The Curtain Falls on the Mormon Moment

With Mitt Romney’s hopes for the presidency coming to an end last night we not only close out the 2012 election cycle but we also say good bye to “The Mormon Moment.”

I felt certain that Mormonism would be used as a political device against Mitt Romney, specifically the priesthood ban. I was wrong. There certainly were left-leaning writers and opportunist who attempted to promote that angle, but those stories never really made national news. I thought a SuperPAC, unofficially affiliated with Barack Obama would create at least a few television ads attacking Mormonism’s past. Those ads never materialized. I have to say that I think the country is probably better for it. I think John McCain displayed considerable honor by not leveraging Rev. Jeremiah Wright in 2008 and President Obama returned the favor in terms of Mormonism in 2012.

Mormonism will continue to gain some national exposure about once every 10 years. But it will likely never receive the kind of media exposure it did over the last year. I don’t think the LDS church made any significant gains in converts or positive public perception, but it likewise did not suffer any large embarrassments.

About the most damaging thing to happen to Mormonism was the release of hidden video of the Endowment Ceremony. Interestingly enough, the publisher of that video, NewNameNoah, had his YouTube account suspended yesterday. If the LDS church had any role to play in that action, I think they couldn’t have chosen a better day than Election Day to make it happen. Any hopes for media coverage of that censorship will be unable to find a voice in the current news cycle. The video will live on and will remain publicly available, but will be much more difficult to find off of YouTube. [update: the account was reactivated the next day]

Second on the list of hits against the LDS church would be the church disciplinary actions against David Twede, the managing editor of MormonThink.com. The church wisely chose to suspend its disciplinary actions and Twede resigned on his own terms. He was able to successfully draw greater attention to his website but I think Twede made a number of missteps in equivocating about his potential excommunication being somehow tied to political comments against Mitt Romney.

Third on my list of problem areas for the church in the national exposure was the rise in prominence of some “non-correlated” Mormons such as Joanna Brooks and John Dehlin. They’ve found courage in their unorthodox views and the church has shown, that at least for the time being, it will not be calling people with such vocal views into disciplinary hearings as it did with the September 6. I think these individuals will be sticking around in the discussion of Mormonism and will be called upon by their new found media contacts to speak on Mormon matters at least as frequently as the official church spokesman. Many would consider this the greatest positive to emerge from this Mormon moment.

Robert Jeffress began the year with a discussion of Mormonism’s cultic status within Christianity. By year’s end Billy Graham was removing the word “cult” from his website not only in reference to Mormonism but toward several other religions as well. This may be the greatest benefit to Mormonism from the Romney campaign. The Evangelical use of the word “cult” as a reference toward heretical, new-religious-movements has probably come to an end. I think moving forward you will see “cult” being exclusively a reference to mind-controlling organizations.

Though a positive for the nation, I think the lack of attention on Mormonism in the outcome of the campaign is actually a negative for Mormonism. It shows that Mormonism (and perhaps religion in general) is largely irrelevant in the national discussion. People simply don’t care beyond a passing curiosity. In terms of future converts, it’s much better for a religion to be hated than to be irrelevant.

I’d wager that the next time a spotlight such as we’ve seen cast on Mormonism in 2012 will be caused by either a large political movement to legalize polygamy or some sort of leadership crisis. I anticipate the former (and for sure decriminalized polygamy) before the latter. Many Mormons may have hoped that a Romney presidency would bring about a long awaited acceptance in American culture. The energy and opportunity for that sort of shift has now ended. In the United States, Mormonism will now return to being a topic of discussion for Mormons, former Mormons, a few curious onlookers and detractors and a shrinking number of potential converts.

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64 thoughts on “The Curtain Falls on the Mormon Moment

  1. On the liberal side, it wasn’t all mild weather for Mormonism. Andrew Sullivan, for instance, got in a few rather nasty digs at Mormonisms past on women, racism, and how Mormonism encourages a culture of double-speak and lying.

    A friend of mine commented that one impact of Romney’s loss will be that the cultural elite will likely stand down on Mormonism. Liberal brain-trusts are usually willing to be tolerant of quirky little religions as long as it doesn’t look like they’re going to have real political and social relevance. Mormonism will become the “scrappy little religion that could” in their narratives, rather than the new religious threat to the “liberal lifestyle.”

    If Romney had won however, the knives would have come out in full force. The criticism of Mormonism would doubly intensify.

