How white fundamentalist evangelicals keep moving far-right as the US grows increasingly 'secular': author
In the United States, Christianity isn't necessarily synonymous with right-wing politics. The Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson are ordained Baptist ministers. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and centrist Democratic President Joe Biden consider themselves devout Catholics, as does Sister Mary Scullion — a Catholic nun and Philadelphia-based activist known for supporting liberal and progressive causes.
But the Republican Party, since the early 1980s, has closely allied itself with far-right white evangelicals and the Religious Right movement. And author/UC Berkeley history professor David Hollinger, in an interview with The Nation's Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins published on March 29, stresses that white evangelicals are moving more and more to the right at a time when the United States on the whole is becoming increasingly secular.
Hollinger, author of the 2022 book, "Christianity's American Fate: How Religion Became More Conservative and Society More Secular," told The Nation, "The Republican Party has cultivated white evangelicals as a key voting bloc, and it has worked wonderfully. The epistemic closures in which many evangelicals lived in the 1970s or 1950s or 1930s were formidable, but they were not encouraged and relied upon by a major political party, or kept enclosed by the availability of Fox News and other mass media freed of the 'Fairness Doctrine' that regulated news media until the Reagan Administration."
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The author/UC Berkeley professor notes that within Christianity, there is a major divide between fundamentalist evangelicals and non-evangelical Mainline Protestants — who he also refers to as "ecumenical Protestants." In the United States, Mainline denominations include Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.
Hollinger told The Nation, "If the ecumenicals could reclaim the franchise, so to speak, the country would be a lot better off. Non-Christians may think they don't have a dog in that fight, but they do. Even at this time, when Christians are a smaller proportion of the American population than ever before, lots of power is in the hands of anyone who convincingly claims to speak for Christianity…. Lots of post-Protestants and post-Catholics — people who were culturally formed by Protestantism or Catholicism but no longer affirm their ancestral faith — are splendid allies for liberal Protestants. They can work together."
Hollinger argues that the United States' 2022 midterms were largely a rejection of authoritarian "Christian nationalism."
The author observes, "About 80 percent of evangelical voters supported Republican candidates in the midterm elections, which is the same level of support they gave to Trump as a presidential candidate…. Yet here's the big thing about the midterms: In the electorate as a whole, the strong support for abortion rights indicates a willingness of many voters to resist the theocratic trend of recent American politics. Since my book calls for exactly such resistance, I am heartened by this result. Yet the struggle to save democracy is far from over, and evangelically inspired Christian nationalism remains a formidable threat to it.”
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Read The Nation's full interview with David Hollinger at this link.
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