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.
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Mr. Putnam and Mr. Campbell point to the statistical growth of “nones,” those persons who claim no religious affiliation. This group has historically comprised between 5 and 7 percent of the American population. In the aftermath of the religious right movement in the 1990s, however, the percentage began rising. In the mid-1990s, it reached 12 percent. By 2011, it was at 19 percent. Between 2006 and 2011, the rise in young people aged 18-29 who reported never attending religious services was three times higher than the increase among those over the age of 60.Skip to next paragraph
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“In effect, Americans (especially young Americans) who might otherwise attend religious services are saying, ‘Well, if religion is just about conservative politics, then I’m outta here,’” Putnam and Campbell write.
Many religious leaders see the writing on the wall. As a result, there has been a drop-off in political activity among US religious congregations in recent years. But not among all of them.
Some churches still drape flags over crosses, boldly endorse political candidates, or pass out voter guides. Partisan expressions of Christianity live on among a shrinking cohort of Americans, as Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich can attest. But Christian leaders need to understand that if they continue to push partisan politics on their congregants, they may end up literally preaching to the choir.
Jonathan Merritt is author of “A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars.” He has published more than 300 articles and columns in these pages and outlets such as USA Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and CNN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmerritt.
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