Black People Are The Fastest-Growing Evangelical Group. Many See Trump Support As Hypocritical
In evangelical circles, hostility toward Black people often masquerades as nostalgia for an earlier period in U.S. history, such as the pre-civil-rights era in the mid-1950s. Think MAGA.
Evangelicals in the U.S. have long been allied with political conservatism, but under Donald Trump’s presidency, right-wing political rhetoric has become more openly racist and xenophobic, Eliza Griswold reported for the New Yorker.
Lisa Sharon Harper is a prominent evangelical activist. She works for a Christian social-justice organization called Sojourners. In August 2014, after a policeman shot and killed Michael Brown, Harper traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, on behalf of Sojourners, to help evangelical leaders mobilize followers in protests against police brutality.
“Sociologically, the principal difference between white and Black evangelicals is that we believe that oppression exists,” Harper told the New Yorker. “A lot of white evangelicals don’t believe in systemic oppression, except lately, under Trump, when they’ve cast themselves as its victim.”
People of color are the fastest-growing demographic in evangelicalism, according to Robert Jones, head of the Public Religion Research Institute and the author of “The End of White Christian America.” There are two things driving this, Jones said.
1. Demographics: the number of whites in America is declining.
2. Young white evangelicals are leaving the church.
Black evangelicals are pushing for more of a political voice in the church and calling out white evangelicals for caring so much about abortion and so little about young Black men being killed by police officers.
At Sojourners, Harper was involved in a public campaign called Evangelicals Against Trump, and she has taken an active role in leading the #MeToo movement in the evangelical community. She helped spearhead a campaign called Silence Is Not Spiritual. There’s no evidence to suggest that she poses a threat to white-evangelical support for Trump, but her and others’ ability to mobilize evangelical African-American and voters could be a factor in the 2020 election.
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The evangelical movement in America had always been rooted in a call to justice, Harper told the New Yorker. Recently, though, the evangelical push for conservatives to dominate secular politics has been cast as a fight over abortion. Harper sees this as a form of whitewashing. Earlier battles over segregation, she said, had been more important in motivating conservative Christianity’s bid for political power:
“The religious right was motivated far, far before Roe v. Wade,” Harper said. “The evangelical culture wars began with Brown v. Board of Education.”
Evangelicalism has been hijacked by the religious right, Harper said. “We come from the arm of the church that is so toxic, we understand it and we can offer a solution … Trump voters say we’re at war for the lives of the unborn. What if we’re not at war? What if we’re just human beings trying to figure out how to live together?”