Looking over the political landscape, many point to the decline in religious practice as the handwriting on the wall that the political future belongs to the unchurched, atheists and agnostics. Liberals conclude it is only a matter of time before the secular tide will turn in their favor.
Let people cling to their religion for now. Soon it will all be over.
Variations of this myth have always persisted throughout modernity. During the age of industrialization, science and progress were supposed to make religion irrelevant. During the sixties, immorality, drugs and cults supposedly overwhelmed organized religion. Today, naysayers believe the growing number of those who profess no religion, the so-called nones, will spell religion’s doom.
They are wrong.
“An Overwhelmingly Religious Country”
“America is still an overwhelmingly religious country.” This statement is not that of an evangelical preacher or an optimistic clergyman. Democratic Sen. Chris Coon from Delaware just made this declaration in the very secular The Atlantic Monthly. He claims Democrats neglect religion to their peril.
Senator Coon’s commentary reinforces what everyone should know. People are naturally religious since God is the final end of everyone. Thus, religion is a very powerful influence in the lives of people since it involves eternal salvation. Politics is very limited in its ability to inspire and move people to action since it concerns the fleeting affairs of state. As much as people say that God and politics do not mix, the mention of God in political discourse is mandatory in some constituencies.
In fact, the senator explains how references to religion are extremely attractive to voters who like to hear about the faith of those whom they elect. And yet many Democrats don’t talk about religion as an inspiration for political action. Sen. Coons says they avoid making public displays of religion for fear of alienating constituents. Indeed, the party has been so successful in turning religious fervor as a disqualification for effective action that many candidates dare not take the risk of mention God before men.
There are three reasons why Democrats flee from Christianity in particular and religion in general.
Religion Is Associated with Hot-Button Issues
The first is that religion is associated with moral issues like abortion, marriage and sexuality.
One way progressives discredit religious conservatives is by turning these moral issues applicable to everyone into strictly religious ones restricted to churches. Liberals say that abortion and like issues are cases of Christians imposing their religious beliefs on others—not defending a universal moral law.
Thus, the false accusation has turned upon progressives. In the minds of many Americans, the Democrats’ intransigent, radical pro-abortion and LGBT politics makes it impossible to reconcile with Biblical teaching. Many politicians thus shy away from religion lest the labels of bigots, intolerant people and deplorables might be used against them.
At the same time, the social justice platitudes of those liberals who try to embrace a more “tolerant” religion fail to impress in the public square in much the way they fail from the pulpit. Liberal denominations are the ones that are failing the most today; traditional expressions of religion are expanding.
No one is impressed by a “compassionate” Christian who ignores the right of the unborn child. The contradiction is hard to overcome.
Misreading Their Voter Base
A second reason why progressive politicians stay away from religion is that they believe their own propaganda that the future is secular. They reason that their followers and particularly millennials are not religious. The growing number of nones make addressing religion anathema.
Sen. Coons notes that many Democrats believe the “conventional wisdom [that argues] that Democrats are becoming dramatically less religious or even anti-religious.” However, he laments the blindness of those who do not see that “the Democratic Party, too, remains a coalition largely made up of people of faith—including tens of millions who identify as deeply religious.”
Several false premises about the Democrats traditional base constituencies cause this distorted view. Indeed, not all sectors of the public are equally unreligious.
While it is true that Americans are becoming less religious, the numbers are not that dramatic –especially considering Democratic voters. Around three-quarters of Democrat voters still consider themselves either highly religious or somewhat religious according to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study.
For a party that claims to be all inclusive, the Democratic Party suffers from an excessive focus on its white Democratic base—that really is less religious and getting more so. However, according to the 2014 Pew survey, African-American Democrats were overwhelming religious; only five percent rate themselves not religious. Hispanic voters are similar as 57 percent rate themselves highly religious, and 29 percent say they are somewhat religious.
Even the millennials, the great secular hope for the party, are only a small part of those Democrats who actually vote—many young people don’t. While millennial voters are more likely to self-identify as unaffiliated with any church, the majority of these millennial “nones” still rate themselves as somewhat religious.
In other words, religion is expressed all over the Democrat voter base. The party cannot get away from the natural tendency of people to turn toward God. And yet progressive candidates consider it more trendy to focus on the stereotypes of aging white Democrats and millennial nones than those faithful who come out for the vote.
An Ideological Narrative-Driven Vision
The final reason for avoiding religion is ideological. Democrats are narrative-driven. Its cadres look for divisions, oppression and causes to champion. In the present narratives, the nation’s problems are not moral in nature but sociological. The solution is to address race, sexism, misogyny, immigration, income inequality and other isms that are the causes of deep divisions.
These progressives confer infallibility upon stale ideas left over from the Enlightenment that religion is a kind of psychological crutch of the weak that keep people downtrodden. They recycle class struggle dialectics that reduce everything to rights, power and money. They adopt a rabid secularism that seeks to banish God (and “non-secular” crosses) from the public square.
Tragically, these materialistic narratives and ideas that exclude sympathy to religion contribute to political discourse that makes it increasingly difficult to mention God and faith. Such a sterile secularism does not correspond to the religious reality in America today as noted by Sen. Coons. It is even contrary to the desires of the “overwhelmingly religious” voters.
Such a situation reflects a society that has lost touch with its Western and Christian roots. It fails to recognize that every person is a unique and spiritual creature with spiritual needs and desires. This superior side of human nature is what makes people unique and establishes their dignity. When things are reduced to worn-out materialistic narratives that exclude God and His Law, society is on track to further ruin.