America is finally experiencing that long-anticipated revival, but one very different from what conservatives anticipated. Instead of Billy Graham preaching about Jesus and filling football stadiums, today’s prophets turn to the internet and cable television to extol more worldly gospels. While some conservatives invest their hopes in the political realm, looking for candidates to be their savior, it is more often young liberals turning to secular substitutes to fill the void previously occupied by the holy. Politics is displacing religion and plays an outsized role in the lives of many liberals who still have faith, occupying some of the importance it used to enjoy. Whereas progressives once turned to the church for inspiration and leadership in the great battles against slavery, racism, and for women’s suffrage, the church is now increasingly seen as a conservative force to be overcome.
Liberals look to politics to provide the transcendent goals that compel heroic sacrifice, give their lives meaning, and separate them from the nonbelievers. They are not satisfied with incremental progress, such as operating a soup kitchen, but rather seek to remake society by identifying structural inequalities that require larger systemic interventions. Because they are unable to fight the actual fascists or slaveowners their predecessors did, they transform anyone who disagrees with them into the moral equivalent of those extraordinary historical villains. Their political opponents are not merely mistaken but morally deficient.