    Well, one thing can be said – since Romney has lost, no one will have even the slightest interest in Tricia Erickson.

    Ever again.

    Which is reason enough to celebrate.

  2. Well said Tim. I’ve appreciated your prudence during the last few years.

    About the final irrelevance of religion in the race, I have to conclude that it speaks more to political priorities than anything else.

  3. Tim: Interesting observations, and I think you’re mostly right.

    A related issue that I find interesting is what effect the events of the past year have had on evangelicalism as a movement. You parenthetically hint at that here:

    Though a positive for the nation, I think the lack of attention on Mormonism in the outcome of the campaign is actually a negative for Mormonism. It shows that Mormonism (and perhaps religion in general) is largely irrelevant in the national discussion. People simply don’t care beyond a passing curiosity.

    I’d delete the “perhaps” there, and I think that evangelicalism became even more irrelevant to the national discussion in 2012 than it was before. Not only was there no one associated even loosely with evangelicalism on the presidential ballot for only the second time in 40 years (I’d put 1996 in the same category), but evangelicalism demonstrated in the eyes of many that it is willing to compromise its distinctiveness for political expediency. (I’m not saying that’s necessarily the case among the rank and file, but that the perception is there.) At the same time we see pet issues of many evangelicals falling by the wayside — nobody who matters is talking about prayer in schools anymore, and yesterday at least three out of four states (and probably four out of four) gave their support to gay marriage, and hardly anybody seemed to notice. At least on matters relating to sexuality, the views of evangelicals are becoming quaint at best. Although there quite a few times more evangelicals than Mormons, I don’t see evangelicals having any more influence on the culture than we Mormons do.

    You’re probably right that Mormonism is going to become increasingly irrelevant. But I think that your faith and mine are in the same boat, for better or worse.

    With regard to Mormonism, I do think the most interesting development of the past year is the rise of the uncorrelated (for lack of a better term) voices and the Church’s apparent decision not to do anything about it. (David Twede was in a different position as someone who openly said he was opposed to the Church and acknowledged that he was attending church because that would help him tear it down.) To me — I’m a faithful member but also much less literal than most in my approach — that’s a good thing, as many of those voices are drawn to the same ideals of Mormonism, such as its expansive theology and semi-universalism, as I am. But I still have to wonder how that’s going to play out in the long term, especially when issues that divide us tend to become become politicized.

  4. I think social conservatism is in serious trouble. Insofar as Evangelicalism is tied to that political movement, it too is in trouble. This could probably be deemed the first post-Christian election in American history.

  5. Eric might be saying that it “appears” Evangelicals compromised by voting for a Mormon.

    This post is going to turn out to be really boring if everyone just agrees with me.

  6. Ok,

    I don’t think that there will be “a shrinking number of potential converts.” Now that Mormonism seems less weird, it could easily gain more. Especially true if it maintains its path of conventionalizing its doctrines. Other conservative Christians did precisely what the Mormon Church wanted them to, i.e. decide to support a Mormon as positive and conventional enough to be their leader. Now that they swallowed that pill, it seems like it would be easier to initiate discussions and have other accept the religion.

  7. I don’t see the connection between ignoring religious differences that have no connection to political realities and compromising principals.

    The evangelicals who found themselves in a predicament yesterday were the para-church politicos who tried to use religious solidarity to influence the primary elections. Watching them squirm showed a lack of principals to compromise.

    Otherwise evangelicals voting for a Mormon or a liberation theology Christian is only an acceptance of what Nonconformist Protestants have been saying for centuries, the magistrate has no power in the Kingdom of Heaven.

  8. One interesting statistic from the election: Mormons and white evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney in the same proportion, about 80 percent.

  9. Maybe they are counting Europeans that go to church to see a relic of another time, a ‘museum’ of great art, and possibly a venue for entertainment.

  10. BRENNER: Americans significantly over-report their church attendance, and have consistently done that since the 1970s. But we don’t see substantive over-reporting in Western Europe.

    INSKEEP: So, basically, what we’re finding out is that Europeans are more comfortable saying they don’t show up on Sunday.

    VEDANTAM: Well, sometimes they say they show up. I think what we’re finding is that when people in Europe say they show up in church, they actually show up in church. So a variety of studies, Steve, have shown that when 45 percent of the Irish say they attend church every week, when you look at it using the Time Diary Method, 45 percent of the Irish actually are in church every week.

