My Take: 113th Congress looks like old America
November 16th, 2012
12:01 PM ET

My Take: 113th Congress looks like old America

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The 2012 election has been widely hailed as a diversity moment — a coming out party for an American electorate no longer dominated by white men. And it was a triumph as well for religious diversity, thanks especially to Hawaii, which is sending the first Hindu to the House and the first Buddhist to the Senate.

But is this religious change more symbolic than real? In “Faith on the Hill,” a study on religion in the 113th Congress released Friday by the Pew Forum, the story seems to be static rather than change.

For all the talk of the election of 2012 inaugurating a new era in American politics, Protestants will continue to be overrepresented on Capitol Hill, where they will account for 56% of our representatives versus only 48% of American adults.

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Moreover, the religiously unaffiliated will continue to be scandalously underrepresented in the 113th Congress. Though 20% of American adults are “nones,” there is only one “none” (Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema) in the new congressional delegation.

That said, there are striking differences between Democrats and Republicans in the incoming 113th Congress.

The GOP delegation will be 69% Protestant, while Protestants will account for only 43% of the Democrats. Mormons also lean heavily Republican, with three Democrats versus 12 members of the GOP.

Catholics, by contrast, lean Democratic, accounting for 36% congressional Democrats and 25% of congressional Republicans. Moreover, all the Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in the incoming Congress are Democrats. And all but one of the 32 Jewish members (Virginia Republican Eric Cantor) are, too.

The bottom line? I see two takeaways.

First, this data provides evidence for the now common wisdom that Republicans represent old-fashioned America while Democrats reflect new demographic realities. In the 113th Congress, Republicans will be disproportionately male and disproportionately Protestant. Democrats, by contrast, have a higher portion of women and minority religions.

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Second, this data shows that the much heralded “new America” is still years away. Yes, the Senate will be 20% female, but women are more than 50% of the population. And the U.S. Congress will still be far more Christian (87%) than U.S. adults as a whole (70%).

At least when it comes to religion, the U.S. Congress doesn't yet look like the voters who are sending them to Washington.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Catholic Church • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Judaism • Politics • Polls • United States

soundoff (1,540 Responses)
  1. Don

    It will fade, and they will not be relected, so only 2 more years of this 8th grade silliness from the new GOP. What a bunch of cry babies. However, it do not matter, because the rest of us are moving forward.

    November 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  2. Omg

    78% are Christians in America, not only 70% your moron

    November 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • sam

      This post is full of the correct amount of irony.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  3. Apple Bush

    Christians ignore Jesus

    Christians are Liars

    Jesus made a number of very clear statements about money and wealth in the Bible. For example:

    Matthew 6:19
    Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    Luke 14:33
    Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

    Matthew 6:24
    No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Money.

    Matthew 19:21-24
    Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

    Matthew 19:28-29
    Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

    Luke 9:23-25
    Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

    Matt 13: 22
    The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

    Hebrews 13:5
    Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

    Phil 2:3
    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

    Acts 2:44-45
    All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

    The message is clear. If you want to follow Jesus, you need to "sell your possessions and give to the poor." It is a very simple message, and easy to do. Have you done it? The fact that you are reading this page would indicate that you have not. Chances are you own a computer, pay for an Internet connection every month, live in a home or apartment, have a car, etc. In other words, you live a life at a level of wealth unimaginable in Jesus' time. Meanwhile, billions of people on the planet live in startling, abject poverty.

    Why don't you sell everything and follow Jesus, as he requests in the Bible? The reason is simple:
    Jesus and God are imaginary, and you know it. If Jesus were real, you would do what he says.

    November 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • VanHagar

      Context is everything...and you have it out of context. Money is not the sin–its the love of money. Moreover, in order to sell ones possession, one must first acquire them! (Apparently that was too obvious for you.) God did not make wealth a sin. His instructions were aimed at those who sought first the kingdom of wealth–not those who had a proper balance. Some are called to sell their possessions, and some are called to continue to acquire wealth and to continue to give it up.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Yeah VH, you just twist that around however you need to.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • VanHagar

      Not twisting anything. But go ahead there sunshine...explain how one sells his or her possessions without first acquiring them?

