In 1564 – 56 years before the departure of the Mayflower – French pilgrims settled in Fort Caroline (near Jacksonville, Florida) in search of European religious freedom. While Pilgrims and Puritans arrived in New England in the early 1600s promising that no religious belief or political persuasion would separate people from one another, the sermons, fights, and laws that followed proved opposite.
In Massachusetts, only Christians could hold public office. Catholics were banned from serving in New York. Jews did not have full civil rights in Maryland. Delaware required an oath to Christianity.
The mix of religious beliefs and politics continues to this day, causing a major disconnect. It is well known that there is a large generational divide in American politics: most Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z favor the Democratic Party while the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation primarily cater to the GOP (Pew Research Center).
As a baby boomer with grandchildren born during the Gen Z era, I think more and more about young people and their future than the fate of my older peers. The values of Gen Z, born after 1996, may be the best group to focus on when predicting the future.
The Springfield Research Institute, a non-partisan nonprofit, found that “50% of 13-25 year olds don’t think religious institutions care as much as they do about issues that matter to them deeply.” , The Wall Street Journal reported on October 26. Issues such as racial justice, gender equality, immigration rights, LGBTQ, income inequality and gun control are seldom addressed in religious institutions and cause youth disconnection by relationship to spirituality.
Many would argue that these are the same issues that separate many supporters of the Democratic Party from the hardline GOP. In the world of politics as well as in faith centers, we have learned from the Holy Bible that from the mouths of babies – who are honest and innocent – come truth and wisdom.
A January 2020 Pew Research Center study found that only 22% of 13 to 25 year olds approved of the actions of former Donald Trump and the Republican Party, while 77% went against their peers. Gen Z individuals represent the vanguard of the country’s changing racial and ethnic makeup. They are on their way to becoming the best educated generation and 70 percent think the government should do more to fix the problems.
Robert P. Jones, founding CEO of the non-partisan Institute for Public Religion Research, while speaking about the religious and cultural divide between Democratic and GOP voters on CNN in 2019, said “if current trends continue … Republicans (will) look like America did in the mid-1990s, while Democrats (will) make the country look like a decade from now. “
Imagine the reaction of a 25-year-old teenager or adult reading an October 25 article in Vice News that states that “25% of all white evangelical Protestants agree that the government, media and financial worlds in the United States- United are controlled by a group of devil-worshiping pedophiles, a key QAnon conspiracy.
Or imagine a 13-25-year-old listening to a religious leader or politician support conspiracy theories, brag about disinformation about critical race theory, same-sex marriage and transgender rights, and claim that the 6 January at the Capitol was appropriate.
If the leaders of organized churches, synagogues, temples and mosques as well as the leaders of political parties wonder why there are divisions, conflicts and disconnection between the young and the old, they have not. need to look beyond what their respective group preaches, teaches and embraces.
It is time for both political parties, centers of faith and their respective believers to begin to heal America; it starts with them.
Steve Corbin is Emeritus Professor of Marketing at the University of Northern Iowa. firstname.lastname@example.org