The Overlooked Schism

The core divisions among religious Americans, and particularly Christians, are no longer defined by theological issues. The splits are political. The friendly (or at least usually friendly) arguments among believers over back fences and at kitchen tables or backyard barbeques tend not to focus on the Virgin Birth, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, infant baptism, or the nature of the Trinity. More often, they are about issues such as abortion and gay marriage—and about attitudes toward government.

This has led to a peculiar kind of ecumenism. Historically, the defining religious divisions in our politics have been between Protestants and Catholics and between Christians and Jews. (Muslims have arrived to our shores in significant numbers only relatively recently.) In largely homogenous Protestant communities, there were also fierce feuds among denominations, particularly between Methodists and Baptists in smaller Southern towns. As in so many things in our history, racial divisions affected all groups. And many Protestant denominations split along regional lines around the issues of the Civil War. But on the whole, social and theological differences between denominations and faith traditions mattered a great deal.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2007
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