Saturday, March 11, 2023

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Future of Christianity and Democracy

By  Rudy Barnes, Jr., March 11, 2026

Emperor Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, and since then it has become the world’s most popular religion.  But trends change.  Just as white people will no longer be a majority in America in the next 20 years, Christianity is now declining and Islam is predicted to surpass Christianity as the world’s largest religion.

In the 18th and 19th centuries great “Awakenings” stimulated Christianity in America, but slavery became such a dominant issue in the mid-19th century that it split Christian denominations in the North and South.   After the Civil War, race continued to divide Christianity and politics.  William Faulkner once noted that “The past is not dead.  It’s not even past.”  

In 2016 a majority of white Christians elected Donald Trump President despite his narcissism and moral decadence--the antithesis of the altruism taught by Jesus.  Many continue to be motivated by partisan hatred, and support radical right Republicans like Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are neither Christians nor nationalists, but nihilists. 

Partisan polarization is also dividing denominations, including the United Methodist Church, based on alternative sexual preferences and same-sex marriage. The result is an even more fragmented church that continues to limit salvation to Christians and resists moral change.  The traditional neighborhood church has become an artifact of America’s past. 

I grew up in Columbia, S.C. in the 1950s in a United Methodist Church.  It’s where I went to Sunday School, became a Boy Scout, and attended social events.  Today white churches look more like a Republican social club than a church, with mostly older people in the pews.  Black churches remain separate bastions of the Democratic Party in Christianity and politics. 

Many churches have abandoned following the teachings of Jesus and become more partisan.  Christian nationalist congregations growing in Idaho and other Western states where conservative white refugees from California and Washington are flocking to Republican rallies led by radical right Republicans like Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene.  David French has warned that we can’t ignore Greene’s warnings of a “national divorce” of red and blue states.   

Ross Douthat has opined that we can’t predict the future of religion.  Thomas Jefferson once asserted “the teachings of Jesus are the most sublime moral code ever designed by man,” and predicted that most Americans would become Universalists; but Jefferson was wrong.  In 1961, the Universalist Church of America merged with Unitarian Universalists, and all remaining churches continued to promote Christianity as the only means of salvation.

The evolution of the church and democracy in America has been erratic.  That should be expected with popularity is the measure of success in both the church and politics.  Since the teachings of Jesus were never popular, it’s not likely that his teachings on loving our neighbors of other races and religions as we love ourselves will ever supersede populist politics.


On Christian [nationalist] patriots flocking from blue states to Idaho, see;

On Marjorie Taylor Greene's Civil War, see


On David French’s warning to take threats of “national divorce” seriously, see

Ross Doutat cited a 1822 letter from Thomas Jeffereson to the physician Benjamin Waterhouse in which Jefferson expressed his confidence that traditional Christianity in the young United States was giving way to a more enlightened faith, much like Jefferson’s own, in its rejection of the divinity of Jesus Christ. “I trust that there is not a young man now living in the U.S. who will not die an Unitarian.” In 1821 “less than a year earlier in upstate New York, a young man named Charles Grandison Finney began a multiday interplay of prayer and mystical experience that ‌‌led to a moment when, as he wrote later, “it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face … He stood before me, and I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to Him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance.” This experience set Finney on a path that would help bury Jefferson’s confident hypothesis — toward leadership in an age of revivalism, the Second Great Awakening, that forged the form of evangelical Christianity that would bestride 19th-century America and also encouraged a proliferation of novel sects with supernatural beliefs entirely distant from Jefferson’s Enlightenment religion. The history of Finney and Jefferson is a reminder that religious history is shaped as much by sudden irruptions as long trajectories, as much by the mystical and personal as by the institutional and sociological. On why you can’t predict the future of religion, see

America experienced Christian "Awakenings" around the years 1727, 1792, 1830, 1857 and 1882. See Wikipedia,

The consolidation of  the Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association in 1961 created the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1961. See Unitarian Universalism, Wikipedia at › wiki › Unitarian_Universalism.  The consolidation left Jesus without a church.   

On Christian nationalism:

(4/12/19): Musings on Religion, Nationalism and Libertarian Democracy

(8/10/19): Musings on Christian Nationalism: A Plague on the Church and Democracy

(12/5/20): Musings on the Preference of White Christians for Demagoguery over Democracy

(3/26/22): Musings on Civil Religion, Christian Nationalism, and Cancel Culture

(11/5/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Jesus, the Church and Christian Nationalism

(11/12/22): Musings on the Need for a Civil Religion in America’s Dysfunctional Democracy

(12/10/22): Musings on the Evolution of  Christianity into the American Civil Religion

On Christian universalism:

(4/5/15): Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light

(4/19/15): Jesus: A Prophet, God’s Only Son, or the Logos

(1/2/16): God in Three Concepts

(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism

(9/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of Christian Universalism

(3/16/19): Musings on the Evolution of Christian Exclusivism to Universalism

(6/22/19): The Universal Family of God: Where Inclusivity Trumps Exclusivity

(11/12/22): Musings on the Need for a Civil Religion in America’s Dysfunctional Democracy

On the future of a church that has lost its moral compass:

(1/7/17): Religion and Reason as Sources of Political Legitimacy, and Why They Matter

(1/21/17): Religion and Reason Redux: Religion Is Ridiculous

(3/3/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Holy War

(7/14/18): Musings on Why Christians Should Put Moral Standards Over Mystical Beliefs

(9/1/18): Musings on the American Civil Religion and Christianity at a Crossroads

(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in a Post-Christian America

(5/4/19): Musings on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

(5/11/19): Musings on the Relevance of Jefferson’s Jesus in the 21st Century

(9/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Chaos as a Prelude to a New Creation

(10/5/19): Musings on the Moral Relevance of Jesus to Democracy

(2/1/20): Musings on the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Altar of Partisan Politics

(4/17/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Future of the Church

(5/15/21): Musings on the Moral Failure of American Christianity and Democracy

(8/14/21): Musings on Conflicting Concepts of God’s Truth in Christianity

(1/15/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Morally Muddled Mainstream

(1/22/22): Musings on Popularity as a Corrupting Influence in Democracy and Christianity

(1/29/22): Musings on the Inadequacy of Religious Moral Standards in American Democracy

(4/30/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Obsolescence of Christianity in Politics

(8/6/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Moderating Hatred in Partisan Politics

(8/13/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religion and the Wisdom of God

(12/10/22): Musings on the Evolution of  Christianity into the American Civil Religion

(12/24/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Myopic Methodist Schism

(1/7/23): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Evolution of Religion and Politics

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