What matters more to who we are and what we value?
Is it our political party? Or our church membership?
Each person will have their own answer. And if it isn’t politics, we know human nature - we’re prone to following all kinds of idols rather than God.
In hosting this conversation, I don’t think making partisan arguments is particularly helpful- whether for or against a particular party. Our focus isn’t to drum up support for one candidate over another, whether that’s in America, Italy, South Korea, or India. There are other communities focused on discussing politics as politics.
Rather, I want us to maintain our unique focus on discussing spiritual formation - how is our identity formed so that we want to be like Jesus?
The sociologist Ryan Burge studies the data in America. These results might be quite different in other countries or in America at different times.
In our current moment, here’s what he emphasizes:
I will say this until I can’t say it anymore.
Partisanship is the master identity.
Religious attendance doesn’t matter once you control for partisanship.
Except for Independents!
In his longer evaluation of the data, he notes:
Trump performed well among Republicans who never attend religious services and among weekly attenders as well. In fact, the statistical difference was minimal. He secured 94% of the votes from never attenders in both elections and achieved similar results with weekly attenders (96% in 2020). It’s not church attendance that is driving the vote here. It’s just partisanship that is surfacing through religious attendance in the first graph.
What happens if I restrict my analysis to just the part of the sample that is Republican and self-identifies as evangelical? The conclusion is clear: their support for Trump is nearly unanimous. His support never falls below 95% in any category in either 2016 or 2020. There’s basically nothing else to glean from this graph. Once you filter for partisanship, it’s game over. That one metric overshadows all others, including religious attendance and evangelical self-identification.
This line concerns me: “Once you filter for partisanship, it’s game over. That one metric overshadows all others, including religious attendance and evangelical self-identification.”
This raises the question: For Democrats, Republicans, Independents - regardless of your partisan identification - how are we being discipled by politics?
What tempts you to value political outcomes more than loyalty to Jesus?
What are some ways that religion and politics are fused together?
What habits help you value Jesus more than your partisanship?
Reflecting on my heart, I think one of the key signals to pay attention to is my emotional state. In particular, the emotions of fear and anger. When I am motivated by fear or anger, it is harder to pay attention to what God is doing inside of me and what it looks like to love God and my neighbor.
I’m curious to hear from each of you.