The Unmaking of the White Christian Worldview

As White Christians are Losing their World, Many are Losing Their Minds

Hi, everyone, today marks my sixth Friday Reflection for the #WhiteTooLong substack community. And WELCOME to more than 200 of you who have joined us since last week!

This Friday’s offering will be a bit different. I’m featuring a new, deeply personal column I wrote that ran on Wednesday in TIME Magazine. It was also picked up by MSNBC Wednesday night, and I appeared on “The Reid Out” with Joy Reid. Links to all of that below.

My apologies that I can only include an excerpt below, but there’s a link out to TIME to read the full piece. I do hope you’ll read the whole thing. It’s caused quite a stir on social media and has been one of the most-viewed articles on TIME this week. And it’s one of those pieces that has been simmering on the back burner for a while. It took me two months to get it right.

Before we jump in, ICYMI, I invite you (especially those just joining us) to read last Friday’s post:

Gratitude for the Incandescent Witness of James Baldwin

And as always, if you like what you’re reading here, please do pass it along to others who might want to join the conversation.

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As I came of age in Woodville Heights Baptist Church, on the white working-class side of Jackson, Miss., I internalized a cycle of sin, confession and repentance as a daily part of my life. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, this was a double inheritance. Beneath this seemingly icy surface of guilt and culpability flowed a deeper current of innocence and entitlement. Individually, I was a sinner, but collectively, I was part of a special tribe. Whatever our humble social stations might be, we white Christians were God’s chosen instruments of spreading salvation and civilization to the world.

The power and sheer cultural dominance of white Christianity in America historically bound these contradictory sensibilities together. But today we are witnessing the unmaking of this white Christian worldview, and it has unleashed remarkably destructive forces into American life.

Understanding this dissolution is the key to deciphering one of the most vexing puzzles in our politics: how a purportedly sober Christian worldview has become a volatile cocktail of fealty to Donald Trump, wild-eyed rants about vaccines, faith in QAnon conspiracies and hysteria over critical race theory.

Understanding how we got here requires entering the white evangelical cultural world, one in which I grew up…. Looking back on it now, it’s clear that this intense preoccupation with personal sin, by design, kept our field of vision shallow and allowed us to sit, Sunday after Sunday, “silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows,” as Martin Luther King Jr. put it so devastatingly in “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”


Read the Full Column at TIME

Wednesday evening, I appeared on MSNBC’s The Reid Out with Joy Reid to talk about the column and about the ways we are witnessing the unraveling of white evangelicalism. Here, from recent PRRI polling, are a few of the disturbing trends among white evangelical Protestants we discussed.

  • 61% believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.

  • 68% believe Trump is a “true patriot.”

  • More than seven in ten deny that the history of slavery and discrimination in the U.S. has any bearing on economic inequalities between white and Black Americans today.

  • One in three believe that “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

  • White evangelicals are the religious group most likely to refuse COVID-19 vaccines and object to mask mandates.

  • One in four are QAnon conspiracy believers.


Click on the following graphic to see the entire segment, which begins at minute 33:35.

Finally, a BONUS FEATURE. To hear Joy Reid and me have an in-depth conversation about White Too Long, you can tune in to the #whattoreid podcast, which we recorded this summer. Just click below.

And if all of this has inspired you to read White Too Long or buy a copy for a friend, you can order a copy at the link below.

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