Weekend reading: The End of White Christian America

After a long life spanning nearly two hundred and forty years, White Christian America — a prominent cultural force in the nation’s history — has died. … Although examiners have not been able to pinpoint the exact time of death, the best evidence suggests that WCA finally succumbed in the latter half of the first decade of the twenty-first century. The cause of death was determined to be a combination of environmental and internal factors — complications stemming from major demographic changes in the country, along with religious disaffiliation as many of its younger began to doubt WCA’s continued relevance in a shifting cultural environment. … WCA is survived by two principal branches of descendants: a mainline Protestant family residing primarily in the Northeast and upper Midwest and an evangelical Protestant family living mostly in the South. — Robert P. Jones, The End of White Christian America, 1-3 (2016).

“Quite possibly the most illuminating text for this election year is how Sam Tanenhaus for The New York Times Book Review characterized Robert P. Jones’ The End of White Christian America (Simon & Schuster, 2016). From the blurb:

Drawing on more than four decades of polling data, The End of White Christian America explains and analyzes the waning vitality of WCA. Robert P. Jones argues that the visceral nature of today’s most heated issues—the vociferous arguments around same-sex marriage and religious and sexual liberty, the rise of the Tea Party following the election of our first black president, and stark disagreements between black and white Americans over the fairness of the criminal justice system—can only be understood against the backdrop of white Christians’ anxieties as America’s racial and religious topography shifts around them.

Beyond 2016, the descendants of WCA will lack the political power they once had to set the terms of the nation’s debate over values and morals and to determine election outcomes. Looking ahead, Jones forecasts the ways that they might adjust to find their place in the new America—and the consequences for us all if they don’t.

Highly recommended. — Joe

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