The End of White Christian America: A Conversation with E. J. Dionne and Robert P. Jones
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The End of White Christian America: A Conversation with E. J. Dionne and Robert P. Jones

October 13, 2019

[MUSIC PLAYING] Good evening, everyone. Good evening. And welcome. I’m David Hempton, Dean
of the Divinity School, and I’m really delighted
to welcome you to campus this evening for a discussion of
the important changes occurring in US religion, and
the impact they’re having on our politics, our
culture, and on civil society. Last year, I spoke
in Europe and Asia on a topic that was much
on the minds of citizens there, and frankly, also here
in the Northeast United States. Namely, Evangelical Christian
support for Donald Trump. When I did those
talks, I drew partly on the research of Dr. Robert
P. Jones, one of our guests this evening. In 2011, the Public Religion
Research Institute, PRRI, the organization
headed by Dr. Jones, asked Americans, quote,
whether a political leader who committed an immoral act
in his or her private life could nonetheless behave
ethically and fulfill their duties in
their public life. At that time, as Jones
has written, only 30% of white Evangelical Protestants
agreed with this statement. This was not a surprise. White Evangelicals had for
years been the most likely group to say that a candidate’s
personal morality bore heavily on their performance
in public office. PRRI asked the same
question again in 2016, with the presidential
campaign in full swing. This time, 72% of white
Evangelicals, that is as against the
earlier figure of 30%, said that they believe
the candidate can build a kind of moral wall
between his private and public life. That sentiment carried
into the election that November, when around
81% of self-designated white Evangelicals, which is
a complicated category, voted for Donald Trump,
the most weighted vote of any American religious
constituency, and a big factor in his election. It was, as Dr. Jones
chronicled in his book, The End of White
Christian America, which is where we had that
title for tonight plagiarized– it was as he chronicled
in his book– [LAUGHTER] –a shocking
reversal, one driven by a sense among
white Christians that their way of
life was at stake, that America’s best
days were behind it, and that the 2016 election
was the last chance to stop the country’s
inexorable decline. But while the country may or
may not have been in decline, it’s clear from data collected
by Dr. Jones and the Pew Research Center that
both the white majority and formal affiliation with
Christian denominations were in decline
and are in decline. These trends go far beyond the
phenomenon of Donald Trump’s election and presidency. They help shape our
politics at all levels, including the surge in support
for nativist and right-wing movements. Not only in the United States,
but also across Europe. According to our other
distinguished guests this evening, The
Washington Post journalist and distinguished
political analyst, E.J. Dionne, this
surge is a product of a constellation of factors
that include globalization and technological innovation,
growing wealth inequalities, migration, cosmopolitanism,
and the decay of traditional cultural values. As a result, the narratives
on the right and the left, reinforced by the rise of
information outlets that affirm, rather than
challenge, the beliefs of their audiences– you can watch this any night– are now almost impervious to
countervailing information. People get their
information tracks from their
preconceived positions. Few write more cogently
or insightfully about these factors than
our two guests tonight. And E.J. Dionne, as the
co-author of the recent book One Nation After
Trump, this book, takes heart in the
activism inspired by the current
political movement, and offers a hopeful
vision that’s often lacking in discussions like these. Sadly, even on
university campuses. This would be a good moment
to silence cell phones. [LAUGHTER] It’s a nice ring, though. [LAUGHTER] It is a nice ring. Yeah, so do get your
hands on this book if you get a chance, as well. These two books
are terrific reads. And then this one has
both a great guide to explaining the election
result, but an even better prescription for where
we might go from here, which is more unusual. So it is well worth reading. So as someone, myself, who
studies history, religion, and politics, I’m very anxious
to hear what our guests have to say this evening, and perhaps
to ask them a question or two. We’re really delighted you have
made time in your schedules to be with us. Thank you so much for
traveling up to Boston. So without further
ado, please join me in giving a very warm
welcome to our two very distinguished guests, E.J.
Dionne and Robert P. Jones. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. [APPLAUSE] I want to begin just
by saying what a joy it is to be back here at the
Harvard Divinity School. I taught a class here last
semester called Religion in America’s Political
Conscience and at the Ballot Box. And it didn’t strike me until
after I named the course that I had separated the
conscience from the ballot box, although that
might be revealing. And I just want to
say it is particularly a joy to have some of my
wonderful students here tonight. My brilliant TA,
Axel [? Tokach. ?] Thank you, Axel, for coming. And I understand there
is a rabbi Joseph Telushkin in the room. Are you here, Rabbi
Telushkin He may be here. He is a brilliant rabbi. He is also the father of
my brilliant advisee, who’s a student here, Shira Telushkin
Some of you may know Shira. And I’m really
honored to be here with my friend, Robbie Jones. Robbie and I, we have done
work together now since 2010 on the whole– on a variety of
aspects of American politics, including back in 2010,
on the overlap of the Tea Party and the religious right. And we had a lot of
fun with that study, because a lot of people
thought that the Tea Party was a separate libertarian
wing of conservatism. When, in fact,
what we discovered is that a majority
of Tea Partiers also thought of themselves as
part of the religious right, and about 3/4 of Tea Partiers
had views that were– on social and
religious questions that were essentially
indistinguishable from the religious right. But Robbie has
been a real pioneer in this area for a long time,
even though he’s very young. And what I want to do
is just invite Robbie– I’m going to go sit
down, because Robbie does many things
well, but I think Robbie is by far the best
PowerPointer I have ever met in my life. And I could just sit and watch
Robbie PowerPoints for hours. It won’t be for hours, but this
book is very, very important. And after Robbie’s
finished, I am going to read a
section in the book about Billy Graham, who, as
people most people here know, died this morning. Is that correct? Or was it last– it was this
morning, I think, at 8:00. [INAUDIBLE] And Robbie has some
very insightful things to say about Billy Graham. But also, his death is a sort
of a bittersweet reminder of the era that Robbie writes
about, and that, in some ways, is passing away. And so we’re going to
start with his PowerPoint. We’re going to talk a bit
about Billy Graham’s role, and then we will
take it from there. But you are about
to see a real treat. [LAUGHTER] Oh, I always hate when the
bar gets set that high. [LAUGHTER] OK, but thank you so
much, Dean Hempton and Harvard Divinity School– Oh, I j– could I say one thing? Oh. Go ahead, yes. I love David Hempton. And what I was thinking
as he was speaking is that if Robbie Jones had
written his book about David Hempton, the book
would be called The Joy and Wisdom of Irish
Christianity in America. [LAUGHTER] Right. Yes, a little less somber
than this title up here. Well, I’m going to give
you just a little bit– I want to have a lot of
time for E.J. and I to talk. It’s really a great joy
to be here with E.J. We’ve worked together
now for almost a decade, and our offices are just
down Massachusetts Avenue in Washington D.C. from each
other, within walking distance. So it’s fun to be
here in Boston. It’s just right
across the table, instead of down the
street from one another. So I’m going to start
with just this photo here that you’ve been staring
at a little bit, maybe subconsciously, as
we’ve been sitting here, before I show you some numbers. Because I think it sets
the table fairly well. [LAUGHTER] So I received this in 2012,
just after Barack Obama’s re-election bid. So between the election
and Thanksgiving, I received this photo. And just under the photo,
it said “Christian family at prayer. Pennsylvania, 1942.” And so I haven’t doctored it. It was black and white in the
email that I received it from. And I kind of saw it
and I was curious, and I looked to see
who had sent it. And it was sent out by the
Christian Coalition of America, which is a conservative
Christian organization that was part of the Christian Right
movement in the ’08s and ’90s. And they sent this out. And I said, oh, that’s curious. I’ll read on down. And then I came across
this language in the email, and it said this. It said, we’re soon to
celebrate the 400th anniversary of the First Thanksgiving,
and God has still not withheld his blessings
upon this nation, although we now so richly
deserve his condemnation. Let us pray to our
Heavenly Father to protect us from
those enemies outside and within who want to
see America destroyed.” So this is the
message that we get just days after the re-election
of our first African American President to the presidency. And it occurred to me that
this apocalyptic language was telling something. So I immediately save this. I said, OK, this is– I really need to think
about this some more, and kind of hung onto it and
had been thinking about it. But I think this sense of– we heard a lot of it in
the 2016 election too, but it has a longer history. This kind of apocalyptic
ring that the America that we know and love is over. And I think one of the things
going is like, why this photo, right? So if you look at
it, what is it? It’s a white family at prayer. You’ll notice there’s a father
at the head of the table, right? So it’s a kind of patriarchal,
hierarchical image of family, and they’re all kind
of bowing their heads. And it was really
standing in that email for “America,” right? White Protestant
America equals America. And I think that’s what’s going
on, and a lot of our debates, I think, are really over that. Is this the image of who
America is and should be? Or is it not? And that really– that
fundamental question, I think, is a lot of what
we’re wrangling over. So I want to show you some
numbers about how much things are changing,
and how I think how that has set the stage
for the anxiety, the fear, the anger that is so
animating our politics both at the national,
and even all the way down to the local level. So first, I’ll
just– we’re going to throw this term
around a lot, so I thought I would unpack
it, just to make sure we’re not misunderstood. This term “White
Christian America” is a term that I just
coined, because I needed a way to
talk about an era, and the sense of dominance. And it really is
a word that refers to the dominance of
white Protestant America that really held a lock on
cultural and political power for most of the country’s life. And so when I’m–
using that term, it really is this sense of this
kind of cultural and political dominance of a world that
was built mostly by white Protestant America. So I’m going to give you
a bunch of stats here, but in case people are
not big numbers people, you could think of
them as vital signs. We’re going to look at the
chart of white Christian America and see how its help is doing. If I had only one chart to
show you, and I’m going to– I know E.J. will be relived. I’m going to show you
a few more than one. But it would
probably be this one, that would give you just
in one chart, a sense of the demographic
and cultural changes that we’ve experienced
in very recent history. So I’ve got the Obama
presidency in t– these are years
across the bottom. I’ve got that kind of
grayed out in this box so you can see the kinds
of changes that happen just during the last decade,
and really, largely across President
Obama’s term in office. So this first line up here
is the percent of Americans who identify as white and
Christian in the country. Now, this is any
type of Christian. Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox,
