Where does it come from?

I was just reading an article on immigration (which can be found here). It was on how the clergy around the US are getting involved in the immigration issue. It was a very positive, hopeful article, but two or three things stood out for me.

First, in its final paragraphs it mentioned a recent survey and series of focus groups that had been held to assess community feelings about immigrants. Among other things, it found that "religious leaders were looked to as trusted sources of information on the issues, and could have a profound influence on residents' views."

The second thing was earlier in the article, when they talked about church leaders organizing in Utah to forestall a particularly harsh immigration bill that was being debated in the State house. Even leading Mormon spokespersons came out against it, calling instead for a more humane compassionate response to immigrants. However, polls taken in the state showed overwhelming support for a far more punishing position. The bill passed easily.

What these two observations say to me is that when people say they respect their clergy and that they are their respected leaders and mentors, and that they look to them for more and ethical guidance, what they mean is that they love the nice people in their houses of worship and if those people believe with their views they will listen to them, and if they don't they won't. The truth is that the average "religious" person gets far more of his or her values from the media and their peers than they do from their beloved clergy person.

I have members of my church who were raised in a liberal church, who had nothing but liberal ministers and moderate-to-liberal church school teachers for at least fifty years that I can trace back, but who are still right wing ideologues. How can you explain that? Where does it come from?

One thing you can say about that is that peoples' values do not come from their faith community. Beyond that I can't say much.