Embattled evangelicals: ‘War on religion’ is aimed at us

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By CATHY LYNN GROSSMAN
c. 2014 Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) These are anxious times for white evangelicals, according to two new surveys.

At 20 percent of U.S. adults, they are statistically neck-and-neck with the “nones” — people who claim no religious brand. “Nones” now tally up to 19 percent in the 2014 American Values Survey, said Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, which released the survey Tuesday (Sept. 23.)

Evangelicals, said Jones, are on “the losing side of the culture wars, such as gay marriage, and they see that their share (of society) is shrinking and aging, adding to their sense of being embattled.”

“They can no longer say confidently they speak for all people of faith.”

Perhaps for that reason, white evangelicals, more than any other religious group, worry that the government will interfere with their religious liberty.

The survey asked which concerned people more: The government interfering with their ability to “freely practice their religion” or “religious groups trying to pass laws that force their beliefs on others. them more:

The overall answer was a tie — 46 percent of Americans overall for each viewpoint. But white evangelicals were significantly  more worried about government interference (66 percent) than any other group.

The reverse is the case for “nones” and Catholics, who are more concerned (63 percent and 51 percent, respectively) about religious groups seeking to impose beliefs on others.

Another survey released this week — this one by the Pew Research Center – asked people what groups faced “significant discrimination” in American society.

On a list of eight groups, gays and lesbians led with 65 percent of all surveyed saying this group was under the gun. Atheists were cited next at 59 percent. Thirty-one percent considered white evangelicals to be victims of “significant discrimination.”

Yet, among themselves, 50 percent of white evangelicals see themselves as victims. That’s an unrivaled 19 percentage-point gap in social perception.

“This is directly related to the current political climate, with all the voices of Republicans in the 2012 presidential campaign claiming there’s a ‘war on religion,’” said David Campbell, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame.

About one in three white evangelicals say it has become more difficult to be a person of their faith in the U.S. today, according to the Pew survey, released Monday, (Sept. 22) . And about the same number say they think of themselves as a religious minority because of their beliefs. No other group comes close to this sense of unease.

But white evangelicals aren’t the only ones to feel embattled. In a discussion of the PRRI survey at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, a panel of political scientists and journalists looked at the findings in light of the economy and the upcoming midterm elections.

“Ordinary Americans, not just political elites and activists, are more divided along party lines than at any time in the post-World War II era,” said Emory University political science professor Alan Abramowitz.

We don’t just disagree, “we hate the other party,” said Abramowitz.

His forecast for the next Congress was bleak, bleak and more bleak: “Continuing gridlock, continuing confrontation and continuing dysfunctional government.”

Conservative commentator Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center said if Republicans want midterm votes, the party has to address a white working class that is split, with white evangelicals “extremely different” than working-class mainline Protestants and Catholics.

MSNBC host and journalist Joy Reid said the political divisions — the rise of minorities and growing numbers of people with no religious identification — are shaping up as a kind of “Armageddon” for the GOP in 2020.

The PRRI telephone survey of 4,507 U.S. adults was conducted July 21-Aug. 15, in English and Spanish. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.

Religion News Service

RNS is owned by Religion News LLC, a non-profit, limited liability corporation based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Its mission is to provide in-depth, non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ideas.

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7 Comments on "Embattled evangelicals: ‘War on religion’ is aimed at us"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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james
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And, isn’t this the collective altar at which the council of bishops generally worships? Oh, you may have missed one–RADICAL feminism………………

Mark
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These polls, like all polls, are capricious and merely reflect a snapshot in time. In many respects they simply echo the malleable thoughts of a public that has been conditioned by the leftist media establishment. When you look at the provisions of Obamacare, the advances of the ACLU, political correctness, militant atheists, the treatment of Christian groups on college campuses, etc.—there is no doubt orthodox Christianity is under assault. But is is not being replaced by enlightened objectivism, as many would have us believe. It is being replaced by the dogma of a particular brand of secularism that has an… Read more »
james
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ALL mainline protestant denominations are rift with libs/progs who push a touchy/feely gospel–one that in the final wind-up has nothing to do with the Good News. The libs/progs are evangelical for that touchy/feely gospel for sure. Lead on please.

Nondenominational churches are growing at a fast clip and that is a good thing. Touchy/feely has nothing to do with the Blood of the Lamb. Check out II Chronicles 7:14…………………..

The Kangaroo
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I believe your assertions are in error. As a progressive-liberal Christian for over five decades I am unaware of any particular “touchy-feely” aspects of our faith. Your baseless attack on your Brothers and Sisters is most unfortunate.

Jon Altman
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Losing the ability to tell OTHER people what to do is not “discrimination.”

Wes Andrews
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Unredeemed human nature is bent on controlling. Conservative/traditionalists and liberal/progressives do it. Yes, puritans and through the 1950s “conservatives” were intent on telling people what to do. I believe in the current climate it is the progressives who are the controllers and they will use all means to force others to endorse their ideology. They will force people by laws, and if the law doesn’t work for them they will go around the law. And they will take over entire industries for force their way upon others.

George Nixon Shuler
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Agreed. I have yet to see a valid example of actual oppression of fundamentalists (or “evangelicals” as the article says, inaccurately, since, progressives are by definition evangelical as well.

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