Non-denominational, you name it. They identify as white,
non-Hispanic, and Christian. These numbers capture that. And you can see,
if we just go back to the beginning of
Barack Obama’s presidency, there’s been a
fairly dramatic drop in the number of white
Christians in the country. When Barack Obama
entered office, the country was safely a
majority white Christian country. 54% of the country identified
as white and Christian. By the time Obama
leaves office and we get to the 2016 election, that
number has dropped to 43%. So that’s 11 percentage points
across eight years’ time. It’s more than a
percentage point a year. It’s a pretty– it’s a very
steady and very precipitous drop. So that’s one thing. Just demographically
speaking, the country has crossed from being this
majority white Christian country to a minority
white Christian country. And then here is
another line that’s kind of just a bellwether
cultural issue. This is support for
same-sex marriage in the general population
across the same time period. And one of things
you’ll see is, again, if we go back and use the
beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency as a marker, only
4 in 10 Americans supported same sex marriage back in 2008. Barack Obama himself
did not publicly support same-sex
marriage in 2008. But by the time Obama
gets out of office, that has been flipped on its head. It’s 6 in 10 supporting
same-sex marriage, only 4 in 10 opposing it. And our last numbers
from 2017 actually showed that number jumped
again in 2017 to 66. So it’s now 2/3 of
the country that supports same-sex marriage. And so if you are a
conservative white Christian, these numbers, just
these two, are– constitute a kind of sense
of cultural vertigo, I think. Where you’ve gone from a country
that you recognize in a country that you sort of feel
like you can lay claim to being in the
mainstream, and even being the dominant
cultural force, to one where that
is no longer true. And it happens in a very,
very short amount of time. So let me unpack this
just a little bit more. Here is if I do big boxes of
religious affiliation, the pie chart of what American religious
affiliation looks like today. That’s that same number. 43% of the country,
in blue here, is identifying as
white and Christian. This 24% box is those identify
as non-white and Christian, so mostly African
American and Latino Protestants in the country. The 7% is those who claim some
other religious tradition. Jewish, Muslim, Hindu,
Buddhists, et cetera. And the 24%, that big
block of orange up there, are Americans who claim
no religious affiliation at all today. About a quarter of Americans
who are religiously unaffiliated in the country. So that’s a snapshot
of where we are today. One way of seeing how dramatic
these changes have been is just to look
at the generations who are alive today, and
what the generational cohorts look like. So you can think of this chart– I like to think about this as
a kind of archaeological dig down through
generational strata. So we’ve got the
young people on top, and we’ve got seniors
down here on the bottom. And we’re going to put up– the first number
we’re going to put up is just the percent within
each generational cohort that identifies as
white and Christian. I think you’ll immediately
see the generational change and how quick it’s happening. Just the generations
that are alive today. When you go down to
seniors, 2/3 of seniors identify as white and Christian. If we go to youngest
Americans, age 18 to 29, that number is only 25%. It’s more than twice– more than a factor of
two between seniors and young people. And you can also see
that it’s actually a fairly linear generational
stair-step here. You can take a ruler pretty
much and draw a straight line. So it’s very, very consistent. The younger you
are, the less white, the less Christian you are. The older you are, the more
white, the more Christian you are. And if I put up the other
divisions on that same sort, you can see the
patterns emerging. And the biggest
thing is the bookend on the other side, the
religiously unaffiliated in the country. If you go to seniors,
only about 1 in 10 seniors claims no religious
affiliation whatsoever. But if you look at young
people today, it’s nearly 4 in 10 who claim no religious
affiliation, 38% today. So again, it’s a factor of
four on that measure here. A little more than
three– not quite four. A little more than
three on that measure. But very, very dramatic changes. You can also see
the green there, which is non-white
Christians in the country. And among young
people, for example, there as many– or
there’s actually slightly more
non-white Christians than there are white
Christians in the youngest cohort of Americans. Whereas, among seniors,
there’s nowhere near that kind of parity. So that’s the kind
of quick change that we’re seeing in
the country today. And just to kind of– I haven’t said a
lot about Catholics, but I want to put
them up here too. This is a phenomenon– we’re sitting at that Harvard
Divinity School, broadly speaking, a part of the
mainline Protestant tradition and more liberal Protestant
end of the spectrum. And for a long
time, the narrative has been that the more liberal
end of the Protestant world has been where all the
decline has happened, and that white Evangelical,
more conservative churches, are thriving. That has largely been true
until the last 10 years. And then in the last
decade, well we’re actually seeing is
slightly steeper declines among white Evangelical
denominations then we’re even seeing among
white mainline denominations. But the overall story is that
if you’re white and Christian, whether you’re Evangelical,
mainline, or Catholic, the trends are the same. Again, this is not a very long–
this is only a 10-year window here, and you can
basically just see the patterns are the same among
every white Christian subgroup in the country. But the new thing here
is really this decline among white Evangelical
groups from 18%– sorry, from 23% down to 17%. That’s genuinely
new in the country. They have been sort of
stable or even growing probably the last 10 years. So I’m going to stop
there, and we can kind of come back to this other part. But I think that lays the land– gives you the lay
of the land in terms of just the demographic
and religious change that has really hit us
in the last few decades, but very much so in
the last even 10 years. I think that explains a little
bit about why this feels like a fight to the death among
some quarters, particularly the conservative and the
white Christian world. Wasn’t that awesome? I love his PowerPoints. [APPLAUSE] Before I turn to
Billy Graham, I wanted to ask you to take apart the
white and the Christian part. Because I think that there
were a lot of ways in which your stark title could
be read by people. And I think these
charts make clear that there were two things
going on here simultaneously, but in a way, they are
quite different things. On the one hand, the country
is getting more diverse, and so those numbers, simply
on non-white Christians by generation, shows
demographic change. But the rise of the
religiously unaffiliated among the– particularly among
the young, is in some ways, I think, the biggest religious
story in the country. When you have nearly 40% of
the under-30s being religiously unaffiliated, that’s not– by the way, young people
always less religious. Because this cohort
of young people is far more unaffiliated than
any of the earlier cohorts. I mean, this is a
real change over time. Can you talk about those two? Now, if you’re sitting there as
a conservative white Christian, both changes may alarm
you in different ways, but they are quite distinct. Could you talk about
those two separately? Yeah. So one of the things
that really got me on to writing the book
in the first place was the sense that we had
this narrative out there that the Census Department has
been giving for quite some time that by 2050, the country– the original projections
that caused shock waves were when the Census put out
a press release that said, our current projections show
that by 2050, the country will for the first time
be majority non-white. And it caused a
lot of headlines. Since then, that number’s
been revised down to 2042 as the demographic changes have
been accelerating a little. But that’s just
race and ethnicity that has to do with birth and
death rates and immigration patterns. And if you put all that
together, that’s what we get. But it occurred to me that the
alarm bells that I was hearing, I think, were not fully
explained by people looking that far out on
the horizon and thinking, OK, well in 2042, something is
going to happen I don’t like. But there was something already
happening in the country. And it’s when I think we put
these two things together– so you have this engine that
is racial and ethnic decline, that we’re getting steady
reports from the Census Bureau. But I think what
really turbocharges the cultural changes
is this, really, exodus of young people
from traditional religious affiliation. And so it’s a kind of– here’s the engine. You get this kind of
turbocharged effect, though, I think, from the
religious affiliation. Because most of the kids
were actually raised in churches, and then left. Now, they leave mostly
before they’re 20, so they do leave quite early. But they were
still– most of them today were still
raised religious, leave by the time they’re 20. And by all measures that
we have, very few of them look like they’re coming back. And as E.J. said,
even if we had– every generation was slightly
more unaffiliated in their 20s than they are later in life, as
they get kids, and a mortgage, and settle down. But even if we get a kind
of traditional coming-back to religion, this will still
be, by far, the most religiously unaffiliated generation
that we’ve ever seen, by a factor of three. Yeah. The other piece that
I’d love you to discuss is the change in the
nature of Christianity. And you’re from Mississippi,
and know this story better than most folks,
that the changing nature of Christianity itself– as Latinos– in the case of
both Catholics and Protestants, Evangelicals, especially. And African Americans
and Latinos, in the case of
Protestants, primarily, become a much bigger part of
the cohort of believers, which is certainly, I think, having
over time some real effect on the Roman Catholic church. Where the Catholic
numbers as you show would be much worse in
terms of disaffiliation without Latino immigration. And African Americans,
even though there are a lot of non-affiliated
young African Americans, have tended to stay more
affiliated than white people. What does this do to the nature
of Christianity in the country? Yeah, well the
Catholic church, I think, is really fascinating
because there is– this ethic change
is happening all under the umbrella of
the same denomination. So you’re not– what happens
in the Protestant world is typically you have these
parallel denominational tracts where the African
American denominations are kind of over here in their
own denominations of churches, and Latino
denominations over here. There’s still not today– about 86% of our
churches are essentially mono-racial churches today. There’s still not a lot of
multi-racial congregations in the country, particularly
the Protestant world. But what’s happening in the
Catholic world is really interesting, that we’re–
like in the southwest now, there are more non-white
Catholics than white Catholics in the southwest already today. And we’re looking at now– it used to be– as recently as the
1990s, the ratio of white to non-white
Catholics was 10 to 1. And today it’s about 60-40,
and we’re headed toward parity. To give you an idea of what
the white Catholic exodus looks like, 12% of Americans
today are former Catholics. And most of the are white– Second or third
largest denomination, if they were a denomination. –a denomination. Right, yeah. [INAUDIBLE] They’re a smaller group
than former Catholics. Yeah. A friend of mine is in a
parish, a Catholic parish that has become very Latino. And a friend of
his was complaining about the shift in the
ethnic makeup of the parish. And he said, what do you mean? Where’s the life? Our people have funerals. Their people have baptisms. [LAUGHTER] And he was for the
change in the church. Let me read what Robbie
wrote about Billy Graham, which is really–
