Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Andrew Sullivan on the White Evangelical Exception in American Politics


Andrew Sullivan writes yesterday about "the white evangelical exception" in American politics.  As he notes, the latest Pew study about gays in the military shows Americans favoring an end to DADT and its ban on gays in the military by 2-1.  

But with one notable exception: about half of white evangelical Protestants remain opposed to letting out gays serve in the military.  Sullivan concludes: "In some ways, much of American politics is about just how much of a veto this group can exert over the rest of the country, and how determined the majority is to resist them."

He has that right.  The political (and cultural) history of the U.S. has been determined by some time now by a white evangelical Protestant minority, primarily but not exclusively in the Southern states, to whom the center continues to cater in the name of "balance" and pragmatism.  And as Steve Kornacki reports at Slate, the more the nation moves Democratic at the federal level, the more determined the states of the Old South are to move Republican. 

Throughout the Southeast right now, Democratic legislators are switching to the Republican party in the wake of the recent elections.  In my home state of Arkansas, one of our Democratic senators, Mark Pryor, has just announced that he's not about to vote for ending DADT because homosexuality is a sin.  Those who have seen Bill Maher's film "Religulous" will  recall that in that film, Maher pushes Mark Pryor on the question of evolution--whether he accepts the scientific theory of evolution--and Pryor equivocates.  He suggests, ludicrously, that we just don't know enough to say yea or nay about this matter, and the biblical creation narratives, read literally, might very well be scientifically true. 

And as a minority of faith-based voters in the American Southeast continue to determine the nation's future, as a drag on every forward step politically and culturally, Katherine Q. Seelye reports in the New York Times today that the Old South is gearing up to celebrate the 150th anniversary of secession with style.  With  "a joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink" in Charleston, where a distant cousin of mine, little Doushka Pickens, who was three years old at the time, lit the fuse for the cannon that was fired at Fort Sumter, setting the civil war into motion.

And by the way, as the Times article notes, we can anticipate that the celebrations of secession will remain silent about the issue of slavery and the role it played in the war.  And as Andrew Sullivan suggests, the big question to be considered here is why the majority in the nation as a whole continues to give veto power to this minority.  (And, I'd add, why Catholics who have moved increasingly into the Republican fold imagine the values and ethos of Catholicism are congruent with the values and ethos of Southern-style evangelical Protestantism.  I grew up in that tradition before I became Catholic, and I'm here to tell you they're not.)

No comments: