The headline reads: White Christian America ended in the 2010s. As a white evangelical (and male), the first reaction to such a headline, I admit, is to cringe. We hear so much about the white privilege, white evangelicals and white Christians, generally, and none of it with “white” in the description is positive.
It gets old for me, if I am being honest. I am human after all. But, if this time really spells the end of “white Christian America”, however that might actually be defined, then so be it. Truth is truth. Reality is reality.
Of course, the headline in the NY Times in 1966 reading that God is Dead proved to be a bit exaggerated. Thus, I don’t necessarily concede that white Christian America ended in the 2010s. I am skeptical of statistics and statisticians. I am skeptical of sweeping statements. I am skeptical of the biases that inform the conclusions we reach.
Further, the statement implies that we can identify white Christian America (and agree on a definition). I don’t identify with the stereotypes that appear to be informing the article. As an example, my wife and I decided to live in a city and allow our children to go to public school in which white folks like us are minorities. We made that decision for the sake of giving them the experience of diversity. We embrace diversity.
That’s the problem with broad, sweeping generalizations. I feel that most of the white Christians I know view the world more like me than the article suggests. Maybe I’m wrong, but some significant segment, at least, of the white Christian population is mischaracterized in the assumptions.
I don’t associate white with Christian. No educated person could (or should) associate Christian with white (European) people globally. Not anymore.
“White Christian” Europe is a ghost of what it was. Europe and Canada are decidedly “post-Christian”, and the United States is following. Meanwhile, Christianity in Latin and South America is growing at a record pace, as is Christianity in China and Iran, even amidst increasing oppression and persecution. Jesus was a Middle Eastern “man of color”, and most Christians in the world are non-white.
Still, the numbers in the United States tell a story. I am just not sure we are very good at reading and understanding the story they tell. I would argue that the story these numbers tell is more about a seismic shift in the predominant worldviews that drive societal change in the United States than a racial divide – not that there is no racial divide.
Though I am skeptical about the story this article tells, the numbers suggest that something is going on. Some shift has occurred over the last decade or two that is revealed in these numbers, and it is a shift away from a politically conservative, Christian position (white, black, brown or other).
The predominantly white, evangelical movement that has rallied around Trump as a political savior is a last ditch, desperate and ill-conceived attempt (in my opinion) at clinging to a position of societal influence. It’s an attempt to exert human wisdom and strength into a flawed human system. I am not sure how much of that effort is inspired by faith in the sovereignty of God and how much of it is inspired by “the will of man”.
Yes, God establishes authorities, like Donald Trump, and that means God establishes the authority of other leaders, like Barack Obama (or any other leader, for that matter). If we believe God establishes any authority, we have to believe He establishes all of them (even the ones we don’t like, the ones that we feel are a threat to us). We can’t say with any degree of integrity that God only establishes certain authorities that we favor, and not others.
Frankly, we need to reconsider how to interpret Romans 13 on that score, starting with the fact that Paul spoke those words to the Romans who suffered greatly under a harsh and hostile Roman world that worshiped Caesar and put to death those who would not bow down to him. It can’t mean what we popularly think it means in the United States.
We also need to be careful about putting our confidence in kings. Our confidence should be grounded in God, alone. God established Saul as king when the people wanted a king (like the other nations), but that wasn’t actually a blessing; it was actually a rejection of reliance on God.
God gave the people what they wanted, though they were rejecting God in the process. God used that circumstance, as He uses all things, to accomplish His purposes, of course. But that doesn’t mean that the people who championed a king were on the right side of that equation.
We have to remember that our ultimate destiny isn’t in this world, but in the life to come. If the numbers and the trends they reveal suggest anything, they suggest that we will need an eternal perspective all the more as we lose hold of our significance among the powers and influences of this modern world. This is no less true in the United States.
And if the world hates us (for the right reasons – because we are God’s people, not because we have power or privilege), we shouldn’t be surprised. The world hated Jesus too. Our best response isn’t to cling to worldly power, but to die on the cross that God has shaped for us.
God is strong in our weakness. In this time in which Christians seem to be losing our foothold in the national power structure, we need to look to God for our strength. That isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion. That’s where we should be looking for our strength in all circumstances. It’s easier, though, to lean on God’s strength when we are weak.
And, assuming that is the case, it’s going to be easier for us to lean on God as time goes on. Not necessarily because we want to, or because that is our natural inclination (because it isn’t), but because we will have no other choice. And if that is the case, then so be it.
I won’t rue the end of white America, though I would gladly trade the white part for the Christian part. The white part will continue to color. It’s inevitable, and frankly I think for the best in a world that is increasingly global and diverse. Every tribe and tongue is represented in Revelations, so why would Christians do anything but applaud the increasing diversity of the United States?
As for Christianity, I would gladly lose cultural (American) Christianity for real spiritual renewal. Maybe God is stripping away the impurities to expose the gold. If that is the case, we have a long way to go, and the fire is going to get hotter.
 White Christian America ended in the 2010s, by Robert P. Jones, the CEO and founder of PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) and the author of “The End of White Christian America,” which won the 2019 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. His forthcoming book is “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity”, published at NBCnews.com Dec. 27, 2019.