it’s particularly– it’s quite powerful. He talks about Billy Graham
at mid-century having an open-handed, inclusive
style that really went against the very defensive
tendencies in the Evangelical world after the Scopes Trial,
the failure of Prohibition. Although his wild success
might suggest otherwise, Reverend Graham entered
the national stage at a deeply uncertain
time for Evangelicals. In the 1950s,
mainline Protestantism was the unchallenged public
face of white Christian America. But the young
Billy Graham almost single-handedly
reconfigured Evangelicalism into a force with
the power to shape the national consciousness. The most prominent example
of Graham’s influence was his historic crusade
in, of all places, that’s a good Mississippian’s
line, New York City. [LAUGHTER] The Big Apple was not only
the sophisticated cultural and financial center of the
country, but it also has a headquarters of the
mainline Protestant National Council of Churches
and its flagship educational Institution
Union Theological Seminary. This is amazing. For 110 days in the
hot summer of 1957, Graham drew crowds averaging
about 18,000 people per night to Madison Square Garden. After the first night’s
success, the New York Times devoted nearly three full
pages of coverage to the event, even printing Graham’s service– sermon word-for-word. ABC News broadcast 14 Sunday
night services, Saturday night services, from The Garden,
reaching an estimated audience of 96 million viewers. When he preached
at Yankee Stadium, Graham set an attendance
record of over 100,000, and more than 20,000
people were turned away. Then you go on, and here’s where
I want you to pick up the story and relate it to the
theme of the book. But by the 1980s, Billy
Graham’s welcoming and largely apolitical appeal was
overtaken by a movement built around partisan politics and
apocalyptic rhetoric, led in the 1980s by figures such
as the Reverend Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. As the elder Graham
aged and health concerns began to limit his
public appearances, his son Franklin, whose
temperament and goals resonated more with
the religious right than with his father,
stepped increasingly into the spotlight. It would be difficult to
overstate the differences between father and son. Talk about Billy
Graham if you would Yeah. I mean, I think it is that
I think Franklin and Billy Graham do represent
two different eras in white Evangelicals’
life in the country. And it’s interesting
that Billy Graham is this kind of rare moment
where white Evangelicals did kind of come into
their own, felt fairly secure in
the country, and it wasn’t a defensive posture. There was a lot of
fire and brimstone. There was this deep
invitation to come be part of their Christian life. He was one of the first people
to desegregate services, refused to hold
rallies in the South where they were segregated. Asked Martin Luther King
Jr. to come and offer an opening prayer at some of
his crusades in the 1960s. So this is a very different
kind of posture as well, and was sort of, I
think, universally loved by Democratic and
Republican presidents alike, who held council
with all the way through. Although he did try to defeat
John F. Kennedy in 1966. Yes, that’s true. That was kind of
Protestant-Catholic– yeah. Yeah, and that–
for the Protestants. Our friend, Sean Casey, has
written a wonderful book called The Making of the First
Catholic President, 1960, where he documented
some of that. So it’s just and aside. I wanted to– Yes, fair enough. Yes. But it’s a differ– it
was a very different– The Massachusetts Catholic
I am, I couldn’t not– I had to. [LAUGHTER] Couldn’t let that go. Keep me honest on
Catholic [INAUDIBLE].. Yeah. But it’s a very different
posture for him. So a little aside,
I don’t know if I– so I worked for Billy Graham
in the summer of my high school senior year. [LAUGHTER] And so I actually met
him, because I got a– I grew up Southern
Baptist in the South in Jackson, Mississippi. And I got a call right
from my senior year asking if I wanted to go
work for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for
three weeks in Amsterdam. Whoa. [LAUGHTER] I thought sure, right? So I got overnighted a plane
ticket and a reservation at the Amsterdam Hilton. Just just barely turned 18, and
I spent three weeks Amsterdam. What else did you
do an Amsterdam? [LAUGHTER] Yeah. We’ll leave what happens
in Amsterdam in Amsterdam. But I remember being
struck even then. I mean I’d seen him
on TV and stuff. But being struck even
then at this sense of– and here I was in Amsterdam. Not exactly the Evangelical
capital of the world. But he packed the place
out night after night. And his message was not a kind
of condemning the sinful city. It wasn’t any of that stuff. I mean, it was this very
open, warm invitation. I remember being very struck by
that even as a very young kid. And then we have, I
think, Franklin Graham who was very public in this
last election, his support for Donald Trump, and very
critical of President Obama as well. Very critical of the Black
Lives Matter movement, and very much just kind of in
lockstep with the Christian Right Movement,
which has a very– a harder edge to it. It’s defensive. It’s embattled. And I think we do have in
Billy Graham’s death today a kind of passing of an era,
of a very different kind of posture when
Evangelicalism, I think, was much more sure-footed,
and much more sure of itself, I think, in a way that
today, it’s very defensive, and I think a little anxious. Could I– I’m just curious. This is– I’ve known
Robbie for a long time. I never knew this side of him,
the Amsterdam-Graham side. Yeah. You went to semi– you
went to Baptist Seminary. Can you talk about just the
influence he and his style had on you personally? Yeah. So I grew up Southern Baptist. I did a Mathematics and Computer
Science degree at a Baptist College in Mississippi,
then I went to– being the good
Baptist boy that I was, went to a Southern
Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas,
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. So at the time, Southwestern
was the, quote unquote, “moderate” seminary
that, while the SBC was in the turmoil of this
sort of denominational takeover that was connected to the
political Christian Right Movement. So this was– my last semester
at seminary, actually, was– I literally watched
the transition from what felt like this kind
of non-defensive and open-handed kind of Evangelicalism that
Billy Graham had been modeling to this more
hyper-political, partisan, and kind of hard-edged thing. Where my last semester seminary,
while we– the students were all gathered in Chapel,
the trustees met in secret, fired the president,
locked the doors. Locked his doors with
his personal effects inside, and escorted him off
campus with armed guards. That was while the student
body was sitting in Chapel. And I remember thinking,
like, OK, yeah, this– I’m seeing this very– you couldn’t be more stark than
that juxtaposed right together. And then after that, the
seminary changed direction. A number of professors left. Some were fired. Some were passed
over for tenure. So the whole face of the
institution change that. And could you talk a
bit about something you and I have talked
about a lot, which is how politics, in
a way, has come trump religion among a lot of people? Alan Wolfe, who taught at BC
and ran the Boisi Center there for many years, really
caught me up short one day, and he was absolutely
right when he said, you know, religion isn’t
really important to politics. It’s that politics is becoming
important to religion. People don’t argue
about the Nicene Creed. They don’t argue about
the virginity of Mary. They don’t argue about
religious questions. They argue about social
and cultural questions linked to politics. And that when you
think about the Trump more than over Hillary,
81% to 16%, as I recall, Trump got the
highest percentage, higher than George W. Bush,
of the white Evangelical vote of anybody since
we’ve been recording it. This really does suggest
politics trumping religion. And that finding
that David quoted is probably maybe
the most quoted finding in PRRI’s history. Yeah. Where before Trump, the personal
life of a politician really, really mattered. After Trump, the personal life
of a politician really, really didn’t matter. And just to put a line under
it, the change in that number was much starker among
white Evangelicals than any other group
in the country. Can you talk about
that, and then maybe show one more– it’s
my favorite slide, if you’ve got it, which is the end of
the white Christian political strategy? I don’t think I’ve got that on
up, but I can talk about it. Oh. But you can describe it, yeah. Yeah. So just to kind of
put that number– I think it literally has been
the most-quoted number we’ve ever put out. And what we did, just
to kind of remind you– Dean Hempton laid it out pretty
well, but just to remind you, we asked in 2011
this question about, can someone behave immorally
in their private life and still behave morally
and perform their duties in their public life? The number in 2011
for white Evangelicals was 30% agreeing
with that statement, that someone could do that. By the time we get to the
last election cycle, it’s 72%. So it’s a 42%
percentage point swing. You just don’t really
see that kind of swing in numbers like that. So when you do see that, you
know that something’s really going on. But we have a– I mean, what’s interesting
about it is if you look back at the voting patterns, really,
the last four or five election cycles, what is remarkable– I think, what really goes to
this point about how important political affiliation become
for religious identity is that you hardly
see any movement, no matter who the
candidates are. Right? So you can just go back election
cycle after election cycle. So white Evangelicals,
for example, vote 8 in 10 for Republican
presidential candidates, no matter who they are. Now, think about this. Mitt Romney, Mormon candidate. Donald Trump. John McCain. George W Bush. Now, these are really
different candidates, right? And the needle hardly moves. So what really matters
is who the Republican Party put forward. To be fair, it’s true
the other side as well. So the Democratic candidates
looking very different, and the numbers don’t move. The most consistent voting
group in the country, though, that is
dead on the nose, are white mainline Protestants,
who vote about 40– who vote exactly in the
last three election cycles, 44% for democratic candidates. 44, 44, 44. It doesn’t move at all. If you look at the chart, it
looks like a satanic number. It’s like 666, you know? I mean, it’s 44, 44, 44. But the real
realignment– again, it’s a racial story here, too. The real– Yes. I mean, you’ve pointed this
out in your previous book very eloquently, that it really
is this shift in the Civil Rights Movement, where
the Democratic Party became associated as the
party of Civil Rights. And that spurred
this kind of white– a great book is called The Rise
of the Republican South by, I love this, it’s two twin
brothers, Merle and Earl Black, who are both
political scientists. One at Emory, and one
at Rice in the South. And there was great books. And what they called
the “Great White Switch” that really happened between
the Civil Rights Movement, and it really caps with Reagan. By Reagan, there was
this real seat change in Southern white
party affiliation, and along with that went white
Evangelical party affiliation. It was really part
of that same– part of that same swing. And so ever since
then, we have seen this 80%, 8 in 10 support
for Republican candidates, no matter who they
are in the country. And it’s just kind of a
mark of our politics now. We saw the same thing with the
Roy Moore election in Alabama as well. White Evangelicals, again, with
a very unorthodox candidate for a group that’s kind
of branded themselves as values voters. And based on what
we saw in Alabama, it was that 78%, I think, of
white Evangelicals in Alabama voted for Roy Moore,
which is right in line with their typical voting
for Republican candidates at the state level. Let me ask you and
press you on that, because I think you make an
important point there, that– I’ve struggled with
this myself, that we’ve started talking about white
Evangelical Christians as a voting block with the
rise of the moral majority at the end of the
’70s and in 1980. But in fact, the people
we are talking about, the very same people really
