Backlash against pro-Trump evangelicals is completely reshaping religion: sociologist
Pastor Robert Jeffress (left) and President Donald Trump (right). Image via Jeffress' Twitter.

For years, experts have noted the rise of the "Exvangelical" movement, in which young Christians are fleeing evangelical churches as the denominations take a hard right turn and push a strident political agenda, even endorsing former President Donald Trump — which is contributing to the decline of membership in organized religion in the United States.

But that could just be the beginning. On Tuesday, writing for The Guardian, University of Connecticut associate sociology professor Ruth Brownstein identified how the takeover of the Religious Right has reshaped the people who still identify as religious, including liberals.

"In a 2002 article, sociologists Michael Hout and Claude S Fischer argued that a significant trend in American religion – the skyrocketing number of people disaffiliating from religion – could be partly explained as a political backlash against the religious right," wrote Brownstein. "While pathbreaking, this research has been relatively narrow in its focus. This is because it has typically started with the puzzle of the rising 'nones' and worked backward in search of a cause, landing on backlash against the religious right. I wondered what would happen if we flipped this question around, and started with the rise of the religious right and public concerns about its radicalism. We could then consider the varied ways that backlash against it has manifested, including but not limited to the rise of the 'nones'."

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"It can be found in rising numbers of people who identity as 'spiritual but not religious'," wrote Brownstein. "Similarly, those who associate with the religious left do not discredit religion in general, but promote what they view as a more pluralistic form of public religious expression ... Finally, new research finds that people who are both religious and politically liberal are intentionally distancing themselves from the religious right by depoliticizing their public religious expression – a development worthy of much more attention."

And the Religious Right is also purging itself of the unfaithful, noted Brownstein — with evangelical conservative officials opposed to Trump, like Peter Wehner, very much on the outside, and nonreligious conservatives adopting the identifier "evangelical" to signal their loyalty to Trump rather than to God.

"Backlash against the religious right has had ripple effects far more widespread than previously recognized," concluded Brownstein. "These dynamics are effectively reshaping American religion and politics, and show no signs of stopping."

You can read more here.

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