One of the more interesting studies in the What Americans Really Believe is the study on Faith and Politics. Rodney Stark is not going to make friends with his opening sentence, and he certainly doesn’t try to probe why the accusations are made, but he gets the ball rolling with this:
“Evangelicals are the new scapegoats of liberal American culture” (149). Thus, 53% of American professors admit to having negative feelings toward Evangelicals; 3% feel this way about Jews and 18% toward atheists.
So, who are the Evangelicals? Instead of offering a broadly theological definition, which I find more helpful, Stark goes for the standard approach of the social scientists: an Evangelical is someone who says she or he is an Evangelical. 28% of Americans say this.
Which now prepares us for the Church and State issue, and he properly points to 1947 as the, or at least one of the, watershed moments for in Everson v. Board of Education SCOTUS spoke of a wall between Church and State, and ever since that’s been the perception. And alongside that perception is the view that Evangelicals are trying to take the country back.
But does this stance match up to the data? Do Evangelicals differ on the wall between Church and State? After the jump…
Listen to this conclusion: “if a national referendum were held to restore school prayer and to allow religious symbols in public places” … are you ready for this? … “even if Evangelicals were prohibited from voting, the proposal would pass by a landslide” (153-154). Thus, 72% of Lib Prots, 74% of RCs and 61% of non-Evangelicals would support the use of religious symbols.
How about prayer in public schools? Evangs are at 94%, Lib Prots 67%, RCs 76% and all non-Evangelicals are at 60%.
Which leads, then, to evangelical activism in politics? “… less likely to make campaign contributions, significantly less likely to work in campaigns, and a bit less likely to attend meetings and rallies” (155). So much then for the idea that Evangelicals are on the march.