Is evangelical faith in decline today? Is abortion the main political issue for Christians? Do pastors talk about politics too much from their pulpits? Political scientist Ryan Burge upends much of the conventional wisdom about the mixture of religion and politics. Join Sean and Scott as they discuss Dr. Burge's surprising findings about the intersection of Christian faith and politics.

Ryan Burge is Assistant Professor of Political Science as well as the Graduate Coordinator at Eastern Illinois University. He is the author of The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going. He is also the author of 20 Myths About Religion and Politics in America.

Episode Transcript

Scott Rae: Is evangelicalism in decline? Is it true that researchers are biased towards Christians? Is it true that college leads young people away from religion? These are some of the myths we're going to talk about today as we explore with our guest, Dr. Ryan Burge, professor of political science at Eastern Illinois university. I'm Scott Rae.

Sean McDowell: And I'm Sean McDowell.

Scott Rae: And this is a Think Biblically from Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. So Ryan, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate your research on this. And I have to admit there were some of these myths about religion and politics I held myself until I read your book.

Ryan Burge: Well, that makes me feel very good about writing the book then.

Scott Rae: Well, tell us a little bit about what motivated you to write this. And in particular, I'm interested in, how did you select the 20 myths that you picked? Because I suspect you left a lot of stuff on the table that's going to find its way into a book down the line.

Ryan Burge: Yeah. I'm actually keeping like a running note on my phone of all the myths I'm hearing in the last couple months that I could add to the second edition of such a book. But really it just came about by being online and doing podcasts and reading news articles and just seeing these kind of same persistent facts in air quotes, being kind of thrown out there by Christians and non-Christians alike about how the world works religiously, politically, how they interact. And I just wanted to kind of put down like in a concrete way of saying like, the thing that you believe about this is probably not as right as you think it is, or it's a lot more nuanced than you think it is. And I want to show you in a very digestible, easy to understand way. Because each chapter's written not for an academic audience, for the general audience. Like 2,000 words, a couple graphs, read this and change your mind about this thing. And the 20 myths I picked, I try to pick some myths that I thought that people on the left would be challenged by. And then I tried to pick some myths that people on the right would be challenged by. Because that's the thing about myth busting. It's not partisan. I mean, everyone believes things that aren't true. And it's our job I think is empirical social scientists to kind of cut through all that and say, you both are wrong sometimes let's try to clear that up.

Sean McDowell: Just to give our audience some context. Some of these myths are things like you have to go to church frequently to be an evangelical. Evangelicalism is in decline. Researchers are biased toward Christians. You have 20 of these, but I'm curious, what was the most surprising myth about religion and politics that you didn't see coming?

Ryan Burge: Yeah, the one that keeps popping up that's so interesting is when I send out like a review copy of the book to the editor, let's say, like the Wall Street Journal, they picked up on the education. Doesn't lead people away from religion one, and then I send it out to another online publication and they wanted to run the same piece. Because that's a one that's very like persistent in our culture is the idea you send your kids away to college and they find an atheist philosophy professor. And all of a sudden they come back quoting Nietzsche and forgetting all about Jesus. That's just empirically false. Kids who go to college are actually more religious than kids who don't go to college. And that's been true for the last 40 years in all kinds of data. And it's even true today. Kids who go to college are actually just as likely to be atheist as young people who don't go to college. So there's not this sort of these atheist professors indoctrinating young people to leave their faith behind. It's forces way outside of what happens in the classroom that does things like that.

Scott Rae: Ryan, one of the things that runs throughout your book and comes up in a number of these myths that are addressed, is the public's attitude toward quote, the facts. And you make the point that today, today, people are not only entitled to their own opinion, but also feel entitled to their own set of facts. Can you spell out a little bit further how has the public's attitude toward facts changed over the last say 20 years or so?

