There is retrenching and then there is a whole new landscape. I am beginning to wonder if the Republican…Conservative…Religious side of the aisle is not looking at a whole new landscape. Let’s consider two articles that appeared in the last few days. Te first is from our old friend Marvin Olasky at World Magazine. (HT: Kim Morleand) Olasky’s thesis:
Sometimes it seems that an atheistic tsunami has hit. Anti-Christian books land high on bestseller lists. Polls purportedly show a decline in belief. Newsweek this spring had one of its traditional Easter cover stories on “The Decline and Fall of Christian America.”
Whenever the conventional wisdom points in a particular direction it’s good practice to ask: What if the opposite is true? What if nominal Christian affiliation is declining but serious biblical belief is actually on the rise? What if Christianity in America is not dying, but instead getting its second wind—or maybe its sixth wind?
The article cites a dizzying array of statistics from a variety of sources. (Just a personal aside, while I find the article credible, I do not see how statistics can ever capture “serious biblical belief” as opposed to mere affiliations. The metrics are all so affiliative.) You really need to read the whole thing. A key graph of conclusion:
And what of those polls? Wooldridge said, “What we see in the numbers is not a waning of Christianity, but a polarization. The number of people saying that God is central to their lives is going up. We’re seeing the death of the Eisenhower era where everyone claimed to be a Christian or a Jew because that was just part of being respected, part of being a good American. Now, people who were lukewarm about religion are now more happy saying that they’re atheists or agnostics, and people who claim they’re serious about faith are serious about faith.”
Another interesting graph:
All of these forays are dangerous—”pastorpreneurs,” publishers, and professors all face temptations to glorify themselves rather than God—but, as Wooldridge said, “Evangelicals can choose between arguing for God or retreating.” He argues that growing churches provide “social capital” that prevents social anarchy: These churches “keep their buildings open from dawn to dusk and provide a mind-boggling array of services,” including schools, counseling and guidance groups, and children’s activities.
Hmmm…Christianity, or is it church, as business. Faith without affiliation, maybe even anything we would recognize as church. Indeed a changing landscape. And then there is this from The Hill:
A Gallup poll this week found that the number of Americans defining themselves as conservative is at its highest point in 20 years, at 40 percent.
That compared to 35 percent saying they are moderate and 21 percent saying they are liberal.
The results track closely with another Gallup poll, from May, which found more Americans defining themselves as “pro-life” than “pro-choice” for the first time since it began asking the question in 1995. And it wasn’t even close — 51 percent to 42.
A conservative resurgence? Possibly. A boon to the Republican Party? Hardly.
Overlay those numbers with Gallup’s recent finding that 53 percent of voters identify themselves as Democrats or lean that way, while just 39 percent identify as Republicans or lean that way.
There’s something wrong with that picture: 40 percent conservative, versus 39 percent linking themselves with Republicans. It means there are plenty of conservatives out there who are done with the GOP, and independents aren’t replacing them.
Yesterday we looked at religion, conservatives, party affiliation and its history just before the Civil War. Our side of the aisle has had to form a complete new organization once in its history. Theirs has not. Are we looking at another such political point now? What are the conditions that make us think so? What lies in the future?
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