    When 10 percent of Scandinavians tell pollsters that they’re in church every week, the Time Diary Method shows 10 percent of them actually are in church every week. By contrast, 45 percent of Americans say they attend church every week. In reality, only about half as many do.

    http://www.npr.org/2012/10/24/163527979/what-we-say-about-religion-and-what-we-do

    I don’t make this stuff up read the article.

  11. This is getting a bit off the original topic, but oh well.

    I haven’t had much luck tracking down reliable figures on European church attendance. The best I’ve found so far, and it’s from 2005: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2005-08-10-europe-religion-cover_x.htm. I suspect that attendance has dropped since then.

    I have no idea how typical this is, but in my suburban Salt Lake City ward we have a typical Sunday attendance of 30 to 40 percent of membership. Less than two blocks from my hope is a Pentecostal church, which seems to draw a good crowd, although of course it draws from a larger area than an LDS ward. There’s also a Buddhist center across the street from the Pentecostal church, but I’m not sure what kind of crowd it draws.

  12. I was listening to a news piece on NPR a few weeks ago where they pointed out that religiosity among Americans is hugely misreported.

    It has to do with how religious participation is polled. Those surveyed are asked whether they attend church weekly. But what a lot of those surveyed HEAR is “am I the sort of man or woman who goes to church weekly?” So they say “yes I am.”

    It’s kind of like if your dentist asks you if you floss your teeth twice a day – you tend to say yes. Because you view yourself as the sort of person who would do something healthy like that. And maybe also because you don’t want to admit to him that you actually only floss once a day or maybe only a few times a week.

    But new polling has been done on this topic where Americans are not asked if they regularly attend church – but are instead asked to describe their typical week – day by day – without any reference to the poll being about church at all. This method yields much more accurate pictures of what Americans do with a typical week.

    And the result is that Americans are no more likely to weekly attend church than people in France are.

    The only difference is that in America going to church is still widely viewed as something people “should” be doing – thus the high religious polling results. The same is not true in Europe, where church is not as highly regarded.

  13. I think I heard that piece as well.

    I think Mormons have quite good numbers on their attendance and activity rates, the wards receive funds based on Sacrament Meeting attendance. I would imagine that Mormon activity is higher than the average American definitely higher than europe.

  14. 30-40% is a good activity rate? Honestly?

    This Pew survey supports my suspicion that religious polling is bogus (we are all talking about the same NPR broadcast). If this survey is correct and Americans misrepresent (lie about) religious practices how important or influential is religion to a religious voting block?

    Put another way if you were a pollster advising a candidate how much credence do you give to a group that doesn’t actually participate the core activity of the church. If only 24% of America attends services weekly, according to exit polls the president received 41% of those who claimed weekly attendance, this survey answers the question for me, religion is largely irrelevant in any national discussion.

  15. Gundeck, that question is further complicated when you ask what KIND of people are most likely to actually vote.

  16. And further complicated by the regionalization of religious influences, conflicting religious and personal values and a host of other issues. There is every possibility that the 24% of regular weekly worshipers represented a higher percentage of the electorate, This doesn’t change the fact that President Obama took 41% of them. Or that the “evangelical” vote is concentrated in solid Red states.

    In fact Romney got lower percentage of the Hispanic vote than the President did of weekly worshipers.

  17. The Chargers, just down the road from me, get about 55,000 on any given Sunday.

    I think even Charger’s fans over-represent their devotion considering how many TV blackouts occur.

  18. Two small points–I think the real boon the the church institutionally is simply that the “boogey-man” has been largely deflated. Millions were exposed to relatively glowing reports. I know many evangelicals who think better of us, not that they are better informed. Therefore, in the sense that if Romney had won he would have been “conspiratorialized” (my new word), the Mormons now have the desert without having to eat the spinach.

    My second point, as a staunch conservative, I think as Obama’s regime continues to piss off the right, there might be a degree of wistful “…if only” moments that at least conservatives will reminisce about for the next 4 years. So though the “mormon moment” may have closed, it is possible that their favorability will still climb. I grant however, with others, that the real diagnostic post-mortem here is just how secular politics have become. It use to be that it was a death-knell for any politician to seek office if they did not revere (or appear to revere) some fealty to God. We have perhaps seen the end of that era, a la Europe. Evangelicals therefore may find the fall of the Mormon “curtain” was also the closing of their own curtain too.