made their journey to the Right and to the Republican Party
because of Civil Rights. Mhm. And even some of the issues
connected to the Religious Right were actually
racially tinged, such as the IRS cutting
off tax benefits to white Christian schools
that were essentially being used as segregation academies. And interestingly, Jimmy
Carter got the rage, but that that was
actually started in the Nixon administration,
the move against those schools. And so sometimes,
I’ve asked myself, did we put a religious overlay
on something that was actually simply racial, or was there a
distinctive religious aspect that entered into it in 1980? And this doesn’t deny that
these voters are and think of themselves as very religious,
but nonetheless, these trends, as you say, began
long before anybody was talking about either of the
Moral Majority or the Christian Coalition. Yeah. I’ve been doing a lot of
thinking about this lately too. Like I said, I grew
up in the South. My family from five generations
back is from Macon, Georgia, but I grew up in
Jackson, Mississippi. But what I think has been
interesting to me is– as someone who grew up
in that environment, there’s a story
that you get told from the inside of
these churches that has nothing to do with race. Absolutely nothing. Despite the fact–
so one key point here, I grew up in the
Southern Baptist Convention. I did not know that the Southern
Baptist Convention was formed in 1845 because of a pull-out
of the Southern churches who wanted to support
sending missionaries who were slave owners. And there was a rift between
the Northern Baptists and the Southern
Baptists in 1845. The Southerners said, we’re
going to– we really do think it’s fully consistent
with Christian values to– for a missionary to
own slaves, and really pulled out and formed
their own denomination. I didn’t know that was the
history of my own denomination till I went to seminary
and took a Baptist History class when I was like 21. So that’s how anesthetized
that narrative is. And I think that one of the
things that’s also coming out is trying to re-understand
that history, I think, is really important. It’s a task that some
churches are taking on, but I think it’s also important
that that invisibility itself was a powerful racial
tool in the South, so that it actually became– There’s this great book called
Sanctuaries of Segregation that’s about Jackson, about
my hometown, in 1963, 1964. And it really was
this combination of the governor, the mayor,
and the central pastors of the Methodist
and Baptist churches that were all aligned
to keep not only the public facilities
segregated, but first and foremost,
the churches segregated. Because they saw–
if the churches– if segregation fell
at the church level, that would be the domino that
knocked everything else down. So it was actually
quite important that– socially, that the–
and for cultural power, that the white Christian
churches remain segregated. So I think this has been a
racial story all the way down that just isn’t told very well. Let me– I want to invite
David to come in here. I just want you to sort of
give a word, a verbal picture, of that chart I like so much. Because– just so you know,
the reason I like this chart is because it really showed
how radically different the Obama coalition
was, and really still, the Democratic
coalition is now, from the Republican coalition. If you sort of crossed
race and religion, It’s a very different– So it’s basically a
version of this chart. Yeah. But what I did in
the other chart is I overlaid the Obama
and Romney coalitions, and kind of fit
them into where they would fit in the
generation cohort as a way of kind of
explaining where the two political parties were, in
terms of race, religion, and generation. And what it basically
showed was that in 2012, that the Obama coalition looked
about like 30-year-old America, in terms of its racial
and religious break. The Romney coalition looked
about like 70-year-old America in terms of its racial
and religious composition. And what we’re seeing
now, even if we just– and that was vote. But even if we look at
party affiliation today, the Republican
Party 10 years ago was 80%, 81%, white
and Christian. Today, the Republican Party
is 71% white and Christian. 10 years ago, the
Democratic Party was 50% white and Christian. Today, it’s 30%
white and Christian. So we’re now looking at the
two political parties who are increasingly being
polarized by race and religion, so that we’re on a trajectory
where we’ll end up with, basically, a kind of white,
Christian nationalist party, and then everyone
else over here. And that’s something I’m
actually genuinely worried, is that drift that
we’re seeing in party affiliation in the country. And what that means
is that only one party is creating a multi-racial,
multi-religious coalition, which may create incentives
for the other party to create certain
forms of division. That’s A. Yep. But B, it creates enormous
coalition management problems inside the Democratic Party,
because a big part of the shift is in the rise of the seculars,
of the non-affiliated. And so– I mean, I think you
saw it visibly in the Hillary Clinton campaign,
where that campaign was very torn about how to
present her religiously. Because here was this very
religious Methodist woman for whom Methodism,
who, one understands, was discouraged to some
degree by her campaign from talking about that because
the more secular vote was– turning out, the younger, more
secular vote was critical, they thought, to her success. Could you elaborate on that? Yeah. I mean, the other thing
I’d point out is that– I think this creates
problems for– because we only have
two political parties, it creates problems
for both, actually. Yeah. Because the other
piece of this is that it creates incentives
for the Democratic Party to be home to everyone except
white Christian voters, and that, I think, also is
a really unhealthy dynamic. Because all of a sudden,
white Christian voters become the enemy. Like, they’re the other guys. They’re not in our tribe. And I think this kind
of tribalism thing is a real danger, I think,
for our politics today. David, I wanted to give you
the first set of questions. I thought I had a night off. Oh, I thought you– [LAUGHTER] I thought you wanted to come in. I heard you saying that
you wanted to come in. No, I will be happy to
give you a night off. There are a couple of
things I would [INAUDIBLE].. So we had a presentation
here a couple of months ago by a young
scholar at Calhoun College who, as well as putting
a race slant on theirs, put a strong gender
slant on it as well. Arguing that, really from
the Vietnam War Era onwards, there was a distinct creation
of a kind of Evangelical masculinity that came
around through patriotism, support of the military,
support of patriarchal values in the family, support for
the police, and so on down the line. And being also quite
resistant to feminism and pressure from that. So it’s another, as well
as the other pressures on pushing this constituency
further to the right, she made a pretty
compelling case, even through the popular
literature of the Evangelical constituencies, of how this
kind of constructed masculinity became also a part. And that would be true, right,
through a range of things. Maybe even over guns as well. I don’t know. Mhm. And maybe the second thing
I’d ask you to comment on is it seems to me that the
Evangelical constituencies I know are kind of against you
liberal elites of all kinds. Whether it’s activist
judges or the liberal media, the Ivy League universities,
Hollywood, a whole bunch of things that they feel
are a concentrated attack on their values. From just a liberal a
elite, broadly conceived. So those are two things, maybe,
to add to the mix a little bit, that I’d be interested
to hear your views on. OK, great. Thanks. You can jump in here
too, [INAUDIBLE].. I’ll take a stab
at the gender one. That first image that I
showed with the family prayer I don’t think is
coincidental, that it had the most prominent
figure in that photo is the patriarch sitting
at the head of the table. We have some antique
furnishings in our house. Some you may have this too. We have a dining room table
from the 1940s in our house, and it seats– 1, 2, 3– six. And there’s only one
chair that has arms. [LAUGHTER] And it was literally
built into our furniture in the 1940s and
1950s, this sense of where– and that’s called
the captain’s chair, right and that’s where the
father sits at the head. It only fits at the
head of the table. It won’t even fit
around the side. It has to be on one
end or the other. And there’s a chair at
the other end too but, it doesn’t have arms. It just this one. And so I think it’s
literally built into the fabric of our
culture and our architecture. I mean, it was there. And so I think that’s
been a part of it. And the other thing I
guess I would sketch is it’s part of a bigger
kind of hierarchical world view, where gender is kind
of a very clear conception. It’s black and white. There’s man, there’s women. Each know their place. There’s parents and
there’s children. There is this real ordered,
hierarchical world. And I think it’s the
breakdown of that– and it’s whites over blacks. It’s very clear. Everyone knew their place
in the pecking order. And I think it’s the dissolution
of that sense of space. And particularly, if you’re
on the top of that pyramid, you feel that very decisively
when it starts to crumble. And I think that’s part
of what’s going on, and so that’s why the gender
pieces have to be part of it, I think, in the
construction here. And then the other piece–
was remind me the– [INAUDIBLE] Yeah. I mean, that’s
certainly been there. It’s– I mean, I’ve certainly
had people from my– just to make it from a personal
example, the way it works is that your local church will– in the Baptist
world, licenses you to the ministry on
your way to seminary. It’s kind of an endorsement
from your local congregation as you’re heading
off to seminary. And there’s a reception,
and that sort of thing. And I’ve certainly had
at least two people come by and give me the “Don’t
let seminary ruin you” speech. There was kind of
that sense of things, like, don’t lose your
faith at seminary. It turns out I lost my
denomination at seminary– [LAUGHTER] –with the way things fell out. But I think there is– that has been there. And I think it has been this
kind of embattled South. And again, it has a kind of
racial tinge to it, right? Everything from the War of
Northern Aggression instead of the Civil War, to
Confederate flags everywhere, to Daughters of the American
Revolution putting up monuments here there and
yonder about the Civil War. All those are markers of a
world kind of gone by, I think. And that’s why I think this– I really Trump’s cam–
we haven’t really talked about this
explicitly, but I do think that Trump’s
campaign slogan, he’s going to make
America great “again.” Right? It was that last piece that had
more power than anything else. Yeah. And on the homestretch of
the election cycle, I mean, he was really leaning on that. I mean, he was literally saying,
I’m your last chance, folks. If you don’t vote for
me this election cycle, you will never see
a Republican like me in your gen– in your lifetime. And he was kind of just naming
the demographic changes. Like, I’m your bulwark
against the change. Mhm. Yeah, I think there’s a
paradox on women in this area. On the one hand, if
you overlaid women into some of these
charts, especially women have been tilting more
Democratic than men since 1980. That’s really when the gender
gap started, opening up with Reagan’s election. In the country now, the
gender gap under Trump is truly astonishing. And so that if you actually
added women to these pictures, they would– men would fall out
into all these– or a much bigger piece of
the Republican coalition. On the other hand,
women are also the most religious people
in– or more religious, on the whole, than men. They’re more likely
to be believers. They’re more likely to belong
to churches and synagogues, and especially churches, though. And they often take
leadership roles. So not necessarily
always the formal head, but they play a
very prominent part. One of the– Theda Skocpal here
at Harvard is doing a wonderful study with two colleagues,
Vanessa Williamson, and– I’ve forgotten the other
colleague involved in this. And they are looking
