Posts Tagged ‘American’

Last Friday, Jerry Falwell, Jr. took to Fox News to proclaim that in Donald Trump, “evangelicals have found their dream president.” Two years ago, this statement would have made virtually no sense, at least on the surface. To many outside the white evangelical world, it seemed — and still seems — inconceivable that a thrice-married serial adulterer, ultimate materialist, casino owner, habitual liar, and unprincipled deal-maker could ever become the standard bearer for a group that professes to base their vote on “family values.”

How times have changed. In the two years since Trump announced his candidacy, we have seen a remarkable moral unmasking of white Americans who call themselves Christian, and in particular those who claim the “evangelical” label. Eighty-one percent of white evangelical voters cast their vote for Donald Trump, and the most recent Pew Research poll puts Trump’s support after his first 100 days in office at 78 percent among white evangelicals (and 80 percent among white evangelicals who attend church once a month).

So it makes sense that Falwell would be asked to rate the president on his first 100 days from an evangelical perspective: Falwell was essentially a surrogate for Trump during much of the campaign. And in late January, Trump asked Falwell to lead a taskforce on higher education policy, whose aim is to recommend changes that should be made to Department of Education policies and procedures. He has indicated in particular that he wants to curb or eliminate federal rules that he views as overly burdensome, including the requirement that schools must investigate campus sexual assault under Title IX, a federal law banning discrimination in education.

Given Falwell’s close relationship with Trump’s campaign and administration, it’s unsurprising that he spoke so glowingly about what he views as the Trump administration’s accomplishments so far. Here are some of the claims Falwell made for why Trump is a “dream president” for evangelicals:

  • Trump is more pro-Israel than Obama.
  • He appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
  • He has appointed people of faith to his Cabinet.
  • Trump will destroy ISIS, thereby saving the lives of many persecuted Christians in the region.
  • Trump supports secure borders (e.g. the wall).
  • Trump is bringing jobs back to America.
  • Trump is cracking down on “sanctuary cities.”

Falwell made a point to note that he felt “… evangelicals didn’t just vote on social issues this time, because the Republican establishment had lied to them over decades about those issues, and so instead, they went a different direction,” which was his explanation for why so many white evangelicals are “thrilled” about Trump’s hardline positions on immigration. In supporting Trump’s crackdowns and, in Trump’s words, “big” and “beautiful” wall that will keep immigrants out, Falwell is explicitly and proudly saying that white evangelicals voted for Trump not in spite of his racist and xenophobic rhetoric about undocumented immigrants, but because of this rhetoric. How that relates to Christians, including evangelicals, who are in direct relationship to the undocumented immigrants and refugees that Trump wants to deport or keep out of our country, Falwell didn’t say.

Falwell also didn’t mention that Trump’s agenda and proposed budget would brutally cut off vital support to all “the least of these” that Jesus asks us to protect in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel — or that a broad cross-section of leaders from all our Christian families, including the National Association of Evangelicals, have pleaded with this administration and Congress not to do so.

As in this latest interview, Jerry Falwell, Jr. has once again shown himself to be nothing more or less than a Republican political operative, interested in advancing his preferred policy agenda much more than examining what it means to be a Christian. Famously, when the Access Hollywood tape came out with Trump bragging his ability to commit sexual assault with impunity, Falwell stood by Trump, suggesting a “conspiracy” of GOP establishment leaders was to blame for the leak. Falwell also said that “we’re never going to have a perfect candidate unless Jesus Christ is on the ballot” and defended Trump as “a changed man,” saying, “We’re not electing a pastor. We’re electing a president.”

You can imagine how jarring it was and is to see the same religious right figures who (rightly) condemned Bill Clinton’s infidelity come to Trump’s defense. A startling poll in October 2016 showed the dramatic change in white evangelical attitudes: In 2011, only 30 percent of white evangelicals agreed with the idea that “an elected official can behave ethically even if they have committed immoral acts in their personal life.” By October 2016, that figure had jumped to 72 percent. This was the largest recorded change on the answer to this question of any racial, religious, or political demographic measured by this poll.

The issue here is not Christians voting differently from each other. That is normal and likely healthy given the independence that people of faith should show over partisan loyalties. This is about the moral hypocrisy of white American evangelical religious right leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr. causing a crisis in the church, dividing American Christians on racial lines, and astonishing the worldwide body of Christ — the international majority of evangelical Christians who are people of color — and whose leaders keep asking many of us what in the world is going on with white American evangelicals.

That number, 81 percent, has become an international symbol that tragically now represents what white American evangelicalism stands for. It dramatically and painfully symbolizes the white ethno-nationalism that Donald Trump appeals to and continues to draw support from among white American evangelicals. It is the most revealing and hurtful metric of what I will call the racial idolatry of white American evangelical Christianity, which clearly excludes American evangelicals of color and the global majority of evangelicals. The 81 percent number ultimately signifies a betrayal of the body of Christ — which is the most racially inclusive and diverse community in the world today.

