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.
The Biblical book of Isaiah has been in the news, thanks to a verse that’s leading some evangelical Christians to believe that the escalating violence in Syria is a sign of the end times. Syria and its cities are mentioned in the Bible several times, most notably the city of Damascus, where the apostle Paul converted to Christianity. Isaiah 17:1 reads, “Damascus will no longer be a city, but will become a heap of ruins.” Although many biblical scholars would argue the verse is from “an ancient poem about an ancient context,” others believe it speaks to God’s ultimate plan for humanity. Christian bookstores have reported an increase in “book sales of prophecy-themed works,” during the growing escalation of conflicts in the Middle East. Three-quarters (76%) of white evangelical Protestant Americans believe God is in control of everything that happens in the world. Roughly 3-in-10 (29 percent) white evangelical Protestants believe that the end of the world, as predicted in the book of Revelation, will happen in their lifetime.
However, few evangelical leaders support military intervention, at least according to a new survey conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals. A poll conducted by the NAE found more than 6-in-10 evangelical leaders are opposed to U.S. intervention in the conflict, while more than one-third of NAE leaders said they support congressional authorization. A CNN poll shows evangelical leaders share views similar to the general public, with almost 6-in-10 (59 percent) Americans saying Congress should not pass the resolution for U.S. military action in Syria.