Ryan Burge: Yeah, I think the problem is now that... I mean, it started with the 24 hour news networks in the late 1990s where you could sort of watch whatever news network reinforced your worldview and your political position. And then you didn't hear any facts that may have contradicted your worldview, because we don't like cognitive dissonance. We don't like to hear things that might prove us wrong. So we started watching news networks that reinforce our worldview and we were never challenged by people on the other side who were smart, articulate, well intentioned. And then you add social media to that, which allows us to completely curate what we see, what we view, who we share with, what we talk about. So we never hear the other side in a meaningful way. And so we kind of collect these facts that make us feel better about our own positions. When in reality, there's probably facts on the other side that should make us feel less good about the positions that we're in. So we sort of construct our own world where everything makes sense to us, but in an objective kind of 1,000 foot view, it doesn't really make sense, because everything you're reading, everything, you're doing, everything you're watching is basically just reinforcing this worldview that you have. And if all your friends agree with you, all the media, you watch agrees with you. I think that's incredibly problematic because if we can't agree on facts, how do we move forward as a democracy that's based on compromise if you think that I'm lying to you all the time. And I think that you're lying to me all the time? How can we come to an objective reality of what's really happening in America and how to solve those problems? And we can't even agree on basic numbers and statistics about things.

Sean McDowell: That's one of the side effects of social media and smartphones. We often don't realize that we can literally construct our own realities and live in it, and not be challenged by opposing views. Now, this is an example of the kind of disruption of conventional wisdom that you do throughout the book. And one of the points that you push back at is this idea that evangelical faith is in decline. What do you think the data shows?

Ryan Burge: Well, if you look at data from the general social survey, which started in 1972, GSS is considered basically the gold standard survey for people who do the kind of work that I do. The share of Americans who are evangelical today is actually larger than it was in 1972, which means the raw number, the actual number of evangelicals in America today is larger today than it was 40 years ago. Now there was a peak of evangelicalism in the mid 1990s when they reached about 30% of the American population. Today, they're probably by tradition, they're probably 22%, 23% of the American population. So they are down from the 1990s peak. But there are more evangelicals in America today than there are 40 years ago. And if you ask people to self-identify as evangelical, we just ask you the question, do you consider yourself born again or evangelical or not it was 33% of people said yes to that question in 2008, it's 34% said yes to that question in 2020. So what we're seeing is not this mass axis away from evangelicals. Evangelicals have just as large cultural cache today as they had 40 years ago. And I think in some ways it's actually growing because of how much focus there is on them in the media and on social media in places like that.

Scott Rae: Ryan, let's talk a little bit about the nones for just a moment. Those who claim no religious affiliation. You've written an entire book on this segment of the population and you found what I found to be some pretty interesting data on this group. What accounts for this seemingly growing segment of the population?

Ryan Burge: Yeah, a lot of things. I mean, you would have to revoke my social science card if I say it's just one simple trick. That's why people are leaving church in droves. It's a bunch of things. I think one of it is politics. I think it's impossible for us to ignore the impact of politics in American society. For instance, about 35% of people who say they're liberal, have no religious affiliation. It's only about 10% of people who say they're conservative and that gap has grown wider and wider over time. Now we know that about half of white liberals say they have no religious affiliation. So we're seeing this sort of political divide drive a religious divide in this country. And we talk a lot about political polarization. We need to talk a lot more about religious polarization because the Republican party's basically become the party of conservative religion, whether it be Catholicism, Protestant, Christianity, Judaism, or anything like that. And the Democrats have, have largely become the party of people who have no religious affiliation. That's one piece of it. Another, I think that we need to think about very carefully is secularization, which is this sociological concept that as society becomes more educationally advanced and economically prosperous they just kind of throw off religion. Western Europe is sort of like the keystone for that. If you look at places like Finland, Norway, Spain, France, Germany, those countries are basically post religious. We're talking less than 10% of those folks go to church on a weekly basis. And then kind of wrapping up all that stuff together, especially in the United States, it's the rise of the internet. I mean, I don't think we fully understand, and we probably won't fully understand for decades, the impact the internet had, especially on young people. Because you could go online now and find out information about your faith or another faith in five or 10 minutes in these really cool, well constructed, well research videos. And we couldn't do that 20 years ago.

