Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Christian right is catalyst for decline of Christian faith in U.S.

Let's look at some of the serious and seriously negative impact the religious right is having on the United States, as it continues to wreak havoc on both the government and the religious institutions it allegedly supports.
In advocating for smaller government, and for a dysfunctional Congress, by blocking everything with a Democratic name attached to it, including anything proposed by the current president, the fundamentalist Christian right has effectively paralyzed Congress, eunuched the president in international affairs, and depleted what he had worked hard to restore in American respect and credibility on the world stage. In defying all attempts to "give a hand up" to those struggling with unemployment, and even in attempting to de-rail the Health Care Reform Act (Obamacare) they have showed a disdain for protecting those dozens of millions of Americans who have lived with a pre-existing medical condition who could not purchase insurance, and those who for reasons of poverty could not afford health insurance. One would have thought, from the outside that both of those objectives would have compelled themselves to the "Christians" among those in Congress; however, getting Uncle Sam off the backs of Americans, as the cliché goes, trumps any effort to ameliorate the lives of millions who might, with health care, be able to afford their meds, food, and possibly a step toward an education that would make them more employable in a rapidly changing economy.
In its pursuit of the wedge issues like contraception and abortion, it has effectively forced the Republican Party into a position where it is quickly becoming a party of old white men, leaving most women wondering why they struggle to find a place of leadership in the GOP. In resisting all attempts at comprehensive immigration reform, which would permit some 11 million unregistered immigrants access to citizenship, the right is also preventing the integration of an energetic and committed work force whose single life ambition is to have a better life by coming to live and to work in the United States. Embracing the world's impoverished, its sick and its persecuted, as the Statue of Liberty declares on Ellis Island in the New York harbour, has fallen off the radar of these "Christians" in their misguided attempt to purify the country from "government" thereby effectively leaving it to the 'wild west' of individuals running amuk when and wherever they please. And we all know, from movies based on the Wall Street culture what that does look like. The crash of 2008 also demonstrates what happens if and when Wall Street runs unregulated.
In continuing to imprison especially blacks and Hispanics at rates that far exceed those of whites, and passing laws that result in the highest incarceration rates on the planet, as well as laws that justify both carrying and using arms, if one feels threatened, (and who knows how far that statue will be abused, as well as included in state statues across the country?), the "Christian right" is supporting a penal colony mentality that evokes shades of Dickens' nineteenth century Britain.
However, there is a brighter side to this development of the power of the Christian right. And it has a decidedly ironic twist.
It is the Christian right who, some believe, has to shoulder much of the responsibility for the decline in the numbers of Americans who have a faith at all. And as one who once attempted to push back against the Christian right, from my teen years throughout my adult life even into the practice of active ministry, no one is more pleased than I that their efforts are proving just how narrow, short-sighted and punitive is their interpretation of scripture, and their actions, attitudes and perceptions of their own righteousness trumps their application of their faith among their neighbours.
A recent piece published in Salon.com points to the impact the Christian right is having on the very christian churches it purports to support. Sometimes, what goes around really does come around, to "bite itself in the ass".
Research suggests Americans raised in Christian households are increasingly shunning the faith of their parents
The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over-zealousness of the Christian Right.
Political scientists Robert Putman and David Campbell, the authors of American Grace, argue that the Christian Right’s politicization of faith in the 1990s turned younger, socially liberal Christians away from churches, even as conservatives became more zealous. “While the Republican base has become ever more committed to mixing religion and politics, the rest of the country has been moving in the opposite direction.”
Ironically, the rise of the Christian Right over the course of the past three decades may well end up being the catalyst for Christianity’s rapid decline. From the moment Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority helped elect Ronald Reagan in 1980, evangelical Christians, who account for roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population, identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. Michael Spencer, a writer who describes himself as a post-evangelical reform Christian, says, “Evangelicals fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith. Evangelicals will be seen increasingly as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.”

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