06 October 2006

Evangelical Paradise Lost?

Pastor Dan at Street Prophets has some interesting things to say about the state of Christianity, particularly Evangelical Christianity, in America these days.

He notes in one post deep Evangelical concerns that teens will leave the fold, and the more immediate and rapid trend of rapidly declining white Evangelical support for Republicans.

In regard to the first trend, he notes that Evangelical pastors are alarmed:

by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be "Bible-believing Christians" as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation.

While some critics say the statistics are greatly exaggerated (one evangelical magazine for youth ministers dubbed it "the 4 percent panic attack"), there is widespread consensus among evangelical leaders that they risk losing their teenagers.

This is really surprising, because while almost all mainline churches seem to be growing startlingly gray haired, by appearances, at least, conservative Christian churches have seemed to have younger congregations lured in part by a greater tolerance for contemporary worship styles. Mainline churches, in contrast, have tended to worship in a very traditional manner, while accomodating modernity in how they apply their faith to the wider world.

In regard to the second trend Pastor Dan notes:

A nationwide poll of 1,500 registered voters released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop in support among this critical part of the GOP base.

Even before the Foley scandal, the portion of white evangelicals with a "favorable" impression of the Republican Party had fallen sharply this year, from 63 percent to 54 percent . . . .

Bush's favorability rating has dropped from 52 percent to 42 percent among all adults, and from 71 percent to 60 percent among white evangelical Protestants, according to Washington Post-ABC News polls.


Among those who say they attend church more than once a week, the GOP still holds a commanding lead. The main shift is among weekly churchgoers, about a quarter of all voters. Two years ago, they favored the GOP by a double-digit margin. But in the new Pew survey, 44 percent leaned toward Republicans and 43 percent toward Democrats, a statistical dead heat.

Part of the political shift is a function of outreach. Democrat Mary Kilroy in Ohio is running ads on Christian radio. Colorado Democratic candidate for Congress Angie Paccione, who is facing religious right poster girl Marilyn Musgrave, identified herself in a recent press release as an Evangelical Christian.

Part of it is a function of growing disillusionment with the Republican party, with many those lost to the Republicans losing interest in politics entirely, rather than becoming Democrats.

In another recent post Pastor Dan notes that:

65 more-progressive churches -- primarily in the South -- that have expressed interest in joining the 1.2-million-member UCC since its highest deliberative body called for civil marriage rights for same- gender couples. Conversely, about 100 churches, as well as the UCC's Puerto Rico Conference, have voted to withdraw in disagreement over the non-binding resolution.

Thus, we seem to be seeing the same realignment of religious denominations into fairly purely liberal and conservative categories in much the same way that the Democratic and Republican parties have realigned, with conservative Democrats replaced by or becoming Republicans, while moderate Republicans have been replaced by or become Democrats.

I'm just here in the bleacher seats watching. These struggles aren't really mine to fight. But, the evolving trends are interesting.

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