Scott Rae: Like somebody's YouTube channel, I know.

Ryan Burge: Yeah exactly.

Sean McDowell: I'm really curious. You intersect a lot with politics here and you have some interesting findings about the political views of white evangelicals. What did you discover Ryan?

Ryan Burge: Yeah. So white evangelicals are this... They sort of become like this totem for all these things that the left, especially on social media talks a lot about. So there's this idea that floats around... There's this book in 2004, came out called What's the Matter with Kansas by Thomas Frank. And he basically argues that Kansas used to be liberal, but now it's conservative because a bunch of Republicans have convinced Christians to vote for them because of gay marriage and abortion, when really their economic self interest is to vote for the Democrats. If you look at the data now, white evangelicals vote for the Republicans? Not just because of abortion or gay marriage or CRT or anything like that, but for things like taxation and regulation and views of Obamacare. So white evangelicals are completely on board with the Republican platform in all aspects of policy, not just social, moral policy, but also economic policy and even foreign policy. So they're really the center tent poll of the Republican party. They don't really disagree with them with the mainstream Republicans on basically anything now.

Scott Rae: So let me follow up on that. I think it's widely assumed in the broader culture that for conservative Christians, abortion, the sanctity of life, things like that, those things are the most important political issues. But you found that to be a myth.

Ryan Burge: Yeah. I think abortion has this very odd hold on the American psyche of, we just think that white evangelicals go to the polls and they're single issue voters when it comes to abortion. But if you actually ask them the question... There was a question in 2018 PRI asked white evangelicals how important is abortion to you? Is it a deal breaker is just one of many important issues or do you not care about it at all. Only 25% of white evangelicals said that abortion was a deal breaker for them, on election day. So it's really not this single issue voting thing. They really like the Republican party across the board on a whole number of issues. I think abortion just animates the media in ways that regulation, taxation does not animate the media. And when we see the protests and all those things. We want to make politics a lot more simple than it actually is. It's actually really, really complicated. And white evangelicals, I think they would actually vote for a pro-choice Republican, as long as that Republican had their same views on guns and abortion and taxation and foreign policy. I just don't think it's... It's one of many issues that are important to them, but is not the most important issue to them.

Scott Rae: That's quite a statement to make that it's apparently not the deal breaker that we thought it was. One of the other things that I found interesting on the subject of abortion was that I think it's widely assumed that attitudes toward abortion tend to be somewhat malleable. People can change their minds about this, but you found just the opposite. You found that that's a myth. Over the last 50 years sort of what's happened to our societal attitudes toward abortion.

Ryan Burge: Haven't changed much, to be honest with you. In the last couple years, you're seeing some movement, the left has become more leftist on abortion. You see Republicans becoming a little less supportive of abortion in places like in the case of rape or severe fetal defect. But generally speaking abortions, a really fascinating public opinion topic because it hasn't changed. If you compare that to something like same sex marriage where in 1988, about 18% of Americans are in favor of same sex marriage. And now it's over 70% are in favor of same sex marriage or legalizing marijuana or something like that. You see a lot of movement over a quick period of time. Abortion just does not move. The American public on abortion has very conflictual views. The median American is sort of okay with abortion, but just doesn't want to think about it very much. So they kind of... What's funny is there's this really interesting piece that was done in Notre Dame, Trisha Bruce, this great researcher asked over 150 people in really in depth interviews about abortion. And she would ask them the question one way, then ask them another way. And she would say "You know you just contradict yourself on your answers." And they would say, "I guess I did, didn't I." They fully recognize they don't hold consistent views on abortion. Because most Americans, the vast majority of Americans kind of fall in the mushy middle where they don't want to make it completely legal. They also don't want to make it completely illegal either. They want it legal in some circumstances. And how do you work out a policy that kind of gets there? It's really hard to figure out.

