Friday, June 26, 2009

Southern Baptist Church in Decline, Affects Republican Party

Rueters has an interesting article on the decline of the Southern Baptist Church. Currently, the SBC comprises over 16 million members and is the second largest denomination behind the Catholic Church, if Catholicism can be considered a denomination. But the SBC leadership is alarmed by current trend lines:
[The SBC's] research arm LifeWay Research released the following projections this week at the convention’s annual meeting in Kentucky: it said its numbers would fall nearly 50 percent by 2050 “unless the aging and predominantly white denomination reverses a 50-year trend and does more to strengthen evangelism, reach immigrants, and develop a broader ethnic base.”

“Using U.S. Census projected population figures, SBC membership could fall from a peak of 6 percent of the American population in the late 1980s to 2 percent in 2050,” said LifeWay director Ed Stetzer. (emphasis mine)
The author, Ed Stoddard, believes that this denominational decline would seriously affect the growth and stability of the Republican party:
If the SBC is in decline, one also has to wonder what the long-term political implications could be for the Republican Party. Conservative white evangelical Protestants have become its most reliable base. In recent election cycles it has relied on this base to deliver the vote in part by galvanizing opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage.

And the conservative SBC, one could argue, is the core of that base.
But Republican strategists will probably not take comfort by the fact that the SBC’s demographics in many ways mirror that of the party itself. Old, white, and Southern (one could add male and rural), with expansion dependent upon attracting immigrants and other ethnic groups, notably Hispanics. It is perhaps no coincidence that the core of the Republican base looks a lot like the party itself. (emphasis mine)
Both the flipside to and the result of these trends is that younger generations are becoming, religiously speaking, increasingly unaffiliated and, politically speaking, increasingly Democratic.

1 comment:

Michael Ernette said...

Interesting post, Drew. I'd love to be able to find the corollary that exists between the fact that America is becoming less religious and votes Democrat more. As a character in the movie Billy Madison said, "Goodie for me!"

I think the factors that affect this shift generally can be ascribed to factors that have been attributible to man's decline since the Garden of Eden. As man has fallen away from God, it has always been part of his nature to hide from that sin. And before you think I am castigating the DNC of being innately sinful, allow me to continue.

Since roughly 1968, the extreme segment of the progressive movement has sipped regularly from the cup of moral relativism. Again, this is not part and parcel of the whole movement any more than all Republicans are Gordon Gecko. In my humble opinion, what separates the two ends of the spectrum is personal responsibility.

The Democratic Party has been able to cloak itself in the righteousness of social justice, and rightfully so insofar as the Republicans have been unable and generally unwilling to address the fact that the poor need some form of assistance. While I concur with the theory of a "workfare" style of welfare that is highly regulated and overseen, understand that I do not wish to see true Republicanism in the form of Dickensian London.

The two main problems with progressivism as I see it are the desire for responsibility meted out but the state as opposed to the individual, and the "optimistic" view that some people need only help to improve their lot in life. The fact is that personal responsibility is what brings people forward. It sounds cold to say, "Ok, you were born in Harlem, so what," but it needs to be said. What a person does with what he is given makes the man.

This is also not to say that Republicans have a patent on personal responsibility, as the recent Mark Sanford issue proves. I just find it interesting that the trends bear such striking similarities. The general theory of moral relativism tends to find a home in the Democratic movement; and the exodus of much of the youth from affiliations which force participants to focus on and acknowledge shortcomings and sins find comfort in the "I'm all right, you're all right" concept. Just my two cents.