Jerry Falwell, Jr. and I believe in different gospels. With Falwell, of course, this is also a like father like son history. Jerry Falwell, Sr. opposed the civil rights movement and the black churches who led it. On the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education that integrated public schools, Falwell, Sr. preached:

“If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made … The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line … The true Negro does not want integration …. He realizes his potential is far better among his own race … [integration] will destroy our race eventually. In one northern city, a pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race live next door to his church as man and wife.”

In fact, he founded the Liberty Christian Academy in 1967, which the Lynchburg News at the time described as “a private school for white students.”

He also attacked Martin Luther King, Jr., saying:

“I must personally say that I do question the sincerity and nonviolent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations … It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed.”

As late as the 1980s, Falwell, Sr. personally attacked South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu by calling him a “phony” and campaigned against sanctioning the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Falwell, Sr. later distanced himself from these views, but they remain an important element explaining the origin of the religious right and the views of too many white evangelicals today.

Racism is not a gospel issue to the Falwells, and never has been. That Donald Trump began his political career with a racist lie about America’s first black president isn’t an issue for Falwell, Jr. That Trump opened his campaign by demonizing immigrants in calling them “rapists” and “criminal” doesn’t matter to Jr. either. And Trump’s xenophobic assaults on Muslims seems to be something that Falwell. also agrees with, as his comments at the Liberty University convocation in 2015 indicate. After the San Bernardino shootings, he told his audience that he had a gun in his back pocket ready to use against “those Muslims:” “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in … let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

It is important to remember that the majority of American evangelicals of color, and the 19 percent of us white evangelicals who voted with them — against Trump — did so because we are pro-life and pro-family. For all of us, Trump’s racial bigotry was a deal breaker and disqualifier of a Christian vote. That only a few conservative evangelical leaders, like Southern Baptist Russell Moore, took that stance was one of the saddest things about the 2016 election.

Racism and racial bigotry is a gospel issue, and overcoming our human divisions in a new multi-cultural community was at the center of the vocation of the early church. Last week, when I debated Eric Metaxas, an ally of Jerry Falwell, Jr., he said that raising the issue of race is not Christian — that talking about racism was racist. No. Unlike Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom he has written about, Metaxas — like Falwell — has gotten the gospel wrong. It’s time for other white evangelicals to call out the white American evangelical leaders who have yet to speak out against the racial politics of President Donald Trump in his campaign, in his first 100 days, and going forward. The integrity of the church is at stake, as is our relationship with our brothers and sisters of color in United States, and our loyalty to the global multi-color majority of the body of Christ.

Let’s go back to Falwell’s characterization of Trump as a “dream president” for evangelicals. He can only mean white evangelicals. I can testify to a legion of conversations with African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American evangelicals who would describe Donald Trump as a “nightmare” president. Ditto for almost all black parents and black pastors. Certainly Trump is a nightmare for Hispanic people in America, who are living under fear of their families being destroyed by the new president’s aggressive deportation policies.

That Trump is the dream president for people like Falwell and such a nightmare for the vast majority of evangelical, Pentecostal, and Catholic Christians around the world, and our brothers and sisters of color in the United States, really says it all.

This stark contrast reveals white evangelical Christianity in America as a bubble — a very destructive one, and one that is about to burst.

By Jim Wallis

Posted by The NON-Conformist

White Christians are now a minority in 19 states.

There’s been a lot of media attention recently to the changing demographics of the United States, where, at current rates, people who identify as “white” are expected to become a minority by the year 2050. But in many ways, the shift in national demographics has been accelerated beyond even that. New data from the American Values Atlas shows that while white people continue to be the majority in all but 4 states in the country, white Christians are the minority in a whopping 19 states. And, nationwide, Americans who identify as Protestant are now in the minority for the first time ever, clocking in at a mere 47 percent of Americans and falling.

The most obvious reason for this change is growing racial diversity. Most Americans still identify as Christian, but “Christian” is a group that is less white and less Protestant than it has been at any time in history. The massive growth in Hispanic Catholics, in particular, has been a major factor in this shift in the ethnic and religious identity of this country. White Catholics used to outnumber Hispanic Catholics 3 to 1 in the 2000s, but now it’s only by a 2 to 1 margin.

But another major reason religious diversity is outpacing the growth of racial/ethnic diversity is largely due to the explosive growth in non-belief among Americans. One in five Americans now identifies as religiously unaffiliated. In 13 states, the “nones” are the largest religious group. Non-religious people now equal Catholics in number, and their proportion is likely to grow dramatically, as young people are by far the most non-religious group in the country. This isn’t some kind of side effect of their youth, either. As Adam Lee has noted, the millennial generation is becoming less religious as they age.

