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.”