Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
Welcome to the Morning Buzz, PRRI’s morning dose of religion-related news with a shot of data – because what doesn’t liven up a morning round-up like some public opinion numbers?
An openly gay Mormon was selected for LDS church leadership in San Francisco. The church’s bishop said that he wanted, in part, to try to draw back members of the congregation that had stopped attending church. PRRI research shows that this could be a smart move, if the goal is to bring in younger Mormons; in our recent report, we found that overwhelming numbers of Millennials think that churches risk losing young member is they are too judgmental about gay and lesbian relationships.
Meanwhile, during his visit to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI said that Catholics cannot tolerate same-sex marriage. This does not mesh with public opinion among lay Catholics, at least in the United States; a PRRI report from last March shows that Catholics are more supportive of legal recognitions of same-sex relationships, including same-sex marriage, than members of any other major Christian tradition and Americans overall.
Evangelical leaders seem to be lining up behind Rick Perry, perhaps in part because of Perry’s use of sectarian religious rhetoric that Dr. Robert P. Jones expounds upon in a recent piece for “Figuring Faith”. There’s been considerable debate over the past few days, though, about whether Perry is down in the polls since last Thursday’s debate.
President Obama criticized the audience at last week’s Republican debate, saying that booing a gay service member is “not reflective of who we are.”
A history scholar analyzes Christian apocalypticism and American politics in an op-ed for the New York Times. Interestingly, in a survey last spring, PRRI found that a significant number of Americans believe that natural disasters are signs of the end times.
And although they still can’t drive, women in Saudi Arabia can now vote. Perhaps more news-worthy, however – a Spanish pastry chef invented a perfume that smells like dessert. Seems a little masochistic to me.
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