US Youth May Yet Return to Religion, Despite the Right

The religious right has driven young people away, but a change in tone could lure them back: Putnam
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2009 1:45 PM CDT
This 2008 file photo shows Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, as he speaks during a panel discussion on rural development at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Young Americans would likely become more religious if faith were disentangled from the polarizing practices of evangelical conservatives, Michael Gerson writes in the Washington Post. That’s a good thing, because research for an upcoming book found that religious Americans give more time and money—to secular and religious causes alike. The content of faith matters little: The benefits of religion come from joining a loving community.

But young Americans are largely unable to enjoy the benefits of religion because of culture-war polarizations. The politicization of Christianity by evangelicals—their movement itself a reaction to 1960s hippy secularism—resulted in a religious atmosphere that young people regard as judgmental and uncaring. But youth are not by definition secular: “They are not in church,” writes Robert Putnam, co-author of American Grace, “but they might be if a church weren’t like the religious right.”