U.S.

A Word on Behalf of Organized Religion

President Trump prays during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., February 2, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
A new study punctures the myths surrounding the relationship between religiosity and support for President Trump.

These have been hard times for American institutions. Over the past four to five decades, confidence in nearly every institution of American life has declined. A 2018 Gallup survey found, for example, that trust in Congress stood at 42 percent in 1973 and dropped to 11 percent this year. Only 29 percent of Americans gave high ratings to public schools in 2018, compared with 58 percent in 1973. Newspapers have lost altitude too, with only 23 percent today expressing “quite a lot” or a “great deal” of trust in them. In 1975, 52 percent had confidence in the presidency, compared with 37 percent today. The data are similar for the medical system, TV news, and banks. The only institution showing improvement was the military. (Small business was mostly trusted and held steady over the decades.)

However much some institutions may seem to merit this loss of trust and we could throw in the political parties too a generalized cynicism about our system and, in the end, one another, is a corrosive thing for a society. We might want to consider whether our curdled opinions are entirely merited.

Organized religion has suffered the worst loss of reputation. In 1973, 65 percent of Americans expressed strong trust. That has declined to 38 percent in 2018.

The ongoing scandals involving sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have doubtless contributed to organized religion’s loss of standing. That some major evangelical leaders, such as Robert Jeffress, Tony Perkins, and Jerry Falwell, Jr., have become shameless flacks for a cruel and immoral president has sullied their own reputations while giving the side eye to the faith that supposedly commands non-situational ethics.

That’s why a recent survey by the Voter Study Group examining the views of religious versus secular Trump voters is so interesting. One of the myths that has hardened since the 2016 election is that religious people were particularly stalwart Trump fans. Emily Ekins, who authored the study, corrects that: “Religious conservatives were less likely to vote for Trump in the early G.O.P. primaries when Republicans had several candidates to choose from. Among the most devout, a plurality (39 percent) voted for Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) rather than Donald Trump (34 percent).  However, Trump did best among those conservatives who never go to church, garnering fully 69 percent of their votes in the early primaries.”

Though most religious Republicans and conservatives eventually voted for Trump in the general election, their attitudes toward issues do not place them in what commentator John Ziegler has dubbed “Cult 45” the rally-attending, diehard core of Trump fans.

Ekins has labelled the most Trump-sympathetic group, about 20 percent of his voters, as “American preservationists.” Of all Trump supporters, they are the least religious. But other identities have substituted. Fully 67 percent of them say that their race is “extremely or very important” to their identity (compared with a maximum of 39 percent among other Trump voters), and 48 percent expressed authoritarian tendencies, supporting a “strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with Congress or elections.” Among more-than-weekly churchgoers, only 9 percent said being white was “extremely important” to their identity.

Among religiously observant Trump voters, strong majorities have favorable views toward blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, whereas secular Trump voters are cooler. The most religious Trump voters are also much better disposed toward international trade and more likely to favor a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. The religious are also much less alienated than the secular. They are less likely to report annoyance at having to deal with limited-English immigrants, and less likely to say that they “feel like strangers in their own country.”

Ekins found the same effects of church attendance that other studies have found that the observant are much more likely to volunteer, for example, and not just at their own churches. But the most interesting finding in her work is that the non-religious Trump voters are the ones who seem to have poured their need to belong into politics. Not only does this leave them unmoored from their local communities, and open to finding identity in ethnicity, it also substitutes the passions and hatreds of politics for the time-tested wisdom of faith.

Those on the left who reflexively cheer the decline of religion may want to reconsider. And those on the right should reflect on the damage that a too-close association of religion and politics does to both.

© 2018 Creators.com

Most Popular

U.S.

In Defense of Coleman Hughes

Picture the scene: A young man walks into a congressional hearing to offer witness testimony. His grandfather was barbarically brutalized by people who are now long dead. The nation in which he resides built its wealth of his grandfather’s brutalization. The question: Should his fellow citizens pay the young ... Read More
Film & TV

Toy Story 4: A National Anthem

The Toy Story franchise is the closest thing we have to an undisputed national anthem, a popular belief that celebrates what we think we all stand for — cooperation, ingenuity, and simple values, such as perpetual hope. This fact of our infantile, desensitized culture became apparent back in 2010 when I took a ... Read More
Education

College Leaders Should Learn from Oberlin

Thanks to their social-justice warrior mindset, the leaders of Oberlin College have caused an Ohio jury to hit it with $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a case where the school couldn't resist the urge to side with its “woke” students against a local business. College leaders should learn ... Read More
Elections

Joe and the Segs

Joe Biden has stepped in it, good and deep. Biden, if he has any hope of ever being elected president, will be dependent on residual goodwill among African Americans from his time as Barack Obama’s loyal and deferential vice president — so deferential, in fact, that he stood aside for Herself in 2016 even ... Read More
Film & TV

Fosse/Verdon and the Dismal #MeToo Obsession

In the final episode of Fosse/Verdon, one of the two titular characters, Bob Fosse, is shooting one of the greatest films of all time. The other, Gwen Verdon, is having a quarrel with her unspeakably dull boyfriend about whether he approves of her performing in a road-show production of a Broadway musical. These ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Madcap Caution of Donald Trump

The worry last week was that the Trump administration was ginning up fake intelligence about Iran blowing up oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz to justify a war against Iran. Then, this week, President Donald Trump said the Iranian attacks weren’t a big deal. The episode is another indication of the ... Read More