a study reveals.

 Political science Professors David Campbell (University of Notre Dame) and Robert Putnam (Harvard University) published their findings, “God and Caesar in America: Why Mixing Religion and Politics Is Bad for Both,” in the March/April edition of Foreign Affairs. Campbell and Putnam also wrote American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (2010), which was recently released in paperback. For that book, they have been surveying the same group of people from 2006 to 2011. The same data was used for the Foreign Affairs article.

One of the most surprising findings from the data they collected, Campbell said in a March 13 interview with The Christian Post, was that people are driven away or toward religious involvement because of their political leanings. In particular, those who are politically conservative, or Republican, are more likely to become churchgoers and those that are politically liberal, or Democratic, are more likely to turn away from religion.

This is the opposite of previous understandings of the interaction of religion and politics. Social scientists believed that people first got involved in a particular religion, which then influenced their politics in some way. Increasingly, more studies like Campbell and Putnam’s are finding, though, that politics is more likely to determine religion than religion determine politics.

Campbell likes to use the image of a “brand” from marketing. The Republican brand has been increasingly associated with religion and social conservatism due to the influence of the Christian Right, a social movement which has been a part of the Republican coalition since the 1980s. Moderates and Democrats are uncomfortable with that brand and seek to not be identified with it.

“A lot of what goes on in politics is not so much people thinking through political positions but it’s sort of a visceral reaction you have to a brand, whether it be Republicans or Democrats,” Campbell said….

To young adults, Campbell and Putnam write, “‘religion’ means ‘Republican,’ ‘intolerant,’ and ‘homophobic.’ Since those traits do not represent their views, they do not see themselves – or wish to be seen by their peers – as religious.” Campbell and Putnam report that between 2006 and 2011, the proportion of the population that reported having no religion rose modestly, from 17 percent to 19 percent, but among young Americans rose five times as much.

While it has been true that young people of previous generations have been less interested in religion, then become more religious as they become older, today’s generation of young adults are more likely than previous generations of young adults to be without a religious affiliation. About one-third of 20-somethings were without religion in 2011 compared to about one-fourth of 20-somethings in 2006.

Campbell noted that the trends he and Putnam identified are mostly among those who can be described as “nominally” religious. Those who are the least committed to a church or denomination are the ones who are most likely to drop out. When they do drop out, they are not likely to become atheists. Formerly churchgoing young adults remain comfortable with a belief in God but uncomfortable with organized religion. “The reason this is important for clergy is these are not people who are lost completely to religion. It’s almost like they’re an untapped constituency, or untapped market, that could be brought back to a different kind of religion, or a religion that they thought was stripped of politics,” Campbell argued.

There is a trend among nondenominational evangelical congregations that attract younger Christians to avoid involvement in politics. Campbell believes that the pastors of these congregations understand more intuitively what his data is showing more crudely – that young people dislike their religion mixed with politics.  (Christian Post)

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8 comments on “Youth Turned Off by Religion and Politics, Turn Away From Church

  1. PJ,

    just this morning I was listening to Psalm 102!

    Here’s a taste:

    Psa 102:1 A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you!

    Psa 102:12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.
    Psa 102:13 You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come.

    Psa 102:18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
    Psa 102:19 that he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
    Psa 102:20 to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die,
    Psa 102:21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise,
    Psa 102:22 when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.

    Psa 102:28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.

    In light of the study of these two professors, all I can say to fathers, “serve the Lord with all your hearts and souls by the Power of the Holy Spirit and not by the spirit of man and your children shall dwell secure and shall be established before you!

    • all I can say to fathers, “serve the Lord with all your hearts and souls by the Power of the Holy Spirit and not by the spirit of man and your children shall dwell secure and shall be established before you!

      Amen Michael. Sadly i think a lot of the parents of these young people today were themselves taken in by the whole church/politics thing, starting in the 1980′s with the Moral Majority.

    • @Michael Just wanted to let you know that I found this comment so encouraging!

  2. Being a young man myself, I completely understand the trend and am more than ever aware that Christ Jesus is ‘the way, the truth and the life’, that inheriting eternal life is by following Messiah, walking as He did, and loving Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,

    What I mean, is that when I came back from a failed expedition to military school, I was adrift looking for truth. I was a hard-nosed Conservative and driven even deeper into my politics and philosophy. I said I was a christian but I could wax eloquent about Jefferson or Washington or Epictetus or Cato the Younger. I never once knew Jesus, though I thought Him a good teacher. It wasn’t until being grabbed by God Himself was I dragged from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His Son, of Light.

    Slowly and surely I abandoned piece after piece of my conservative party positions as I wanted to live and walk as Jesus did. Turning the other cheek and loving my enemies means war and bloodshed (something I wanted in joining the military) was not open to me, loving the poor and despising the love of money meant I couldn’t advocate laissez-faire capitalism as if it was gospel. America was no longer my goddess, Liberty was found not in the constitution, nor the enlightenment, nor America but in Christ Jesus.

    I thank the Lord that young adults are driven from many of these churches, who wave flags and support the legions. It lets the true gospel of King Jesus work, bringing to their eyes His sacrifice on the cross, blotting out sins and His resurrection, the promise of life everlasting.

    May the Revelation of God in His Son Christ Jesus, True God of True God, banish the religions of men!

    *steps off soapbox*

    Cal

    • I thank the Lord that young adults are driven from many of these churches, who wave flags and support the legions. It lets the true gospel of King Jesus work, bringing to their eyes His sacrifice on the cross, blotting out sins and His resurrection, the promise of life everlasting.

      Cal i agree! May they all be driven from these churches before they become “captives” in politically motivated churches.

  3. However, there is ONE command to be permanently envolved in politics:
    PRAY for those in the government, no matter who that is (even for Nero, formerly). Isn’t that the one and only political involvement we are commanded to?
    (Just a thought of someone who just studied Michael Sattler’s life…)

  4. Cal,

    in no way do I want to put a stumbling block before you in commending you in the Lord. What you wrote was wonderful to read! I would commend you to Psalm 107!

    The whole Psalm is a revelation of the truths in your words there.

    Here is the last two verses of the Psalm, but, please, read the whole Psalm for the sense of it:

    Psa 107:42 The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth.
    Psa 107:43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.

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