      November 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • VanHagar

      Better yet, explain how I should care for the poor if I don't make enough money to acquire their needs (and at the same time, not becoming so poor that I then need someone to help me, which if I do deliberately, might as well be stealing just as it is irresponsible.) BTW, your reference to Matthew 19:21-24 was a confrontation with one man–it wasn't directed at everyone (other than as a morality tale for us all to consider–are we "that" rich young ruler).

      November 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      VH, I totally agree with you. The bible IS ridiculous.

      November 16, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • VanHagar

      I see by your last answer that you have...no answers.

      November 16, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      VH, my answer is to thank you for understand that I am correct. The bible is wierd, confusing and wrong. You just agreed with me and now you are saying I have no answers. I didn't write the bible!

      November 17, 2012 at 2:14 am |
  4. Aristocles

    20% of Americans are NOT in the "none" category when it comes to religion. That is, at most, the result of one survey. Other recent surveys have shown that there are fewer than 10% of Americans who are unaffiliated, and of those who are unaffiliated in either category, most of them still believe in God.

    This also fails to consider that poor, inner-city minorities tend to be ignored on surveys or else refuse to be questioned, and they are mostly very religious. Not to mention the fact that, even if 20% are in the unaffiliated group, this is largely coming at the expense of liberal Christianity, which is dying, meaning that the remaining 80% are getting more religious.

    I also question how such a figure is even valid, considering the faster growth of Evangelicals and Pentecostals in America, their high rates of conversation, their high fertility rates, and the growth in the percentage of (mostly religious) immigrants.

    November 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  5. Fred Derf

    Are we more interested in what congress looks like and prays to than what they do? what is also missing from this artlicle is...is there evidence that women and candidates who are non-protestant are running and being defeated because they are female and non-protestant? or are they just not involved in politics/running for office?
    these kinds of articles make me sick...they report something about nothing....

    November 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  6. Richard Sccoman

    Your an idiot, who should be more worried about the decay of morality in this country. Your just tryiing to sell books

    November 16, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • lol


      November 16, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  7. Not Impressed

    If there is a God, he/she/it must be really disappointed in his/her/its followers because they are the very people causing all the conflict on planet earth! Your religions encourage divisiveness and intolerance and in no way reflect the nature of the God I believe in . . . the universe and the laws of nature that rule it!

    November 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  8. Hulk Hogan




    November 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  9. Reasonably

    You know the old adage about the definition of insanity: do the same thing and expecting different results.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  10. Nicholas

    this is kinda related but kinda of topic, but has anyone ever looked at the at the ethnicitys of all the president........all except 3 traced their family histories back to Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland. 2 from Germany and Switzerland......and then there is obama........ i mean they wuld still be white....but why have we never elected a greek italian, spanish, french, polish, danish, swedish...etc president? i just found that weird....

    November 16, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • cmorcat

      It's because those nationalities-Americans don't hold the keys (money) to get one of their own elected. It's money over politics every time.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • ThatOneGuy

      Here are the reasons to your question:

      Greeks – Do you really want the Greeks trying to help us solve the economy?
      Italians – Because they are too busy driving around on mopeds saying, “Ciao!”
      Spanish – Because they already took over most of Central and South America, do we really need to give them North America as well?
      French – Because they will surrender the country to the first threat that comes along.
      Polish – Because they will charge tanks on horseback.
      Danish and Swedish – Would be good except they might think that pillaging and plundering is an acceptable form of “foreign relations.”

      Please note: This is all a joke. It should not, in any way, be taken seriously.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  11. krussell

    I would bet there already are several athiests in Congress. The smart ones will not admit to it because 80% of the voters could hold it against them.
    Or an I the only one who thinks Politicians will lie to get elected?

