Americans Feel Better About Most Religions, But Not Evangelicalism

This week, the Pew Research Center released some data about how Americans feel about various religions, and how these feelings have changed from 2014 to 2017.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the data—and the focal point—is the comparison between how Americans felt about religious groups in 2014 versus 2017.

Here is the graph:

Notice that every single religious group increased its reputation among Americans except for one: Evangelical Christians.

Yes. Americans warmed up to every religion over the course of the last three years except for one: Evangelical Christians.

Kate Shellnutt of Christianity Today did a great job reporting on this yesterday.

Another fascinating graph Pew provided was the generational breakdown, showing how people of different ages feel about the different religions. Here is that graph:

Notice how broadly accepting Millennials (18-29) tend to be versus other generations—the further up the dots on the bar, the more accepting. Just glance at the above graph briefly, and you’ll notice that all of the dots on the Millennial thermometer are close together and rather high up compared to the others.

Another interesting graph provided by Pew is a comparison of how people who identify with or lean toward Democratic politics versus people who identify with or lean toward Republican politics. Here’s that comparison:

Look at how much more accepting Democrats are than Republicans! That’s not even my opinion—this graph literally shows that Democrats are more accepting of more faiths (and atheism) than Republicans.

This new data from Pew provides evidence in support of a common stereotype:

Republicans are Evangelical Christians, and they tend to like people similar to themselves far more than people unlike themselves, while Democrats tend to be more accepting of a diversity of faiths, not wholly endorsing any of them.

Further, a table provided by Pew’s research says that the percentage of U.S. adults who know an Evangelical Christian dropped by nine points between 2014 and 2017, while the percentage of Americans who know a Muslim rose by seven points in the same time period:

This data is pretty shocking when you think about it, considering how many more Evangelicals there are in the U.S. than Muslims…for now. Are Evangelicals becoming less vocal about their faith because of the political baggage attached to the word in recent years?

Why Is Evangelical Acceptance Stagnant While Everyone Else Is Improving?

I’ve promised not to talk about politics on the blog and social media, so this is all I’m saying:

I think, when it comes to Americans not feeling warmer about Evangelicals than they did three years ago, the overwhelming Evangelical support of Donald Trump must be considered as a central reason for this phenomenon.

Ultimately, whether or not Americans have warm feelings toward Evangelicals is inconsequential in some respect. Theoretically, if American culture continues to grow more and more secular, Evangelicals could be the nicest people in the world and still be hated by Americans.

But, I think this latest data from Pew should be convicting for Evangelicals, leading us to wonder if we may have added more offense to the gospel than its proclamation requires.

Evangelicals have a PR problem. It could be nothing more than that, but it certainly isn’t less.

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