at eight counties in– I believe it’s Michigan,
North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Trump counties in Trump states. And it’s two Trump
counties in each state. One more rural, one
more exurban, suburban. Here’s an interesting
fact out of their study. They have found that in
those eight Trump counties, there– these are
pro-Trump counties, they have found 10 anit-Trump
groups that got organized. Two interesting facts about
the leadership of these groups. One, every single one
of them is either a lead or co-led by a woman,
and many of these women come out of the
mainline churches. Many of them have mainline
church backgrounds. And obviously, these are
predominantly white areas that voted for Trump. And so on the one
hand, you see a picture that– of a past
that had religion overlaid with patriarchy. On the other hand, you have
very religious people who are– very religious people, being
disproportionately women, many of them in
leadership roles, and many of them out of
mainline Protestantism. And just one story
from our class. We had a wonderful Unitarian
minister in our class from a par– his church was in Dallas. And it takes guts to be
a Unitarian in Dallas. [LAUGHTER] And he said that after
Trump’s election, his church just filled
up because it was known as an activist church. And I couldn’t resist looking
at our students and saying, God works in mysterious ways. The purpose of Trump’s
election is to turn America into a nation of Unitarians. [LAUGHTER] Go ahead. Could I– can I
respond just to– well, just two more and
then I will give up. One is, I did ask Theda Skocpol
and those those counties whether they– the non-college educated women
who split for Trump like 62%, I think? Wasn’t it something like that? Whether there was any shift
there in support for Trump. In other words, whether
this was essentially college-educated women who
were organizing against Trump, or whether there
was any movement in that other constituency. And she said she didn’t
really know the answer to that question. She hadn’t really gotten to it. But that’s an interesting– Yeah. The second thing, and
I’ll finish with this and take my night
off, is really just to switch over to
the Democratic side. And so I did read somewhere in
the reflections on the campaign that the Democrats were nervous
about talking about religion. And one reason for that is that
a lot of the young staffers on the campaign came
from metropolitan areas and were simply inured
to that language, and weren’t comfortable with it. And she wasn’t particularly
comfortable with it so it. So I’ve just got– so my question about that
is, given your demographics, would it be smart for
the Democratic Party now to stay away from those
topics, with the assurance that things are moving in that
direction with the younger generation? Or does the
Democratic Party need to find a voice of how to
talk about these issues, the way that Hillary fai– in my view, wasn’t able to
do about her Methodist roots and upbringing? So if you were a
Democratic strategist, which of those
two options do you think would make the most sense? All right, so you’re
going to get me in trouble with this question. I don’t know. Do you want to take
a run at that first, or do you want me to– I have a strong view on
this, but I’ve always– I kind of want to do it
first, because curious. All right, all right, All right. I’ll go. All right, we’ll see– My view won’t change, so– [LAUGHTER] No matter how brilliant you are. Yeah. So here’s what’s interesting. If I gave this
presentation in England about the percentage
of unaffiliated people in the country, the British
people would be thinking, where did all those
church people come from? Because we’re talking
about 24% of the country being unaffiliated. That means that
3/4 of the country is affiliated in
some way or another. And even among young people,
we’re talking about 4 in 10 being unaffiliated. That means that 6 in 10
are affiliated in some way. Now, it’s a dramatic sea
change for the US context, as we have always been
kind of the exception to the Western developed
world in terms of religiosity. And so this is new for us. But I think– I’m of the mind, the
parties certainly have to hone their messages
and speak to their base. But again, from
my money, I think that it’s a dangerous
game to play, I think, if a political
party decides, we’re going to so
tailor it to our base that we’re not going to speak
a language that still most of the country
understands, and that is meaningful for
most of the country. Even most young people, still. And I think it’s
about how it’s done. I think the kind of
wearing it on your sleeve and sort of slapping the– and
this has actually, I think, been something Democrats
have been guilty of, is because they’re uncomfortable
with it, what they tend to do is sort of slap
Matthew 25 as a bumper sticker on whatever
the policy briefing is that they’re going in for. And somehow, that makes it
a kind of faith-based kind of grounding on it. But I think something
that’s more organic– and I think Hillary Clinton
could have pulled this off. Because I’ve been in
smaller settings and heard her tell her story. It’s not awkward. It’s not– doesn’t
feel contrived, and I think she
could’ve pulled it off. And I think if it feels
like it comes from the heart and it’s not about– it’s more about
who I am, and what energizes me and grounds
me as a candidate, I think that’s
something that’s not going to be that
off-putting to people. Even for people who have a kind
of deep suspicion of religion writ large. That’s my take. Yeah. Three points. One, I can’t resist just this
notion of this rising nuns under– people under 30. In a sense, the
under-30 generation is becoming European. Because we’ve always
made a big distinction between churchgoing Americans
versus non-churchgoing. Particularly Western Europeans,
but now pretty much Europeans in general. Peter Burr, the great
sociologist of religion, he used to joke that
elites were more secular, and the mass of Americans
were more religious. And he said that India is
the most religious country in the world, Sweden
the least religious. And America is a country of
Indians governed by Swedes, he said. [LAUGHTER] This [INAUDIBLE] quip. What? Remember his Harvard
quip? he’s like– That we often mistake– that academics tend to mistake
the Harvard Faculty Club for the country as a whole. [INAUDIBLE] [LAUGHTER] And so I just think that is
an interesting development. Yeah. But point 2 is I
personally think it was a disastrous error on the
part of the Democratic campaign not to encourage Clinton
to speak about Methodism and its role in her life. And I think we have a lot
of examples in our history, but one in particular where
a public figure could speak very clearly to secular
people while often speaking in religious terms. And that’s Martin Luther King. And Martin Luther
King’s rhetoric was a brilliant fusion of the
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
on the one side, and Isaiah, Micah,
Amos, Matthew 25, and a lot of other parts
of it on the other. And I think that
what’s happened is– and I think this is very
dangerous for religion. In the last two days, I’ve
run into two people who– two women, who said, I own
actually quite beautiful crosses that I used
to wear, and I don’t want to wear them anymore. Because if I wear them, people
automatically associate me with the Religious Right. And it is the
association of religion with certain kinds
of right-wing ideas, and particularly
among young people, and particularly among
gay and lesbian people, that turns off the
younger generation. And I think there was fear
in the Clinton campaign, and particularly among
the more secular young, that they would be
turned off by this. And also, that there’s a lot
of anger among younger people, again, particularly
gays and lesbians, toward very conservative
Christians, who they perceive as inimical to who they are. But I don’t see in
this country, given what Robbie said
about the 75%, not to talk to religious
people was a mistake. And it was, finally, in a
way, the most authentic piece of Hillary Clinton. Anyone who’s ever heard her
talk about the role of Methodism and why it created
this commitment in her to social justice– it’s very believable,
because as best I can tell, it’s actually true. And that’s a really
helpful in politics. Yeah. So I– and that– besides which,
we have this electoral college. And if you want to carry
Michigan and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin, I
don’t think you can just say, we can do it on the
secular coalition alone. I’m not for it. I wish we didn’t have an
electoral college, but we do. Who wants to– please. You’re right near the mic. OK, thank you. My question, it’s really
about Billy Graham, but I have to set out a
couple historical things that haven’t come up. In the 1920s, there was a
rise of a nativist populism, and the KKK, funded by some
wealthy Southern Baptists, really made a push to come
into Southern New England. And my family is
from Connecticut, and my grandfather made
a stand, a public stand that was memorable in
my family, about that. God bless him. While that went on– [INAUDIBLE]? I said, god bless him. Yeah, yeah. For us that’s true. That went on for five, eight
years, and perhaps in the end, you could say it
was really wiped out by The Depression and
then the World War. At the end of World War II,
the Churches of the World, the World Council
of Churches, anyway, really confronted the
German churches, Lutheran and Catholic, and
said, you did nothing. You let all of these
fascists sit in the pews and feel loved by God,
and you did nothing. And that’s totally unacceptable. And American mainline
denominations took that to heart. And in my own college
graduate school era of the ’60s, boy, everything
was full of that story. In the ’50s, just when
this was really ramping up, Billy Graham stood up
and said, hey, here I am. I’ll give you all the
cheap grace you want. Come on down to me. You don’t have to do
any of this moral stuff. And he cheap-graced his
way to millions of bucks, and I would say, really set up
Franklin Graham to take over and take it one step further. So I’m having a
little trouble today with all the warm things being
said about Billy on the radio. But my family never
liked what he was doing, I do think he saw– he’s a good salesman,
and he saw that he could sell what the others
were no longer trying to sell. Comment on that? Go ahead. No, you go. You work for the rabbi. I am actually
looking up something on my little phone here. Yeah, so it’s interesting. The one thing– the
thing I would say that– I resonate with in
what you’re saying is that there’s a version– a kind of abstract version
of this personal relationship with Jesus that runs deeply
through Evangelical life and through Billy
Graham’s speaking. That that’s what’s
most important, is that you get your naked self
right with God through Jesus. It’s this very one-on-one
personal thing. What tends to be
missing from that is the connection to social
action and social justice. Now, it’s interesting to
him– he’s a complex figure, because he really– for the time, I mean, he was
very clearly trying to de– he refused to hold rallies
in some places that were try– say, you can only
come with segregated audiences. He’s like, I’m
not going to come. Are we going to have it or not? He was– at the time, King,
it’s worth remembering, was a controversial figure
even in the mainline churches in the 1960s. Even in the African American
denominations, King– in many of them, King was
a controversial person. And Graham reached out, had
him do the opening thing. So I– it’s interesting that
he doing that kind of stuff. But at the same
time, i think one of the other ways
I’ve been thinking about how Evangelicalism sort
of hid its racial history is through this very personal
view of Jesus that doesn’t connect to social action. So you can be personally
right with God– and you can see this over
and over in Southern sermons from the ’60s, and before
the Christian Right got politically active. The trope was, that’s
politics, this is religion, and the two don’t have
anything to do with each other. But you can only really
say that if you’re at the top of the heap, and the
status quo looks good to you, right? Then that makes a lot of sense. But that disconnect,
I would say, that’s what resonates to me
that as maybe the weak point, I think, in what got reinforced. At the same time, he was
