Monday, November 28, 2016

How Right Robert P. Jones Turns Out to Be: "Obama Presidency Provided a Unique Focal Point for Many White Christian Voters"

Back in late July, when I began a report for you (in a series of postings) about Robert P. Jones' book The End of White Christian America, I wrote, 

If Donald Trump is elected president of the United States in 2016, white Christian Americans will bear primary responsibility for placing him in the White House. From the Catholic side, white Catholics (as opposed to Hispanic and black Catholics) will bear a great weight of responsibility for this event if it happens, and the U.S. Catholic bishops, who have worked long and hard to ally the Catholic church in the U.S. with precisely the kind of right-wing white evangelical voters who are the base of Donald Trump's support, will bear the heaviest responsibility of all. 
The fact that half of white Catholics are reporting that they support Donald Trump is a tremendous indictment of the (lack of) moral leadership of the U.S. Catholic bishops for decades now. And of the intellectual "leaders" of American Catholicism in its academy and journalistic sector who have been altogether pallid about challenging the bishops' lack of pastoral responsibility and moral insight, and have, in fact, actively assisted the bishops in leading the American church to this point . . . .

I also told you, 

To understand how the nation has come to this pass — to an impasse in which the combination white + Christian is having strongly regressive and possibly lethal (if Trump is elected) consequences for American democracy — Jones argues that you need to pay attention to two interlinked pieces of information: first, the White Christian Strategy is an outgrowth of the Southern Strategy which brought white evangelical Southern voters to the Republican party in droves; and second, the election of Barack Obama has unleashed serious backlash that is being driven by the White Christian Strategy far more than many political commentators realize — and by White Christian nostalgia for an ideal time (the 1950s) in which white Christians (especially straight white Christian males) were culturally dominant, and women, African Americans, and gay folks knew their places and kept to them. 

Robert P. Jones certainly got it right, didn't he? As a man with Southern white evangelical (specifically: Southern Baptist, from Georgia) roots, Robert P. Jones knows whereof he speaks when he tells us what has been making white evangelicals tick all through the Obama presidency, and what fueled the ugly, destructive, immoral white-lash we've just seen in the election of Donald Trump. 

Note his statement in the following excerpt from his book that the racial perception gap (as with racism in general) is simply not discussed in the U.S. public square:

The media (and, to their discredit as moral or intellectual leaders, many lay Catholic leaders in the U.S.) do everything short of standing on their heads to convince us that "economic rage" fueled the heavy white vote for Trump, and that white voters who voted strongly for Trump throughout the country couldn't possibly have a racist bone in their bodies or be motivated by white-lash against the nation's first African-American president.

White churchgoing voters are certainly now not going to hear the sin of racism discussed in their churches, either — not when the white evangelical churches are, in fact, the source of or religious cover for racism, after they set into motion the religious right movement as a reaction against the integration of public schools. Nor are the six in ten white Catholics who voted for Trump while claiming "pro-life" motivation going to hear homilies about the sin of racism, either, when their bishops allied themselves with white evangelicals in the evangelical white-lash reaction against integration, and when both groups now prefer to pretend that all sin is summed up by abortion and same-sex marriage. 

Abortion and same-sex marriage are sins demanding primary attention on the part of "pro-life" Catholics: not racism, these folks claim . . . and leading lay Catholic intellectuals are perfectly willing to go along with this sham, and are even celebrating Trump's election in the pages of a flagship lay Catholic journal, National Catholic Reporter, as they speak of the transition to a Trump presidency as "peaceful" and as a stimulus to Wall Street. 

Hence my decision to separate myself decisively now from people who can wrap up such significant evil in pseudo-religious terms — even as the evil they have set into motion by their "pro-life" votes begins targeting hapless fellow human beings who are outside the scope of their Catholic "pro-life" ethic . . . .

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