I read a Pew Research study a few days ago with a startling statistic: aside from self-identified Republicans, the single group most strongly approving of Trump was white evangelical Protestants (dark is approval, light is disapproval):
This is mind-numbing, especially when you consider the ad hoc contortions of morality that are involved in excusing all of Trump’s personal behavior to have such uniform approval.
But are white evangelical Protestants irredeemable? Because religious affiliation is voluntary (unlike, say, race or age), I think the numbers tell a different story.
Why? Because a couple of months ago, Pew also put out a study on the demographics of Americans’ religious affiliations. Included in that study was the below graph of religious affiliation by age group:
Look at the collapse in the percentage of whites who identify as evangelical Protestants by age group! Over a quarter (26%) of people over age 65 so identified, but that drops by more than 2/3’s (to 8%) among adults under age 30. While some of that is the differing racial makeup of the two age groups, it is nevertheless breathtaking.
So the numbers are less of a story about white evangelicals moving in political lockstep as they are about younger evangelicals leaving the flock as the doctrine preached from the pulpit increasingly alienates them. (Note also, by the way, the similar if less drastic falloff in the percentage of white Catholics as the American bishops embraced the political right wing.)
A similar, if less drastic, dynamic is probably playing out with political affiliation. While Trump retains sky-high approval ratings by self- described GOPers:
the percentage of people so describing themselves has decreased since Trump became President:
While undoubtedly the passing of the tax cut for billionaires has brought some of the country club set back into line, the GOP’s reactionary radicalism is driving some away, leaving the true believers behind.
Keep that in mind when you read some of these studies: when voluntary associations move towards becoming purer, they usually also become smaller.
BTW: one demographic statistic I have not seen in any of the many studies over the last year is approval ratings by age *controlled for education.* Over the last 70 years, higher percentages of Americans have had at least some college education. Having their beliefs challenged in college appears to be one important factor in younger people abandoning biblical fundamentalism. It may be, for example, that members of the Silent Generation with college degrees hold opinions pretty close to those of Millennials with college degrees. I have written the Pew Foundation to ask if that data is available, but haven’t heard back.
I am not surprised by the fact that older people are more evangelical and more likely to approve of Trump. As you get older, you generally get wiser.
Well, I’m older than both of you. And this is what passes for wisdom in my book. (and most of the book they taught us out of in grade school all those years ago):
It’s dangerous to talk about “evangelicals” as if they were all alike. Just as dangerous as talking about … ah… other minorities as of they were all alike.
Smartest person I met in college was an evangelical. He was also a decent person, which you can’t say about either all evangelicals or all college graduates.
Now I find it profoundly depressing that there is ANYONE who approves of Trump, or the people he appoints, or the Republicans who will take his place if he falls.
But I also know how easy it is to fool people, even people with advanced degrees.
and if my memory serves, a lot of the people who supported Martin Luther King were “evangelicals.”
So maybe we could do a better job fighting Trumpism or what passes for Republicanism these days if we didn’t go out of our way to make enemies of the people who should be on our side.
I hope no one thinks I am agreeing with Sammy.
Agree with Coberly. “profoundly depressing that anyone…”
Your thoughts on evangelicals supporting MLK are incorrect.
“As a historian who is also a Southern Baptist, I am in something of a perpetual quandary. In all of my research on the long history of racial justice and the black freedom movement, I find that my fellow churchmen who supported the cause of justice were more often the exception, not the rule. Instead, my research—and that of historians far more accomplished than me—makes quite clear that white evangelicals throughout the South were overwhelmingly opposed to the civil rights movement. They may have couched their opposition in more genteel ways than the Klan—yes, the White Citizens Councils would do the job—but oppose it they did nonetheless.
A couple caveats here. First, it’s worth noting that the evangelical canopy has always been a broad and unwieldy one. Broad enough to include Anabaptists and Campbellites, Wesleyans and Presbyterians, Pentecostals and Lutherans—we should be leery of speaking of it in monolithic terms. But it does seem that in its most traditional forms, regardless of geography, evangelicals were often those not only skeptically removed from the civil rights movement, but directly opposed to it. There were notable exceptions, of course. And, as noted by historians such as David Swartz and Brantley Gasaway, there has always been a stream within the broader evangelical river that has prioritized social action and justice.
But it does seem self-evident that, in the main, white evangelicals—particularly those in the South—were deeply invested in efforts to either uphold Jim Crow or to try to slow down its dismantling. While a previous generation of historians suggested this was symptomatic of “cultural captivity,” I’m not so sure. In fact, in many cases, it seems that evangelical theology—or at least distorted models of it—were part of the reason segregationist beliefs and structures took shape the way they did. The unfortunate reality isn’t that evangelical theology in the South was muted when it came to racial justice, it’s that it was actively used to undermine justice and to perpetuate a demonic system. And that’s the cruelest historical irony of it all: those who loved the “old rugged cross” were often also those who torched crosses in protest of desegregation.”
And that is why NDD;s comment:
“about it a startling statistic: aside from self-identified Republicans, the single group most strongly approving of Trump was white evangelical Protestants (dark is approval, light is disapproval):”
is not startling at all. People have a preconception that attaching “evangelical protestant” to “white” somehow means means something. It doesn’t. They wear their religion on their sleeves, but racism is in their hearts. And their voting habits for more than half a century is clear proof of that.
I suspect these correlations have a lot more to do with the question:
“do you think the government should prevent single young women who got pregnant by a clown who abandoned her from getting an abortion”?
it strikes me as peculiar that you feel a need to begin by telling my my thoughts are incorrect and then spend the rest of your comment proving my point.
you say “white evangelicals” and then completely dismiss black evangelicals from the equation. my point, if i may repeat it, was “not all evangelicals are alike.”
i think you might find the history of evangelicals in this country quite a bit more interesting than the stereotype that seems to inform your thinking.
as for which came first, the horse or the cart, i think you might find that racism is somewhat more deeply rooted biologically than evangelicalism… or something closely resembling it… which itself was a major “movement” in early American culture and may have played a role in the anti-slavery movement until the planter politicians found a way to marry it to endemic racism and that to the Southern “cause” which turned out to be, and continues to be, about maintaining the wealth and power of the owners of capital… including capital in people… until those same people were forced to discover that white as good as black and it was cheaper to rent than to buy.
our problem, here, is to try to find a way to understand what it is those “white evangelicals” (and racists) are hearing and try to bend it to our own… more enlightened… views. this is not as hard as it sounds. Obama did it, Clinton (Bill) did it. and even Roosevelt did it.
or we can sit smugly in front of our computers and tell ourselves how much smarter and better educated we are than the people who are voting against us.
I am dismissing black evangelicals from the equation, pretty sure they were the foundation of the civil rights movement and are now certainly not the evangelicals christian evangelicals supporting trump and the gop. Not to mention NDD’s poll is of white evangelicals, so I have no idea why you are including blacks in this discussion.
actually, I think you are… dismissing black evangelicals. the author you quote (not NDD) is pretty clear that “some” evangelicals, not all, were outspoken supporters of jim crow. l think i suggested that had something to do with the skill of planter politicians in bending evangelicalism to their own purposes.
i will go so far as to suggest you illustrate one of the ways “bending” takes place: you begin (NDD begins) with “white evangelicals” and ends up dropping the distinction (which itself is a misleading over generalization) and ends up talking about “evangelicals” and wants to suggest it has something to do with their lack of education.
suggest you look at the people at the top of the Republican party and see if they suffer from a lack of education. Schools are instruments of political indoctrination. You and I got the benefit of a liberal indoctrination… I just took it more seriously than you did: ” over-generalization is a thought error, not just “white over-generalization.”
