1870 Sheridan Road
The End of White Christian America: Reflection on the Apparent Paradox of the 2016 Election
One Book One
Tuesday, February 28, 2017 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
The End of White Christian America synopsis:
For most of the country’s history, White Christian America – the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians – set the tone for our national policy and shaped American ideals. But in recent decades new immigration patterns, changing birth rates, and religious disaffiliation have transformed the U.S. The year 1993 was the last in which white Protestants constituted a majority of the population. Today, even when Catholics are included, white Christians comprise less than half the country.
Drawing on findings from one of the largest troves of survey data on contemporary politics and religion, Robert Jones shows how today’s most heated controversies – the strident rise of a white “politics of nostalgia” following the election of the nation’s first black president; the apocalyptic tone of arguments over same-sex marriage and religious liberty; and stark disagreements between white and black Americans over the fairness of the justice system – can be fully understood only in the context of the anxieties that white Christians feel as the racial, religious, and cultural landscape has changed around them.
Today, although they still retain considerable power in the South and within the Republican Party, white Christians lack their former political and social clout. Looking ahead, Jones forecasts the ways that white Christians might adjust to their new reality – and the consequences for the country if they don’t.
In a New York Times op-ed published before the 2016 election, Jones uses insights from The End of White Christian America to illuminate questions about the role of evangelicals during the presidential race and their unprecedented support for Republican nominee, Donald Trump:
“The anger, anxiety and insecurity many contemporary white evangelicals feel are better understood as a response to an internal identity crisis precipitated by the recent demise of “white Christian America,” the cultural and institutional world built primarily by white Protestants that dominated American culture until the last decade.
Today, white evangelicals are not only experiencing the shrinking of their own ranks, but they are also confronting larger, genuinely new demographic and cultural realities. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, white Christians (Catholics and Protestants) constituted a majority (54 percent) of the country; today, that number has slipped to 45 percent. Over this same period, support for gay marriage — a key issue for evangelicals — moved from only four in 10 to solid majority territory, and the Supreme Court cleared the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states. The Supreme Court itself symbolized these changes, losing its last remaining Protestant justice, John Paul Stevens, in 2010.“
In the presidential election’s aftermath, Jones’ second op-ed for The New York Times argues that white Christians backed Donald Trump as their “last chance” to rage against the changing tides of culture and religion in America:
“But on Election Day, paradoxically, this anxious minority swarmed to the polls to elect as president the candidate who promised to “make America great again” and warned that he was its “last chance” to turn back the tide of cultural and economic change.
One clue to the power of this racial and religious identity can be seen in the striking similarity of a map of white Christian population density by state to the red and blue election night map. While the similarity of those maps in Kentucky and West Virginia might not be a surprise, the same similarity in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania goes a long way to explaining why Hillary Clinton’s Midwestern firewall did not hold on election night.”
Robert P. Jones is the founding CEO of PRRI and a leading scholar and commentator on religion and politics. He is the author of The End of White Christian America, two other books, and numerous peer-review articles on religion and public policy. Jones writes a column for The Atlantic online on politics and culture and appears regularly on Interfaith Voices, the nation’s leading religion news-magazine on public radio. He is frequently featured in major national media such as MSNBC, CNN, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others. Dr. Jones serves as the Co-Chair of the national steering committee for the Religion and Politics Section at the American Academy of Religion and is a member of the editorial boards for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and for Politics and Religion, a journal of the American Political Science Association. He holds a Ph.D. in religion from Emory University and a M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.