Sean McDowell: There's a lot of talk about evangelicals and white evangelicals. And I got to admit I'm skeptical of any data about evangelicals. And that's just because I've interacted with religious writers at the New York Times, CNN and I get the impression, they don't know what an evangelical is. And I don't think many evangelicals know what that means. We confuse it with a political term, a religious term. So how in your research do you come to the conclusion that you can confidently say white evangelicals believe A, B or C given some of the confusion that's potentially there.

Ryan Burge: Yeah. So I take a really, I don't know if it's like a contrarian view of this or just a very simple view of this. But my whole thing, Maya Angelou said, "If people show you who they are, believe them." If you tell me you're an evangelical on a survey, you're an evangelical in my world. So like my job then is to figure out like why you call yourself that? Because I think the general culture, especially like on the left think to evangelicalism is like a toxic term. It's like radioactive, people want to run away from it. But then why are more and more people grabbing onto that label over the last couple of years? I mean the fact that 33% of Americans still said they're evangelical in 2021 is fascinating to me. What we're seeing is like it's jump the fence. And I had a debate with Andrew Walker about this, for the Gospel Coalition a couple weeks ago. It's now a social and cultural term. And I think to me, my job is not to say, well, it can't be that. You have to believe in the crucicentrism and things like this to be an evangelical. My thing is to try to figure out, if you say yes in a survey to you're evangelical, then my job is to figure out why you said yes, even though you don't go to church, let's say.

Sean McDowell: So that makes sense. It just shows that it's a distinct question from those who really do hold certain biblical, theological convictions as it's been defined in the past. So not right or wrong. But like you said, Crucicentrism and people are bringing different understandings to the table, which maybe just lends to a little confusion with the data.

Ryan Burge: Yeah. And I think from my job... My job's not to be patriarchal. And say like, you can't be an evangelical.

Sean McDowell: Right.

Ryan Burge: If you, if you say you're one, you're one in my world.

Sean McDowell: That makes sense.

Ryan Burge: And so I'm not a gatekeeper. I mean, you keep your own gates. If you want to be part of that tribe, go right ahead. So my job is to not be prescriptive, but just say, "Hey, why are you doing this?" And let's try to figure out what makes... Why you choose this, even though you don't go to church, why do you think evangelicalism is a label? Why do you think those people are people like you? Like, why is that your tribe? Like we got to figure that part out. And I think we've only really begun to understand this over the last five or six years.

Scott Rae: And I think culturally it's widely assumed that black Christians overwhelmingly vote democratic and are politically liberal. I mean, that's a myth that I've accepted for a long time. You've found something quite different from that to be true. What is actually the case?

Ryan Burge: Yeah. So I think that we say like black Protestants are liberals that they don't call themselves liberals. Actually the majority of them call themselves moderate, ideologically, but they're strongly Democrats. So we have to kind of disentangle the idea of ideology versus partisanship. So partisanship is like, what are you, a strong Democrat, strong Republican, independent, something like that. Ideology is, are you conservative, moderate or liberal? And the median black Protestant calls themselves a moderate Democrat. And the reason they do that is because they do vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. 90% of them voted for Joe Biden in 2020. But if you ask them on policy stuff, they look a lot more like moderates. And even on something like same sex marriage, they're definitely moderate on same sex marriage. They're not as conservative, let's say as your white evangelicals are, but they're definitely more conservative than like your atheist liberals are. So they kind of fit in this center, left part of the American lane. So calling them liberal, I think is unfair to them, but also calling them Democrats is very fair to them. Comparing them to atheists who see themselves as being liberal and democratic, they're moderate and democratic. That's the big difference.

Sean McDowell: So is it fair to say that black evangelicals and white evangelicals probably have a lot more in common theologically and politically than we realize? But vote significantly differently because when it comes to politics are just looking at values differently, weighing them differently and hence vote differently. Is that fair?

