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Political Gaps Strain Churches, Pulpits vs Pews, Mainlines vs Evangelicals
Institute on Religion & Democracy and American Spectator ^ | 24 Feb 2010 | Alan Wisdom of the IRD

Posted on 02/25/2010 8:08:38 AM PST by mbarker12474

Political Gaps Strain Churches Alan Wisdom February 24, 2010

In a society already ideologically polarized, many believers go to church in hopes of a respite from conflict. But recent surveys show similar political disparities straining the Christian community. There are huge gaps in political affiliation between clergy and laity, especially in the oldline Protestant denominations. The divide between oldline and evangelical Protestant leaders remains exceedingly wide. The much publicized evangelical left, purporting to bridge that divide with a fusion of evangelical theology and liberal politics, remains statistically insignificant.

It is little wonder that debilitating conflicts have wracked the oldline denominations, contributing to the loss of one-third of their membership over the past 45 years. Oldline church bodies typically depend upon the cooperative endeavors of clergy and lay leadership. But those two leadership groups are pointed in different directions politically and ideologically.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is the best documented example. The denomination's research office recently released the results of an exhaustive survey of 3,500 PCUSA members and leaders. Presbyterians in the pews leaned one way politically: 46 percent identified themselves as Republicans, while only 31 percent were Democrats. But pastors leaned sharply in the opposite direction: 23 percent Republicans versus 50 percent Democrats. Specialized clergy, among whom are many top PCUSA officials, were even more lopsided in their partisan allegiances. Only 13 percent were Republicans, as against 65 percent Democrats.

Comparing a 2008 survey of "Clergy Voices" by Public Religion Research with 2008 polling of church members by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reveals similar clergy-laity gaps in other denominations. In the United Church of Christ (UCC), a stunning 77 percent of the ministers call themselves Democrats; only 51 percent of UCC members do the same. Among Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran (ELCA) clergy, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 3:1. Yet Episcopal and ELCA members are divided almost down the middle.

The United Methodist Church and the American Baptist Churches are the only oldline denominations where pastors and members are even close to being on the same page politically. In both cases, clergy and laity show fairly even splits between Democrats and Republicans. Thus, at least politically, these two denominations are truly "mainline."

Where political diversity is an accepted fact, clergy and lay leaders will more often understand the futility of trying to impose anyone's political agenda as the mission of the church. Church unity will have to come through the teachings and work of Christ. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the United Methodists and the American Baptists are the two oldline denominations that seem most likely to hold firm in traditional Christian doctrines.

The situation is different in other oldline denominations, where overwhelmingly left-leaning clergy often imagine themselves to be "prophets" leading their people into a promised land of social justice and world peace. Clergy elites may possess the institutional power to impose this political agenda; however, by doing so they instigate a rift with their church members. To the extent that politics becomes a focus in church life, the divide grows deeper and more damaging. Peter Smith of the Louisville Courier-Journal described the situation succinctly: "Red pew, blue pulpit."

Evangelical denominations are another world: red pew, redder pulpit. Evangelical ministers are far more heavily Republican than the oldline clergy are Democratic. According to the Paul B. Henry Institute at Calvin College, Republicans outnumber Democrats by an astounding 66-4 percent among Southern Baptist pastors. In the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the margin is 64-4. In the Assemblies of God, it is 74 percent Republicans versus a mere 1 percent Democrats.

There do seem to be a significant number of independents among these evangelical clergy, but Democrats are practically non-existent. It may be that the Democratic Party's identification with the cultural left -- on issues such as abortion and homosexuality -- has become so prominent that a Democratic identification is no longer tenable for most evangelical clergy. Evangelical left figures such as the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners may make a media splash; however, they have few imitators in evangelical pulpits.

One finds Democrats in evangelical pews, but they are a distinct minority. The proportion of Democratic members ranged from 28 percent in the Assemblies of God to 37 percent among Southern Baptists. Republicans held clear majorities in all three evangelical denominations.

Thus it seems most evangelical pastors -- unlike most oldline pastors -- are preaching to congregations that lean in the same direction as them politically. But they would do well to remember that perhaps a third of those in the pews hold a different partisan loyalty. Even in a solidly conservative evangelical church, it would be unwise for the pastor to emphasize a political agenda. Church unity there, as in the oldline churches, will have to come through the teachings and work of Jesus Christ.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: lutheran; mainlines; methodist; presbyterian

1 posted on 02/25/2010 8:08:39 AM PST by mbarker12474
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To: mbarker12474

Funny, this is a problem as old as Christianity itself. When Jesus dealt with it, He simply told the laity to do it His way.


