2016 campaign

Evangelicals face Trump-era exits by blacks: This may have something to do with religion

Evangelicals face Trump-era exits by blacks: This may have something to do with religion

Ever since the Promise Keepers movement in the late 1990s (remember the giant rally on the National Mall?), one of the most interesting stories in American religion has been efforts at racial reconciliation in some (repeat some) evangelical and Pentecostal churches and denominations.

Pentecostalism, of course, began as a racial integrated movement and, ever since, that movement has been more multicultural and interracial than any other form of church life. Evangelicals? Not as much. However, it has been hard to miss the Southern Baptist Convention wrestling with its demons in the past decade, in particular.

This brings me to a must-read piece that ran the other day in The New York Times: "A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshipers Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches."

You will be shocked, I am sure, to know that the answer to that "why?" question is (wait for it) -- Donald Trump.

You'll also be shocked to know that, at the heart of this story, is the white evangelical monolith theory stressing that 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump and were very happy to do so (yes, ignore the coverage in Christianity Today). It ignores that Trump's take on immigration and his tone-deaf (at best) language on race infuriated many evangelical leaders.

All that said, I think this Times story gets the political half of this painful equation just about right. However, the editors aren't very interested in what is going on in terms of religion. I know -- it's shocking. Plus, where’s the hard reporting? Can you base a long feature like this on anecdotes, alone?.

The story is unfolds through the eyes of Charmaine Pruitt of Fort Worth, explaining why (sort of) she began attending the giant predominately white Gateway Church, led by the Rev. Robert Morris. Then it explains why she left. Here is a key piece of framing material:

In the last couple of decades, there had been signs, however modest, that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning might cease to be the most segregated hour in America. “Racial reconciliation” was the talk of conferences and the subject of formal resolutions.

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Your weekend think piece: Billy Graham, Jeffrey Bell, Michael Gerson and 'Starbucks' politics

Your weekend think piece: Billy Graham, Jeffrey Bell, Michael Gerson and 'Starbucks' politics

The Rev. Billy Graham worked hard to avoid political questions, at least in public.

But there was one fact about his life that, for decades, he didn't hide. Graham was a registered Democrat.

In other words, the world's most famous evangelist grew up in the old South, pre-Roe vs. Wade, and he didn't grow up rich. Thus, he was a Southern Democrat. Most evangelicals were. Culturally conservative Democrats didn't become an endangered species until quite late in Billy Graham's adult life.

I thought of that fact the day Graham died. I sat down early that morning with an "On Religion" column already finished. All I had left to do was a quick edit and then ship it in. But first, I opened Twitter and there was the news that many religion writers had been expecting for years.

I knew what I was going to write when Graham died, as a sidebar to the major coverage across mainstream media. But I hadn't written it. Thus, I was on a hard deadline for the first time in many years. That column focused on Graham's sermon at civic memorial service for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (click here to read it).

It was hard not to think about the current state of American politics, and evangelicalism, while writing that column.

But what about the column that I had already written? It ran this week and, amazingly enough, it focuses on some very similar themes -- looking back to the crucial years when the Democratic Party began cutting it's ties to traditional religious groups.

The key figure in this column was Jeffrey Bell, a political strategist who died on Feb. 10. Bell was a Republican, but he also was known for his work to create a presidential campaign for the late Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, an old-school Catholic Democrat who was also vocally pro-life and pro-religious liberty.

Why did Bell think that conservative evangelicals and Catholics needed the option of backing a Democrat? That question is at the heart of this "think piece" collection for this weekend.

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The Atlantic probes dark fears of working-class America (without asking moral questions)

The Atlantic probes dark fears of working-class America (without asking moral questions)

As a rule, your GetReligionistas appreciate the think pieces that The Atlantic runs focusing on religion topics. This is especially true when these longish features include lots and lots of solid reporting, as opposed to chattering-class people thinking out loud about wonkish things.

