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March 11, 2018


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I read the article twice. Here's the paragraph that I think encompasses my dismay and shame at America's decision to elect Trump:

"Here is the uncomfortable reality: I do not believe that most evangelicals are racist. But every strong Trump supporter has decided that racism is not a moral disqualification in the president of the United States. And that is something more than a political compromise. It is a revelation of moral priorities."

I don't think that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist (or sexist or classist or ignorant or anti-science, though there are plenty who are all of those things and more). But the fact that they're willing to overlook those aspects of Trump to get Supreme Court and Federal Court appointments is sickening.

I want to read it again and again to get all of the history and details cemented in my head. Because this year+ of "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN" is so well-answered here.

I was pleased, too, with the Catholic voting 'dilemma' as he explained it.

And I liked the mention of Bush's "compassionate conservativism" sadly getting sidelined by the
global crisis that was 9/11.

SO much to think about.

(Sort of also kept hoping the author would say that after all of this, he's converted to Catholicism. ;) But his ending was good, too.)

Amen! I want to print it out and highlight so I can more fully understand the history parts.

el-e-e, doesn't he sound like he's standing on the bank of the Tiber trying to gauge the current?


Great article, and lots to think about. One thing it failed to mention, though, was evangelical conservatives' profound distaste for Hillary Clinton, both her personally and politically. She played into Trump's narrative and for many, voting for him was as much an act of voting *against* her as it was an affirmative for the GOP. If Democrats had offered a different candidate- one who was less condescending and with less political baggage- I don't think the support for Trump would have been nearly so high. Bernie could have peeled off a lot of the independent, blue-collar voters.

I really appreciated his ending but was frustrated when he talked about Republican voters abandoning “decency.” For many, myself included, I’m confused as to who the “morally decent” candidate was. Rubio was the evangelical darling who wouldn’t say he hadn’t cheated on his wife. Bush affirmed his brother’s actions in Iraq. Hillary shamed her husband’s rape victims and is pro-abortion.
We’re we supposed to vote for Rubio who was fine letting ISIS martyr Christians in the Middle East? Or Sanders?

This is what I was taught in grad school:

Churches in the USA have historically served two purposes: to satisfy spiritual needs (worship, instruction, consolation, etc) and to reflect and strengthen worshipers' personal identities. Protestant denominations used to reflect ethnicity and class quite explictly: native-born Yankees were Congregationalists. Germans were Lutheran or Catholic. Methodists and Baptists were divided as much by class-inflected white identity as by belief system. And obviously, Catholics had their own parishes depending on their native lands.

But since the 1920s, white ethnic identity has mattered less and less to most people (which I actually think is one reason why people in the USA go to church less, too, but that's a complicated argument I'm too tired to make or defend). Why has this trend affected Catholics differently? Because of Rome, and because "being Catholic" has a lingering "ethnic" identity of its own in US history, is my belief.

The colloquial take on the declining importance of ethnicity in American Christianity is that my kids just don't care about Ole and Lena jokes from the pulpit. It affirms no part of themselves that matters.

But everyone still has identity formation needs (sorry, jargon, blah) and nondenominational evangelical churches have emerged since 1925 to give that to white congregants in spades.

This is just a complicated way of saying that I think Gerson is too easy on white churches on matters of race. And also, where people worship in the USA has never been as much about Jesus teachings' as he seems to believe.

White evangelicals voting for Trump might just be showing us all a truth that applies to almost everyone: the identity piece of church matters at least as much as, if not more, than the Jesus piece. The votes contradicted Jesus? Maybe that's because Jesus was only ever half the point.

[I know this sounds cynical and accusatory. It's not meant to be. Medievalists think that only about 1/3rd of Europeans worshiped regularly, and what we know of common people suggests that their belief in religious orthodoxy was weak. Modern secularists are considered signs of a declension, but we might just have reverted to the mean.]

Another point: Gerson gives a compelling historical account of white evangelical theology. But there were black heirs to the Great Awakening, too, and he ignores their rich theological legacy -- a legacy that made black churches exactly the sort of active force in American political life that Gerson says he finds primarily in Catholicism.

To take just one example: Black Christians were not pessimistic about the future after Antietam. Black Christians in 1865 saw nothing to contradict the postmillenial idea that "human effort could help hasten the arrival of this promised era [of peace for the world]." That loss of hope for Black Christians came in 1877, when white Northerners abandoned black Southerners and broke the promises of abolitionism.

If you can't tell a story about evangelical thought that includes Black Christianity, you've made a fundamental error.

I think Gerson made a lot of good points, but I think there's also a generation gap within evangelicalism that I didn't see him discuss. The figures named as having a lot of influence - Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Pat Robertson - are really the most influential to baby boomers on up. My fellow millenial evangelicals, and the Gen-Xers above us, tended to be horrified by our now-president from the start - the young-skewing blog Mere Orthodoxy, for example (mostly evangelical, often politically conservative), was loudly NeverTrump during the whole campaign, and my Facebook friends of younger evangelical demographics tended to either vote for a write-in or stay home (or vote for Hillary, on occasion). Some of it may be, admittedly, that I'm from the Northeast blue states, so maybe even our conservatives are moderate here; surely some younger voters in other places must have gone for The Donald. But I really think that evangelicalism as a whole isn't well represented by Liberty University. (They shout the loudest most of the time, though. Thank God for Russell Moore's countervoice.) I hope that means less conflation of Republicanism and Christianity in the nearish future, but we'll see.

I want to meet Jody or at least hear more about her thoughts. I found her comments about the purpose of American churches so fascinating!

As a non-Christian who reads this blog for reasons not related to Christianity, I always learn new things from Jamie, whether they are about parenting, speech pathology, breastfeeding or Catholicism. Now I'm adding Jody to my list of people to follow.

I have not read the entire Atlantic article. I don't know whether evangelicals elected Trump. I think it's possible to find that out because his electoral college win was determined by a small number of voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania IIRC. I'd like to remind fiveflies that HRC did actually win the popular vote. Would she have won the electoral college if she wasn't so unlikeable to some people? Perhaps, but the GOP had invested a lot of time and money in creating the unlikeable HRC persona that dominated the news cycle in 2016. And let's not forget the role that social media played in public opinion, whether or not you include Russian meddling in that as a factor. We should not minimize pizza-gate, etc.

And Calee, no one is pro-abortion, except for the women who are looking death in the eye because of a crisis in their pregnancy.

White evangelicals voting for Trump might just be showing us all a truth that applies to almost everyone: the identity piece of church matters at least as much as, if not more, than the Jesus piece. The votes contradicted Jesus? Maybe that's because Jesus was only ever half the point.

Oh, man, Jody, that's painful to read.

Everyone moved on, but I never comment, and I'd like to do so before these comments close forever (how long does it take, two weeks?) ;-)

I didn't finish reading the article either because this is a topic that frustrates, disturbs, and upsets me deeply. I can barely bear to even "be" a Christian in this country because of all of this. Sigh...

Thanks to Karen for pointing this out: "And Calee, no one is pro-abortion, except for the women who are looking death in the eye because of a crisis in their pregnancy." (that's why the term is "pro-choice")

And yeah... what Jody said and you quoted above is heartbreaking, but I agree with her. I miss Jody's blog and voice... I'm glad she still comments here!

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