I’m convinced that 2020 is going to be the most spiritually challenging year for politically engaged Christians of my adult lifetime. In an increasingly de-Christianized America, politics itself is emerging as a competing religious force, and it’s a religion that’s increasingly based on hate and fear, rather than love and grace.
Since the rise of Donald Trump, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with two American cultural phenomena—the increase in America’s negative polarization and the decline in American religious identification. I strongly believe these two trends are linked and mutually self-reinforcing. They work together to push America into competing political tribes and make membership in that tribe the transcendent aspect of individual existence.
Let’s take, for example, a rather surprising study released this year by New York University’s Patrick Egan. Here are the opening sentences:
Political science generally treats identities such as ethnicity, religion, and sexuality as “unmoved movers” in the chain of causality. I hypothesize that the emergence of partisanship and ideology as social identities in the U.S., combined with the increasing demo-graphic distinctiveness of the nation’s two political coalitions, is leading some Americans to engage in a self-categorization and depersonalization process in which they shift their identities toward the demographic prototypes of their political groups.