White evangelicals don't have a monopoly on faith-talk
It's 2020. Why does this have to be said again. 😒
The Democratic Convention was this week, and like many people, I walked away (well, in the sense that I walked from my bedroom where I watched the convention on my laptop to another room in the house) from it encouraged. I’m not sure how long I will feel this way, but political optimism is such a foreign feeling in 2020 that it was a welcome change of pace.
Of particular note was how much God-talk there was throughout. RNS national reporter Jack Jenkins was live-tweeting the convention, and by the third night of speeches, he’d lost count of how often faith was brought up.
Democrats were unafraid to mention God or to abdicate claims of faith to the GOP. Yes, Republican US Senator Marco Rubio may like to pull up Bible Gateway and tweet an out-of-context Bible passage the same day he shares a video obfuscating the true findings of his committee’s Russia report, with no apparent conflict of conscience, but just because Democrats speak of faith differently, it doesn’t invalidate their faith.
The religious right has succeeded for so long at convincing themselves they are the only legitimate religious voice that they cannot see when others speak of faith or religion. Chalk it up to any number of historical factors:
a pattern of anti-intellectualism so baked into evangelicalism that evangelical historian Mark Noll wrote the book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind in 1995. Its thesis is summed up in a single sentence: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind" (a problem that’s only been exacerbated in ensuing years).
a history of vilifying and questioning the legitimacy of their political opponents, and
a haughty belief that they are the sole arbiters of religious truth and political authority.
This behavior is on full display in Franklin Graham’s dismissal of the Democratic Convention. Despite the constant mentions of faith, Graham claims he saw an “absence of God.”
But again, since Franklin Graham presupposes that Democrats cannot be faithful, he cannot bring himself to acknowledge that Democratic leaders and voters can maintain a meaningful sense of faith that is not wedded to white evangelical tradition or Christian nationalist political goals.
Presuppositionalism, for all its flaws, can expose the hypocrisy of its adherents. When the evidence contradicts their beliefs, they must lie or deny the validity of said evidence in order to maintain their presuppositions—which is exactly what Franklin Graham is doing.
The continued dominance of white evangelical voices in the political sphere is also exactly why I am developing Powers & Principalities, which launched this week.
I’m creating this podcast series at this particular time because I think it is inherently valuable to make this information accessible to a broad audience in the lead-up to the 2020 election. A narrative has been pushed for the past few months that evangelical support for Trump was one of convenience or compromise; these interviews will highlight that Trumpism is just the latest permutation of Christian nationalism within evangelical politics. They have been working toward their goals for a very long time.
To that end, my next guest will be Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers, who is quoted in the image above.
Take a listen to my first episode with Diana Butler Bass, either in the Exvangelical feed or in the new show feed. Leave a comment on this post and let me know what you think! The next episode will drop next week.
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On a more personal note, we begin the process of simultaneous remote learning and working from home soon. My thoughts are with all the other parents and families juggling multiple responsibilities and obligations. No matter your living situation - whether single or partnered, living alone or with others, and whether or not you are a caretaker or guardian of another friend or family member - none of this is easy, normal, or right. Be kind to yourself and to others. Guard your energy, even as you fight to make this world better.