working to desegregate things, propping up a theological view
that didn’t have a lot of teeth to it in terms of
racial justice. [INAUDIBLE] talking
about the [INAUDIBLE].. Uh-huh. Yeah. Yep. No, I appreciate your question. First of all, I like
the way you linked what you said with the first part. Because, of course,
cheap-gracing it, you are channeling
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was in the part of the
German church that stood up to Hitler. And that was his phrase. What I was looking up
is Reinhold Niebuhr was a great critic
of Billy Graham, and it was precisely
on this point. And in a way,
Graham could be said to have popularized the
reaction to the social gospel among fundamentalists
a long time before. And so on the one hand, it was a
more open, less-angry form of– that Evangelicalism
was a less-angry form of fundamentalism, and
this was a less-angry form of Evangelicalism. So in that sense, the warm
Billy Graham is a real story. On the other hand,
at the root of that is a very, very conservative
view of religion that did not have this social challenge
in it, and that Graham, in the end, really was
quite conservative. He was a very close friend
and ally of Richard Nixon’s, for example. And it was not a social
justice faith at all. [INAUDIBLE] has to [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah, yeah. Although in the ’50s, that was
a fairly broad [INAUDIBLE].. [INAUDIBLE]– Yes. –[INAUDIBLE]. It was a major part
of his platform. Yeah, so your point is correct. I had a choice of writing a
column on him this morning and I chose– I let my colleagues do it. Because my feelings about
him are complicated, the way yours are. Because I accept
what Robbie says, but I also think that those are
two sides of the Graham story that we just have to accept. Who wants to– who– oh,
the gentleman back there, we’ll come to you. Yeah. Thank you guys both for coming. One thing you said during
the talk was, quote, “Nothing inside Southern Baptist
churches in Macon, Georgia, has anything to do with race.” And so I actually have
an interesting story. My grandfather, his parents
were Syrian-Turkish immigrants. They moved in 1909
to Macon, Georgia. So my grandfather was born
the last of nine Jewish kids in a big family
in Macon, Georgia. And when I asked my
grandfather about what it was like growing
up in Macon, Georgia, he said, well, Andrew,
after dark, there were no Jews, dogs, or
blacks allowed on the street. And so as a Jewish kid looking
up to my grandfather, the idea that race never existed inside
of whatever happened inside of Southern Baptist
churches sounds– doesn’t sound too right to me. And I also think
that tonight we’ve talked a lot about
white Christianity, but we haven’t really– here at the Divinity
School, we often wrestle with questions of
justice when it comes to God. And if we think about this
long arc of Christian decline that we’ve outlined
tonight, we also recognize the same
historical period represents tremendous increases in things
like mass incarceration, destruction– I mean, white wealth
over those periods, compared to minority wealth,
has been astronomical. So we see the consolidation
of white control over society, and we know that 53% of
white women voted for Trump. So I guess my
question to you guys is how does your approach take
into the racial catastrophes? Over 3 million incarcerated
folk today, increasing. Deportations. How does that not stem out
of those same white spaces from the past? The rise of white culture? Let me take the
thing about– what I said about the inside of
white Christian churches. I want to make sure
I’m not misunderstood. I wasn’t saying that
narrative was true. I was saying it was being told. And so that, I think,
is what’s remarkable, is that I could grow up– and
I went to church five times a week growing up. Like, I was there Sunday
morning, Sunday night, Monday night visitation,
Tuesday night Bible study, Wednesday night prayer meeting. That was my schedule growing
up, so I was there all the time. And so I wouldn’t have
missed it if it was there. And it just wasn’t there. I mean, there wasn’t a
narrative at all, because– all white. There was– and it just,
it wasn’t ever a part. Even when we were talking
about our own history, we had like Baptist training
union on Sunday afternoons, and that was the time when you’d
talk about the denomination. And it just wasn’t there really. Not all the way back,
it wasn’t there. About the ’60s, none of it. I was there. So I’m saying that there’s a
literally whitewashed narrative being told inside
churches that, I think, hid the racial history
of the domination. And I think that
was a huge problem, and is an ongoing
huge problem for– and what’s great, Macon,
Georgia is a great example. There are two First Baptist
churches in Macon, Georgia. They sit about 50
yards apart downtown. One of them is African
American, one of them is white. They used to be one church. They split during
the Civil War when it became too tense for
slave owners and slaves to be in church together. And so they gave permission
for the African American slaves to go build their own church
before they were emancipated, and then after the Civil
War and the Emancipation, they continued their own church. Those churches have sat for 150
years on two corners of Macon, Georgia. Until the last five
years, they finally get two young pastors who
kind of looked at each other and went, what are we doing? We’re sitting here–
and they started doing some joint things
between the two churches. But that’s like the last
five years that has happened. It’s a sort of long, long story. And your point about the
Jewish community, I think, is really important, and
it’s part of this narrative. Yeah, in the 1920s, huge
anti-Semitic stuff going on. And it’s really
important to remember, the KKK was a white
Protestant organization. It was shot through with
Protestant Christianity. It was anti-Catholic,
it was anti-Jewish, and it was anti-black. And that is its history,
and it was propped up by white Protestant churches
all through the South where it really had its stronghold. So I think remembering
that is really important. We’re hearing echoes of it
even today in Charlottesville. We heard not just stuff
around race, and pride, and the Confederate
flag, and that’s a– but they were chanting “Jew will not
replace us” in Charlottesville. So it’s still hovering
there with us, even though attitudes
have largely changed in the general public. And the rise of the KKK in
the ’20s that you referenced– and it was really powerful
in some states in the North, particularly– they basically
took over Indiana for a while. On top of being anti-black,
anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, it was deeply anti-immigrant. And it’s worth remembering
that the ’20s were when the toughest immigration
law was passed by Congress. It was a kind of a backlash,
not at all unlike the backlash reflected in the Trump campaign. I will– before we close, I
want to tell a very personal Southern Jewish story. But I’m going to wait till– to close with it,
because it’s actually a– it’s a warm American story
about the lines of hatred always being unexpected. But I wanted to just go to
a couple more questions. The gentlemen here. Yeah, go ahead. Yeah, here’s the mic. Thank you. It’s not clear to me a
couple of statistical points. And then I have a
larger question. Did a majority of
white Christians vote for Donald Trump? Yes, yes. Yeah. I was afraid of that answer. Yes. And the spike in–
or the big shift in the statistic that
you’ve stressed most, about how under Obama,
white Christianity shifted from a majority
of the population to a 43% minority
in eight years, I suspect that
that– that I’ll get a “yes” to this
statistical question too, that that was probably the
fastest shift of that kind in American history. Yeah, you can s– Robbie’s suggesting
another “yes”? I believe that’s true. Yeah. I mean, it has been dropping,
really, since the ’70s. But this 11– more than a
percentage point a year is definitely more [INAUDIBLE]– But more of that
comes from the rise of religious disaffiliation
than from racial change. Yeah. That’s why I was trying
at the beginning to– in other words, you’ve had
a very precipitous drop in religious affiliation
among younger Americans. And so some of that is
racial change and immigra– because of immigration. But more of it is from
religious disaffiliation. Yeah. The other point that
I didn’t talk about, but that is interesting,
we’re talking a lot about white Evangelicals. One of the reasons why
we’re seeing their drop is actually that fertility
rates among white Evangelicals have gone down. And that’s mostly
because there has been an uptick in Evangelical
women getting college degrees over the last generation. And so we always know
that’s a corollary. So that’s all these
kind of interesting– in the mix that has lowered– that has made family
sizes smaller. And then with the– you
get smaller family size, disaffiliation of young
people, the whole group starts aging and declining. And that’s part
of the story here. So there are– and this was
my third and final question. So clearly, there are a number
of drivers of this 10% drop under Obama that has made us– that has brought about the title
of your book, The End of White Christian America. Well, you– and
of course, you’ve just given us, both of you,
a number of the drivers. Which of these
driving factors do you think was the most important? And I’ll yield. Yeah. Well, I think we– as E.J. suggested,
we’ve seen this kind of steady and predictable
racial and ethnic drop that’s underneath everything. And I don’t have the chart
here, but if I showed you the curve of– over time, the trends over time,
the percentage of Americans who claim no religious affiliation,
it starts in the 1990s. And it’s single digits in 19– like 6%, 7% in the 1990s. It just starts upticking a
little bit into the 2000s, and in the last
decade, it just looks like a lot of rhythmic uptick. It just takes off. And so it is kind of turbocharge
across the last decade kind of thing. And we’re seeing it. It ticks up like every year. I mean, it really is a
measurable phenomenon. [INAUDIBLE] Yeah. And just on your point, you
might ask the question, well, if these numbers moved in
that direction under Obama, how in the world
did Donald Trump win the election if those
numbers are going this way? And the answer to the question
is, older people turn out at higher rates
than younger people, is the single most
important factor. And there was a slight downtick
in African American turnout from the Obama election. But it’s really that
a lot of these numbers are driven by young
people who under vote, compared to old people. And so there was– there may be one or two
elections left maybe in this coalition. Even that is
questionable, but it has to do with voter turnout. And if Trump turbochargers
young people’s turnout, then this coalition is
fundamentally– basically finished, I think
it’s fair to say. Although everybody’s been saying
it’s finished for a long time, and they’ve been wrong. So it’s worth– sorry. Can I just put one fine
point on this real quick? Just to kind of spell this
out, though, white Evangelicals make up 17% of the population. So they’ve declined down
to 17% of the population. In the Trump election,
they made up 26% of voters. 26% of the what? Of voters. So at the ballot box, they
are 9 percentage points overrepresented at the ballot
box because of higher turnout rates, relative to other
people in the population. Our best projections
are it’s going to be 2024 before the
voting population looks like the actual population
looks like already. That’s a good way to put it. Yeah I was going to say,
the role of black women in the Alabama special
election for the Senate. Yes. I mean, that turned it against
the Evangelicals candidate. Right. It was African Americans
and it was young people, that the line that you draw
across that vote is age 45. 45 and under voted
61% for Doug Jones. Over 65 voted overwhelmingly
for Roy Moore. And then you had very
effective organizing within the African
American community that produced a significant turnout. It’s always been true
in Southern politics that if you get a good
African American turnout and a white vote of
around, depending on the state, the
share, it only has to be around 30% of the
white vote in Alabama and Mississippi. But usually for the
