About seven in 10 American seniors are white Christians. Among young adults, fewer than three in 10 are. During the span of the Obama administration, America went from a majority white Christian nation to one where white Christians are a minority. That’s an earthquake, and we’re living in the aftershocks.
This is a story that Robert Jones, the head of the Public Religion Research Institute, tells in his book The End of White Christian America. Much of Donald Trump’s support is driven by a sense of religious loss, not just racial or national loss. Many of the debates playing out on the American right — particularly the Sohrab Ahmari-David French fight — reflect the belief that these are end times for a certain strain of American Christians, unless emergency measures are undertaken.
This is not, to put it lightly, a perspective that’s treated sympathetically on the left. What could carry more privilege than being a white Christian? But that’s why, if you want to understand American politics right now, it’s important to try to see the other side of this one. I’m going to be exploring this more on the show in the weeks to come, but I wanted to start with Jones, who knows the data here better than anyone. This is part of the deep context of American politics right now. Seeing it clearly makes a lot of our fights more legible.
If you liked this episode, you may also like: “David French on the Great, White Culture War” and Jennifer Richeson on “The most important idea for understanding politics in 2018.”
Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement by Carolyn Renée Dupont
Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America by James Fallows and Deborah Fallows
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