So in other words in a post about white evangelicals we have to make sure we always say white evangelicals and not just evangelicals.
Context means nothing.
You should read that entire link.
no. it means that when we are thinking we are thinking, we should be careful not to slide silently from one thing into another entirely different thing by the intellectual process of “sounds like therefore is like.”
as for reading the entire link, i think you might start by actually reading for content the actual paragraphs you quote here. if then you think it would further my understanding to read the “entire link,” i may have a list of books about the history of the evangelical movement in 1830’s America, and the politics of the antebellum South as well as the Reconstruction South you might wish to read for context if not content.
There has been a lot of drift in evangelicalism.
I grew up in a denomination at the time best described as Wesleyan and went to a university affiliated with that denomination. At the time it would be fair to call the church mainline, not particularly politically active, and generally liberal (socially oriented in an outreach sense, accepting of other people claiming to be Christians as actually being Christians, not necessarily socially liberal).
That is no longer the case. The church that I grew up in was nearly unrecognizable to me when I went back there after a relative’s death recently. They are hyper political, reject the doctrinal shifts even among other protestants, and pretty much all the table conversation is like watching Fox News. It was like stepping into a parallel universe to me.
I was already “outside” the community, but after that experience I have ZERO interest in ever going back.
i wish to say that it did not entirely escape me that your post was originally about the need to read “surveys” with the understanding that an increasing percentage of a declining population might not indicate increasing strength. a valid and important observation.
but i think it was you who actually slid from that point to something that sounded to me like an all too common assumption that “evangelicals” are not as smart as “us.”
as for having your beliefs challenged in college, a rather interesting thing happened to me. I had argued in high school with a girl who was a Christian (not particularly evangelical or fundamentalist) while i was essentially a disciple of Tom Paine. By the time I met her again in college she had abandoned her Christianity in favor of something like freudian psychology, while i had realized that the devil did not always have the best arguments. I am sure this had something to do with our respective “educations,” but while hers was in then-fashionable (i suppose) “enlightenment”, mine was what i like to think a little more vigorous skepticism.
point here is that “having your beliefs challenged” can go both ways. god knows what “beliefs” are challenged by an education in “economics.”… you know, that subject they always want to teach first graders to protect them from socialistic ideas like “love your neighbor.”
i think you make a good point. we are talking about the success of Fox News, not anything inherent in Christianity or even evangelicals.
My ongoing argument with EMichael amounts to “why take the bait” and feed Fox and friends exactly the kind of counter-hate they are fomenting.
If you (if one) spend all your time telling some people they are stupid you probably are not going to get their votes…. which is a pity since their interests are the same as yours. And if you can bring about the social justice you say you are for, the stimulus for pernicious racism will gradually disappear.
link supplied if needed:
“Using post-electoral surveys from France, Britain and the US, this paper documents a striking long-run evolution in the structure of political cleavages,” Piketty writes in the abstract. He goes on to explain the political changes that have happened since the 1950s and 1960s, when “the vote for left-wing (socialist-labour-democratic) parties was associated with lower education and lower income voters” — in other words, the Labour Party of the United Kingdom, the Socialist Party of France and the Democratic Party of the United States were considered parties that supported and helped destitute and less-well-educated voters.
Yet over time, those parties, Piketty explains, “gradually become associated with higher education voters,” which he describes as creating a system of “multiple-elite” parties where “high-education elites now vote for the ‘left,’ while high-income/high-wealth elites still vote for the ‘right’ (though less and less so).” In other words, both sides of the spectrum became parties of the elite, with no party for less educated folks or the working class.
Piketty argues that this situation “contributes to rising inequality and lack of democratic response to it,” as well as the rise of populists like Trump,
i add: Chris Hayes wrote a book about six years ago “Twilight of the Elites” which identifies the failure of “meritocracy” though i don’t think he quite puts his finger on the fundamental reason (the idea of meritocracy is the same old fraud that the deserving rich have imposed upon the undeserving poor from the beginning of time– one which recruits “the best and brightest” as willing accomplices by holding out the hope that they too shall rise to the highest circles, not to mention the satisfaction they can enjoy while moving up the latter by thinking of themselves as better than the losers they learn to enjoy humiliating even unto death.)