Democrats– and it usually doesn’t reach that. And that’s why they
keep losing elections. But Jones had the two-fer of
a really good African American turnout, combined with that
share of the white vote that rose, particularly
because of younger people. But I think it was African
American women in Alabama, if I’m not mistaken. It was historic that they
turned out at rates un– we’ve never seen. They outvoted
African American men, and they outvoted
white men and women, in terms of the rate of
turnout in the election. Although African American
women tend to always turn out at higher rates than men. That’s true for quite a while. But you’re right– It was higher than whites. Yeah. What? It was higher than whites
in the Alabama election. Oh. Thank you. I said– No, go ahead. Thank you so much for the talk. This is really inspiring
and very interesting. I want to shift to– I mean, Rob, in the book,
you talk about– or one of the very interesting
things in the book is that you talk about you use
three institutions, basically, to think through this decline,
or end, of white Christian America. And I want to go back
to this particular idea. Most of the discussion
was obviously about the demographic
change, but I want to ask, how do you see
the changes in the institution? And by that, I don’t
mean formal institution. But I mean the institution
of white Christianity and politics. And this takes us to David’s
comment about the presence or lack thereof of a particular
presentation of religion in politics in, say,
the Clinton campaign, or in Democratic campaigns. And I want to ask, are
we looking at the absence of religion in politics? Or are we looking at the absence
and the dismantling, if you will, of a particular mode of
engagement between religion and politics that we
probably can characterize it as white Christian
American institution? And in this same
line, in a way, are we looking at a different
kind of identification between religion and politics,
between religion and race, that transcends since
what you described as this kind of invincibility
invisibility of the question of race in the traditional
white Christian narrative, towards a mode that
identifies the lines between the individual and
the public in a different way? And in this same vein,
just one last point. In relation to AG’s
comment about MLK and his role, or his
narrative, or his ability to merge political and
religious discourse, I wonder if, again,
we’re looking at just a different language. That the calling on
religious symbols here is not one that comes
from a particular mode of power or privilege, but one that comes
from a prophetic narrative that is part of the traditional– the tradition of
African American prophetic religious expression. And that probably, this is
really the difference here. That we’re looking
at the disappearance of a particular
mode of institution. So I want to hear what
you think about how this demographic change
maps on the institution of white Christianity in
politics and beyond that. Thank you. All right. I’ll take a piece of that. So thank you for bringing
up the institutions, though, because I– this is like nose
counting up here, and I think the
institutions matter. So I’ve been, for
the next project, reading a lot about
South, and Calvin Trillin, who’s a great journalist writing
in the Civil Rights Era . There’s a collection of his
essays out in book form, and the title of the
book is– the lead essay, or the lead article that
takes the title of the book is called Jackson 1964. And one of the things that
struck me in that book is that he talked about the
civil rights workers that were on the ground
in Mississippi throughout the delta, and
then kind of headquartered in Jackson. That often, their
key media strategy was to get the attention of the
National Council of Churches. And that if they could get
the attention of the National Council of Churches, they
then saw that as a conduit to Congress, a conduit
to The New York Times, a conduit to The
Washington Post, and they could get
national media attention. That was the conduit through. I don’t know anyone
today who thinks– that’s their media
strategy, is to get the National Council
of Churches on board. It’s just that that
institution has really changed. When that was founded– I have an account
of the cornerstone of the big– maybe you’ve
probably been to the God Box Building, and it kind of– it’s
actually dubbed “The God Box”, that was at the time called the
closest thing to a Protestant Vatican the world would ever
see when it was founded. The cornerstone was laid
by President Eisenhower, and when it was
opened, there were 30,000 people that turned
out for the opening of this building. And it was kind of
this great gathering of the mainline Protestant
denominations in the building, and it was this
real sense of power that it was going to be this
gathering and reinforcing and guiding power in
a single direction. It very quickly sort of never
quite fulfilled that purpose, but it’s notable today. It’s still there, the
National Council of Churches, but they’ve abandoned
the building. They’ve now moved to DC, and
they’re sharing, actually, the Methodist building
on Capitol Hill, which has its own similar story. As the largest
Methodist building, and the only religious
building on Capitol Hill, it sits right between The
Capitol and the Supreme Court Building. If you look out one, you
see the Supreme Court. When it was founded, they
were raising money for it, the Methodist Women dubbed
it a Protestant sentinel on Capitol Hill. Right? It was right there to kind
of keep an eye on things. They even built apartments
so that members of Congress could live there and
share a cafeteria, and they could rub shoulders
with them on a daily basis and kind of influence policy. And you know, those
buildings are still there and doing important work. But they don’t have the
kind of stature or influence that they had in the 1960s. And I think that
mode of, yeah, we got this big Protestant,
behemoth institution that everybody has to stand
up and pay attention to. That era is also, I think, gone. I was thinking there will
soon be Koch brothers condos– [LAUGHTER] –in DC, God help us. Just two quick points. One is I think there
has been a tension throughout American history
between prophetic religion and what you could
call the alternative. Liturgically, you could
call it law-based. And the African-American
church has always partaken of the prophetic. And I’ve always
found that you can– if you’re talking about
talking to a Christian, you know which side they are
on by whether they quote Micah, Isaiah, and Amos or Leviticus. And whether they– [LAUGHTER] –quote– whether they quote
the social passages of the New Testament or the conversion
passages of the New Testament. And I think you saw that
in the fight over slavery. You saw that over
social justice issues in the progressive
era in the ’30s. I mean, you saw it in
the Civil Rights years. I think that’s a deep
tension that’s always running through American religion. The second is a set of cycles
where religious questions are, more or less, central
to American politics. And we get accustomed
to one and are shocked when there is a change. And if you just go
from 1928 to 1932, 1928 was an election
saturated with religion, both because Al Smith was the
first Catholic candidate for President, and
because prohibition– and whether to continue it–
was the central question. And all of a sudden,
a funny thing happens on the way to 1932,
which is the Great Depression. And there’s a great
exchange between Jim Farley and the Democrats,
who were really torn by these questions, and
particularly prohibition. And some Democrat in Missouri
wrote Jim Farley and said, I don’t understand
why wet Democrats– you know, pro–
anti-prohibition– fight with dry Democrats,
when neither of them can afford the price of a drink. [LAUGHTER] And suddenly, we went
through a long period where public religion
was not as present. And then everyone was stunned
when the Christian Coalition came along. But really, it was just a
return to that earlier pattern. Are you Rabbi Telushkin? I am. I want to welcome you. Before you came, I welcomed you,
not only as a learned scholar, but as the father of one of
my very favorite students here, my advisee,
Shira, who is brilliant. So thank you. I’m honored. So let’s get the rabbi a mike. Do we have– is it– where– ah, thank you. Oh, I’m sorry. I saw the– can you hold on? Let me– I don’t want to be
gender discriminatory here, but I was just so happy to
see Shira’s dad here that I– go ahead. So this is, I guess,
a measurement question and a broader question. Within your category
of white Christian, I’m wondering if you’ve
looked at voting patterns and attitudes within or
between different levels of religiosity. Yes. Because I know,
after the election, I saw some evidence
that suggested that white evangelicals who
attended church weekly, or more frequently, were
less likely to vote for Trump than evangelicals
who just kind of superficially identified as religious,
but didn’t necessarily– that didn’t manifest in
any behavioral measures. And so I’m wondering, if
that’s the case, how much work religion is doing
here, versus just some sort of white,
conservative ideology that has become linked to religion. I’ll just say one thing
quickly, and turn it to Robbie. What you just said, I think,
was true in the primaries than in the general election. In the primaries, the genuinely
religious evangelicals were shifting– voting
mostly for Ted Cruz. And the self-identified
evangelicals who didn’t necessarily
go to church were much more likely
to go to Trump. And you’re absolutely right
that, in the second group, saying you’re evangelical
is a kind of cultural marker more than it is a deep
religious commitment. Whereas the Cruz
evangelicals really were the religious
evangelicals, which is why Cruz beat Trump
in Iowa, and part of why Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin. So you’re right. In the general, I think– as a general rule, higher
rates of church attendance produce higher
Republican voting, though I think some of
that is overlaid with age. Because age also produces
higher Republican voting. So it’s notable that we
see this pattern repeated with Romney, as well. Romney’s favorability
rating before he became the Republican nominee
among white evangelicals was in the 30s. We measured a month after he
became the Republican nominee. It was up, nearly at 70%. So we see these same
kinds of patterns. And it’s about partisan
alignment, right? Once the candidate becomes
the Republican Party nominee, evangelicals basically
align their views. It’s a miracle. [LAUGHTER] Church-going or not
church-going, they align their views with the
Republican party’s nominee, and that’s what we saw in
that character question. The favorability
numbers looked that way. If there’s one group, though– I do want to– this is a great
point to insert this point. If there’s one group that
looked different in the Trump election, it was Mormons. Yeah. It’s the only group that
significantly looked different than– now, they had Evan
McMullan on the ballot. So in places like Utah,
that drained off votes. But it was the only group
that really did move away from their typical support
for Republican candidates in the last election cycle. And if you look at some of
the more outspoken critics of Trump, you’ll see
many of them are Mormon. You’ll see this kind of pattern. I keep thinking I want to write
something about the real values voters. Right. And I think there’s
something going on in the Mormon community
about a sense of having been an oppressed religious
minority once upon a time in our history. And so even though
there’s obviously a very, very strong conservative
streak among Mormon voters, there is still this sense
of the danger of mistreating religious minorities. By the way, I’m
totally persuaded Romney didn’t win the Republican
nomination the first time because he was Mormon. And that’s why Mike
Huckabee– that’s one of the central reasons why
Mike Huckabee overwhelmed him in Iowa, which really
helped derail his election. And there is no question
that, the first time around, his Mormonism, I think, was very
harmful with this constituency. Yeah, Rabbi, welcome. Thank you. And you could imagine, to my
wife, Deborah, and myself, the greatest honor is being
identified as Shira’s parents. Oh, thank you. So thank you. [LAUGHTER] It occurred to me that
the issue, I think, with Billy Graham was he just
