This deinstitutionalization of the faith has occurred alongside its politicization. It’s hard to believe that in 1976, evangelicals helped deliver the White House to the liberal Democrat Jimmy Carter. But fueled by social issues like abortion, the religious right soon began to exercise broad influence among American Christians. By 2004, “values voters” became so synonymous with the Republican Party that George W. Bush’s re-election was largely attributed to them.
While it’s hard to fault people for voting their conscience, this fusion of religion and politics necessarily forces people to look externally. The sometimes tough love of the Christian faith of my childhood demanded a certain amount of self-reflection and, occasionally, self-criticism. While faith need not be monolithic — it can motivate both voting behavior and character development — focus matters. A Christianity constantly looking for political answers to moral and spiritual problems gives believers an excuse to blame other people when they should be looking in the mirror.
J.D. Vance, “When Paranoia Replaces Piety”, The New York Times (26 June 2016), SR8.