What you say about calling people names makes sense, except for one thing. They are never, ever going to change their votes. Not in my lifetime or my kids lifetime.
The reason I say we should call out racists on a constant basis is solely based on getting the Dem base motivated to go to the polls and vote. That’s it.
Think it doesn’t work? Worked for the other side with “Build That Wall”. Or “welfare queens driving cadillacs” .
Agreed and another skewed remark to meet someone’s idea of what balance is. 81% of evangelical religions voted for Trump. Franklin Graham is not what his father was and is an embarrassment. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention spent more time critiquing Obama and embracing Trump with his silence. Trump is a bigot, misogynist, racist, etc. Maybe Tony Perkin’s will stop by for coffee again? Where is Ralph Reed, Paula White, or James Dobson, who during the 2016 campaign called Trump a “Christian”? All, as well as others, have vocally supported Trump and have remained mute on his relationship to racism and white supremacy.
“He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” Seneca, Ben Franklin, etc. There is no mistake in recognizing Trump for what he is and advocates as did his father. If you make excuses for him and his followers, you bear the mantle of what he has advocates. We have no room for bigotry, racism, or misogynism, etc.
yes. it is a good idea to motivate the troops. but you need to be careful to try focus their anger against the real bad guys without making all their friends and neighbors think they are being painted with the same brush.
as for changing their minds… yes, you will never directly change their minds. heck, i can’t change your mind, and you can’t change mine. but put the nearly sane “racists” in the same workshop as people of a different color and pay them all a decent wage and i think you will find that over time they develop a group solidarity that at least begins to be non racist.
the plan of the Fox and Friends is to keep you at each others throats so you never unite against the bosses (the Big bosses, not necessarily the local, small business, bosses who are often as decent as they can be given the constraints of “the market.”)
The real bad guys are the people that voted for trump.
No real christian would ever, ever want that person in a position of power.
no, the real bad guy are the ones who lynch blacks or promote violence or simply steal people’s homes.
i don’t know what a “real” Christian is. but i suspect that many who call themselves that aren’t, and many who don’t call themselves that are.
I just heard Jimmy Carter give a half-definition of “faith.” I don’t know whether he copped out, forgot, or just got tired before he reached the point. Even people who almost certainly are Christians are human.
Or.. .. like Jesus sometimes did, gave a “definition” by pointing toward it (if you seek, you shall find) .
Or as Lao Tse is said to have said The Way that can be said is not the Way.
The only way the way can be found is to walk it.
@ 8:33 today
all of the names you mention are creeps. they should not be thought of the same way as the people they have fooled. and the people they have fooled should not be thought of the same way as the evangelicals who drove the movement to free the slaves, or the people who put their lives on the line to push for civil rights during the fifties and sixties.
nor should I be confused with Ralph Reed.
All I am trying to do here is suggest “progressives” (not all alike) clean up their language so as not to fall into the trap of driving the people who should be on our side into the enemy’s camp.
meanwhile you could add Paul Ryan and Ann Coulter to the list of people so bad they make me feel like throwing up. others, probably as bad are names too new to me (Trump appointees and a few Republican governors and congressman) for me to recall easily yet.
suggestion: start by saying these names instead of “evangelicals” or “christians” when you want to point out the evil we are against.
Awesome. A progressive wind tunnel.
Its a shame you guys can’t dispassionately read what you write…
savor the nuances and implications….
…and breathe in the odor of tastefully delicate mendacious bigotry that has always flavored the language of progressive intellectuals.
Let me try and help you…
Ever seen the movie “Independence Day?”
Sigh and welcome to Angry Bear Ms. Elk.
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