Nearly every Sunday our family goes to a Unitarian Universalist Church. We believe that it is important for our children to have an understanding, and some respect for the basics of the world’s religions.
When teaching about Christianity, the Sunday school doesn’t divide it into “good, all-American white evangelical Christians” and “social justice warrior heathens who just think they’re Christian”.
Douglas MacKinnon’s article, “How Long will I be allowed to be Christian,” posted on Fox News makes it clear that for white evangelicals, that’s exactly how they see the American religious landscape.
MacKinnon references some of the old canards about Christians not being allowed to say “Merry Christmas,” or obliquely referencing that some people aren’t comfortable with millions of federal dollars going to religious colleges who refuse to serve LGBT people.
He is right about one thing though, Americans are increasingly likely to see his beliefs as antithetical to their own values. His mistake is in assuming that his values, and the values of white evangelical Christians, represent all of Christianity.
Evangelicals have worked for decades to label anyone who doesn’t believe exactly the way they do on a host of issues false Christians. They wanted to make sure that when people think of Christianity, and Christian values, they think of American Evangelical ChristianityTM.
They have created an exclusive club where only people who subscribe to every item on a laundry list of things are welcome.
Because white evangelicals have been so successful in their branding campaign, to brand Christianity as looking just like them, fewer and fewer Americans identify with any particular denomination.
About a third of Millennials have no religious denomination, and some studies indicate that about half of Generation Z has no religious affiliation. 26% of people over 65 identify as white evangelical, but only 7% of people under 30 do.
When you look at the core tenets of white evangelical Christianity, it’s not hard to understand why these younger generations are leaving in droves, and have little respect for the positions of evangelical churches.
It’s not Christianity that young Americans are rejecting, per se, but the values of religious hardliners who have little to nothing in common culturally with people under 30.
There’s plenty of examples how the foundational cultural and religious tenets of evangelicals are completely incompatible with a growing percentage of younger Americans.
It’s not hard to find examples of evangelicals who rail against “communism” and “socialism” while proclaiming that “God is a capitalist.” The evangelical “prosperity gospel” in which being poor is a sign of sinfulness is also a massive turn off to younger generations.
Millennials and Generation Z are the first generations in American that are more likely to be worse off than their parents financially. This middle class is shrinking, the rich are getting richer, all the while happening under a “trickle down” tax system that favors the wealthy. College, the traditional ticket to being middle class, is increasingly unaffordable.
Younger people aren’t stupid. They can see all these things. Telling them that they’re poor because they’re sinful, and that they should embrace the system that made them poor in the first place, isn’t a winning strategy.
Along the same lines, evangelicals have been more likely than any other denomination to equate gun ownership with godliness.
America is also increasingly multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. By around 2040, white people will be a plurality of the population.
Evangelicals are by far the demographic most hostile towards this demographic shift, believing that Christians are more discriminated against than Muslims, blacks, or immigrants. In fact, they are the only major religious demographic where they majority of their members hold these views.
There is also the truth that black people in America remember; white evangelicals were the biggest supporters of segregation during the civil rights movement, and have been actively working to undermine the Voting Rights Act ever since.
White evangelical Christian denominations have drawn a line in the sand on LGBT people; one cannot be Christian and LGBT. Indeed, they have extended it further to espousing the dictat one cannot accept LGBT people and be Christian. They espouse rejecting and mistreating LGBT people (and especially transgender people) “for their own good,” and to discourage what they see as sinful behavior.
They are again the only major religious group wherein a majority believe that businesses should have a right to refuse any service to LGBT people. Evangelicals seem to lack the self-awareness to see that “we don’t serve your kind here,” was ugly 60 years ago, and it’s still ugly today.
At the same time, the vast majority of people under 35 know someone who is LGBT. Support for same sex marriage now polls consistently above 60%, and even more oppose a right to refuse service to LGBT people. As bad is this is, the seeming hypocrisy of evangelicals regarding sexual morality makes things worse.
Why should millennials pay attention to denunciations of LGBT people as sinners when white evangelicals overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, who admits to sexually assaulting women and cheating on his wives repeatedly with porn stars?
They also voted overwhelmingly for Roy Moore, who trolled high schools for teens as a 35 year-old district attorney, and reportedly sexually assaulted some of them. They seem more than willing to forgive Josh Duggar, who molested five underage girls, four of whom were his sisters.
Thus, evangelicals are effectively taking the position that being LGBT is always worse than heterosexual rape, and the entire world can see this.
Mr. MacKinnon fails to recognize that most of the lampooning of religion in America isn’t done at the expense of Christianity as a whole, it at the expense of white, conservative, evangelical Christianity.
Steven Colbert doesn’t do entire segments mocking Episcopalians or Unitarian Universalists. John Oliver created a religious non-profit that mocks the prosperity gospel for a reason. There’s a reason why the musical was called “The Book of Mormon” and not “The Methodist Hymnal”.
And it’s not because the Methodist Hymnal has better music.