July 10, 2021 Wayne Northey

The Christian Right Is in Decline, and It’s Taking America With It

Opinion

Michelle Goldberg

July 9, 2021

photo above: Mark Peterson/Redux

WN: To the first part of the title: Amen!!!1

To the second part: Whenever Christianity “owns” a culture it becomes corrupt.

British 19th-century Catholic historian Lord John Acton observed:

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.

He also wrote:

And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.

There is the joke of the guy who is whitewashing a church when thunderstorms threaten, and he is running out of paint and time.  So he adds water to the remaining whitewash to finish the job. Suddenly lightning flashes, thunder rolls, the rain unleashes, and much of the whitewash washes away! A Voice in the thunder declares: “Repaint, and thin no more!

White Evangelical America has an enormous “repainting” job ahead if it genuinely aspires (pun an afterthought) to stop “thinning!” There seems little hope that collectively they will even begin to rise to the occasion! They would apparently rather whitewash their own sin-decrepit churches–and risk tragically scuttling America even more so in the process.

In place of that, for those WACs who might have eyes to see, ears to hear, let the lightning flash, the thunderstorm and attendant Voice roll–“on like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream!”2 Amen!!!

excerpts:

The presidency of George W. Bush may have been the high point of the modern Christian right’s influence in America. White evangelicals were the largest religious faction in the country. “They had a president who claimed to be one of their own, he had a testimony, talked in evangelical terms,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute [P.R.R.I.] and author of the 2016 book “The End of White Christian America.”

Back then, much of the public sided with the religious right on the key culture war issue of gay marriage. “In 2004, if you had said, ‘We’re the majority, we oppose gay rights, we oppose marriage equality, and the majority of Americans is with us,’ that would have been true,” Jones told me. Youthful megachurches were thriving. It was common for conservatives to gloat that they were going to outbreed the left.

But the evangelicals who thought they were about to take over America were destined for disappointment. On Thursday, P.R.R.I. released startling new polling data showing just how much ground the religious right has lost. P.R.R.I.’s 2020 Census of American Religion, based on a survey of nearly half a million people, shows a precipitous decline in the share of the population identifying as white evangelical, from 23 percent in 2006 to 14.5 percent last year. (As a category, “white evangelicals” isn’t a perfect proxy for the religious right, but the overlap is substantial.) In 2020, as in every year since 2013, the largest religious group in the United States was the religiously unaffiliated.

QAnon is essentially a millenarian movement, with Trump taking the place of Jesus.

One of P.R.R.I.’s most surprising findings was that in 2020, there were more white mainline Protestants than white evangelicals. This doesn’t necessarily mean Christians are joining mainline congregations — the survey measures self-identification, not church affiliation. It is, nevertheless, a striking turnabout after years when mainline Protestantism was considered moribund and evangelical Christianity full of dynamism.

In addition to shrinking as a share of the population, white evangelicals were also the oldest religious group in the United States, with a median age of 56. “It’s not just that they are dying off, but it is that they’re losing younger members,” Jones told me. As the group has become older and smaller, Jones said, “a real visceral sense of loss of cultural dominance” has set in.

White evangelicals once saw themselves “as the owners of mainstream American culture and morality and values,” said Jones. Now they are just another subculture.

As a category, “white evangelicals” isn’t a perfect proxy for the religious right, but the overlap is substantial.

From this fact derives much of our country’s cultural conflict. It helps explain not just the rise of Donald Trump, but also the growth of QAnon and even the escalating conflagration over critical race theory. “It’s hard to overstate the strength of this feeling, among white evangelicals in particular, of America being a white Christian country,” said Jones. “This sense of ownership of America just runs so deep in white evangelical circles.” The feeling that it’s slipping away has created an atmosphere of rage, resentment and paranoia.

Jones points out that last year, after Trump issued an executive order targeting critical race theory, the presidents of all six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention came together to declare C.R.T. [Critical Race Theory] “incompatible” with the Baptist faith. Jones, whose latest book is “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,” could recall no precedent for such a joint statement.

If they can’t own the country, they’re ready to defile it.with reference to January 6, 2021

As Jones notes, the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845 after splitting with abolitionist Northern Baptists. He described it as a “remarkable arc”: a denomination founded on the defense of slavery “denouncing a critical read of history that might put a spotlight on that story.”

Please click on: WAC Taking America With It

Footnotes
  1. This article though by Gene Veith, January 18, 2021, is appropriately cautionary!: The Return of Liberal Christianity?[]
  2. See Amos 5:24. Indeed the entire prophecy is taken with justice issues.

    Now let me go into the closet and do some repainting myself! . . .[]

Wayne Northey

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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