was trying to spread goodwill and over– and went–
and de-politicized. Because it’s interesting. He was not only a disappointment
in that way to liberals. George Will wrote one of
the most devastating columns against Graham when Graham
visited Russia, and gave a speech in a church telling
everybody in the church, your job is to be good
workers for the state. It so demoralized the
Christians who were there. There weren’t even that
many Christians there because the KGB had filled it
up with a lot of their people. So I think it was an
overemphasis on steering away from the political. Also, the comment about
Graham vis-a-vis Kennedy as a Catholic, I think
we also recognize that an anti-Catholic position
was very widespread still in 1960. Norman Vincent Peale,
who was certainly not a particularly
conservative Christian, opposed Kennedy because
he was a Catholic, which led to one of Adlai
Stevenson’s great lines, “I find Paul appealing
and Peale appalling.” [LAUGHTER] And even– I love that line. And one of the very
significant events affecting African-American
voters in that election was when Martin Luther
King was arrested. Kennedy intervened. Nixon, whether because
he personally didn’t care or making what he thought was
a smart political decision, didn’t intervene. And King’s father announced that
he was now supporting Kennedy– He switched. He switched, leading Kennedy to
remark to some of his friends– he didn’t say it
publicly– imagine, Martin Luther King’s
father, a bigot. But then he added, but then
again, we all have fathers. [LAUGHTER] Yeah. And one other request, if
anybody can help me on this. I’m serving as an advisor
to a Jewish Museum, and one of the things
we’re working on is, what has been the impact
of Judaism on the world? I remember once
reading somewhere– and I have not been able to
find documentary evidence– that obviously, slave
owners wanted their slaves to be Christians,
but that they were– I remember reading this. I haven’t seen evidence of it. That they actually
had Bibles printed up for slaves, in which
the Bible was printed, but the Book of
Exodus was left out. Yeah. Oh, OK. I’ve heard that, yes. I want to get that
on display somewhere. I’ve heard that, as well. And what’s fascinating is
how deeply important the book of Exodus is in every
African-American church, and how central it is
African-American preaching, for obvious reasons. I mean, “let my people go.” But yes. I’m going to try to remember
where I have found this because there were very– the first slave owners tried
to keep the slaves illiterate, and actually didn’t want
them reading the whole Bible because the Bible
is very dangerous. And there was often a tradition
of one slave, at least, becoming literate. And the original
African-American churches were in the woods,
and they were– and the slaves were very
conscious of those parts of scripture that
pointed to the freedom. And so I think, in some cases,
they were limited Bibles. But in a lot of
cases, the effort was to keep the
slaves illiterate so that they would
only hear the parts, say, of Saint Paul, that said
slaves, obey your masters, and that sort of thing. Which was the part that
influenced Billy Graham when he spoke in Moscow– in Russia. Spoke in Russia, yeah. Thank you. One quick point on this. It’s worth noting
that in the 1940s– I think it was 1947– “The Christian Century,” which
was the liberal publication arm of the Protestant world– published a 14-part series
worrying about Catholics in the country, and whether– and it ended up being a book
by the editor of “The Christian Century” called, “Can
Protestantism Save America?” So there was deep,
deep worries across– not just in the conservative
end of the Protestant world, but in the liberal end
of the Protestant world. Well, it was said that– In the ’50s? –anti-Catholicism was– 1947, I think. –anti-Catholicism was the
anti-Semitism of the liberals. And what’s fascinating about
anti-Catholicism is it had two completely different strains– a right-wing strain in
Conservative Protestantism, and a left-wing strain
that saw the Vatican– and you could find
some old stuff in Vatican documents,
pre-Vatican II that was pretty chilling to liberals. There was the famous
Catholic catechism that had the question,
what is liberalism? Answer, liberalism is a sin. [LAUGHTER] And it was Spanish. “Liberalismo es pecado.” And so Paul Blanchard
was socialist, who wrote “American Freedom
and Catholic Power.” So that there were these twin
engines of anti-Catholicism in the United States. We have to close, is that right? I want to tell my southern
Jewish story, if I may, because we’ve been
very serious here. And I always find this
an upbeat story about, it just depends on what
the lines of division are in a community. There was a gentleman who
was a second father to me after my dad died. His name was Bert Yaffe. He grew up in Sparta, Georgia. His dad ran the only general
store in Sparta, Georgia. There was a great tradition of
southern Jews running the one store. When Bert was a teenager– and the big split among
whites in southern towns was Baptist, Methodist. And they couldn’t
stand each other. So when Bert was 16,
he wanted to go out with a Methodist girl. And in order to do
that, her parents made my friend join
the Epworth League. Bert, from the only Jewish
family in Sparta, Georgia, proceeded to get elected
President of the local Epworth League. Later, he and the
Methodist girl broke up and he wanted to go out
with a Baptist girl. And as Bert told the story,
they didn’t give a damn that I was Jewish. What they couldn’t stand is
that I had been President of the Epworth League. [LAUGHTER] I want to thank you all very,
very much for being here. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]

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  1. E.J.Dionne is poison. He should be put in a mental ward. Belittling government has given us a government with little skill? Is that how Obama got elected? We elected Trump, because we we're tired of the Democrats putting American citizens in the back of the line, and forgetting who they were supposed to be serving, and that is the United States of America and it's legal citizens. E.J. Dionne, I hope people see through your bullshit as quickly as I did. You bolster idiots like the Mayor out there in California. I don't feel sorry for you. I think you are a danger to civil society.. People like you are a danger to this Country. I'm sure the U.N., and all enemies of the United States love you, but I think you're a very sick man.

  2. Interesting lecture. During the Obama administration, I was part of the Mormon wing of the religious right. The LDS church and Mormons individuals were doing a lot of work behind the scenes to build interfaith political relationships with evangelicals. I think the 9-12 groups may have been part of that effort. I always wondered if evangelicals understood just how deeply rooted Glenn Beck's politics were rooted in Mormon doctrine. My family were largely unaware of the religious left or even the details of the beliefs and controversies of the evangelical right. We knew who we were supposed to ally with, but we didn't understand either side's history or theology. In fact, the adults around me had very little basis for understanding what Obama was saying. They'd get together and scratch their heads and try to interpret Obama's speeches using Cleon Skousan, a white man with an unusual Mormon background even for Mormons, whose religionwas the basis for his political writings. It didn't make sense to use Skousan to enter Obama's mind, given the huge differences in their religious, educational, geographic, and racial experiences, yet that is what people did. With Romney, his speaking and leadership style was Mormon. He spoke with a Mormon mouth and we could understand him through Mormon ears. A lot of us didn't have the slightest idea how to understand Obama. The bloggernacle and outerbloggness (the Mormon and exmormon part of the internet) have some good materials on this topic.
    There is a strong theocracy doctrine in mormonism that I think plays into Mormon voting. I grew up being taught that it would be wonderful for the prophet to be president, and that someday Jesus would establish a Mormon government based on the US Constitution. Mormons were talking about the white horse prophecy, where the Constitution is supposed to hang by a thread and the Mormon elders and potentially homeschool kids of the chosen generation (who would be more righteous than the public school Mormons who were influenced by secular liberals). During the Romney Obama election, I was in a church history class at BYU. We learned about the Council of 50, which was supposed to help Joseph Smith run the government when he took over the country. Smith ran for president while being anointed/ordained king of the world. We kids were so excited to learn this. White boys began wearing Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon for president tshirts. I never saw a woman or non-white man wear them.

  3. Who ever said that Christianity is or was EVER in any way coupled with skin color? Jesus was born in the Kingdom of Israel to a Jewish mother. It seems dubious to me to classify that as White, and even if you do Jesus was not European White. He expressly denied that he came to abolish the law, while at the same time reminded his followers over and over that The law exists to serve man, man does not exist to serve the Law.

    Within the Christian Church it has long been said that Jesus was not for the ring wing and he was not for the left wing; he was for the whole bird. Dionne is such a hack that he views everything in terms identity politics.

    The decline in self-identification as Christian had NOTHING, ZERO, NADA to do with the election of President Obama. That trend began at least 100 years ago. This is an extremely complex subject that can not be entrusted to interpretation by as “two things going on.” It is way way way more complex than that.
    Take for example Harvard University: The founding purpose of Harvard University was “so that young men will come to know Jesus Christ.” Just what Harvard University is about is a very complex subject.
    One should not confuse “Religiously Affiliated” with Spirituality. I believe that the Churches and Synagogs have lost the trust of their members in many ways. Furthermore, at one time, most social interaction was centered around one’s faith community. That is no longer the case. I believe many people have substituted their membership in Unions for example for faith. I also believe that is generationally unsustainable. Furthermore, unless we allow the freedom of information to become totally dominated by FANGS, et al to be cut off, people will be able to find others to connect with without being married to a faith system. I find EJ Dionne Jr. to be a tiresome ideologue who baths in, and therefore stinks of identity politics.

  4. Christians Leaving god. To support trump. Hahahaha. Welcome to America. You are on the right place. Americans love war. Bloody people. Destroy country’s and humans,

  5. What rubbish this is! No man can destroy Jesus Christ but He most certainly will destroy and turn you upside down like stupid men that you are.Soon your names will be gone forever.You are wasting the gift of life.

  6. Harvard is a fake U, and, by this point, more or less a joke. Mostly just money laundering. Courtesy of Summers and Dershowitz. They should call it Little Tel Aviv on the Charles.

  7. White supremacist ideology are behind the election of trump and fear of losing a white Christian nation. White Christians have always been vested in their own self interest since the colonial era. They have supported the institution of slavery and the destruction of Native Nations in the name of Christianity!!!! Read Craig Steven Wilder 's Ebony and Ivy!!!

  8. god has not been proven, its only a belief. many suicides when people have faith and then lose all ! prayers not answered, the many lies of the bible all contribute to the demise of this religion. now the story line changes, god is a "spirit god " and we dont really know this spirit god, "god owes us nothing", many statements made to deny that god is a fantasy and justify unanswered prayers, god's inactivity, and the many unfulfilled promises from god written in the bible.

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