Ryan Burge: Yeah. I think that's really... We kind of make everything... Like who you voted for becomes like the dividing line. It's like the sheep and the goat. It's like, who did you vote for? You're going to this side or the other side. With black Protestants, I think if you strip that away, you take the Biden vote piece away and you look at them just on their own merits and their own views they look a lot more similar to, let's say a moderate wide evangelical than they do to let's say an atheist. So I think the issue for black Protestants is they always are going to focus on economic policy more so than social policy because they feel that economic policy helps them the most when it comes to things like jobs and education and training and housing and things like that. So they really put economic issues as the number one thing. And they want a more activist government to try to level the playing field economically, which they see as being unlevel right now. And that's really what drives their vote more than let's say abortion or gay marriage or immigration or anything like that.

Scott Rae: Ryan, what about millennials, gen Z? I think it was widely assumed that they are politically in a little different place than their parents' generation. But turns out that... I mean, that's something I held to be true, but you found that to be a myth also. I'm curious why, what the data shows and why you say that.

Ryan Burge: Yeah. So there's this... You see this banging around all the time amongst evangelical blogs and websites and things that these young gen Z evangelicals are a lot more modern on things like the environment or whatever it is. You got to consider the fact that to say you're an evangelical, to be like a 20 year old evangelical in America today is to be very much opposed and far away from the median gen Z person median 20 year old is far, far away from you on things like gay marriage, transgender, abortion. So for you to willingly embrace a label that puts you at odds with a majority of your peers, let's say, in your high school or your college, you've got to really believe this stuff to be true. So there's no Luke warm gen Z evangelicals, they're all in or they're all out. So they're a smaller group. So evangelicals amongst gen Z is less than 10% of gen Z, but that 10%... Think about a reduction on the stove. When you make a reduction, you put a lot of liquid in a pot and you let it cook down over time. And a lot of it boils out, but the flavor that's left in the concentrate is very, very strong. And I think that's what you're seeing with young evangelicals is the ones who still hang around and grab onto the label are doing it for a very good reason. Because they really believe in Orthodox, evangelical theology and politics. And therefore that's why they're grabbing the label. They're not halfway in on this issue and halfway out. So young evangelicals, gen Z evangelicals are actually just as conservative as their grandparents are on political issues.

Sean McDowell: That's fascinating. Now a question I'm curious is how often do pastors discuss politics from their pulpits and how do you assess that number? Because I'm curious, there's some pastors, when we talk about if they discuss politics, we'll be pushing a political party or idea. Others will be talking about here's maybe some principles to approach politics.

Ryan Burge: Yeah. So I had a piece in the Wall Street Journal. I was really pushing back against... There's been a lot of profiles of this guy named Greg Locke over the last six months or so who's this really, I mean, nutty guy from Tennessee, I'll just be honest with you. He thinks that like COVID's a hoax and he said you can't get vaccinated and come to my church and just really being like a caustic. He thinks that autism is demonic possession, that it doesn't actually exist. I mean just very like fringy beliefs in every way. And everyone wants to profile him he's like the median evangelical pastor now. And so we asked church going folks, people will go to church every week, we said over the last 12 months, here's 15 issues check all that apply that your pastor has mentioned from the pulpit over the last 12 months. And there were things from like everything from like immigration to healthcare, to poverty, to war, to Trump, to voting. And 52% of those respondents said they heard one issue from the pulpit or zero issues from the pulpit over the last 12 months. So there's a disconnect here though, by the way, I think pastors think they're being political from the pulpit, but how much is actually getting through the air and down into the pews and the ears and brains of the people sitting in the congregation? I think the answer is very little. So pastors might think they're being political, but that's not actually transmitting to the people in the audience. The people in the audience are not perceiving political discussion from the pulpit. And so I think it's completely fair to say that in most congregations on most Sundays in America, there's absolutely no political discussion that actually gets in the ears and the brains of people sitting in the pews every Sunday.

Scott Rae: Wow. Or at least if it's, if it's being discussed, it's not sticking.

