The Christian Post: Youth Turned Off by Religion and Politics, Turn Away From Church
... One of the most surprising findings from the data they collected, Campbell said in a March 13 interview with The Christian Post, was that people are driven away or toward religious involvement because of their political leanings. In particular, those who are politically conservative, or Republican, are more likely to become churchgoers and those that are politically liberal, or Democratic, are more likely to turn away from religion.
This is the opposite of previous understandings of the interaction of religion and politics. Social scientists believed that people first got involved in a particular religion, which then influenced their politics in some way. Increasingly, more studies like Campbell and Putnam's are finding, though, that politics is more likely to determine religion than religion determine politics.
Campbell likes to use the image of a "brand" from marketing. The Republican brand has been increasingly associated with religion and social conservatism due to the influence of the Christian Right, a social movement which has been a part of the Republican coalition since the 1980s. Moderates and Democrats are uncomfortable with that brand and seek to not be identified with it.
"A lot of what goes on in politics is not so much people thinking through political positions but it's sort of a visceral reaction you have to a brand, whether it be Republicans or Democrats," Campbell said. ...
... "Anything you might say about the general population, double it or square it when you talk about the young," Campbell said.
Since young voters are more likely to be politically liberal, especially on the issue of gay rights, they have been driven away from the church by the perception of a close association between religion and Republican politics.
To young adults, Campbell and Putnam write, "'religion' means 'Republican,' 'intolerant,' and 'homophobic.' Since those traits do not represent their views, they do not see themselves – or wish to be seen by their peers – as religious." ...
... "The reason this is important for clergy is these are not people who are lost completely to religion. It's almost like they're an untapped constituency, or untapped market, that could be brought back to a different kind of religion, or a religion that they thought was stripped of politics," Campbell argued.
There is a trend among nondenominational evangelical congregations that attract younger Christians to avoid involvement in politics. Campbell believes that the pastors of these congregations understand more intuitively what his data is showing more crudely – that young people dislike their religion mixed with politics.
And yet, it seems to me, that the vision of many in the PCUSA world is to offer a very political left version of the church as the alternative to the Christian Right. It is just a different "brand" of the uholy elevation of politics to the center of church's agenda. Stripping the church of all political reflection seems a bit too far to me, but with each passing month I'm more and more persuaded that the future lies in a church that integrates daily life with God's mission in the world, and includes people of all politcal stripes wrestling together through the issues that confront us.