Examining religion and public life
An excerpt from Rev. Nate's sermon,
March 6, 2011
From Monoculturalism to Multiculturalism
Do you believe the United States was established as a Christian nation, is currently a Christian nation, and will remain a Christian nation? Or do you believe that although the Founders came from a variety of Christian denominations they chose not to establish a state religion? This age-old debate leads us to recognize that even today, there remains a lack of unity among Christian traditions, demonstrating that there is not a unified religious majority in the United States. In a country with a plethora of Christian sects and a number of non-Christian traditions, pluralism already exists. We, therefore, need not wait for some future increase in non-western religions to face the complexities of diversity, because the problem of governing pluralism has always existed and will continue into the future. From my perspective, what is changing is our awareness that we are and will continue to be a nation of religious minorities.
With over 1,500 religious groups currently represented, the United States is arguably the most religiously diverse nation in the world. This is at a time when the fastest growing sector associates with no religion. In fact, the religious demographics in the United States have become increasingly complex, as the former predominant Christian traditions–Episcopal, Presbyterian and Congregationalist–have declined by 20 to 40 percent. “The United States now contains seven times more Muslim Americans (6 million), ten times more Buddhists (2 million), nine times more Hindus (1 million), and 220 times more Sikhs (220,000) than it did in 1970.”
In response, there has been resistance to the erection of buildings associated with non- western religious groups, which suggests a new kind of religious animosity. You’ll remember that during the 2010 mid-term elections it became politically advantageous for some candidates to oppose the plans to renovate Park51, a Muslim Community Center in lower Manhattan. They used this issue in particular to tap into the public’s fear of Muslims in general. Could this be another example of history repeating itself?
Our nation acted from religious bias against “Quakers, Shakers, and Catholics in the 18th century; against Catholics, Jews, and Mormons in the 19th century; and against Catholics, Jews, and Sikhs in the early 20th century.” Today, policymakers remain fearful about the new outsiders: Muslims. By 2050, Muslims will surpass Jews to become the third largest denomination. Due to high fertility rates and immigration, non-white Latinos will help move Catholicism from one-quarter to one-third of the total population. In one generation, the historic Protestant majority will become a minority. In one generation, an abundance of non-western religions will have greater representation. In one generation the United States will be even more defined than it is today as a nation of religious minorities. What is a nation of religious minorities? It is a pluralist democracy where no one religious sect, or non-religious group holds the majority of the voting population.
Studies show that by the year 2050, the demographics of the United States will be in striking contrast to that of the country’s first census, which... (click here to read full text, complete with citations).