At Pray Tell we’re very interested in issues of faith and worship in increasingly secular societies. Hence this piece at The Atlantic, “Breaking Faith,” grabbed my attention.
Peter Beinart shows that the sharp decline in religious involvement in the U.S. in recent years has not led to the expected reign of tolerance, good will, and unity.
As Americans have left organized religion, they haven’t stopped viewing politics as a struggle between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Many have come to define us and them in even more primal and irreconcilable ways.
When conservatives disengaged from organized religion, however, they don’t become more tolerant. They become intolerant in different ways. Research shows that evangelicals who don’t regularly attend church are less hostile to gay people than those who do. But they’re more hostile to African Americans, Latinos, and Muslims.
Why? Beinart cites a theory put forth by others:
The most-committed members of a church are more likely than those who are casually involved to let its message of universal love erode their prejudices.
Many topics are treated Beinart’s piece – Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter, the civil-rights movement of the 1960s, with lots of data and statistics. His conclusion is strong:
For years, political commentators dreamed that the culture war over religious morality that began in the 1960s and ‘70s would fade. It has. And the more secular, more ferociously national and racial war that has followed is worse.
This is alarming stuff. What is going on in with people today??
But I find Beinart’s piece oddly consoling. It reaffirms just how important my and our religious faith and worship is for the life of the world.
The two sides here are not, as they too often appear to be, ‘good, open-minded, loving seculars’ on one side, and ‘judgmental, intolerant, controlling religious types’ on the other. The life and worship of the church contribute mightily to the formation of collective societal values of love, inclusion, and justice. We have something crucial to offer that secularism is lacking.
Come, let us worship. Our world needs it!
Anyway – go read Beinart. Tell us what you think.