    November 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  12. Matt Damon

    Racism is proof that ignorance is alive and well. Meaning that until minorities can overcome being ignorant, the natural desire of Caucasians to demand more out of these losers will not end.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Well I see you are doing your best to keep ignorance racially balanced. You alone balance out any dozen ignorant minorities.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  13. Bob

    The protestant ethos is what made America distinctive and unique. It is what set us apart and made people want to come here. It is because of this ethos that corruption is tolerated less in America than in most places in the world. It is because of it that we have the rights we have. What do you think America would be like if it had been dominated by Catholicism or another ethos in its formative years? Do you think we would have gotten the Bill of Rights or the Declaration? To the extent that Protestantism fades in America, America will fade and turn into just another country. Anyone who understands history knows that this is true. It just doesn't sound multi-cultural or "tolerant" so people don't like to admit it. And "tolerance" itself as we know it in America is also a result of Protestantism's emphahsis on the importance of the individual conscience.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • ME II

      "Do you think we would have gotten the Bill of Rights or the Declaration?"
      The Consti.tution and the Bill of Rights were influenced by the ideals of the Enlightenment. Docu.ments like the Manga Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, etc., and people like Montesquieu (separation of powers), John Locke (consent of the governed), and perhaps Rousseau, and even the the Roman Republic and it's checks and balances.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Nina

      Bob, please read The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber. It is a terrific explanation. Remember, too, Protestants, Quakers and others came to North America to escape persecution, remake their lives and pay off debt, and it all began with capitalism. It's not religion that founded the U.S., it's capitalism. But don't believe me, read up on it. It's really quite interesting.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  14. FredInIT

    Looks to me like the American populace elected whom they thought would do the best job in that particular office. While in some circles (e.g. Utah) their religious affiliation may come into play, I think in general it doesn't. My duly elected congressperson is a Catholic – and I think he's a boneheaded dork. Not because he's a Catholic – but because he's just a boneheaded dork. The Catholic has no component in his boneheadedness or dorkiness. That being said, he is my duly elected Congressperson. I will support him where he supports my viewpoint and I will politely let him know when otherwise. And at the next election, if he hasn't changed his boneheadedness I will ask that he be replace with someone more willing to compromise.


    November 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  15. Robert

    Congress is too protestant says Prothero? Well, George Washington, Patrick Henry and a host of other Founding Fathers would have considered Prothero to be an ignorant and deplorable idiot not fit for government nor the press.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  16. Apple Bush

    It is easy to see that God is a delusion. For example, look for places in the Bible where God is an absurd, unmitigated jerk instead of the "all-knowing", "all-loving", "fully-enlightened" being that he is supposed to be.

    There are many parts of the Bible that display these tendencies. However, if you are a woman, the place where God's absurdity becomes completely clear is when you look at God's sexism.

    The dictionary defines a misogynist as "One who hates women. It defines the word "sexist" as:

    1. Discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women.

    2. Attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender
    Is God a sexist? Let's look at the evidence. We find this in 1 Corinthians chapter 14:

    As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

    This seems like a straightforward passage. And God is the one who inspired the Bible. In Isaiah 40:8 God says that the word of the Lord will last forever, and he says the same thing again in 1 Peter 1:24-25. So here we have God, in his eternal and everlasting Word, saying that it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

    This quote from 1 Corinthians 11 is important:

    But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head–it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.) That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels.

    You may find it hard to believe that something that confusing is in the Bible, yet if you look it up you will find it is there.

    Then there is this section from 1 Timothy chapter 2:

    Also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.

    It is hard to miss God's meaning when he says something as direct as, "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent."

    If you think about it, you will realize that God started this type of sexism at the very beginning of the Bible. In Genesis chapter 17 God says:

    This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.

    God makes no mention of forming any sort of covenant with women.

    There are many other examples that we can find in the Bible:

    • In Matthew 25:1 Jesus says: "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom."

    • In John 20:17 Jesus says to Mary: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father," as though the touch of a woman is somehow improper, but a few verses later, is happy to have Thomas touch him.

    • In Genesis chapter 3, God punishes Eve, and all women for thousands of years, with greatly increased pain during childbirth. No such pain is inflicted on Adam.

    • In Ephesians 5:22-24 we find this: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."

    • In 1 Peter 3:7 we find: "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."

    • In 1 John 2:13, John says, "I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father." No mention is made of women.

    • And so on. There are many, many examples like these throughout the old and new testaments.

    There are other, broader examples of misogyny that are readily apparent in the Bible as well:

    • Are any of Jesus' disciples women? No.

    • Are any of the elders in the book of Revelation women? No.

