Protestants & Politics
Nones; Evangelical adoption and gay parents; vaccines and mark of the beast; white grievance, radicalization and evangelical Christians; Faith in black communities; pluralism; religion and populism
Who are the nones and why are they growing? This group includes atheists, agnostics, and lots of those who may or may not be personally religious but don't affiliate with a particular religious group. As they grow in numbers, they're becoming an increasingly important part of the American political landscape.
My guest is Ryan Burge, Assistant Professor of political science at Eastern Illinios University. An expert in religion and political behavior, Professor Burge has over 20 articles published in peer reviewed academic journals. We spoke about his new book, The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going.
Bethany’s informal policy became increasingly challenging for the organization in recent years, as various states and municipalities began requiring agencies to accept applications from L.G.B.T.Q. couples in order to maintain their government contracts.
Some faith-based agencies have challenged new requirements to work with gay clients in the courts. Catholic Social Services sued the City of Philadelphia over its contract suspension, a case that the Supreme Court heard in November. A ruling is expected by the end of June.
Bethany, by contrast, has generally opted to comply. In Philadelphia, the branch quickly changed its policy to work with gay parents, and the city restored its contract. That year, Bethany’s national board passed a resolution granting local boards the authority to comply with state and local contract requirements. As of last year, the organization said, Bethany branches in 12 states were working with L.G.B.T.Q. families, although those changes were rarely publicized.
Still, some are reluctant to be vaccinated because they have read or heard conspiracy theories about the dangers of the vaccines. Some have found on their social media feeds or in their email inboxes articles by anti-vaccine activists making wild and unsubstantiated claims about the dangers of the coronavirus vaccines. Others have seen even more bizarre claims, such as that Bill Gates is seeking to implant microchips of the Book of Revelation’s mark of the beast into our bloodstreams. The net result is often that even those who are not given to conspiracy theorizing can just assume that seeing so many alarms about vaccines ought to make one wary. After all, most people do not have medical expertise to answer every floated claim.
These conspiracy theories, however, are not rooted in reality. Indeed, many of them come from the same sources that previously told us that the coronavirus itself was a hoax or, even worse, a “plandemic” mapped out by the government for some purpose or another. These sources told us that no more would die from covid than from the seasonal flu or that after the presidential election we would hear no more about covid or social distancing or masking. These claims were demonstrated to be false, and the dark claims about the vaccines are, too.
Yet the largest single group within the new GOP coalition is comprised of people who claim to be evangelical Christians. And the view of human beings implied by Trumpism is a direct negation of Christian teaching (as well as many other systems of belief). Christians are informed — not by political correctness, but by Jesus — that every addict and homeless person you might encounter on a nocturnal walk in New York is the presence of Christ in disguise. And the parable He told in Matthew 25 illustrating this point is a rather stern one. Those who follow their pre-cognitive disgust and refuse to treat the hungry, the stranger, the sick and imprisoned as they would Christ are told: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
This Christian anthropology does not dictate specific policies. But it requires Christians to ask: How should we act in the political realm if every human being we encounter — everyone we admire and everyone we disdain; everyone we agree with and everyone we disagree with; everyone we love and everyone we hate — were actually the image of Christ in our midst? No one can live in this manner at every moment. But it is an ideal that should cause us to tremble.
The radicalization of the white evangelical community has been creeping in for some time. Its roots are in the inextricable alliance between the Republican Party and the major branches and subcultures of conservative evangelicalism — Southern Baptists, Pentecostals and the televangelists.
We will have to confront this radicalization or we will suffer the consequences. That’s why I am calling on my fellow evangelicals to take a long, hard look at the direction that many in our community are headed. We cannot afford to ignore or dismiss the most extreme elements, which are growing. To do so would not just put our fellow Americans and our democracy at risk; it would mean the degradation of our faith.
Odds & Ends
Evangelical Leaders Statement: Condemning Christian Nationalism's role in the January 6 Insurrection
As leaders in the broad evangelical community, we recognize and condemn the role Christian Nationalism played in the violent, racist, anti-American insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6.
While we come from varied backgrounds and political stances, we stand together against the perversion of the Christian faith as we saw on January 6, 2021. We also stand against the theology and the conditions that led to the insurrection.
Our faith will not allow us to remain silent at such a time as this. We are also aware that our world needs more than a statement right now… we need action. We will do our best to be faithful to Jesus, and to those Christ called “the least of these.”
Besheer Mohamed, senior researcher at Pew Research Center, shares findings from a new and unique report that explores the nuances of faith, politics and more in the religious lives of Black Americans, as well as Black adults' views on the role of the Black church.
The complex relationship between media, religion, and populism grows ever more complicated and pronounced with the propagation of social media, new forms of religious extremism, and nationalist populism rising with a fervor across the globe. How the media reports on the (mis)use of religious narratives to advance national superiority, balancing how to inform without amplifying, is an important area for further study and dialogue.
Kalpana Jain is a long-time investigative journalist who worked at Times of India for many years and reports on Hindu nationalism. John Fea, professor of American history and chair of the history department at Messiah University, is a scholar of Christian nationalism. Jain and Fea will engage in a conversation about specific examples of religion and nationalist populism in different regions of the world and how those narratives relate to broader trends globally. The dialogue will be moderated by Ann Peters, university and community outreach director at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
This event is co-sponsored by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Mar 5, 2021 12:00 PM ET
The first academic discussion of evangelical Christian migration to the American Northwest
Based on several years of fieldwork and interviews with the migration movement's leading figures
Uses contemporary movements in American evangelicalism to make predictions about the future of American religious conservatism
Takes a broad view of the Southern Strategy of the Republican Party and illustrates how 40 years of partisan polarization have influenced not just the region but the nation
Debunks the myth of the gender gap in voter behavior, showing why southern women voted for Donald Trump
Presents exclusive national survey data with oversamples of the geographic South and an innovative measure of southern identity
Measures key aspects of behavior, including sexism, racism including Latino-specific racial resentment, ethnocentrism, and Christian fundamentalism