Religion and politics. Religion and politics. Religion and politics.
Or, sometimes it’s politics and religion.
Either way, we all know what factor — more often than not — turns a religion-news story into a big news story in the eyes of most newsroom managers. Well, sex scandals are good, too.
Normally, this politics-and-religion reality bugs me, because there is so much more to the religion beat than whatever content happens to overlap with the current political headlines.
But, right now, I think it’s obvious that the biggest news story in American politics is directly linked to the biggest story in American religion. I am talking about a trend that has been discussed in several 2019 Crossroads podcasts — including this week’s edition (click here to tune that in).
It’s the growing polarization between the world of traditional religious believers (defined primarily in terms of the PRACTICE of their faith) and the growing flock of open atheists-agnostics and the spiritual-but-not-religious phenomenon that overlaps with the growth of the religiously unaffiliated. It lines up with the hotter-than-hades rift in American culture and politics.
There are so many stories linked to this. We’re talking about the demographic implosion of the old liberal Protestant mainline. Then there’s the surging number of independent churches and nondenominational believers. There’s a growing number of Americans — small, but important — in other world religions. There are people (like me) who grew up in one tradition (Southern Baptist, in this case) and converted to another (Eastern Orthodoxy).
There are so many numbers, so many polls. The Pew Research Center, LifeWay Research, Barna and others keep cracking out fascinating numbers.
In the podcast, I mentioned — once again — Donald Trump and the infamous “81% of white evangelicals just love Donald” theme that can be found in news coverage on a daily basis (or so it seems). Yes, about half of those white evangelicals wanted to vote to some other GOP candidate. And about 40% of evangelicals appear to have stayed home or some voted third party.
Out of all of the topics that floated into this week’s podcast, let me stress one — the changing religious world of Latino Americans. Consider this lede atop a recent Crux report: