By Aaron Earls
Most adults in the United States believe churches have a positive impact in our society, but they still don’t want them involved in politics.
A Pew Research study found a majority of Americans say churches and religious organizations do more good than harm (55%) and strengthen morality (53%) in American society. Half (50%) say churches mostly bring people together.
More than 3 in 5 Christians see religion playing a positive role in those areas—do more good than harm (70%), strengthen morality (67%), and mostly bring people together (64%).
Even many religiously unaffiliated see religion as a force for good. Around 3 in 10 say religion does more good than harm (31%), strengthen morality (29%), and mostly bring people together (26%).
Still, Americans on the whole are adamant they don’t want to see churches engaged in politics.
More than 3 in 5 (63%) say churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters, while 36% say they should express their views on social and political questions.
An even larger majority (76%) say churches should not come out in favor of one candidate over another during political elections. Around a quarter (23%) disagree.
This is similar to a 2016 Lifeway Research study that found 79% of Americans say it is inappropriate for pastors to publicly endorse a political candidate during a church service.
Around 4 in 5 adults (81%) also believe it is inappropriate for churches to use their resources to campaign for candidates for public office, according to Lifeway Research.
In the Pew Research study, Christians are more divided on the church’s role in politics.
Seven in 10 American Christians agree that churches should not support one candidate over another.
However, they are essentially split on whether churches should keep out of political matters (50%) or express their views on social and political questions (48%).
Evangelicals and black Protestants are slightly more open to political involvement than Christians as a whole.
Among both groups, 43% say churches should keep out of political matters, with majorities (55% of evangelicals, 54% of black Protestants) saying they should express their views on the issues.
A clear majority of both groups oppose endorsements (66% of evangelicals, 55% of black Protestants), but are less likely to do so than Christians overall.
Americans as a whole are divided about how much influence churches and religious organizations have in politics—37% say too much, 34% say about the right amount, and 28% say not enough.
Evangelicals (48%) and black Protestants (54%) are most likely to say churches don’t have enough influence in politics.
Among the various age demographics, adults under 30 (47%) are most likely to say churches have too much political influence.
Whether they are actually political engaged or not, most Americans believe religion is no longer as influential as it has been.
More than 3 in 4 Americans (78%) say religion is losing influence in American life, including 42% who say the waning influence is a bad thing.
Only 17% of the nation say religion is losing influence and that is a good thing.
One in 5 (20%) believe religion is actually gaining influence, including 6% who say that is a bad thing and 10% who see it as a positive.
Among Christians, 58% say religion is losing its influence and that is a bad thing. Evangelicals (68%) are the group most likely to say this.
Around 1 in 5 Christians (21%) say religion is gaining influence, with 14% saying this is a good thing.
Black Protestants are most likely to believe religion is gaining influence (33%) and see it as a positive (22%).
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.