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Echo churches

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Echo churches

Many evangelicals want to worship with partisan comrades

Evangelical churches have become political echo chambers—and many of their congregants prefer it that way. Surprisingly, younger evangelicals—those 35 to 49 years old—desire homogeneity more than their elders.

That’s according to Lifeway Research. The polling group asked evangelicals to assess the statement: “My political views match those of most people at my church.” Nearly 51 percent of respondents agreed, and the generational breakdown was stark. While 44 percent of those age 65 and older and 47 percent of those ages 50-64 agreed, fully 61 percent of 35- to 49-year-old evangelicals agreed.

While the data expose an escalating politicization of the church, they also underscore a darker trend. Lifeway asked evangelicals to agree or disagree with this statement: “I prefer to attend a church where people share my political views.” While 42 percent of respondents disagreed and 12 percent were unsure, 46 percent agreed, with 35- to 49-year-old churchgoers agreeing far more often (57 percent) than those ages 50-64 (37 percent) or 65 and older (33 percent).

The Bible tells us that Jesus has “torn down the dividing wall of hostility”: He reconciles through the cross people who would otherwise stand divided—but many evangelicals condone politically divided Christianity. If Lifeway’s findings are accurate, these evangelicals not only fail to see the gospel contradiction inherent to their ecclesiastical self-selection, but actually prefer it.

Cliff Schiappa/AP

Cliff Schiappa/AP

Saying goodbye to Nike

One college that does not follow current American cultural trends is College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo. When Nike early in September made former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick its poster boy, that Christian college threw away all its Nike athletic gear.

Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem in 2016, sparking a debate over freedom of speech. Nike’s ad has Kaepernick saying, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” He has not played in the NFL since 2016 and recently filed a lawsuit against the league, accusing its teams of colluding against him.

College of the Ozarks President Jerry C. Davis responded by saying, “If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them. We also believe that those who know what sacrifice is all about are more likely to be wearing a military uniform than an athletic uniform.”

College of the Ozarks has the nickname “Hard Work U.,” since students work on campus instead of paying tuition and typically graduate debt-free. Its website says the college strives to “encourage an understanding of American heritage, civic responsibility, love of country, and willingness to defend it.”

Marci Linson, the college’s vice president for patriotic activities and dean of admissions, says, “Nike is free to campaign as it sees fit, as the College is free, and honor-bound by its mission and goals, to ensure that it respects our country and those who truly served and sacrificed.”—R.S.J.

Comments

  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Fri, 09/14/2018 02:02 pm

    Having read the Lifeway Research summary of its own poll, I do not think that we should press the panic button yet.  We still need to be vigilant against seeking political echo chambers at church.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Tue, 09/18/2018 05:07 am

    I agree. It looks like there's some cause for concern, but with the way the question was worded, it could be taken to imply that the alternative is a church where all or most people don't share your political views. And then there's the question of what's considered "political". For example, I would have a hard time worshiping in a church where most people were okay with killing fetal humans for reasons of convenience or personal preference. On the other hand, if they disagree with me on the finer points of how the economy should be run, or how to balance complicated moral tradeoffs, then the more the merrier--I'd love to talk about it, if they're willing.