My good friend from Oregon, Dick Van Ingen, offers the following insight concerning churches, politics and the current political environment.
Well the election is over, we saw the damage done to the political balance of power. Well, it's damage if you are of a Democratic persuasion. I saved an opinion piece that appeared in the "Oregonian" newspaper on October 31 of this year. The authors were Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell. They are listed at the bottom of the piece as the authors of "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us".
The title is "Conservative Politics Turn Youths Away from Pews". Their main thesis is that as churches became more politically active in pushing the conservative agenda they have disenchanted the younger generation. Seventeen percent of Americans now claim no religion and the percentage is 25-30 % among twentysomethings. The church's stand on homosexuality and same sex marriage seems to be the strongest issue that turns young people away from churches. When put in a squeeze between conflicting religious doctrine and political positions many young people, particularly, are abandoning their religion and keeping their views of tolerance. You might say it is right Christian of them.
It's ironic that Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed may have done more to weaken Christian churches than anyone could imagine, in terms of reducing the numbers of the flock among the younger generation. This leaves me wondering still about all the almost politically silent liberal Christians who have comfort among those who feel the same way. And, I wonder if the politically conservative Bible Belt Christians, who are so vocal, really have much influence outside the Bible Belt. They claim to represent all Christians but that is obviously, to me, not the case.
I just don't get it, but maybe I'm isolated up here in the northwest, spent my early years in Quaker Meeting all about peace, being nice to others and trying to be socially responsible. Later I was hanging out with Unitarians, not a conservative soul among them. They say Oregon has the lowest church attendance of any state in the nation. I think that is something to be proud of, only because of the way churches have been acting in the last decade or two, make that three.
I happened to go to a Catholic Mass a few weeks ago to take friends who were visiting. The whole sermon was about Social Justice. They may not be big supporters of same sex marriage, but ignoring the theology, I saw more convergence with my social views than I do in the Evangelical Christian movement.