By Shannon Barber | 12 May 2015
There is no doubt that Christianity is, and always has been, the dominant religion in America. There is also no doubt that the GOP depends on the most fundamentalist, hard-right, socially conservative Christians in the country in order to stay relevant, because they cannot win elections without their base. Well, new research from the Pew Research Center is showing that these might not be the people to be courting if the GOP wants to continue to stay in the game, because at a pace that should be alarming to the adherents of Christianity, fewer and fewer people are identifying as Christians, and the religiously unaffiliated are a fast growing group.
The fact of the matter is that, particularly since 2007, the number of Americans identifying with the Christian faith has dropped quite a bit. In a Pew Research Survey conducted in 2014, just 71 percent of Americans called themselves Christians. While, yes, this is still a huge majority, it is also the lowest number of Christians reported on any major survey in this nation’s history. In fact, this number means that between 2007 and 2014, 5 million fewer Americans self-identified as Christians, a drop of a full 8 percentage points. That’s huge, when talking about something like this. Also, there’s no evidence to suggest that the trend is slowing.
Young people in particular seem to be abandoning faith in droves. Millenials, or those people in the 18-34 age bracket, are much less religious than previous generations. The religiously unaffiliated, or “nones,” seem to be growing among all age brackets, races, backgrounds, and regions, though. According to Pew, a full 19 percent of American adults are now ex-Christians—meaning they were raised or somehow formerly members of the Christian faith, but have abandoned it. The chart below shows the decline across denominations of Christianity. You can read more in depth analysis of the Pew survey results, here.
So, what does this mean for the GOP? Well, it likely means that they need to change their strategy, and fast, if they want to remain a relevant political party. It doesn’t seem that they are accepting the reality that not only are fewer people agreeing with them on social issues, but that their courting their rabidly bigoted Christian base is a huge turn off to the larger population. They should at least attempt to accept this reality, though. I mean, who can forget the backlash Indiana Governor Mike Pence received over his clearly anti-gay Religious Freedom Restoration Act? That debacle should have shown the GOP that mainstream Americans do not, and will not, tolerate open bigotry in political discourse and policy any longer. It seems they have short memories over on the right, though, because Jeb Bush has just tried to prove to Evangelicals that he’s just as hot for Jesus as his fellow conservatives by speaking at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and making his own homophobia, and intent to run America like a theocracy, very clear.
Now, if this Pew Research is any indication, a few more election cycles, and this tactic of courting religious conservatives simply won’t work anymore. The heavily religious will be seen as crazy, as extremists, and there won’t be enough of them left to get any GOP candidate through any sort of election, local, state or national. As the old, white, religious types die off to be replaced with secular, equality-minded, voting adults, nothing the GOP stands for will even be acceptable in mainstream public discourse anymore.
So, in short, Republicans, your days are numbered if you don’t change your ways. Either learn that America is not, nor will it ever be, a Christian theocracy, or become even more a bunch of laughingstocks than you already are.
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