The “Fate of Pluralism” in America

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The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has released a new study titled “American Democracy in Crisis: The Fate of Pluralism in a Divided Nation.”   Maxine Najle and Robert Jones are the authors.  Here are some of my quick takeaways:

  •  The number of white evangelicals who have a favorable view of Donald Trump was higher in 2018 than it was in 2016.  (It is, however, slightly down from 2017).
  • White evangelicals “remain the only major religious group in which a majority holds a favorable view of the president.”  For more on why I think this is the case, see my argument in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.
  • White Americans with a college degree (78%) are “substantially likelier than whites without a college degree (56%) to say they interact with someone who does not share their race or ethnicity at least once a week.”
  • “Fully half (50%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans say they interact with people who do not share their religious affiliation within their family, compared to 32% of white mainline Protestants, 30% of Catholics, 26% of nonwhite Protestants, and 25% of white evangelical Protestants.”  If I am reading this correctly, it appears that Protestants of all varieties (mainline, nonwhite and white evangelical) do not spend much time with family members who do not share their faith.   Religious faith trumps blood?
  • Americans are “most likely to view their interactions with people who do not share their political affiliation in a negative light.” There are “no significant differences between partisans on this question.”  This, of course, reveals the incivility of our political discourse in the United States.
  • Republicans are three times more likely as independents and Democrats “to say they would be unhappy if their child married someone of a different religious background.”  White evangelicals stand out among religious groups on this question by a significant margin over nonwhite Protestants, Catholics, and mainline white Protestants.
  • “When faced with the prospect of their child marrying someone who identifies with the opposite political party, Democrats are likelier than Republicans to say they would be unhappy.”  Interesting.
  • Nearly 30% of white evangelicals would “be unhappy if their son or daughter married a Democrat.”
  • 66% of white evangelicals would “be at least somewhat unhappy if their son or daughter married  someone of the same gender.”  Frankly, I thought this number would be higher.
  • 60% of white evangelicals prefer “a nation primarily made up of people who follow Christian faith.”  Only 8% of white evangelicals prefer a “nation made up of people belonging  to a wide variety of religions.”

There is a lot more here.

4 thoughts on “The “Fate of Pluralism” in America

  1. “Right now, who you vote for can show something fundamental about someone and their values.”

    Why “right now”? Has that not always been the case? As it relates to any candidate?

    As for political choices coloring interactions, that is a more recent and troubling (certainly in terms of its negative intensity) phenomenon. More and more people are allowing political tribalism — All Good People Are on My Team, All Bad People Are on Their Team — to define and determine their relationships. This is unhealthy and destructive.

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  2. The Fate of Pluralism in a Divided Nation.

    Yugoslavia and/or Rwanda?

    “When faced with the prospect of their child marrying someone who identifies with the opposite political party, Democrats are likelier than Republicans to say they would be unhappy.” Interesting.

    Possibly because Politics has become a secular Religion, with all the accompanying baggage?

    (heading) Are Institutions Pushing Us Apart or Pulling Us Together?

    I would like to have seen them break “Media” down further by type — Mass Media? Print Media? Social Media?

    (heading) Areas of Disagreement: Immigration, Minimum Wage, and Gun Control

    I’m in Southern California. Those outside “Del Norte” (Mexican border states) have NO idea just how high feelings on Immigration can run out here.

    (heading) Experiences with Diversity

    All I can say from experience is “Diversity for the Sake of Diversity” (which you see a lot of out here) is a Dead End. A Dead End with collateral damage. Once again, “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” begets “But How Were We To Know?”

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  3. I am personally interested regarding the last of these takeaways: “60% of white evangelicals prefer “a nation primarily made up of people who follow Christian faith.” Only 8% of white evangelicals prefer a “nation made up of people belonging to a wide variety of religions.””

    On the face of it, that statistic comes across as seeming very exclusivist and intolerant. And, I am sure there are many respondents here working from the mindset that America is and should be a Christian nation, and religious pluralism is something to be opposed (akin to the “Let them move back to their own countries!” mindset). I certainly know other evangelicals who have this mindset.

    But I also wonder if for others there is something more subtle going on here. I will call up an example from my past. My town has had a particularly racist past. A few decades ago there were some high-profile ugly racial incidents in the town. In response, as part of a move to promote diversity, some civic organizations and churches encouraged people to sign a pledge to promote diversity within the town. This was viewed by most of us as a positive thing, albeit more symbolic than effectual. And yet there were quite a few Christians (primarily evangelicals) who could not bring themselves to sign it despite largely agreeing with it. The hangup was over the specific phrasing in the pledge regarding religion, which said that the signer pledged to “promote religious diversity.”

    Some Christians made the observation that while they could easily and willingly sign a pledge to “protect” religious diversity, i.e. religious freedom, their understanding of the Great Commission meant that they couldn’t honestly sign a pledge promising to “PROMOTE” religious diversity. Because, the belief that their mission was to preach the gospel with the aim of people coming to Christian faith. I was sympathetic to this argument and largely agreed with it.

    So, in regards to the particular polling question in this study, while I certainly don’t believe that America should be viewed as being founded as a Christian nation, and I am a defender of religious freedom, and I strongly believe that we should defend that freedom for people of various faiths and of no faith, still, my sense of mission embodied in the Great Commission might well push me towards the 60% response as well, depending on precisely how the question was worded.

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  4. I’m not sure “This, of course, reveals the incivility of our political discourse in the United States.” is quite right — to me, it’s closer to being that right now, who you vote for can show something fundamental about someone and their values, and that will color your interactions with them.

    It’s like knowing that someone refuses to get their dog neutered. Even if all your interactions are completely civil, that can be hard to forget.

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