Americans are declaring themselves unaffiliated with organized religion. This trend is especially so among the under-30s forty percent of whom claim no connection to a religion.
To understand why this opt-out of religion trend will grow just check this week’s headlines.
The same newspapers and TV shows that were reporting on how Trump (finally) admitted that he’d paid a porn star to keep quiet also offered accounts of the chaplain of the House of Representatives being fired, then re-hired.
Paul Ryan fired then backed down from his dismissal of the Rev. Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest, as the House’s chaplain. Ryan had said he asked the cleric to quit because he had provided inadequate “pastoral services.”
What had really happened is that Conroy was ousted because of an un-GOP-like prayer for justice for the poor he’d delivered during the debate over the GOP tax cut.
The House Republican leadership was more inclined to push out the chaplain for praying for the poor, than to impose accountability on a president who is a proven liar and trashes the rule of law for his own selfish purposes day after day, let alone tax the rich and help the poor.
As E.J. Dionne Jr. notes in the Washington Post: “This degree of partisan irresponsibility only aggravates the already powerful skepticism among the young about what it means to be religious.”
Ryan is living proof—as is evangelical super star Mike Pence—that there is a new kind of Roman Catholic and evangelical conservative leader that has long since abandoned anything that could be called a prophetic voice on behalf of those Jesus called “The least of these.”
Ryan’s religion is about power. The firing-then rehiring-of the chaplain is just another instance when the “gospel” of Ayn Rand’s greed has infiltrated and replaced the Christian ethics Republicans used to at least pay lip service to.
White nationalist evangelical Trumpism derives its power from channeling losers’ sense of being victims of everything from liberals to facts themselves, into hatred and a desire for revenge. The revenge is directed at liberals, at science, at higher education, at blacks, brown people, gay men and women, women in general but also at the poor.
Those who stick up for the poor in the face of the corporate greed propagated by the GOP (on an unimaginable scale these days judging by the billionaire’s tax cut, not to mention means testing for Medicaid recipients) find themselves ousted.
The Republican Party’s crucifixion of empathy was at the heart of the chaplain’s ouster. He actually upheld the gospel… and these days that makes Republicans in Trump’s America uncomfortable.
In their landmark 2010 book, “American Grace,” the scholars Robert Putnam and David Campbell found that the rise of the “nones” (those who profess no religious affiliation) was driven by the increasing association of organized religion with conservative politics and a lean toward the right in the culture wars.
As E.J. Dionne Jr. notes, “Revealingly, Putnam and Campbell found that millennials with tolerant and open views on homosexuality were more than twice as likely to be religious nones as their statistically similar peers with conservative or traditionalist views on homosexuality. Many young people came to regard religion, in Putnam and Campbell’s words, as ‘judgmental, homophobic, hypocritical and too political.’”
Then there’s America’s poster boy for white evangelical revenge fantasies not to mention hypocrisy: Franklin Graham.
Graham is one of Trump’s most faithful enablers.
In January, as the news that Trump paid porn star Stormy Daniels hush money was shaping, Graham urged the American people to believe Trump’s denials that there was no affair – and to do so for the good of the nation.
“He said he didn’t do it. So okay, let’s say he didn’t do it. But we just have to think of our country,” Graham told MSNBC.
“I found the president to be truthful with me,” Graham said, adding, “we just have to give the man the benefit of the doubt.”
“Now did he have an affair with this woman? I have no clue. But I believe at 70 years of age, the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, ten years ago or whatever.”
Trump, a proven serial liar, the man who has bragged on tape about sexual assault and about having affairs, deserves “the benefit of the doubt,” because Franklin Graham found him to be “truthful.”
Graham continued his defense of Trump’s lies.
“I think this thing with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody’s business.”
Graham actually said Trump’s sex life is “nobody’s business.” His paying off a porn star is “nobody’s business.” His affair just months after his youngest son was born is “nobody’s business.”
As David Badash notes in Alternet:
Franklin Graham of 2018 sounds very different from the Franklin Graham of 1998.
“Private conduct does have public consequences,” Graham wrote in a 1998 Wall Street Journal op-ed titled, “Clinton’s Sins Aren’t Private.”
“Just look at how many have already been pulled under by the wake of the president’s sin: Mr. Clinton’s wife and daughter, Ms. Lewinsky, her parents, White House staff members, friends and supporters, public officials and an unwitting American public,” Graham wrote.
Just how far have the white evangelical Trump supporters fallen in sticking with their man? Consider this: Last Thursday — the very day when Trump had to admit his lies on the Stormy Daniels payoff — Trump also held a White House commemoration of the National Day of Prayer.
“Prayer is the key that opens [to] us the treasures of God’s mercies and blessings,” Trump proclaimed, quoting Billy Graham.
Who in their right mind would have anything to do with these con-artists let alone with the word “prayer” once it comes out of Trump’s lying mouth?
What to do with the constant stream of lies and hypocrisy and hatred and revenge oozing out of this administration? How do we make our way back into love, beauty and creation? Discover my new book Letter to Lucy: A Manifesto of Creative Redemption—In the Age of Trump, Fascism and Lies, a multi-touch book about art, love and parenting, from the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the prophetic music of Green Day and everything in between. Read the first chapter for free on your kindle fire or iOS device. Available now on iBooks and Amazon.
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