The Separation of Church and State

Growing numbers of Americans no longer attend religious services. How will Christian Nationalists respond?

  Rob Boston

Gallup is out with some new polling data about Americans’ attendance at religious services, and Christian Nationalists aren’t going to like it.

A majority of Americans (56%) say they seldom or never attend religious services, while 30% report they attend services weekly or almost weekly.

Those numbers are quite different from what we saw about 30 years ago. Bob Smietana, a reporter for Religion News Service, reported, “Overall, the percentage of Americans who never attend services has more than doubled since the early 1990s, while the share of those who say they rarely attend has stayed stable, according to Gallup data. An earlier report from Gallup found that in 1992, those who attended weekly (34%) outnumbered those who never attended (14%) by 2 to 1. Since 2018, the number of Americans who never attend services has outnumbered the number who attend weekly.”

Losing their religion?

Polls like this show a clear trend: Growing numbers of Americans are deciding they don’t need a house of worship to have a spiritual life, and some are turning away from religion entirely.

To Christian Nationalists, this is heresy. After all, how are they going to control the flock when there is no flock?

The interesting question is why this is happening. According to some scholars, Americans are leaving houses of worship for fairly mundane reasons. But no matter the reason, declining church attendance is bound to have cultural – and perhaps political – repercussions.

The threat of compelled religion

Christian fundamentalists in America have for decades obsessed over people being “unchurched.” As these numbers grow, we can expect Christian Nationalists to lash out. We’ll see even more attempts by them to use the raw power of government to force people to live under religious rules they do not choose to live under voluntarily. After all, the operational theory of Christian Nationalism is that if people don’t choose to live under your faith’s restrictive rules, you have the right to force them.

Most Americans look at trends like the ones we’re seeing unfold and welcome them. They’re further proof that our system of religious freedom, buttressed by the church-state wall, works. People are free to attend houses of worship or not as they see fit. It’s part of the ebb and flow of a free society.

To Christian Nationalists, this grand measure of freedom is a scary thing. It might lead people to make the “wrong” decisions and live their lives in ways that offend Christian Nationalists.

Looking at this data, Christian Nationalists must realize that time is not on their side and trends are not breaking in their favor. It behooves all of us to be alert. Remember, extremists are most dangerous when cornered.

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