Super Tuesday: Churches that embrace Santorum, Gingrich drive youth away
Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich (both Catholic) make regular campaign stops at evangelical churches and are often met with raucous applause. But such displays of partisan faith are partly responsible for the recent mass exodus of young people from Christian churches.
In a sleepy town 30 miles north of Atlanta, former Sen. Rick Santorum stands behind the pulpit of an evangelical church to deliver a hard-hitting speech on religious liberty and conservative values. His rousing delivery Feb. 19 convinced more than a few attendees. “He sealed the deal,” a 58-year-old retired secretary told The Washington Post.Skip to next paragraph
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One week later, Newt Gingrich would stand on the same sacred stage to lecture congregants on how America’s “secular left” wars against religious persons. The thrice-married former speaker of the House nurtured no illusions regarding his own sanctification. “I don’t come here as a saint,” Mr. Gingrich said. “I come here as a citizen who has had a life that at times has fallen short of the glory of God who has had to seek God’s forgiveness and had to seek reconciliation.”
Though both presidential hopefuls are Roman Catholic, they have made regular campaign stops at evangelical churches. Their presence is often met with raucous applause. But as it turns out, such displays of partisan faith are partly responsible for the recent mass exodus of young people from Christian churches.
Religious pollsters and demographers have long warned that young people were leaving churches in alarming numbers. According to a much talked about LifeWay Research survey, for example, 7 in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 who regularly attended church during high school said they quit attending by age 23. What’s been less clear is why they’re leaving.
“The best evidence indicates that this dramatic generational shift is primarily in reaction to the religious right,” they wrote in the latest Foreign Affairs in an essay titled “God and Caesar in America: Why Mixing Religion and Politics is Bad for Both.” They explain: "And Millennials are even more sensitive to it, partly because many of them are liberal (especially on the touchstone issue of gay rights) and partly because they have only known a world in which religion and the right are intertwined.”
THE MONITOR'S VIEW: Pastors who play politics from the pulpit