2 posted on 02/25/2010 8:11:29 AM PST by pnh102 (Regarding liberalism, always attribute to malice what you think can be explained by stupidity. - Me)
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To: mbarker12474
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the United Methodists and the American Baptists are the two oldline denominations that seem most likely to hold firm in traditional Christian doctrines.

If my church or Pastor did not, I'd find another church.

3 posted on 02/25/2010 8:16:53 AM PST by Graybeard58 ("0bama's not just stupid; He’s Jimmy Carter stupid”. - Don Imus)
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To: aberaussie; Aeronaut; aliquando; AlternateViewpoint; AnalogReigns; Archie Bunker on steroids; ...
Although not Lutheran-specific, this article serves to expose one of the symptoms of the fragmentation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.



Lutheran (EL C S*A) Ping!

* as of August 19, AD 2009, a liberal protestant SECT, not part of the holy, catholic and apostolic CHURCH.

Keep a Good Lent!

4 posted on 02/25/2010 8:20:47 AM PST by lightman (Adjutorium nostrum (+) in nomine Domini)
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To: mbarker12474

What is the distinction between a “mainline” Protestant or Baptist and an evangelical Protestant or Baptist? Is there a doctrinal distinction that I am unaware of?

SnakeDoc


5 posted on 02/25/2010 8:21:31 AM PST by SnakeDoctor (Do you know if the hotel is pager friendly? [...] I'm not getting a sig on my beeper.)
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To: mbarker12474
Republicans outnumber Democrats by an astounding 66-4 percent among Southern Baptist pastors.

I am not astounded by that. What astounds me is that there are any Bible believing, professing Christians that are liberal and support candidates who are pro abortion, no matter if Catholic, Protestant or what ever, claiming Christ.

These so called "Christians" will be wishing for a mill stone around their necks instead of what they are destined to receive.

6 posted on 02/25/2010 8:22:35 AM PST by Graybeard58 ("0bama's not just stupid; He’s Jimmy Carter stupid”. - Don Imus)
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To: Graybeard58

Love how the author chides at the end.


7 posted on 02/25/2010 8:22:58 AM PST by 2Jedismom
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To: mbarker12474
Church unity there, as in the oldline churches, will have to come through the teachings and work of Jesus Christ.

Phooey. Everyone knows that American churches are country clubs. A half-hour of watered-down "I'm okay, you're okay," a bunch of shallow love songs about Jesus, the same prayer Baldy the Car Salesman has been praying for twelve years, and then pass the plate and get the club dues.

There are no polarizing politics, or any other polarizing behavior. It's all designed to make people feel like sitting in a pew for an hour a week is "Christian," keep their money coming in, with zero demand for work or learning.

8 posted on 02/25/2010 8:24:39 AM PST by Anti-Utopian ("Come, let's away to prison; We two alone will sing like birds I' th' cage." -King Lear [V,iii,6-8])
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To: Graybeard58

>> Perhaps it is no coincidence that the United Methodists >> and the American Baptists are the two oldline
>> denominations that seem most likely to hold
>> firm in traditional Christian doctrines.

> If my church or Pastor did not, I’d find another church.

In the UMC, the difference between pulpit and pew in the UMC may be small, but the difference between pew and conference staff, conference committees (Board of Church & Society, Board of Global Ministry, United Methodist Women) is large. Likewise, the difference between pew and General church leadership and General board/agency membership is huge. The UMC is a progressive political organization, with the explicit mission to “transform the world.” Pay attention to your tithe.


9 posted on 02/25/2010 8:30:44 AM PST by mbarker12474 (If thine enemy offend thee, give his childe a drum.)
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To: Graybeard58

James 4:4

paraphrased - there are no “liberal Christians”


10 posted on 02/25/2010 8:32:08 AM PST by MrB (The difference between a humanist and a Satanist is that the latter knows who he's working for.)
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To: Anti-Utopian
Phooey. Everyone knows that American churches are country clubs. A half-hour of watered-down "I'm okay, you're okay," a bunch of shallow love songs about Jesus, the same prayer Baldy the Car Salesman has been praying for twelve years, and then pass the plate and get the club dues.

There are no polarizing politics, or any other polarizing behavior. It's all designed to make people feel like sitting in a pew for an hour a week is "Christian," keep their money coming in, with zero demand for work or learning.

A bit of a broad brush, don't you think?

