The Republican Party is caught between the good book and some hard truths. Their presidential candidates, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seem to lead off their presidential bids by drawing ideological lines in the sand that quickly shift beneath their feet. Like long-ago Alabama Gov. George Wallace, whose 1968 presidential campaign was fueled by a snarling howl of pro-segregationist rhetoric, DeSantis and others are planted firmly in the white Christian nationalist worldview of yesteryear.
Despite the increase in Bible-thumping attacks on human rights issues for pregnant people and members of the LGBTQ+ community, there is hope—the country as a whole is less religious than ever. A report released last week by the Public Religion Research Institute found that the country’s religious landscape is significantly diversifying. Though Christianity remains the most popular religion in the United States, the proportion of white Christians in the country has dropped from 72 percent to 42 percent , following a steady decline from 1990. Almost 50 percent of our nation’s youth claim no religion at all.
More striking than the precipitous decline of Americans identifying as Christian is the shrinking number of Americans who say religion shapes their worldview. The report shows that today, a mere 16 percent of Americans say religion is the most important thing in their life. A much more significant 29 percent say religion is not essential to them at all. These numbers show a growing dissolution and darkening trend for a Republican Party that finds its policy and rhetoric remarkably out of touch, driving a wedge between itself and the reality of our time.
Politicians like DeSantis have waged a crusade for government control of personal bodily autonomy in state legislatures from north to south. The self-labeled “small government” GOP succeeded in its attacks on abortion and women’s health care at all levels of government. Regulating trans youth policy and medical treatment for trans adults has become a national emergency. Curtailing or eliminating birth control, cutting coverage for life-saving HIV medication, the list goes on. Oh, and let’s not forget the silencing and condemnation of…Disney, America’s font of family entertainment.
With their own brand of hypocritical cancel culture, the modern-day GOP has pushed for, and in many cases enacted, government-mandated censorship in public schools and libraries of anything that doesn’t fit a straight, white, cis-gender, male worldview. The GOP seeks the erasure of any history and culture that doesn’t fit their paradigm. “Parent’s Rights” and “Student Rights” bills designed to preserve a white, Christian male patriarchal perspective, are becoming more aggressive and harmful to free and fair education and the mindset of our youth.
In a continuation of a decades-long campaign, Republicans continue their work to dismantle the structure of public education and public libraries. Republicans seek to codify forced Christian indoctrination in public education with laws demanding the placement of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms, as well as requiring school prayer. The GOP’s efforts to defund public education in favor of taxpayer-funded religious school vouchers are devised to further marginalize those who don’t follow the white Christian line. Republicans are even willing to shut the doors of public libraries that refuse to conform to government-mandated censorship upholding these Christian nationalist ideals.
Today’s GOP is trampling on the values of our democracy, including the separation of church and state, regardless of changing American attitudes. The Catholic Herald said DeSantis would be a “very different kind of Catholic” from religious politicians like President Biden and labeled DeSantis a “culture warrior.” Most of the electorate is standing on the sidelines, watching the Republican race to be first in the hearts of a zealous few.
The threat of their actions looms large over a nation whose identity weighs in the balance. Left unchecked, a majority of free-thinking people will continue to be abused by the remnant of religious fanaticism that belongs back in the Middle Ages.
Kevin Bolling is the executive director of the Secular Student Alliance. He has served in that position since 2017.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
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