Backlash Against Right-Wing Evangelicals Reshapes American Politics and Faith | Ruth Braunstein


OWhat if I told you that the following trends in American religion are all related: an increasing number of people who are religiously unaffiliated (“none”) or who identify as “spiritual but not religious”; a spike in positive attention to the “religious left”; the depoliticization of liberal religion; and the purification and radicalization of the religious right? As a sociologist who has studied American religion and politics for many years, I have often struggled to make sense of these dramatic but seemingly disconnected changes. I believe now they can all be explained, at least in part, as products of a backlash from the religious right.

Since the religious right rose to national prominence in the 1980s, the movement’s insertion of religion into public debate and the hardline style of public discourse have alienated many non-adherents and members of the mainstream. public. As its critics often note, the movement promotes policies — such as banning same-sex marriage and abortion — that are viewed by a growing number of Americans as intolerant and radical.

In one articles from 2002, sociologists Michael Hout and Claude S Fischer have argued that a significant trend in American religion—the growing number of people disaffiliating from religion—could be explained in part by a political backlash against the religious right. In the two decades since this article was published, a wealth of additional evidence has emerged to support its general argument. Sociologists Joseph O Baker and Buster G Smith to summarize the sentiment behind this backlash: “If that’s what it means to be religious, then I’m not religious.”

Although pioneering, this research was relatively narrow in its focus. That’s because he usually started with the puzzle of rising “noes” and worked backwards to find a cause, landing on a backlash against the religious right. I wondered what would happen if we flipped that question around and started with the rise of the religious right and public concerns about its radicalism. We could then consider the varied the ways in which the backlash against her has manifested, including but not limited to the rise of “no ones”.

Backlash, after all, can take many forms. The kind of backlash that has led people to disavow religious affiliation in general is what I call a “broad” form of backlash. In this form, the backlash of a radical form of religious expression leads to distancing oneself from all religion, including more moderate religious groups that are considered guilty by association with radicals. It is a common pattern in social movementswhere moderates often fear radicals will discredit their movement as a whole.

But that’s not the only plausible form the backlash can take. One can also imagine a narrower and more targeted reaction against the religious right itself, in which people do not completely abandon religion but rather migrate to more moderate or otherwise attractive religious groups. Evidence of this form of backlash abounds. It is found in a growing number of people who identify as “spiritual but not religious”. These individuals do not completely reject religion; they kiss a new category of religiosityconsidered unpolluted by its association with radical conservative politics.

Likewise, those who associate with the religious left do not discredit religion in general, but promote what they see as a more pluralistic form of public religious expression. Since Donald Trump was elected president with the backing of religious conservatives, typically low-key groups on the religious left have received an outpouring of positive attention, as observers have seen them as a way to check the power of the religious right. Like a Column by Nicholas Kristof Put the in the New York Times: “Progressive Christians, Arise! Alleluia!”

Ultimately, new search finds that people who are both religious and politically liberal are intentionally moving away from the religious right by depoliticizing their public religious expression – a development that deserves much more attention.

Finally, backlash is not a one-way street – the experience of being the subject of political backlash has led to backlash among conservative Christians who make up the religious right. White evangelical Christians believe they are being wrongfully persecuted and are increasingly invested in the line between those perceived to be morally righteous and their enemies. Religious conservatives unattached to Trump and the Republican Party are to be expelled. Those who remain are not only deeply loyal to a shared political project, but less likely to encounter internal checks on radical ideas.

Even though this group is shrinking by some measures, recent data suggests that a growing number of non-religious, non-Protestant Americans are embracing the label “evangelical” — not as a statement of their religious identity, but as a statement of their political identity as right-wing Republicans or Donald supporters Trump. Together, these backlashes appear to be driving this movement toward deeper political radicalism.

The backlash against the religious right has had far more widespread ripple effects than previously thought. These dynamics are effectively reshaping American religion and politics and show no signs of stopping.


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