Thursday, April 19, 2018

More on Recent News: White Evangelical Fervor for Trump at Record High; White Evangelicals and Racism; Millennials and Abortion; Cardinal Tobin on Listening to LGBTQ Folks

Jacqueline Thomsen, "Poll: White evangelical support for Trump at record high"

Some odds and ends of commentary on news items today — several of them items I have discussed here in previous postings.

1. Tuesday, I offered you an excerpt from Greg Carey's review of a new book by evangelical scholar John Fea entitled Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. Greg Carey writes that, as someone who grew up in the South, he has a different optic on the role racism plays in molding white evangelical views in the South than the one used by Fea in this book. He faults Fea for "never get[ting] messy with the most telling factor: that no other religious group even remotely approaches white evangelicals' preference for Trump. Race proved one of the most decisive predictors of Trump support, and white evangelicals were the most loyal Trump voting bloc of all."

I offered you some commentary on these matters, noting that when I tweeted out the preceding excerpt from Carey's review, John Fea took exception to my tweet and tweeted back a reply that — my reading — essentially dismissed me. John Fea's reply to my tweet about his book conveyed to me that I do not quite occupy the same level of humanity he and other important men discussing these weighty matters occupy.

I noted that I think it's a big mistake for the media and for scholars of religion with media influence to dismiss in this dismissive way  those of us who know Southern white evangelical culture from the inside out — when that culture is now affecting the political course of the U.S. in a very significant way. People who think that they can ignore it with impunity — and not address it critically and proactively — are, in my view, deluding themselves.

Even folks with Southern roots, including ones that happen to be openly gay, might have something of importance to contribute to these conversations, and deserve to be heard in these grave and weighty discussions of national media gurus and religion scholars. 

Today, John Fea offers something of a response to Greg Carey at Religion Dispatches, which had published Carey's review of his book. He states, 

One way to look at this [i.e., the possibility that some evangelicals — Fea says he's not comfortable concluding this about all white evangelicals — are comfortable with racism] is to observe that evangelicals have always prioritized certain social issues over others, and race has never been one of their priorities. Abortion, they would argue, transcends race.

In a Twitter thread this morning, I respond to that observation and to John Fea's implicit attempt, in the same article, to confine racism among U.S. white evangelicals largely to Southern evangelicals. Here's the first tweet in the thread; for the rest of the thread, I'll quote my tweets, not embed them:

This observation, quite simply, gets the history of the religious right & its origins very wrong. It disguises the formative, foundational role that racist resistance to civil rights legislation in the 1960s played in jump-starting the religious right movement. 2) 
The religious right was born in resistance to the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act of 1964-5. Opposition to abortion came later, as a tag-on designed to consolidate the alliance between Southern white evangelicals and the U.S. Catholic bishops. 3) 
Growing up Southern Baptist in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi in the 1950s and 1960s, I never heard a peep about abortion. I did see, all around me, white churches resisting integration, acting as a vehicle for racist opposition to civil rights for African Americans. 4) 
Claiming that the religious right has always been about abortion and opposition to same-sex marriage, while SOUTHERN evangelicals nattered on about race, is a way of pretending that racism does not move white evangelicals outside the South. 5) 
One study after another following Trump's election shows the overweening influence of racism on those who voted for him throughout the U.S., including — notably — white Christians. 6) 
Unless we have honest conversations about these issues, we're not going to get to the bottom of what's driving the political-religious right in the U.S. at present. That conversation will require respectful listening to people who know/understand 7)
what makes southern white evangelicals tick. Especially when what makes them tick has been mainstreamed in American political life — everywhere in the country — through one of our two major political parties. 8)

2. In Tuesday's posting (it's linked above), I also offered you an excerpt from a recent Newsweek article by Nina Burleigh in which she says that (white) evangelicals' fervent support for Trump is costing (white) evangelical churches younger members, who are walking away from the churches in record numbers. I also excerpted an article by Paul Moses at Commonweal in which he cautions the pro-life movement not to hitch its wagon to Donald Trump, because doing so will no doubt alienate millennials, who are already showing signs of moving away from the hardline approach to the issue of abortion pro-lifers want to mandate for the nation.

Moses refers to a recent PRRI poll demonstrating that shift. Yesterday, PRRI director Robert P. Jones tweeted about this poll:

3. New Ways Ministry's Bondings 2.0 blog recently reported on a statement by Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark in which he calls for the Catholic hierarchy to listen more attentively to the voices of LGBTQ people. Here'smy response to Cardinal Tobin's statement:

I appreciate Cardinal Tobin's call for Catholic officials and the Catholic community to listen more carefully and respectfully to LGBTQ people. 
But his statement, "The church cannot reverse itself on its sexual ethics," is simply not true. 
The church has, in fact, reversed itself on moral matters in the past — notably, regarding usury and slavery. The church's moral teachings are not written in stone, have not been infallibly declared, are susceptible to development and change. 
And in that process, the involvement of the laity, who are the "object" of these teachings handed down by the hierarchy, has a critically important role to play. When the sensus fidelium leads large numbers of Catholics to reject — to refuse to "receive" — magisterial teaching about an issue, as is the case with the church's magisterial teachings about sexual ethics, this lack of reception seriously calls into question the teaching being transmitted to the lay members of the church as "true." And "unchanging." 
You can't call for listening respectfully to the laity about LGBTQ issues and then, in the same breath, say that the church cannot reverse itself on sexual ethics. The latter statement nullifies the former.

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