Nel's New Day

September 22, 2019

Evangelicals Killing Christianity in U.S

Christian evangelicals were largely responsible for electing Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in 2016, but their politics are driving people away from organized religion, according to a recent analysis in fivethirtyeight.com. Michele Margolis, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship and the Political Environment Shape Religious Identity, said:

“Politics can drive whether you identify with a faith, how strongly you identify with that faith, and how religious you are. And some people on the left are falling away from religion because they see it as so wrapped up with Republican politics.”

In the early 1990s, less than ten percent of people in the U.S. lacked a formal religious affiliation, with liberals having about the same percentage as the general public. Twenty-five years later, almost 25 percent have no affiliation with a religion, and 40 percent of liberals are part of that group. The share of conservatives and moderates with no religion is also rising. By now, most people’s ideology matches their religious identity. The more liberal the person, the less likely to belong to a faith, and vice versa. 

Many religiously unaffiliated still believe in God, but the percentage of liberals who never attend religious services has tripled. Those in the U.S. who say that God exists fell from 53 percent in 1991 to 36 percent in 2018.

In the past, politics weren’t connected to loss of faith; reasons were a church scandal or the feeling that a religion’s hierarchies or rules were antiquated, restrictive, or irrelevant. Searches into the connection between politics and faith were carefully done because the view that politics can shape religious beliefs can be offensive. Two sociologists, Michael Hout and Claude Fischer, did look beyond conventional demographic and generational shifts to find reasons for changes of falling religious affiliation in the mid-1990s, particularly among liberals. Published in 2002, their results offer the theory that some left-leaning people walked away from religion because of the Christian right’s extensive participation in politics, especially when the white evangelical Protestants became controlling in focusing the GOP platform on sexual morality such as opposition to marriage equality and abortion. 

Exploring that theory, prominent political researchers discovered that people leaving a religious affiliation kept their political identities instead of a growing secular attitude moving them toward the left. One study showed that just reading a news story about a Republican who spoke in a church might cause Democrats to claim they were nonreligious in “an allergic reaction to the mixture of Republican politics and religion,” according to David Campbell, a co-author of the study and political scientist at the University of Notre Dame. The numbers began to increase, and liberals are unlikely to return.

Surveys by the Pew Research Center show that the percentage of liberals who believe that churches and religious organizations positively contribute to society dropped from 49 percent in 2010 to only 33 percent. Only 11 percent of very liberal people say that being Christian is important to what it means to be American, compared to 69 percent of people who identify as very conservative. Liberals are unlikely to return to organized religion as long as conservatives push their fundamentalist religious beliefs into politics.

Surveys also show that secular liberals are more likely than moderates or conservatives to have spouses who aren’t religious. These couples don’t create a structured religion for their children, and the youngest liberals who have always lived in a political Christian right world are the most secular. The fundamentalist Christian power in politics undermines trust in both religion and Christian power in government, making politics more and more divisive.

Evangelical Christian hypocrisy is a strong reason for turning away from religion, and an eight-month investigation into DDT’s supporter Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, reveals him a poster boy for the conservative religion’s double standard that can lead people to leave religious affiliation. University officials described Falwell’s abuse of school’s funds, for example his gift of $1.8 million to Miami poolboy, Giancarlo Granda, for an LGBTQ-friendly Miami Beach hotel. Falwell also sold university property to his young handsome personal trainer Benjamin Crosswhite, providing him the money to buy the property which the university rented back from him. Colleagues have described more deals.

Under Falwell’s direction, the school made big loans to his friends not in the university’s financial interests. Prototype Tourism LLC, a tourism company founded by Josh Oppenheimer, got $200,000 but had trouble paying back the loan. Family friend Robert Moon, who founded Construction Management Associates, Inc., got $750,000 before the university awarded him $130 million in construction contracts at the school with no other bids and sold him university property. In 2012, Falwell turned management of several university properties over to the company that his son, Trey Falwell, formed and that listed its address as that of Jerry Falwell’s and his wife’s home.

A senior university official said:

“We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”

Other accusations include photographs of Falwell and his son Trey at the WALL nightclub in Miami Beach while they were drinking alcohol and dancing. Falwell’s university punishes students for drinking alcohol and co-ed dancing. Falwell hired “IT guy” John Gauger to reduce the pictures’ prominence in Google searches. Claims include sending and texting racy photos of his wife to male subordinates and “accidentally” emailing a picture of his wife in a French maid outfit to multiple people. Falwell was overheard hiring DDT’s former fixer Michael Cohen to fix blackmail for the photographs, possibly by his pool boy, in a recording of Cohen with Tom Arnold.  

Falwell makes colleagues uncomfortably by incessantly talking about his sex life at work. He called one of his students “emotionally imbalanced and physically retarded” and described the campus police chief “a half-wit and easy to manipulate.” About his former associate athletics director, Falwell wrote, “Only get Kevin involved in something if you want it not to work.”

Liberty officials fear retribution from Falwell and his wife. One school employee said:

“It’s a dictatorship. Nobody craps at the university without Jerry’s approval.”

A high-ranking university official, one of the over two dozen officials who spoke out, said:

“We’re talking about the difference between right and wrong. Not even ‘being a Christian,’ but being a good person, versus people who manipulate the system.”

While not denying the content of the embarrassing emails, Falwell claims that his embarrassing emails were stolen from Liberty University in a “criminal conspiracy” that makes him the target of an “attempted coup.” The FBI doesn’t comment, but cybercrime expert Nick Ackerman called Falwell’s claim “totally insane.”

Falwell is also a prime example of a politically powerful evangelical Christian who’s in the religion business to make money. He slammed David Platt, an evangelical Virginia pastor who apologized for welcoming DDT to his church by saying:  

 “I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God.”

Falwell said that “pastors like [David Platt] need to grow a pair.” He responded to critics by bragging about how much money he made for Liberty University. A former university official called Falwell’s “washing his hands of any responsibility for spiritual life at the university—that was frankly a pretty Trumpian line of commentary.”

John Stoehr, political scientist and journalist, describes white evangelical Christians as sadists for the pleasure they derive from human suffering who they consider as “others.” People of color and members of the LGBTQ community deserve pain, humiliation, and physical abuse because of “divine justice.” Stoehr writes:

“[Sadists] are cruel because being cruel to people deserving cruelty feels good.”

For example, Christian leader Mark Taylor claimed that “patriots” will drag dead high-profile Democratic politicians through the streets if DDT doesn’t mass-arrest them by January.  White evangelicals don’t recognize political legitimacy in “others” because they don’t see them as equal. According to the evangelical Christian “moral compass,” “others” are to be used or abused, cheated and defeated because they aren’t equal.

Led by DDT, most U.S. evangelicals ignore the climate crisis destroying the planet for their descendants. World leaders including UK’s Boris Johnson, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and India’s Narendra Modi are coming to New York City for the UN climate action summit on September 23, but DDT won’t be present. Instead, he booked a room at the UN headquarters to give a speech about religious freedom, hoping to distract from the 60 speeches giving concrete plans to slow the climate crisis around the world. While over 4 million children and adults marched in 163 countries to save the planet, DDT praised Australia for digging coal.

Hypocrisy, Christian control, sadism, and DDT—these are reasons to leave organized religion.

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