Religious groups need to back off partisanship to shore up confidence
Gallup’s annual confidence survey found all of the 16 institutions measured this year either held steady or declined in public confidence. The biggest declines in public confidence, from last year to this year, were in television news, public schools and organized religion.
The results found confidence in most of the institutions is below historical averages since the poll was first taken in 1973. Gallup specifically attributed the crisis in confidence to financial and sex abuse scandals that have rocked both Protestant and Catholic faiths over the past two decades.
In a broader context, pollsters determined that because more than half of the institutions it measures annually have hit bottom at some point in the past five years, organized religion is affected by a general lack of confidence in most major institutions.
“Once Americans begin to feel better about the way things are going in the United States, some of their lost confidence in the country’s major institutions will likely be restored,” Gallup concluded.
But those monitoring the decline in church membership and activity aren’t so sure confidence in religious institutions will bounce back with the economy or when memories of scandals fade. They see a corresponding trend of people leaving their faith primarily because faith and partisan politics have become too intertwined.
“I have concluded that religious leaders need to understand the importance of avoiding partisan politics or they will literally end up preaching to the choir,” said Jonathan Merritt, an author who has researched the recent flight from faith particularly among “millennials,” young adults born in the early 1980s. [More]