Christian activists on both sides are complicit in the demonization of the enemy. According to Hunter, they have “embraced a means to power that seethes with resentment, anger, and bitterness for the injury they believe they have suffered.” Hunter calls this posture “ressentiment,” and it fits the narrative of a declining Christian America. But in resorting to ressentiment, Christians undermine the message of the very gospel they desire to advance. In fact, Hunter says that many evangelical political activists are “functional Nietzscheans.” Both liberal and conservative Christians have become “instrumentalized on behalf of different party structures, jockeying for power.” They seem more animated by the deadly sins than the fruits of the spirit.
Beyond the effects on evangelicals’ souls, it has devastating effects on their Christian witness. In their study of contemporary religion, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam and Notre Dame political scientist David Campbell write that the extraordinary rise of people who affiliate with no religion is due in part to their rejection of its entanglement with politics. Today 20 percent of the population says they have no faith. Putnam and Campbell write, “A growing number of Americans, especially young people, have come to disavow religion. For many, their aversion to religion is rooted in unease with the association between religion and conservative politics. If religion equals Republican, then they have decided that religion is not for them.”