Since 2006 every Pew poll on religion in public life has found declining support for the involvement of churches in politics. Until now. The latest survey on the subject, just released, finds that decline reversing itself, with 49 percent of respondents approving of churches “express[ing] their views on social and political issues” more vocally. That’s a 5-point bump from the 2010 survey. Moreover, 32 percent now think churches should endorse candidates, up from 24 percent in 2010. The WSJ delves into some reasons why this trend may be heading in the other direction:
One reason could be that a growing majority—72%, according to the study—say religion is losing its influence in U.S. life, Mr. Smith said, “and they see that as a bad thing.”“It could be that as religion’s influence is seen as waning, the appetite for it moves in the other direction,” [Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of research] said. […]Catholics, Protestants and other religious Americans “have become significantly more supportive of churches…speaking out about political issues and political leaders talking more often about religion,” the study says. But the “nones are more likely to oppose the intermingling of politics and religion.”
It’s fascinating to see how religious divisions are sharpening. Unaffiliated Americans are less likely to support church involvement than ever before while affiliated Americans want more vocal politics from the pulpit. In other words, the culture wars might start getting even more bloody.This seems even more likely when you consider that the shift among religiously affiliated respondents comes along with a greater belief that the Obama Administration is hostile to religion (up 12 points) and a perception that religion has less influence on American life. The affiliated feel threatened, the unaffiliated want to push forward with secularizing the public sphere, and American politics is the battlefield.