The Trump era has revealed divisions among Catholics and evangelicals

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Almost a quarter of a century has passed since some of America’s most prominent Catholics and evangelical Christians published some sort of joint manifesto. The document titled “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” emphasized how much the two groups had in common, both spiritually and in their views on public policy, and promised to work together. to further narrow differences. After all, he said, “everyone who accepts it [Jesus] Christ as Lord and Savior is my brothers and sisters in Christ.” While accepting and indeed analyzing the theological bugs of both sides, he identified a common interest in causes such as opposing abortion, reducing pornography and a ‘promoting “parental choice” in education.

At the time, the call was seen both as a rallying cry for the future and as a recognition of how far both sides had gone towards a bridge that once looked great. There were fresh memories of a time when most evangelical Christians had almost defined themselves against a Catholic church which, as they saw things, was distorting the Bible’s message significantly by to add additional teaching. The arrival of a Catholic president, in John F Kennedy, was still remembered by hard evangelicals as a dark time because, despite his promises to the contrary, they could never overcome their suspicion that he would put loyalty to Rome before his native country. .

So how do things stand now? One change is that the secular and liberal forces that led evangelicals and Catholics together in 1994 have become much stronger. The latest numbers, based on some calculations by Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University, suggest that “non-believers” (those who reject any formal spiritual connection) has entered a place equal to evangelicals and Catholics as a category of America. citizens: each of the three groups now makes up about 23% of the population, according to data cited by the Religious News Service. (In recent years, the decline of mainline or liberal Protestantism and the rise of “nones” have been two of the most glaring trends in American religion.)

As an article in the Jesuit America magazine stated, the slogan “stand up and be counted” was adopted by Protestants, around 1960, to encourage the faithful while holding their ground against progress. Catholicism. These days, it shows the determination of Protestants and Catholics to work together and bring back full of godless humanity.

Abortion was already a highly sensitive political issue in 1994 and has lost none of its prominence; Since then the advancement of gay rights and a new understanding of sexuality and gender have created more incentives for conservative Catholics and evangelicals to work together on what, in their common vocabulary, defines as family values ​​and reasons for life. In the earliest skirmishes of America’s culture wars, abortion was largely a Catholic issue, and some evangelicals took pro-choice positions. Now, as one of the most tangible products of Catholic-evangelical cooperation, the latter group at least matches and perhaps surpasses rank-and-file Catholics in anti-Semitism. to terminate a pregnancy.

The inter-Christian collaboration has been in a Supreme Court battle in recent years regarding the right of employers to opt out of abortion coverage for their employees. Whether the lawyers were an evangelical retail chain like Hobby Lobby, or a Catholic religious order like the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic and evangelical activists were united in offering free legal advice and cheering for those who were opting out. Whatever else they think of the current administration, conservative Christians generally applaud its effort to widen the path favored by employers.

However, some have predicted that the presidency of Donald Trump, approved in large numbers by evangelical Christians and with a smaller margin by white Catholics, will move the two sides apart. America’s Catholic bishops, at least, have obvious differences with the current president, often over the very policies that conservative evangelicals warm to. These include the Trump administration’s hard line on immigration and its determination to secure the southern border; and America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to the delight of Christian Zionists and the dismay of Christian churches, including Catholics, who have deep roots in the Middle East.

But it would be closer to the mark to say that the Trump era (and the Francis papacy) has deepened ideological divisions within both the Catholic and evangelical worlds. Hispanic and liberal Catholics love the current pontiff for his support for migrants and the global south; conservatives yearn for the metaphysical assertions made by their predecessors. Within the evangelical scene, there are zealous pro-Trump people who are more interested in politics than theology, such as Jerry Falwell junior, who praise the president not on religious grounds but to make America strong. People of that struggle have little apparent interest in discussing metaphysics with Catholics, and their theology is often very sectarian. And then, among both Catholics and evangelicals, especially the younger ones, there are those who are politically progressive who may sometimes come together to oppose the president, saying about change climate, but only as part of a much wider coalition.

In any case, all that remains is the relationship that has developed between moderate religious conservatives, often religious intellectuals, from different denominations, in other words just the kind of people who put the ECT together in the first place. One such figure, evangelical theologian Russell Moore, told Erasmus that the expectations raised in 1994 had been too high in some ways and too cautious in others. “The ECT gave the impression of more unity than there really was,” said Mr. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Freedom Commission, which is the policy arm of Southern Baptists. “But the relationship is strong, even if neither side is a monolith,” he said.

Perhaps the statement in 1994 did not take too much into account the importance of theological differences and how they could be sustained, for example in relation to the Catholic belief in honoring the Virgin Mary and the saints. On the other hand, the signatories could not have predicted how deep and beneficial the inter-Christian partnership would be in some areas. In what they see as a dangerous age of secularism, Catholics have come to appreciate more clearly the Protestant emphasis on individual acts of conscience, made against confident authority. And some Protestants, at least, acknowledge their debt to Catholic thought as a path to what they call a holistic vision for life that opposes both abortion and euthanasia. In Latin America, and to some extent among Latino immigrants to the United States, the Catholic and evangelical churches are in competition for souls; but that does not seem to have prevented strong pan-Christian alliances on common issues.

Some policy issues, however, will continue to divide the two camps. The Catholic church now opposes the death penalty unconditionally; many evangelicals support it as a principle. But at least both sides are more aware than ever of their metaphysical commonalities. They agree to see one particular execution, one that established their religion nearly 2,000 years ago, as a cosmic event that signifies.

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