Back in the mid-1990s, before I became “digital”, I wrote something for a local newsletter (print) regarding a concerning trend in American culture. At that time, I was on the left end of the Democratic Party scale, a huge supporter of single-payer health care, the parliamentary system, and what could be termed a “liberal, mainstream ‘squishy’ Christian”, meaning I really didn’t believe in Christianity’s basic, foundational tenets, but I liked the “social justice” aspect. All that stated, my piece regarded a social trend that has waxed and waned over the years: Evangelical Christian nonparticipation in the broader American culture.
Bill Clinton was in the first half of his first term, the GOP was about to create a sea-change in American politics, and mainstream liberals (and mainstream churches) were in the process of celebrating the fact that it looked like “Christian fundamentalists”, who had come to the fore during the Reagan Administration, were going back into their dark caverns, never to bother intelligent, progressive people again. My little piece pointed out a few verifiable facts (which I verified and sited):
- Small businesses in America (< 25 employees) were most likely to be owned by those identifying with Evangelical Christian beliefs. While this was more evident in the South and West, it was universally true in all regions of the nation, including New England and California.
- The majority of Americans not employed by a governmental entity or non-profit were employed by these “small businesses”.
- There were far fewer employment discrimination claims against these businesses nationwide than there were against governmental entities and non-profit corporations. (I had no statistics for “large corporations”).
- Academic studies at the time showed more job satisfaction among the small business employees (non-owners) than any other group studied, including governmental and non-profit.
- Owners of these small businesses contributed to the general economy through spending at a rate far greater than their numbers, and they were generally much less inclined to make use of “public benefits” like unemployment compensation, food stamps, housing assistance, etc.
Over the last twenty years, I have lost my copy of the newsletter and probably never retained the original document. My readership, the liberal/professional class that believed GOP stood for “Greed Over People”, surely thought I made the numbers up, even though they were all provided either by the Clinton Administration or a number of academic (Marxist) university studies.
The reason for my interest was the growth in “mega-churches” in the Evangelical world. These churches were incorporating health clubs, cafes, even florist shops and book stores into their sites. Each successful business catered to and by the believer was one less “secular” business patronized. More importantly, it was one less opportunity for the believer to interact with (and influence) the culture around them. That last item was one I didn’t fully grasp at the time, but in that era, Christian believers were withdrawing from a “failed” society that offered nothing but sexuality run amuck, lowest-common-denominator “entertainment”, and what they perceived as an environment toxic to their children. Looking from the outside in, I was only fully aware of the economic impact.
Now, after a decade or more of Evangelical Christians having a voice in the American politic, I see this trend happening again. The Evangelical Christian believer is giving up on American culture. This time, demographics are against an Evangelical resurgence into the American mainstream. More and more Americans value “free” over self-worth. More and more Republican politicians move freely among the pro-abortion crowd and are willing to “cut deals” on a public welfare system that saps its beneficiaries’ ability to find dignity in work, all paid for not by the politicians, but by those small business owners, essentially by threat of force. America’s “mainstream” churches bleed membership like a hemophiliac, while once again the Evangelicals find new recruits in young families and older Americans who are looking for a relationship with God rather than a liberal social action club with a cross on the wall.
Looking at the broader American culture, and its population, I am reminded of Psalms 12:1 – 2.