These changes explain the modern political landscape as well as any economic indicator. While not all white Christians are conservative, these changing numbers definitely suggest that conservative Christians are rapidly losing their grip on power. And while some non-white Christians are conservative, their numbers are not making up for what the Christian right is losing. And whether conservative leaders are aware of the exact numbers or not, it’s clear that they sense that change is in the air. Just by speaking to young people, turning on your TV, or reading the Internet, you can sense the way the country is lurching away from conservative Christian values and towards a more liberal, secular outlook. And conservative Christians aren’t taking these changes well at all.

To look at the Christian right now is to see a people who know they are losing power and are desperately trying to reassert dominance before it’s lost altogether. The most obvious example of this is the frenzy of anti-abortion activity in recent years. Anti-choice forces have controlled the Republican Party since the late ’70s, but only in the past few years have they concentrated so singlemindedly on trying to destroy legal abortion in wide swaths of the country. In 2011 alone, states passed nearly three times as many abortion restrictions as they had in any previous year.

None of this is a reaction to any changes in people’s sexual behavior or reproductive choices. It’s not like there was a spike in abortions causing this panic. In fact, the abortion rate has been declining. And despite continuing media panic over adolescent sexuality, the fact is that teenagers are waiting longer to have sex, on average, than in the past. Despite this, not only are you seeing a dramatic increase in attacks on legal abortion, the Christian right has expanded its attacks to contraception access, suggesting that something has worked them into a panic they believe can only be resolved by trying to reassert their religious and sexual values.

That something isn’t changes in sexual behavior, but it’s reasonable to believe it’s because of changes in sexual values. People might not be having more sex, but they are feeling less guilty about the sex they are having. Since Gallup first started polling people in 2001 on moral views, acceptance of consensual sex between adults has skyrocketed. In a decade’s time, acceptance of premarital sex swelled from 53% to 66% of Americans and acceptance of gay Americans grew from a mere 38% to a majority of Americans. Even polyamory has become more acceptable for Americans, rising from being accepted by 5% of Americans to 14%.

The fact that these changes in attitude are rising alongside the growth of irreligiosity is not a coincidence. More perhaps even than the 1960s, Americans are in a period of questioning rigid sexual and religious mores, and concluding, in increasing numbers, that they are not down with guilt-tripping people for victimless behavior and demanding conformity for its own sake. Some of them–now a whopping 22% of Americans!–are leaving religion entirely. Some are continuing in their faith but choosing to interpret their values differently than Christian conservatives would like.

And so we see Christian conservatives cracking down in a desperate bid to regain control. They claim that they’re being oppressed by increasing tolerance for religious diversity. They have latched onto, with some success, the claim that “religious freedom” requires giving Christians the right to oppress others. The Republican Party is in complete thrall to the religious right, to the point where giving the Christian right one go-nowhere symbolic bill instead of another one created a major political crisis.

The irony is that this panic-based overreach is just making the situation worse for the Christian right. One of the biggest reasons the secularization trend has accelerated in recent years is that young people see the victim complex and the sex policing of the Christian right and it’s turning them off. And they’re not just rejecting conservative Christianity but the entire idea of organized religion altogether. In other words, the past few years have created a self-perpetuating cycle: Christian conservatives, in a panic over changing demographics, start cracking down. In reaction, more people give up on religion. That causes the Christian right to panic more and crack down more. In the end, Christian conservatives are going to hasten their own demise by trying to save themselves. Not that any of us should be crying for them.

By Amanda Marcotte / AlterNet

Posted by John the Revelator

peace2

She waves her battered arms
In surrender, crying with blood
Stained tears wondering if she’ll
Ever find peace

Standing on battlefields, watching
Bloodshed, wondering for not. Yet
She stood upright, at times wayward

Some call her Old Glory
Some say she’s a symbol
Of freedom

She watched as wars waged on
Her Native American soil, North
Against South, she had to even
Brave to see brother against brother,
Only to know a Fathers hurt and a
Mother’s tears

Bombs fall from the air, she stood
And stared but she never fell away
Torn, tattered, she understood,
Symbolically to stand tall
Some call her Old Glory
Some say she’s a symbol
Of freedom

As a young land was being formed,
She was there, star by star, stripe by
Stripe, she witnessed woman’s rights,
Whiteman’s hatred, black man’s burden
But she stood

She waves her battered arms in surrender,
Crying with blood stained tears wondering
If she’ll ever find peace

Some call her Old Glory
Some say she’s a symbol
Of freedom

Posted by John The Revelator