Ryan Burge: That's right. That's the thing is I think... I just saw some data from Iowa in the run up to the 2016 primary, a third of pastors said they were being political from the pulpit. And I'm like, that sounds cool. But the people in the pews are not getting that same message. They're not hearing that political message. Because I think pastors couch things. I can say something very political from the pulpit, but couch it in non-political language. And the average person won't pick up that I'm being political. So there's a disconnect there between what I say and what you hear. And I think that's the more important thing is what are people hearing, not what are people saying? And the reality is that most people are just not hearing political discussion on Sunday morning.

Sean McDowell: Do you think that tells us something about potential media bias? The way this story is told about evangelicals being overly political or would that be a stretch to conclude that?

Ryan Burge: I think there is some of it. I think the media is drawn to sensationalism, no matter what it is on the left or the right. And so they want to point out people who are doing sort of bizarre things on the left and the right. And it just so happens that the narrative around evangelicalism is they're all guys like Robert Jeffress, First Baptist of Dallas who just talks about politics every Sunday and how great Donald Trump is every Sunday. That is not what happened... And listen, I'm a pastor myself, all right. I don't want to get fired. I don't think people realize this. We have no job protection. They can fire me for any reason at any time, and I have no legal recourse because every law with discrimination has a ministerial exception. So that doesn't apply to me. So what am I going to try to do? I'm going to try to walk through the narrow waters of not making anybody mad in my congregation and by being political, what am I going to do? I'm going to turn off a significant portion of not just my congregation, but the larger community outside our doors. Michael Jordan was asked one time, why are you not more political? And he said, because Republicans buy sneakers too.

Sean McDowell: I love that.

Ryan Burge: I think that's what most pastors feel like, what do I gain by being political? And what do I lose? I feel like what I lose is a lot more than what I gain. So I'm just going to avoid all that stuff and kind of be more innocuous. And if I'm going to talk about politics couch it in such a way that the average person doesn't understand I'm being political from the pulpit.

Scott Rae: Ryan, one thing you said a few minutes ago that I would like to come back to and that is that the connection between white evangelicals and the Republican policy agenda. And you pointed out there's a very close match between those two. And it makes me wonder to what degree do you think that white evangelicals political positions are being dictated to them by their faith and how much of that is just sort of towing a Republican party line? So I guess we talk a lot about ensuring that your positions on public policy are driven by your faith, fundamentally. But I'm just wondering what do you think... What's the degree to which that's actually happening among white evangelicals today?

Ryan Burge: So I think that's an interesting discussion about first order issues versus second order issues. So like a first order issue is like abortion, gay marriage, transgender, things of the Bible, I think speak more directly to, and kind of instruct people how to think about these issues. But on something like immigration or taxation or regulation, I don't think the Bible speaks much or certainly not with one voice on those issues. There's a multitude of voices on those issues. So then my question then is how have evangelical sort of coalesced around the ideas on these things like immigration, taxation, regulation when the Bible is bereft of discussing things about this, and pastors are obviously not discussing things like regulations from the pulpit. Where are they getting discipled from? And like I just said, pastors are not talking about politics by and large from the pulpit. That leaves a void in the ideological space for the average person to figure out what do I believe about immigration? They're being discipled by someone. Are they being discipled by someone let's say on Fox news or MSNBC or somewhere on they saw on social media? Are they be just being discipled by pastors and Christian leaders and theologians? I think the answer more and more is that partisanship rules everything around us. And we're now reading the Bible with the partisan lens. We're not looking at politics through a theological view. And I think that says a lot about where we are as a country is that partisanship has become in some ways a weird ideology that shapes everything we say, do and think. And I think from a Christian perspective, that's incredibly problematic for me.

Sean McDowell: Ryan I think one of the things that I think is far more possible than people recognize is to have conversations on these divisive issues. If we do it in the right way, in the right spirit and just have a good strategy to do so. I love as we get to the end of your book, you're just like, here's some practical ways to have these difficult conversations. Give us one or two of the key points that you think would help.

