Michael Bird

A word from Australia: Rural voters ruled 2016, but journalists should keep an eye on ...

A word from Australia: Rural voters ruled 2016, but journalists should keep an eye on ...

As you would imagine, I am still digging through stacks and stacks of emails and (digital) news clips in the wake of the Election Day earthquake and the news-media meltdown that followed. You don't even want to know the size of my email in-box right now.

While doing that, I came across a think piece on the election results -- from Australia, of all places -- that contained a useful typology that journalists might want to study. This is especially true for reporters who are sincerely interested in what happened with American evangelicals, especially those in predominately white congregations.

It helps to know that the author of this piece. the Rev. Michael Bird, is an Anglican priest and theologian, linked to Ridley College in Melbourne, who also blogs and writes essays of this kind for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The bland and rather wonkish headline on this particular piece was: "US election: Why did evangelicals vote for Donald Trump?"

The key to the piece is that this is not the question that interested him the most. The heart of the essay focused on another question that should be more interesting to journalists: Who are these Americans who everyone keeps calling "evangelicals" and leaving it at that?

Early on, Bird notes that he was in Houston during the GOP primaries and delivered a lecture attended by quite a few conservative Christians.

I began my talk by asking three questions: Why don't Americans use the metric system? Why is the cheese orange? And who are the evangelicals who are voting for Donald Trump?
I got a response of riotous laughter because just about everyone there supported Ted Cruz and hoped a local Texan would defeat the vulgar New Yorker. I asked the last question because, among my hundreds of American evangelical friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, I could count all of the Donald Trump supporters I knew on one hand.

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