  19. The Mormon moment may be over, but much worse is that the American moment may also be over.

    It was a good idea and last a good while, but I think it’s basically finished. The takers run the schools, the media, the borders. The givers will die off or grow tired of giving and we’ll be left with a soulless, me centered, huge, controlling government that will not resemble in the least what the Founders envisioned.

    USA, RIP.

  20. To a certain extent, American politics is about choosing which sin you think leads to better outcomes: greed or covetousness. The sins are usually dressed up in the more respectable terms of liberty or equality. In neither case is the Christian vision of the kingdom of God enacted.

  21. Tim – although I suppose you meant it that way, your post should have referred to the “US Mormon moment.” You are probably aware that the number of Mormons living outside the US exceeds those living here by almost 2 million. So, the “Mormon moment” in other countries may still be ongoing or may not have happened yet.

  22. I think there is a lot of evidence that other countries are taking notice of Mormonism in a way they never did before because of Romney. Outside the US the Mormon Moment is probably just beginning. If a Mormon can be fabulously wealthy and nearly president in the richest country on earth the powers that be in other places, the world, the establishment, will probably be more open to the religion.

  23. David, we can talk about the Constitution without having to say “The Constitution of the United States of America” because we are having a conversation on a US blog among mostly US participants. Similarly, we can just say that we are in the 150th anniversary of the “Civil War” without locating it particularly in time and space for a potential international audience, for the same reason. Yes, there are other constitutions and other civil wars. But in this context, we can refer to just one of each and everyone participating can and should know what we are talking about.

    Furthermore, the term “the Mormon Moment” as coined and used all over the US media (and not invented on this blog) refers to a particular phenomenon in the US media and culture. So yes, we call it that because that’s what everyone else in the US is calling it. That’s the phenomenon’s name, not the phenomenon’s international acontextual objective descriptor.

  24. Here’s a piece by someone addressing the point I did earlier, that the election results aren’t so much the end of the Mormon moment as much as they may be marking the end of the evangelical moment: Waning evangelical influence.

    Tim said:

    I think social conservatism is in serious trouble. Insofar as Evangelicalism is tied to that political movement, it too is in trouble.

    I suspect that’s one reason the LDS church has somewhat distanced itself from its involvement with Proposition 8. As far as I know, the Church played no official role in campaigns regarding the four marriage-related ballot measures this month, and the Church has given its blessing to employment and housing anti-discrimination measures that have passed in Utah cities. The Church also has stayed out of the abortion political debate. These days, it seems to be Catholics, not Mormons and sometimes not evangelicals, who have been most vocal in the social political debates.

  25. I think one big problem with political involvement by religious leaders in the United States is that eventually they start sounding way too much like Pat Robertson. Even the faithful get tired of that sort of thing.

  26. Kullervo – The point of my comment was to remind people that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a worldwide church–not just a ‘US’ church. Perhaps some of us can be parochial on this site, thinking that what we see happening around us in the US will have a great affect on what the Mormon leadership will do. That is simply not the case. The leadership thinks globally and beyond. After all, in our view, the LDS Prophet is not just the leader of the Latter-day Saints, but the Prophet to all the world.

  27. The point of my comment was to remind people that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a worldwide church–not just a ‘US’ church.

    Oh please.

  28. Good point Seth, I suppose its a matter of taste.

    But Martin Luther King would be a political pariah in today’s climate if he had not been murdered. He was more of a gadfly than a participant in the establishment. The Religious Right thinks OBAMA is a non-christian communist. . . .

  29. Well I missed this thread.

    Originally I had felt that no way was a UCC president going to play the religion card against Romney. For the voters for whom this mattered I think they would identify more closely with Mormonism than liberal Christianity. Then as leaks kept happening it became increasingly clear that democratic groups were ready to do it and so I went to “they might”. IMHO the situation didn’t call for it, and I’m glad it played out this way. Americans came to dislike and mistrust Romney without any need for religious prejudice.

    _____

    A few other comments. Gundik 24% is a massive number. 2.4% is enough for people to worry about, 24% is bigger than hispanics and blacks combined. .24% and then it might not be worth worrying too much about.
    ________

    And with that I’ll it the various comments regarding evangelicals. Evangelicals own a major political party in the United States. The Republican party is essentially the white evangelical party. Over 1/2 of all primary voters and caucus voters in the Republican party were evangelicals. Strong evangelical support for Republicans are why the Democrats can’t contest huge numbers of southern states even with 90% of the black vote. In what possible sense can that be seen as waning influence?

