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An interesting article appeared in Vox that listed these ways that religion has affected 2017 socially and politically:

1) Religious minorities are experiencing high levels of discrimination

Now I know that I am highly critical of Islam (from a theological, holy book point of view), and it is often a thin line between attacking Islam and not attacking Muslims who obviously come in many shapes and sizes. But the nation of America, with Trump at the helm, is clearly becoming a discriminatory place for minority Muslims. As Vox quotes: “anti-Islamic incidents have soared compared even to 2016, which saw a 44 percent uptick in anti-Muslim hate crimes and a 57 percent increase in Islamophobia overall.”

This coincides with the rise of the Christian right, anti-immigration sentiment, as well as anti-Semitic sentiment. The problem is when your leader says such things that are arguably openly discriminatory, this validates the most nefarious of views being able to be openly voiced.

The Independent reported that Islamaphobia is supposedly worse now than it was after 9/11:

“It’s not just Americans Muslims [who feel anxious],” Mr Hooper, a founder of the Council On American-Islamic Relations, told The Independent. “We have have seen white supremacists emboldened under Trump.”

Mr Hooper said many people of colour and members of minority communities had been deeply dismayed by a large number of Mr Trump’s actions, including his Muslim travel ban and his administration’s crackdown on undocumented migrants.

He said the President’s failure to speak out against white supremacism and extremism – as in the aftermath of neo-Nazi-led violence in Charlottesville in August which left one woman dead – had the impact of allowing such views to become mainstream.

Many white supremacists, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, praised the way Mr Trump responded to the violence, claiming that there was blame “on all sides”.

“It’s worse now than even after 9/11. He has empowered and mainstreamed white supremacy and bigotry,” he said. “After 9/11, bigotry was under the rocks and hidden. Now these bigots are out in the open and saying they are proud of their bigotry.”

Asked if he believed the alleged increase in Islamophobia was the result of Mr Trump’s presidency, he said: “There is no other explanation.”…

“Based on preliminary estimates, it’s fair to say that 2017 is gearing to be the worst year on record for incidents of anti-Muslim bias since we began our current system of documentation,” said research and advocacy coordinator Zainab Arain.

“Additionally, this year we’ve noted a disturbing trend of perpetrators invoking Trump to express racial and religious animosity.”

2) Evangelicals’ unity as a political bloc is shifting

Trump unashamedly appealed to the evangelical voting block and garnered some 81% of their vote.

However, according to Vox, the data shows some shifting sands:

Studies released throughout the year by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reveal a number of demographic fault lines among evangelicals, largely along age and race. While seven out of 10 seniors identify as white Christian, that is true for just three in 10 young adults. Half of all new Southern Baptist churches — the largest evangelical group — are primarily nonwhite. There are now 6 million Hispanic evangelicals in America (many recent converts from Catholicism), and they represent a significant, powerful voting bloc, especially in states like Florida.

While polling data zeroing in on evangelicals of color is limited, we know that 58 percent of Protestants who did not identify as white evangelical (which would include, for example, black evangelicals and white mainline Protestants) voted for Trump — far less than 81. Overall, 74 percent of all nonwhite voters, regardless of religious identity, selected Hillary Clinton according to CNN exit polls; just 8 percent of black voters voted for Trump in 2016.

Younger evangelicals, furthermore, tend to be more socially liberal on traditional evangelical political hot-button issues like same-sex marriage.

The political story of evangelicals in 2017, therefore, has been a story of internal pressure and fracture.

They then go on to document schisms that are beginning to produce some serious fault lines within the evangelical community. Worth reading. They summarise, going forward:

Throughout my reporting in 2017, one word was on everybody’s lips: schism. While a formal “schism” is impossible — there is no one single evangelical church, and thus no way for it to formally “break apart” — bigger divisions within the wider community seem all but inevitable.

Jonathan Martin, the anti-Trump pastor booted from Liberty University, put it most succinctly in an interview with Vox earlier this year: “I think the split is growing rapidly; I think it’s bordering on being a full-fledged schism.”In an interview after Roy Moore’s defeat, PRRI CEO (and author of The End of White Christian America) Robert P. Jones said the same thing: “Trump has been a polarizing force between white and black Christians,” just like among white and black Americans in general. “You see it in the data. You see it among leaders. And those divisions promise to get worse.”

It’ll be interesting to see how media organisations like FOX News deal with this in pitching their coverage.

3) The “spiritual but not religious” are becoming a serious religious demographic

Morality, according to polls, is increasingly believed not to necessitate a belief in a god, or in God. The nones are now the biggest single religious demographic amongst Democrats, and that is a vital statistic. Socially liberal younger generations are to be considered more thoughtfully in future elections, one would predict.

In the polarising political landscape, from my point of view, it is important that this demographic of nones becomes politically engaged. There is no point being an increasingly sizeable proportion of the voting public if there is also a burgeoning political apathy.

4) Christian nationalism is on the rise

And the polarisation is clear to see in the rise of Christian nationalism, as those white evangelicals shout louder than everyone else. Trump has equally appeased the old (white) evangelical stalwarts, as well as the newer generations thereof. They are still a force to be reckoned with, with a good command of media and resources. As Vox reports:

Yet they have a whole media infrastructure to prop them up. CBN launched a new Facebook Live show, Faith Nation, which one could say doubles as a Trump administration propaganda mouthpiece, regularly casting Trump as a divinely chosen leader. Evangelical advisory board figures like Robert Jeffress, of First Baptist Dallas, lead pro-Trump rallies at their churches and imply that God has made Trump president.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to champion policies that support the Christian nationalist agenda, including an approach to geopolitics focused on hastening the end of days (and the second coming of Christ). Trump’s controversial decision to move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, for example, was seen by many as a concession to camps within the evangelical community that see it as a necessary step on the road to Christian apocalypse….

The rhetoric of Christian nationalism will only get stronger — especially if the Trump administration faces direct challenges to his presidency, like fallout from the Russia investigation. In that case, Trump will need to hold on to his core supporters, or convince them to take action on his behalf. By casting his political troubles as a cosmic battle between good and evil, Trump may be able to galvanize his base to do just that.

There is a strong belief in Trump’s administration that the ends justify the means. This was no more evident than in many evangelicals’ unwavering support for Roy Moore. There is a really powerful cognitive dissonance associated with deeply morally conservative Christians and the people they vote for. No amount of rationality is useful here.

There’s little reason to be optimistic in 2018

When it comes to the rise of Christian nationalism and the increase in hate crimes alike, there’s little reason to believe anything will necessarily improve next year. Even if the Trump administration does collapse, there is little reason to be optimistic about how it will affect ethnoreligious minorities in America.

The greatest trick Christian nationalists — or their more explicit cousins to the right, white nationalists — have up their sleeve is to claim they are being persecuted.

The persecution narrative has been around for some time. It bubbled over in Trump’s ridiculous comments about Christmas this year.

It will be worth keeping an eye (though the media will not fail to keep us updated on this) on the dynamics between politics and religion. Watch this space.

Read the great Vox article for more information.

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...

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