Monday, May 22, 2017

Lisa Sharon Harper on Hijacking of White Evangelicalism by Politics: "That's at the Root of the Religious Right"

In a just-published interview with Lisa Sharon Harper, author of The Very Good Gospel, Deborah Jian Lee, author of Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism, asks, "Given its history and this past election, is white evangelicalism redeemable?" Lisa Sharon Harper's response, which seems to me right on target:

It's beyond evangelicalism. Evangelicals have taken the brunt of this. Yes, 81 percent, but also 60 percent of white Catholics and 58 percent of white historic Protestants in America voted for Trump. The majority of white women voted for Trump. 
Basically white people voted for Trump. The entire white church, the majority, voted for Trump. There is no portion, there's not one portion of the white church that can dodge this bullet. So yes, 81 percent of evangelicals did, the vast majority. But Protestants and Catholics are not far behind them. 
I think the struggle within white evangelicalism is one of core identity. That struggle is taking place because white evangelicalism was hijacked in the 1980s by politics—politics that were initially defined by a racist agenda, as documented by historian Randall Balmer. 
That's at the root of the religious right that fully, completely captured the identity of evangelical America for almost 40 years. You have a situation where people have two or three generations in families that have grown up saying "I'm Republican, I'm Republican, I'm Republican." Many of those people voted Republican even though they couldn't stand Donald Trump—because it is an identity issue. 
So many of my white evangelical friends are really struggling right now—not with their faith, but with their communities who are so captured by a political identity. They are witnessing a disconnect between their community's vote for a president who wants to ban immigrants, who says black people are to be feared and locked up, and Jesus who says "Welcome the stranger" and "I've come to set the prisoners free."

(My apologies: when I initially posted this piece, I had misread the Religion Dispatches interview and thought that it was Harper asking the questions and Lee responding. I have now corrected my mistake.)

The photo of Lisa Sharon Harper is from her website.

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