  30. Yes 24% is a large number, we agree, but it is significantly smaller than the some ill defined politico-evangelical group who only makes a nominal declaration of belief in something they cannot be bothered to worship.

    The 24% who attend worship are not a monolithic voting block. It includes Jews (voted for the President) Roman Catholics (voted for the President), mainline Protestants (voted for the President), Black Protestants (voted for the President) etc.

  31. Problem is CD-Host, while 24% may be a big number – it’s a dwindling number. Demographically, the Evangelical base of the GOP is shrinking, not growing.

    Both the Bush and Romney teams focused on trying to make that shrinking group show up to the polls in greater numbers to compensate for the lack of broad appeal the GOP has in national politics. Rove’s strategy of polarize and energize. Whip up the… sigh… I hate to say it… but old religious white guys – to a red hot state of enthusiasm and hope the 24% is enough to carry the day.

    It worked for Bush – but only by a razor thin margin in both elections.

    Romney tried the same thing, and the indicators are that this strategy just can’t win a general election anymore.

    But the GOP is so beholden to the Christian Right, and now extremist Tea Party elements, that I don’t think they can extricate themselves easily. I predict that we’ll see a few more election cycles with the GOP relying on energizing the 24% – as the 24% grows ever smaller.

    Eventually, after wandering in the desert for enough election cycles, the GOP will finally snap out of it and cut ties with the sinking ship of the Evangelical Christian Right.

    Or Evangelicalism will radically change. Who knows…

  32. Seth R. said:

    But the GOP is so beholden to the Christian Right, and now extremist Tea Party elements, that I don’t think they can extricate themselves easily. I predict that we’ll see a few more election cycles with the GOP relying on energizing the 24% – as the 24% grows ever smaller. Eventually, after wandering in the desert for enough election cycles, the GOP will finally snap out of it and cut ties with the sinking ship of the Evangelical Christian Right.

    I don’t think it’s going to take that long. Already this year, the Republican presidential nominee didn’t bring up social issues unless asked, and a significant number of Republicans aren’t interested in fighting gay marriage and abortion. The sky won’t fall on the growing number of states that now recognize same-sex marriage, gays are in the military to stay, and there’s plenty of blowback on those Republicans who have said stupid things in defending strident anti-abortion positions.

    Republicans lost at least two U.S. Senate seats this year because of “successes” of the Tea Party and evangelical right, and the GOP leadership knows it. (Even in Utah, Republicans lost their chance at a House seat by nominating someone who was successfully portrayed by the incumbent Democrat as too conservative.) I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the 2016 GOP presidential nominee advocates that the party take a “big tent” approach on social issues and focuses solely on reducing the reach of government and strengthening the military — or, at the very least, emphasizes that the social issues should be a state concern, not a federal one (as Romney did to some extent).

  33. CD, what Romney did in the general election is not really relevant.

    Look at what he was doing in the Primaries.

    Romney was completely over-the-top in right-wing rhetoric during the Primaries. In fact, he carried on this rhetoric far too long into the general election, when he should have been swinging toward the center to appeal to swing voters. When he did start the shift it was too late to make up for how right-wing he’d gone.

    Well, I like your optimism about the GOP reforming. But I’m afraid I don’t share it. GOP movers may know the Tea Party is killing the party. But they are going to have a hard time parting ways from them.

  34. I agree the strategy since 2004 for Republicans has been to focus on turnout rather than expanding the base with 2006, 2008, 2012 having failed and 2010 having been successful. The Republican party is having a good debate now about expansion vs. turnout. In 2010 the electorate was 6% to the right of the 2008 electorate because youth, minorities and the poor turn out goes down much faster than older and white. So while the electorate in general shifts a few tenths of a percent towards the democrats every year, and they can no longer win the presidency with their current coalition I think they can still do well in off year, and they are in play for 2014 regardless of what they do.

    That being said though Republicans are finally acknowledging the day of reckoning in terms of demographics. I think the Republicans are going to aim to shift. But I don’t think they drop the religious. Only 1/4 of 18-29 year olds identify as no religion. While there is a definite fall off in religion, its not going to be large enough to ignore Protestant evangelicals. And if the debates are going to be mainly about social issues then evangelicals are going to cluster on the more socially conservative party. Having won dominance of the south and all of rural America they Republicans are not going to step away from that. Rather they are going to reach out.to religious minorities. Racism not religion is what I suspect the Republicans decide to drop. But to attract minorities they are going to have to move left on social welfare issues. What that means is that on economic issues they first become “the same but less” and then overtime move to the left of the Democrats.

    What we end up with by say 2040 is Republicans become the pre-1965 Democrats. Meanwhile Democrats will have picked up business interest that are a cultural fit that currently are exercising economic power to over the Republicans, i.e. buying policy in particular Wall Street.

    Republicans as an economic liberal, socially conservative party (pre 1965 Democrats)
    Democrats as an economically moderate, socially moderate party (pre 1965 Republicans)

    Which is a great fit for the American electorate.

  35. The 24% who attend worship are not a monolithic voting block. It includes Jews (voted for the President) Roman Catholics (voted for the President), mainline Protestants (voted for the President), Black Protestants (voted for the President) etc.

    That’s not true. Among the 24%, Catholics that attend church regularly Romney slaughtered Obama. Same with mainline Protestant who are weekly church attenders.

    I don’t know if we have good data on Jews with regular attendance and those without but Jews are very liberal voters generally and Romney got 30% of the Jewish vote. It was one of the few bright spots in the exit polls for Republicans. Romney was one of the most popular Republican presidential candidates ever among Jews. I think Mormonism helped here since Jews have an affinity for minority religions. Given the strong correlation between regular religions attendance and being a Republican, and given the pathetic numbers who regularly attend services in the Jewish community it wouldn’t shock me if Jews in the 24% went from Romney and possibly quite heavily.

  36. You’re missing my point, Romny took 61% of people who self identify as regular worshipers. According to Pew people lie when directly asked if they worship. All exist polls prove is that Republican voters have a greater tendency of lying about worship practices.

  37. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

    ____

    Gundek —

    Almost anyway you measure worship practice Republicans worship more. For example you get very accurate measures if you ask people to describe their activities last week and see if they include church; even from the same people who will not answer accurately questions like “do you go to church every week”. It appears that people take the “do you go…” question as “are you the sort of person who would regularly attend church” not what they actually did. I agree that Republicans also lie about it more but you can still get around that.

    Also if you exclude minorities who attend church regularly, you are up into the 3/4s range. My point about the Republicans is they are the white evangelical party and do well with other white regular church / synagogue attenders. What’s interesting is Republicans traditionally did well with groups that attend Hindu temples, Mosques, Buddhists shrines… regularly, but this year they sank like a stone. The perceived / actual racism issue outweighs religious affiliation. But I don’t think that’s a long term problem. I believe Republicans learned their lesson and will tone it way down going forward.

  38. I am unaware of a poll that combines specific questions about weekly habits and exit poll type questions. I understand that conventional wisdom says Republican voters would attend worship in greater numbers than Democratic voters, but conventional wisdom also wrongly says that Americans attend worship in greater numbers than Europeans.

    It may be true that Republicans voters worsip more regularly but I question if this will continue if the Republican party continues with a policy of economic Darwinism. What I have not seen is a poll that measures this in a meaningful way rather than self identification.

    According to exit polls President Obama won 41% of self reporting regular worshipers. Correct me if I am wrong but Democratic voters would have less reason to lie about worship practices than their Republican counterparts. While I cannot prove it with empirical evidence a 10 to 20% over reporting of worship by Romney voters would even out the disparity between parties.

  39. @Eric —

    I don’t think there is much doubt that Evangelical Christianity around 1990 entered into the 2 generation spiral that mainstream Christianity went into in the post WWII era. They no longer have good groups to recruit from (excluding Catholics) while lots of other groups recruit from them. They have youth retention problems which are making churches lean older which are making retention problems worse. That’s a hard cycle to break financially since the elderly give more money and demand less services than the young, so it makes sense to ride the greying wave even as it decimates the percentage of the population.

    That being said, evangelical Christianity by its very nature is tied to the revivalist movements which happen regularly. Generally as the previous movement which was tied to the political system loses power. So if we say that 2006 represented the start of evangelical political decline and it continues for a generation I’d say around 2035 we should see the start of another awakening movement the birth of whatever the new evangelical Christianity will be.

  40. I am confused if Dickerson is lamenting evangelical decline as a political party or a religious movement in his article. I wouldn’t want to measure the righting of evangelicalism by the political force exerted for George W Bush in 2004, because I don’t think reposturing evangelicals into humble Republicans is the solution. If evangelical in America is going to remain synonymous with Republican, simple math says political partisanship has turned off ½ the population to your message, humble or not.

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