    • Are any of the books of the Bible written by women? No.

    • Etc...

    God, it would seem, wants nothing to do with women.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Akira

      Rich, corinthian leather.
      (I agree with the absurdity of what you posted, BTW)

      November 16, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Lesley

      This wall of text bespeaks nothing but a chip on your shoulder and way too much free time. And the same is true for any forum proselytizers, secular or religious.

      Note to all such parties: some people do not think as you do. Get over it.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Abe

      Look at the other works and miracles that God has preformed through women. If there wasn't any women Jesus would not have been born. If you are going to post some intellectual comment at least look at both sides.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • I wonder

      "Look at the other works and miracles that God has preformed through women."

      VERIFIED evidence of those, please.


      "If there wasn't any women Jesus would not have been born."

      You mean "God" couldn't have left him under a cabbage leaf, or something? Weak, unimaginative god.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Apple Bush


      Reeeech Coreeeeenthian Leathore. Why note the bes?

      November 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • cbtx67

      I always thought that Timothy was Paul's "lover". That's just the impression I got.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  17. Kica

    Really???? Methinks YOU are preaching the fear inducing "sky is falling" rhetoric. shame on you!

    November 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  18. jobseeker

    The truth is that it's open season on Christianity. You would never hear these hypocrit "journalists" say something is "Too Muslim" or "Too Black." But it's a sign of the times. Within 5 to 10 years, Christian pastors and teachers will be jailed for preaching out of Romans 1 anyway. Buckle up, Christians; What has been endured by believers since the phoney trial of Jesus is heading our way.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • sam

      Oh look, another persecution complex.

      Aren't you supposed to be looking for a job?

      November 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "The truth is that it's open season on Christianity."

      Bwaaa haa haa.

      The truth is you are paranoid.

      How are you prevented from adhering to your Christian faith an any way?

      November 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • jobseeker

      Yo, Sam. Just a handle. I have a job. You??

      November 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      You people seem to believe that anything that is not h0mogenized, whitewashed Protestantism is somehow an attack on Christianity.

      Welcome to religious tolerance and diversity 101.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • sam

      'Open season'. Answer GOPer's question – who's keeping you from practicing your faith? No one. Keeping you from putting it into law, though – a majority of us will be happy to keep you from that. In the meantime I guess you just need to tighten your foil hat.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • I wonder


      Perhaps it's time to go to your underground bunker. NOW. And do not come out until you hear the heavenly trumpets, ok? Bye.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Primewonk

      " The truth is that it's open season on Christianity"

      Yeah, but there's that stupid bag limit. And we have to catch and release the big stupid ones so that they can breed more stupid little ones.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  19. Truth Squad

    Love how we are being lectured about "inclusiveness" by people who break everything down into "groups". Yeah we really took a huge step forward this election because now we know "by group" who everyone voted.

    Between House, Senate and Potus, The House represents the truest "representation" of the entire country and it's beliefs and views on things as they are voted on by districts, much smaller sub-sections of the country.
    Even with Jerry-mandering, which happens just as much in Democrat controlled states as it does in Republican controlled states, it's still more accurate as a whole.
    Senate and President are usually equal as they both are elected by the popular vote of the State.
    Obviously the best indicator would local, but like myself, I would guess most people don't have the time to get "local" not that I am proud of that fact.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  20. HeavenSent

    I have to come on to these articles so scotty doesn't steal my handle to spew lies about Jesus' truth. The FBI came back and took my couch to the lab. You have the chance of repenting for your sins to Jesus, ask Him if you can get closer to Him, and of course, sin no more.


    November 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Scotty

      Are you sure it was the FBI? Seems to me it would be the Hazmat team.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      You smug atheists believe yourself to be mini-gods. Keep showing your pride to the Lord and see where sin will take for eternity. My camel-toe left a suicide note. You are too blind to see His truth whether I write it in street language or scripture form.


      November 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm |

      Ya, the coach was never yours, don't expect Jesus, Hindu ism, secular s, self centered, denier of truth absolute Allah, AL, The, LA, Limit, H, half, pay your bills, fore rental furniture, goon, absurdity of a pagan GAWD follower, ignorant.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
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