A new survey shows how divided our country has become politically—and it extends to our religious leaders, as well.
From The New York Times:
America’s pastors – the men and women a majority of Americans look to for help in finding meaning and purpose in their lives – are even more politically divided than the rest of us, according to a new data set representing the largest compilation of American religious leaders ever assembled. Like their congregants, religious leaders have sharply divided themselves along political lines. Leaders and congregants of Unitarian and African Methodist Episcopal churches are overwhelmingly Democratic, as are those of Reform and Conservative Jewish synagogues. Those of several Evangelical and Baptist churches are overwhelmingly Republican. If religious denominations were states, almost all of them would be considered “Safely Democratic” or “Safely Republican,” with relatively few swing states. “It’s a reflection of the ongoing sorting we have in American life,” said Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University. “Why would we think that religion is immune to that?”
And there’s this:
…There’s also evidence that religious leaders’ politics can simply reflect those of their congregants. Surprisingly, this pattern is particularly strong with Roman Catholics, even though the Catholic Church is a highly centralized organization where individual parishes do not choose their leader. As a group, Catholics and their pastors are a swing state, nearly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Yet this masks a wide regional variance: Catholics in states like Kansas, South Dakota and Oklahoma are more Republican, while those in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maryland are more Democratic. The researchers found that Catholic priests’ political affiliations varied just as much, with a nearly linear relationship between the partisanship of priests and congregants across states. That is, congregations that tended to be strongly Republican were, on average, more likely to have Republican-registered priests, and more liberal parishes were more likely to get priests registered as Democrats. “While, logically, there are other explanations for the match between Catholic priests and their parishioners, the most compelling is that the Catholic hierarchy seeks to place their priests in politically congenial places,” said David Campbell, a co-author of “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us,” in an email.