11 posted on 02/25/2010 8:35:20 AM PST by xjcsa (Ridiculing the ridiculous since the day I was born.)
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To: lightman; Cletus.D.Yokel; bcsco; PJ-Comix
Among . . . Evangelical Lutheran (ELCA) clergy, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 3:1. . . .

Republicans outnumber Democrats by an astounding . . . percent among . . . pastors [i]n the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the margin is 64-4.

I am an LCMS pastor, and I can attest to the fact that most all my peers are politically conservative. Even fellow LCMS pastors I disagree with theologically--they're liberal in terms of their Lutheran doctrine and practice (e.g., worship practice)--I would guess are conservative socio-politically (e.g., on abortion, homosexuality).

Among Lutherans, the LCMS, like the WELS and ELS, is overwhelmingly conservative, both clergy and lay, in social-political matters. Only the ELCA is Looney Left, and that, more so in their clergy hierarchy.

12 posted on 02/25/2010 8:37:26 AM PST by Charles Henrickson (Lutheran pastor, LCMS)
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To: pnh102
Funny, this is a problem as old as Christianity itself. When Jesus dealt with it, He simply told the laity to do it His way.

Leftist thrologues play Jesus, insisting that they are the perfect expression of Jesus. Evangelicals insist that they do things Biblically, according to the teachings of Jesus. The former point to themselves . The latter point to scripture. Methidism is broken down more by Conference than denomination. The Baltimore annual Conference is essentially Marxist with Homosexuals filling pulpits and abortion taught with no regard for God's Will. Conservative, Evangelical and Charismatic pastors are routinely expelled from their ranks. Witch hunts are the norm in this as well as in northern and western conferences. Southern conferences in the UMC are more attuned to biblicism and evangelicalism.

13 posted on 02/25/2010 8:37:51 AM PST by Louis Foxwell (He is the son of soulless slavers, not the son of soulful slaves.)
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To: Charles Henrickson
Only the ELCA is Looney Left, and that, more so in their clergy hierarchy.

Not our local congregation. They voted in favor of same-sex partnerships. Only 12 voted against the issue. Sheesh!

14 posted on 02/25/2010 8:39:57 AM PST by bcsco (Obama is the navel of his own universe.)
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To: xjcsa
Alright, I'll make you a deal. Pick any one of these "evangelical" churches and do a survey. Go to each of the members after the sermon, and ask them:
  1. What was last week's sermon about?
  2. What was this week's sermon about?
  3. How many times did you study the Bible this week?
  4. How many people did you evangelize this week?

I'm confident I already know the pitiful answers to those questions. I'm confident you know too.

15 posted on 02/25/2010 8:41:47 AM PST by Anti-Utopian ("Come, let's away to prison; We two alone will sing like birds I' th' cage." -King Lear [V,iii,6-8])
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To: lightman; Cletus.D.Yokel; bcsco; PJ-Comix

I should add, I do find some LCMS laypeople, mostly older, who still vote Democrat—not because they are truly leftist in their thinking, but because they are “old union guys” who were raised to think that the Dems are “on the side of the little guy,” or they are ladies who “like” the smooth-talking candidate on an emotional level because he says nice stuff. But they don’t analyze the issues in any depth. They’re brainwashed by the pop culture.


16 posted on 02/25/2010 8:46:06 AM PST by Charles Henrickson (Lutheran pastor, LCMS)
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To: Graybeard58
The power mad left begin to worm their way into the pulpits back in the 1960's and even before. Beacuse the mainline denominations were what dominated church attendance at the time, this is where their efforts have concentrate.

The fruit of those efforts is that their membership has left in droves-- some to evangelical conservative denominations, some to quit attending church at all.

The later category is, unfortunately, the end objective of the socialists in the pulpit. Most fully realize they are destroying once great denominations by driving people away, but they do it anyway because government power has become their false God.

Look for the same clique of termites to infest the evangelical denominations now that that's where most of the church attendance is moving. Christians need to be willing to do whatever is necessary to keep these termites out of their pulpits and, failing that, be willing to leave for a denomination not thus infested.

17 posted on 02/25/2010 8:54:20 AM PST by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
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To: mbarker12474

Fortunately, out here in the hinterland, the system pretty much lets us ignore the stupid so-called leaders higher up in the Conference. We just go on with the time honored traditional worship. Don’t know how long they will leave us alone, but if they interfere too much, we just pull out of the conference and go independent Bible Church. There are several around here who did that when the EUB and the Meth. merged in 68.


18 posted on 02/25/2010 8:55:35 AM PST by WVNan (I hate the liberal news corpse..)
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To: mbarker12474
Why do we expect Christians to agree on politics, they never have before.
Instead I see the new "splits" as a sign that people are getting involved. That's a good thing.

