Protestants & Politics 1/5/21

Faith leaders: honor election results; Christian nationalism, Covid restrictions, vaccine doubt, social dominance; Religious composition of Congress; Roger Stone's gospel; Biblical immigration


Faith leaders urge Congress to honor election result

More than 2,000 faith leaders and religious activists are calling on members of Congress to honor the result of November’s election and avoid “a delayed and drawn out objection” this week when President-elect Joe Biden’s win is set to be certified.

Signatories to the statement released Monday include many prominent religious liberals, such as Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-convener of the National African American Clergy Network, and the Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of Washington’s Episcopal diocese.

Also signing on are a handful of evangelicals who have criticized President Donald Trump despite his overwhelming popularity among white evangelical voters, including World Vision president emeritus Rich Stearns.


Save the Economy, Liberty, and Yourself: Christian Nationalism and Americans’ Views on Government COVID-19 Restrictions

During the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local governments implemented lockdown restrictions that were tremendously polarizing. Those on the cultural and political left supported restrictions hoping to protect the vulnerable, while those on the cultural and political right challenged restrictions citing threats to the economy and liberty. We theorize that libertarian and authoritarian impulses within Christian nationalism undergirded much of the resistance to government restrictions. Analyzing national panel data collected before and during the pandemic, we find Christian nationalism is either the first or second strongest predictor that Americans prioritize the economy and liberty and deprioritize the vulnerable when asked about government restrictions. Religiosity works in the opposite direction, however. Findings underscore the centrality of Christian nationalism as an ideological driver of far-right discourse shaping COVID-19 responses.

Related: Christian nationalism's Covid vaccine doubt threatens America's herd immunity

Christian Nationalism is about Dominance

Do Christian nationalists have higher social dominance orientations (SDO)? Yes, they sure do (see the graph below). The average SDO score for someone who fully embraces Christian nationalism is more than 2.5 times that of someone who rejects Christian nationalism. Compare that to the effect of partisanship, which only increases 10% of the SDO scale from Strong Democrats to Strong Republicans. The effect of Christian nationalism is quite a bit stronger – increasing by 35% of the SDO scale.

Faith on the Hill: The religious composition of the 117th Congress

While about a quarter (26%) of U.S. adults are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – just one member of the new Congress (Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.) identifies as religiously unaffiliated (0.2%).

Over the last several Congresses, there has been a marked increase in the share of members who identify themselves simply as Protestants or as Christians without further specifying a denomination. There are now 96 members of Congress in this category (18%). In the 111th Congress, the first for which Pew Research Center analyzed the religious affiliation of members of Congress, 39 members described themselves this way (7%). Meanwhile, the share of all U.S. adults in this category has held relatively steady.


The Gospel According To Roger Stone

Between his sentence and his pardon, Stone claims he decided to embrace Christianity. I reached him by Zoom to ask him how it all came about.

Coggins arranged for Stone to meet Franklin Graham in January. … At Graham’s revival event in Florida, the evangelist called on those in the crowd who wished to be saved to stand up and repeat a prayer. “I did, because it felt like the right thing to do,” Stone explained. “I turned the whole thing over to the Big Man. I prayed every day that he would deliver me from my persecutors.” He exited the event in a flurry of selfies and autographs as fans approached him. It was just like a rally.

When I asked Stone about his view of the prophetic visions cited at the Jericho March, he had a bizarre answer at the ready. “There is a very famous evangelist named Kim Clement,” he told me. “He made a number of prophecies. He correctly predicted the election of a man named Donald, who would come from the East, from New York. He correctly predicted the failed impeachment. He saw all of this. In his prophecy, he says that just as David was saved by a simple stone which he picked up and flung at Goliath. The country will be saved by a Stone, he says. Remember that name, Clement says.” Some Christians think all of this is “mumbo-jumbo,” Stone admitted. “They’re entitled to be wrong.”

Stone isn’t sure if he’s the Stone Clement was referring to, but he’s clearly leaning heavily in that direction. “God will tell me what He wants me to do when He wants me to do it. I have been a strong supporter of the Stop the Steal movement. I think my life was spared for some greater purpose, and maybe I am that Stone. ...”

Is Roger Stone the unlikely herald of a new religious right?

This is where the similarities between Colson and Stone end. Colson spent the next four decades demonstrating the sincerity of his spiritual rebirth. Against the advice of his lawyer, he pleaded guilty, describing his conviction and sentencing as "a price I had to pay to complete the shedding of my old life and to be free to live the new." He served seven months in prison and, after his release, devoted himself to prison ministry, criminal justice reform, and restorative justice.

Stone, by contrast, pleaded not guilty. President Trump commuted his sentence in July, then pardoned him two days before Christmas, so he never went to prison. As a free man, Stone hasn't followed Colson in serving those stuck in the cells he escaped. The cause he is serving is his own, and his newly claimed faith seems awfully like his latest dirty trick, a pitch to an audience Stone believes will pave his path back to power.


EIT: Evangelical Convening on Immigration

Join the Evangelical Immigration Table for our January 2021 Virtual Conversation Series each Thursday at 1pm ET. Throughout the series, we will discuss a variety of topics related to a biblical view of immigration and ways the Church can engage.