American Christianity: taking control, or last gasp?

In a current thread about dystopian stories, this exchange took place:

What’s your opinion? Is theocracy imminent in the US? Or are things going the same secular direction as Europe, but with more bumps along the way?

I know that there are a lot of Christians in the USA, and I know that many of those are very serious about it. I also know that many American Christians are blatant hypocrites, and that those two groups have significant overlap.

My own opinion is that religious control of the country might increase sharply in the very near future, but that after that potential swell, Christianity itself will have a very steep decline and will cease to matter in US politics (i.e. only a scattered few old people will care about religion at all anymore).

Maybe I’m too optimistic.

All those young evangelicals in those rise-of-the-evangelicals stories from the mid to late 1970s are >40 years older now. It’s a graying movement.

But still, those young evangelicals from the 1970s and 1980s may be in their 50s and 60s now, but (a) that’s a long way from dying off, and (b) older people vote. Their influence will wane, but it’ll be decades before they can be disregarded.

I tend to think that Christianity will still be around, but it will cease to be a big political force. I already notice divisions, with even the younger evangelicals I know being disillusioned with Republicans. There just isn’t enough to actually unite them into a force that could take over in any real sense. And the ones who do support Trump all have to basically deny their own beliefs to do so–and they as much admit it with stuff like “I didn’t vote for a Sunday School teacher.”

That said, I could see a decline. I just think that this will be hardest hit with the more fundamentalist stripes. I don’t see those who have adapted and remain focused on a more social justice message declining much, though.

My personal impression as a 57 yr old nontheist, is that it seems more common and acceptable - especially among younger Americans, to identify themselves as nontheist/agnostic/etc, and to express disapproval of organized religion. 20-30 years ago that was something that just wasn’t said. I even perceive a decline in “mystical spiritualism.”

Having said that, there are huge swaths of America that will remain strongly religious for a long time. But other areas will become increasingly secular, and there may be vocal minorities in the religious areas as well.

One wildcard is the religiosity of immigrants - such as those from strongly Catholic Mexico/Central America, or possibly Muslims.

I don’t see it, the Republicans talk a good Christianity game but any review of their policies tend to indicate an…interesting…interpretation of the Good Book. And the religious leaders who might have rallied folks around them (Falwell, Robertson, et. al.) are dead or too old, and I don’t see a central rallying figure anywhere on the horizon (most ‘names’ in religious circles these days are either running megachurches and/or preaching the ‘prosperity’ gospel, in other words out for their own enrichment rather than a political movement).

But I admit that I could be wrong and somewhere out there is a Nehemiah Scudder (see Heinlein, Robert); but as mentioned above, I think this current generation is past the last religious ‘awakening’ (we have them every few decades) and will be more secular.

We shall see.

There’s also the question of what sort of Christianity, and how organised. There’s no monolithic organisation that I can see, and just as many variant interpretations as in many other countries. I can see that a certain overt and demonstrative religiosity seems to be socially more prominent than over here, but that’s not the same as a doctrinal political influence, and certainly not one with a single voice.

I don’t think there’s any danger of theocracy in America anytime soon. If anything, Trump is a move away from Theocracy…and toward other things that are not related to religion at all.

And America will remain more religious than Europe, but there are now and have always been different views of how that gets reflected in the public sphere. Civil rights movements and abolitionist movements were strongly supported by Christian groups. There are also anti-abortion Christian groups.

I think the impact of Christianity on our politics will always be subject to the normal ebbs & flows of a society.

I think the Christian Right is facing some problems. Members of various religious affiliations which share a common conservative ideology have been able to paper over their religious differences in the past few decades. But I’ve seen rumblings of a rift. I’ve seen comments from Protestant conservatives directed against Catholics, Mormons, and Jews, even those who are fellow conservatives.

I think this indicates why America is unlikely to develop a theocracy; the groups that are interested would find it impossible to agree on a state religion.

Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua are 40% evangelical.

Why would you think those are the only two choices when there is so much middle ground between them. The US will largely go its own way, as usual. The idea that we will become a theocracy is in wing-nut territory.

And, like any other country, the area has Catholics who range from “right of Opus Dei” to “slightly to the left of Monseñor Romero”.

A very long time ago I believed that reason would triumph over superstition, but I have abandoned that fantasy.

It’s really not a matter of the number of official Christians. It’s the social norm of a blurry God concept. A Santa Clause God who hates abortion, blesses America, protects our military, inspired our Constitution and gave us gun rights. The God in whom we Trust and under whom we fly our flag. And, to whom we direct our prayers after public assassinations.

Currently a bumbling oaf has 42% job approval as President of the United States. Imagine, instead, a President with the intelligence and charisma of JFK delivering the Prosperity Gospel. We’d be 8 years away from a Theocracy.

The demographics are against them and that’s why they’re scared and hostile. Tantrums and meanness are not the mark of powerful people.

As mentioned above, old people vote more and the US system gives a lot of clout to sparsely populated areas so they’ll be trouble for a while but decreasingly so.

Mega-churches are not composed primarily of old people.


95% of the US population believes in God.

I think this thread may be less about theism or all of Christianity than about a particularly Pharisaic, Paulian chunk of Christianity which has been highly active since the 70s as a reaction to civil rights and the counterculture. If they were like Fred Rodgers, Rob Bell or John Shelby Spong, it wouldn’t be a problem.

To me, the interesting aspect of religion in American politics is that Israel and Russia target it as a means of influencing policy. (Although Russia seems to be conflating guns and religion.)

“Believes in God” and “Christian” are not the same thing.

Part of being a good influencer is communicating in a way your audience can relate to : )

Israel and Russia probably identified the same leverage Nixon spotted with his Southern strategy; A group of dysfunctional, disaffected morons who can be manipulated into being grunts for your objectives.

I think that the US population as a whole is becoming less religious but it is also self-segregating with the rural areas remaining or becoming even more unwelcoming to nonreligious people and so the political makeup of the country will reflect a less and less accurate picture of the religious beliefs of the country.