Monday, January 16, 2017

A Long Overdue Eulogy for White Christian America?

Despite Donald Trump's election thanks in no small part to evangelical Christians who demonstrated that hate, bigotry and white supremacy were far more important to them than the Gospel message of Christ, things are not looking auspicious for white, heterosexual Christian America over the longer term.  As author Robert P. Jones notes in  The End of White Christian America,” white Protestants lost their majority status in 1993, and the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the America will no longer be majority white by 2042 and that the number of whites will decline by 2060.  For Trump voting evangelicals who see no common humanity in anyone who doesn't share the same skin color and religious beliefs, this is a calamity of incalculable proportions.  

For the rest of society which has been abused and discriminated against by white conservative Christians, I would argue that this is a positive thing.  Covenant Magazine looks at the decline facing this most hate and bigotry -filled element of American society. Note that yet again we see the mistreatment of LGBT citizens as being a major catalyst for younger generations leaving Christianity. I predict that the anti-LGBT jihad about to be unleashed by Trump and his gay-hating cabinet nominees will accelerate the exodus.  Here are article excerpts:
The rapid disintegration of the Crystal Cathedral[in Orange County, California] represents the “canary in the coal mine” for what Jones calls White Christian America (or WCA), a term he uses to identify white Protestant America, both mainline and evangelical. Protestant Christianity in America is facing a demographic and cultural tsunami, he argues, that is amply illustrated by the statistics collected and analyzed in the book. The mainline church experienced its heady times of cultural influence and political power during the first half of the twentieth century. Its fall was nearly as spectacular as its rise, with both influence and numbers waning through the 1960s and ’70s. The evangelical movement had an equally heady rise in the ’80s, only to see slippage in the first and especially the second decade of the twenty-first century. White Protestants lost their majority status in 1993. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the country will no longer be majority white by 2042 and that the number of whites will decline by 2060. This is bad news for the church of WCA, chiefly because it has shown itself singularly incapable of “desegregating.” Jones argues that because white Americans have so few people of color in their social networks they suffer from a “racial perception gap.” They have great difficulty understanding or seeing the world from the standpoint of an African American citizen of one of our largest cities or a recent Hispanic immigrant, documented or otherwise. Thus white Americans are frequently perplexed and angered when black Americans protest the latest police shooting or express frustration with the slow rate of change in matters of social justice.
Jones points out that while the mainline denominations were involved early on in support of the civil rights movement, their local churches have done no better at becoming multi-ethnic and multi-cultural than evangelical churches.
In a powerful section of the book entitled “Why Is Desegregating Church So Difficult?” Jones points to the work of Jennifer Hardy, who argues that, paradoxically, one of the reasons efforts have failed in both communities is “the powerful hold that ‘reconciliation’ has on white Christian imagination.” . . . For many it seems that once they have said “I’m sorry” to a person of color, that is enough. As my friend Michael Murphy puts it, it is like a husband who has beaten his wife for years saying, “Let’s put that all behind us.” White Christians, in other words, frequently go in for “cheap reconciliation” when the true path of reconciliation is arduous and painful.
 WCA is protected by its suburban isolation and, in many cases, living with denial. But WCA is not only facing a demographic cliff, it is experiencing a generational disaster. Whereas in 2014, 67 percent of people over the age of sixty-five were “white Christians,” only 29 percent of those between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine were. And 34 percent of the latter population were “unaffiliated.”
Both the mainline and evangelical church were losing their young adults—and the evangelical losses were even greater than the mainline. Whereas 27 percent of Americans sixty-five and over were “white evangelical Protestant” and 20 percent “white mainline Protestants” only 10 percent of those eighteen to twenty-nine were—for both groups. Evangelical young adults reported that their reasons for leaving the church were the over-identification of the movement with conservative politics and its cruelty toward gay persons. Couple this with a declining birth rate and you have a disaster in the making.
 Wishful thinking and flashy new programs will not help if the mission of the church does not address the world that is rather than the world that was.  It is abundantly clear that WCA must become something else entirely. It must lose the “white” tag and learn from the growing African American, Asian, and Hispanic churches both in the United States and throughout the world. It must address its privilege and the cheapness of its reconciliation. It must recover the gospel of “costly reconciliation”—a gospel that addresses all persons and the whole planet. Hunkering down with the old hymns and worship songs and looking back to the glory days is a pathway to irrelevance and death. Evangelicals who believe God’s Spirit is alive and active in the world must ask, where is that Spirit moving? How can we catch that wind? It will not happen if WCA stays safely anchored in the harbor of the past.

Again, the fact that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump and his overt calls to white supremacist demonstrates that WCA is not letting go of its "white tag" anytime soon.  We can only hope that the road to irrelevance and death is even more rapid than so predict. 

I was raised conservative Catholic, was an altar boy for 10 years and ultimately rose to the 4th Degree in the Knights of Columbus.  For 7 years I usually attended daily mass.  Now, neither I nor any of my siblings, my nieces and nephews or my children and their families attend church.  Why? Just look ate the Catholic Church's continued protection of predator priests and mistreatment of women and gays.  Then look at the racism and homophobia rampant in conservative protestant denominations.  Why would anyone moral and possessing ethical decency and empathy for others want to be a part of such hatred and misogyny? 

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