For some reason, we were once talking about Facebook, and this particular friend remarked that she never posted anything political on Facebook. And yet, a month or two after that, there were various posts about global warming and climate change, and a little while later, there was a clip of a video of Barney Frank responding to someone in a town hall meeting last summer (which was noted with approval by this friend of course), and then there were the reflections on the Kennedy funeral, and so on.Exactly. Many of the comments that all of us make are social or tribal in intent, and don't seem to us to be political at all.
I have half-a-dozen posts over the years recording instances of people just dropping in political assertions - jokes, usually - gratuitously, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to call Newt Gingrich unaware of American history (he is/was a history professor - I couldn't lay off that one) in the context of discussing autism; or emphatically associating global warming deniers with Holocaust deniers in discussing the Shoah; or bemoaning how much better European countries are and how stupid a certain percentage of Americans are for thinking that we're great; of most frequently, sniggering about Bush or Reagan, not making any joke but acting as if some obvious joke has been made. I have found these tossed-off politics-laden comments simply amazing - not that it is amazing that people hold such ideas, but that they consider them noncontroversial things to just say in any context.
I have already noted that similar things happen with religious comments. Pronouncements that sex abuse is of course more common among priests because they are celibate, for example, absent any data. I won't list examples here - you get the idea from the political comments and can likely fill in the blanks yourselves.
But if you look at them as purely social-network comments - communications within the hive or the flock for reassurance - they make more sense. As Kurt noted, they often don't see these ideas as political or religious in any way. They just want to have something to say that sounds as if they know something, so they recite the conventional wisdom.
I acknowledge again that I have heard conservatives do the same thing. Stern and earnest folks assuring me of what "the liberals," as if that were some organised, dues-paying group, are trying to do to society and the church. Creationists rolling their eyes that any reasonable Christian could even think there is anything to evolution, their voices fairly dripping.
Now, in the context of our church closing, I can tally up a bit. We are a Covenant Church, with a wide range of political opinions strongly held. We don't tend to have many bumperstickers, but the car with "Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam" was parked next to the car of the NH chairman of the McCain 2008 committee. Adult study has had people misting up over how inspiring Obama's Dreams of My Father was exchanging friendly comments with a decades-long "US out of the UN" conservative. Our first pastor drove all night with a friend and camped in the car to attend the Clinton inauguration. It's who we are, and it has been good for all of us. Visitors have been known to sit uncomfortably, eyes darting about waiting for womething awful about to descend, until they get it that we can listen anyway. I had a similar experience when I first was going to a Covenant Church myself, trying to artfully change the subject while in conversation with a feminist and a KJV Baptist. It took awhile to realise I didn't need to head them off or soften the tone.
Yet when I look back over the 13 years, I am aware that people left because they could not endure that atmosphere. Many had more than one reason to leave, but the extreme dislike of spending that much time with people they disagreed with on one or many issues was too much for them. Two families were distressed that we didn't work for homosexual rights; the husband of one couple was publicly insulting to those who supported going into Iraq, and never came again after he was privately called on it. The rest of his family followed soon after, and friends of theirs after that, upset that there was so much political bad feeling going on (though they had other reasons as well). On the other side, one very conservative older couple returned to the Catholic Church, but politics wasn't an issue, and a few regular visitors faded out because we were too tolerant of some highly-suspect (to them) theology.
Perhaps that last was typical of us, and applies in the larger cultural context as well. We were bright, talkative, adventurous in thought, listening and open, and liberals just assumed we must therfore be a liberal church. I mean, everyone knows that conservatives can't possibly be like that. They were unsuspicious, thought they were among members of their own hive, and spoke accordingly, without regard to whether it was offensive. Conservatives, both political and theological, are likely more suspicious. After a bit of testing the waters, they decline to join rather than joining and then leaving.