See, for example, the cries of hosannah the other day from our own Bobby Ross, Jr., in a post called: "Choose your superlative, but The Atlantic's deep dive on Islamic State radicalization is a must read." That was a classic magazine news feature.

Now we have a think piece from The Atlantic about the 2016 (Cue: Theme From Jaws) campaign that offers some survey data that sheds new light on those stunning Rust Belt wins by Donald Trump, which put him (for now) in the White House. The double-decker headline sets the scene, and then some:

It Was Cultural Anxiety That Drove White, Working-Class Voters to Trump
A new study finds that fear of societal change, not economic pressure, motivated votes for the president among non-salaried workers without college degrees

From my point of view, the key to the story is this: What, precisely, is meant by terms such as "cultural anxiety" and the "fear of societal change"?

Mainstream media orthodoxy would insist that these terms refer to xenophobia, radical nationalism and racism. The big issue, in this case, would be immigration.

Sure enough, this essay includes numbers that certainly point to immigration being a major issue for folks living in white, blue-collar, labor households. But is there something else in there? After all, this piece was written by religion-beat specialist Emma Green.

Thus, it is safe to assume that there may be a religion ghost or two in here somewhere. Let's look for clues in this summary material:

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In era of Donald Trump, is it true Muslim scholars are no longer split on ethics of voting?

In era of Donald Trump, is it true Muslim scholars are no longer split on ethics of voting?

In an election year in which Donald Trump won't shut up about Muslims, I find stories about Muslim voters intriguing.

Just recently, I wrote a post highlighting Muslims who actually — gasp! — plan to vote for Trump.

The latest piece that caught my attention is the lead item on today's roundup of religion headlines by the Pew Research Center (sign up here for this great resource).

From the beginning, the NPR story relies on a bunch of generalities — Islamophobia, anyone? — while failing to provide concrete details that explain or amplify the specific claims made:

In an election year filled with anti-Muslim vitriol, some mosques are urging their worshipers to vote in an attempt to make their voices heard. To do so, they're borrowing a strategy used by African-American churches and organizing "souls to the polls" campaigns.
Many mosques have traditionally shunned politics. As recently as the late 1990s, Muslim scholars were divided on the ethics of voting. For years, it was common for many Muslim-Americans to not exercise their voting rights. But this year, three of Nashville's biggest mosques are busing worshipers to the polls. The organizers say this is more about demonstrating the importance of voting than providing transportation.

Now, NPR never mentions Trump in this report — but I can't help but think "anti-Muslim vitriol" might be a reference to the Republican presidential nominee.

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Election-year theodicy? Washington Post explores rise of faith-haunted, political obits

Election-year theodicy? Washington Post explores rise of faith-haunted, political obits

So do you remember Mary Anne Noland of Richmond, Va.? Her name surfaced recently in a way that was both humorous and poignant, during a "Crossroads" podcast about the "lesser of two evils" dilemma faced by many voters in this year's White House campaign.

All over America, people were talking about her obituary in The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Some people thought this was a hoax, perhaps something from The Onion. The folks at Snopes.com quickly verified that this viral sensation was the real deal.

If you do not recall the details, here is how the Noland obit opened:

NOLAND, Mary Anne Alfriend. Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the age of 68. Born in Danville, Va., Mary Anne was a graduate of Douglas Freeman High School (1966) and the University of Virginia School of Nursing (1970). A faithful child of God, Mary Anne devoted her life to sharing the love she received from Christ with all whose lives she touched as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend and nurse. ...

You could see, in the Noland obituary, that this family's faith was woven into this story and linked, somehow, to the disdain they felt toward the two major candidates (depending, of course, on the outcome of the crucial FBI primary and the growing revolt among GOP delegates, many of them cultural and moral conservatives).

Surely this obituary was a one-of-a-kind heart cry, right? As it turns out, it was not. That leads us to a quite amazing feature in The Washington Post that ran under the headline, "Disdain for Trump and Clinton is so strong, even the dead are campaigning."

Did this feature deal with the moral and religious elements of this phenomenon? Sort of.

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