White Evangelicals Won't Recoil Against MAGA in the Midterms
My conversation with the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin about the growing acceptance of anti-semitism and bigotry in the MAGA movement and the refusal of white evangelicals to call it out.
Dear #WhiteTooLong community,
Thanks so much for your patience with the somewhat sporadic substack postings over the last few months. I’m thrilled (and relieved!) to report that on Friday I submitted the manuscript for my next book, which will hopefully be published fall of 2023. I’ll be able to share more about that soon. But I can tell you that this book has taken me on a challenging journey back further into our history—with deep dives in Mississippi, Minnesota, and Oklahoma—to try to better understand the roots of our contemporary political divisions and cultural turmoil.
In the meantime, I’m sharing a Q&A that I did over the weekend with Jennifer Rubin, columnist for the Washington Post, which was published yesterday. I have key excerpts below, and you can click through to read the entire conversation at WaPo.
Be sure to scroll all the way down to the end of the newsletter today, where I have invitations to join two events happening THIS WEEK:
Release of PRRI’s 13th annual American Values Survey, in partnership with the Brookings Institution. You can register for the event (10/27 at 10 a.m. EST) here.
A public conversation about White Supremacy and Christianity, with me and Rev. Fr. Bryan Massingale, hosted by Joan Neal and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. You can register for the event (10/29 at 12:30 p.m. EST) here.
White Too Long by Robert P. Jones is a reader-supported publication. To support my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber.
White Evangelicals Won't Recoil Against MAGA in the Midterms
By Jennifer Rubin
Many Americans remain puzzled by how self-described evangelical Christians can support a MAGA movement that increasingly normalizes bigotry and celebrates morally and intellectually unfit leaders. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and author of “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,” has studied the politics of White Christian evangelicals for decades. Our recent email conversation appears below lightly edited for style and length:
What accounts for White Christian evangelicals’ acceptance of Republicans’ increasingly unabashed expressions of bigotry?
White evangelicalism, with its strong emphasis on personal salvation, has always had a weakly developed and myopic political ethic. It developed a theology obsessed with personal (especially sexual) morality, which largely screened out concerns about social or structural injustice outside the church. This was by design, given that for most of its existence, it required a theology that was externally compatible with slavery and segregation — in short, with white supremacy. More recently, White evangelicals faced a crossroads when [Donald] Trump entered the political scene in the Republican Party, the party to which they fled in the 1970s and 1980s in the wake of the Democratic Party’s support for the civil rights movement.
Given that history, with the vast majority of White evangelicals supporting and blessing segregationist leaders just a generation ago, I wouldn’t characterize the current state of White evangelical responses, or lack of responses, as wildly inconsistent with this past. But the way White evangelicals have overtly given themselves over, not just to one political party but to one authoritarian personality, is deeply troubling.
On these questions, there is one public opinion survey question I keep coming back to, which gets to the heart of this continued White evangelical acquiescence of moral judgment and political responsibility. In 2011, PRRI asked whether people thought an elected official who committed an immoral act “can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” While just 30 percent of White evangelicals said such a candidate could fulfill their duties in 2011, that number jumped to 72 percent in 2016 when Trump was at the top of the ticket, and it remains at 68 percent today.
In short, White evangelicals have never had a robust political ethic based on rigorously developed principles but rather an ends-justify-the-means approach to politics that starts with support for outcomes that are perceived to serve their interests and then marshals theology as backfill.
Read the rest of the interview at The Washington Post.
PRRI/Brookings American Values Survey Release
On October 27, Governance Studies at Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) will host the release of its 13th annual American Values Survey.
Amid controversy over the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, concerns about high inflation and economic uncertainty, and rising threats to the stability of the electoral process and American democracy, the stakes for this year’s midterm elections could not be higher. Now, a new and extensive national survey of more than 2,500 Americans illuminates Americans’ attitudes about racial justice and religious pluralism, trust in public institutions such as schools and libraries, reproductive rights, gender identity and LGBTQ+ issues, and structural reforms to our political parties, processes, and courts. The survey also highlights what values and issues are driving voters’ concerns this November.
A panel of experts will discuss the survey results and what they reveal about American’s attitudes as they relate to the midterm elections and beyond. The survey also highlights long-term trends in partisan and religious affiliation, abortion attitudes, immigration reform, and support for QAnon, among other issues.
NETWORK: White Supremacy and American Christianity
On Saturday, October 29, at 12:30 p.m EST, the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice will host a public conversation about White Supremacy and Christianity, with Robert P. Jones and Fr. Bryan Massingale, hosted by Joan Neal.
Earlier this year, thousands of justice-seekers tuned in to hear from experts noted for their work at the intersection of race, white Supremacy, and religion – Fr. Bryan Massingale, Robert P. Jones, and Dr. Marcia Chatelain. We are pleased to announce that Fr. Bryan Massingale and Robert P. Jones will return for a conversation moderated by NETWORK’s Deputy Executive Director and Chief Equity Officer Joan F. Neal.
Join us online for what is sure to be an important and enlightening conversation ahead of this year’s midterm elections. Together, we'll continue learning about the intersection of white supremacy and American Christianity, with a focus on our politics.
Suggested Donation: $5
If you live near Erie, Pennsylvania, and would like to join other justice-seekers for an in-person watch event, please register here.