According to a 2013 study by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institute, 23 percent of 18- to 33-year-olds are religious progressives, 17 percent are religious conservatives, and 22 percent are non-religious. By contrast, only 12 percent of 66- to 88-year-olds are religious progressives, while about half are religious conservatives.
Second, the conversation about income inequality in the U.S. and abroad — the driving force behind the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement — is gaining momentum. Taking up the cause of the poor is a central tenet of religious liberalism. Both Jews and Christians point to the Bible, including this verse from the Book of Psalms: “Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy.”
President Obama talked about income inequality in his State of the Union address a couple weeks ago and will discuss the global wealth gap at a summit devoted to the issue in March when he visits the Vatican.
And that gets us back to the pope, who appeared on the world scene nearly a year ago. It was a very particular moment.
The world’s richest and most powerful nation has become more ethnically diverse and therefore more religiously tolerant than ever before, driven by a young generation that is increasingly disinterested in conservative social views. And that trend coincides with a growing global focus on the wealth gap.
So: take a new world religious leader from a developing country, with strong views about inclusion, diversity, and poverty mitigation. Then stir in two major demographic and socioeconomic trends driven in part by the world’s most powerful country.
Let me begin this post with the fact that I am one of those 12% of seniors who is religiously progressive. Given my world I think the 50% who are classified as conservative is probably a low number. I wish it weren’t so but that is how my world stacks up. In my version of Christianity there can be no such thing as a conservative follower of Christ. The words of Jesus found in the bible show us that he was a radical of his times, especially among the religious establishment. Sure, like with many other topics, you can find a verse or two here or there that might seem to put him in a conservative light but the overwhelming volume of words precludes that possibility.
It is heartening to continue to see the trend of the faith community drift away from political conservatism. Every poll shows an increasing trend in this area but I wish it were happening even faster. I love the fact that Catholics have chosen a progressive pope as least as far as helping “the least of these”. I am a fervent believer that diversity in our country and in our religious establishments is a good thing, maybe even a God-given thing. Part of diversity is accepting that others are different from you. I try to even celebrate that fact.
It is good news indeed to see that among your younger generations only 17% are religious conservatives. I hope that trend grows in the coming years and more churches follow suit….