Ryan Burge: Yeah. I think admitting first off that you could be wrong is always a good place to start. Admitting that you can change... Changing your mind is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength. And that's been like over said, but I really think that's true. But I also like asking questions why don't I believe the same thing that you do? Try to convince me of why I think differently about this issue than you do. I think that is incredibly valuable. Because it lets the other person have space to speak and try to convince you. And what I find, oftentimes when I ask for that question, they start talking through what they believe and they actually don't realize what they believe, or haven't fully articulated what they believe. May put them on the spot, makes them explain to you what's going on. And the other corollary to that is please for the love of all that is good and great about this world, do not discuss politics or theology on social media. It is a tremendous waste of time because you're not doing it for the conversation partner. You're doing it for the audience of people who watch you do that. And I think that's being performative in discussion and debate and not actually debating someone in good faith with good intentions. So I think having real life conversations where you're open with the other person and you're willing to be convinced by the other person, why you might be wrong, will actually get you a lot farther in discussion and debate. And you might leave with the exact same opinion you came with, but at least you had an open conversation that wasn't accusatory or inflammatory, and maybe you actually learned more about the other person and actually saw them as another human being, not a different political party than you are.

Scott Rae: Well, that's great advice. I really appreciate that. Ryan, one final question that's got two parts to it. As you look at the mixture of faith in politics at present, what's one thing that you're particularly worried about. And one thing that gives you hope?

Ryan Burge: Yeah, the one thing that I really, really worry about is the fact that most churches in America, especially white churches in America have become political monocultures. Which means that only one voice gets spoken. And I think that's incredibly problematic. In the late 1980s, about 45% of evangelicals were Democrats in about 45% were Republicans, same in the Catholic church, same in the main lines tradition. So Episcopalians, United Methodist Church, United church of Christ, places like that. We had a lot more discussion and debate. And you saw other people with different views as people that you loved and cared about and worked side by side with. You sat in the pews next to Democrats and Republicans, people who were different than you economically, different than you socially. I think that was a great time. And that's why actually where the church is good for democracy, because it creates these spaces for us to have conversation. We're not having spaces like that anymore. Now we just have really, really Republican churches and really, really Democratic churches and a lot of people who left church entirely. So we don't have that common ground to come to and really have discussion and see the other side as real people with real thoughts and fears and hopes and dreams and families just like I have. That's really, really problematic from a democratic standpoint, little D democratic standpoint. What gives me hope is the fact that people are willing to listen to people like me who are trying to not be overtly partisan on one way or the other, trying to be as objective as I can be. Trying to be as neutral as I can be on these issues. And just trying to point out to people where they're thinking incorrectly about things. And I'm really, really heartened by the fact that people read the book and go, "Wow, you really helped me crystallize or change my thinking about this or that or the other thing." I'm really, really hopeful that more people can do the kind of work that I'm doing and the audience will be more and more receptive to the idea that they can change their minds. They can rethink how they view the world and they can move forward knowing that the other side is not as different as you think they are. And that we have a lot more in common than we have different.

Scott Rae: Well, Ryan, I think I speak for Sean on this too, that in reading your book, we both have changed our minds on some things. And I think we both recognized that we had held to some things that were myths. And looking at the data to see what the real story is that you've uncovered, I think has been super helpful for us. And so I want to commend your book to our listeners, 20 myths about religion and politics in America, by Ryan Burge. It's a terrific book. You got to come to this with an open mind, because if you're looking for a book that's simply going to reinforce your already existing prejudices, you're going to be disappointed. So Ryan, we really appreciate you coming on with us. Your book is terrific. We hope it gets a wide readership. And again, we commend it to our listeners. 20 myths about religion and politics in America by our guest Ryan Burge.

Ryan Burge: Thanks guys.

Scott Rae: This has been an episode of the podcast, Think Biblically conversations on faith and culture think biblically podcast is brought to you by Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, offering programs in Southern California and online, including our masters in Christian Apologetics now offered fully online. Visit In order to learn more. If you enjoyed our conversation today with Ryan Burge, give us a rating on your podcast app and please share it with a friend. Thanks so much for listening and remember, think biblically about everything.