19 posted on 02/25/2010 9:04:08 AM PST by BitWielder1 (Corporate Profits are better than Government Waste)
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To: mbarker12474
But they would do well to remember that perhaps a third of those in the pews hold a different partisan loyalty

I doubt it. It would be interested to take a deeper look at actual church attendance and involvement. I bet the democrats reported in these church bodies actually bother to show up for worship at a much lower rate than their numbers would suggest. Ditto for actual involvement in lay ministries. (After all, why volunteer when it's redundant - the government nanny is already supposed to be meeting everyone's needs.)

20 posted on 02/25/2010 9:09:09 AM PST by Liberty1970 (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/lydiablievernicht)
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To: mbarker12474
Church unity there, as in the oldline churches, will have to come through the teachings and work of Jesus Christ.

Would solve any problems.

21 posted on 02/25/2010 9:18:01 AM PST by xone
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To: mbarker12474

What better way to change society is there than to infiltrate the mainline churches with Marxist and socialist teachings to change the thinking of the clergy and then ultimately the belief of the laymen? This certainly has happened to the mainline churches beginning in the 1950s and especially in the 1960s.


22 posted on 02/25/2010 9:41:43 AM PST by miele man
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To: Anti-Utopian

Outstanding analysis, actually.

Ear ticklers. Pastor in my ELCA church very recently gave a sermon about the difficulty the rich would have entering the Kingdom of Heaven. The implication was that surely the bankers on Wall Street weren’t getting in, but all you good people in the pews were.

I turned to my wife and said, “As he abjures the rich, does he not realize that there isn’t a single truly poor person in the building, or does he know that and is putting one over on them in the hopes that they realize THEY are the rich sometime in the coming week?”


23 posted on 02/25/2010 10:04:52 AM PST by RinaseaofDs
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To: xjcsa
I didn't want to start a "churches are Satan" argument with that person. If he thinks that is what church is he has probably spent too much time in an "old-line" church. I think many people, especially those in this forum may find themselves fitting in very well in an evangelical church. I've been in the Assemblies most of my life, I've found that Christ's teachings come out clearly through its politics. The only political arguments the A.G. gets involved in is; abortion, feeding the poor and fighting for the souls of sinners. If these things enter the political arena then Christ will be served. That is why we love Sarah Palin, one of our own.
24 posted on 02/25/2010 10:35:47 AM PST by Takethathill (Put on the whole Armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-18)
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To: Liberty1970
No, I am deeply involved in the Assembly of God. My mother gave birth to me in this faith; but, she was a Kennedy democrat. She was one until about 2000 when I finally got through to her that her affiliation was giving the party funding. Even though she had been a democrat since 1968 she probably had not voted for a democrat since 1970. I think many of these democrats in the pews are just as good a Christian as any other, they've just always been a democrat. So, I just encourage them to vote the conscience God gave them.
25 posted on 02/25/2010 10:50:25 AM PST by Takethathill (Put on the whole Armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-18)
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To: RinaseaofDs
I've got an even better example.

If churches are such terrific learning environments, why did your church search for a college-educated Pastor? Why is a stranger who studied for four or so years in a university a superior Bible teacher to the dozens of men who have been sitting in church pews for 20+ years in a supposedly terrific learning environment? If "evangelicals" are supposed to be "evangelists," why do only the Pastors need "evangelical degrees?"

Could it possibly be that one half-hour lecture per week (or 26 hours per year) is a lousy way to learn anything?

26 posted on 02/25/2010 12:02:08 PM PST by Anti-Utopian ("Come, let's away to prison; We two alone will sing like birds I' th' cage." -King Lear [V,iii,6-8])
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To: xjcsa

I understood his point to mean that there is always a danger in taking one’s faith too complacently, and just going to hang out with friend and socialize. That is where one’s faith just becomes another part of your “culture”, and I believe it can potentially affect everyone, no matter their denomination or religion (look at the nominal/cultural Jews, for example). I’m not casting aspersions, I just think it’s human nature to always take the easy way out. Christ called us to follow Him, and told us it would not be easy. If I’m in a church that doesn’t consistently challenge me spiritually and even make me squirm in my seat, then I’m probably in the wrong church, and have found myself in a church that is playing to popular culture, instead of being the guiding shepherd. But, maybe I’m just too old-fashioned and conservative in this regard.


27 posted on 02/25/2010 12:24:04 PM PST by RedDogzRule ("Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded." - G. K. Chesterton)
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