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The End of White Christian America Paperback – July 4, 2017
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“Quite possibly the most illuminating text for this election year.” (Sam Tanenhaus The New York Times Book Review)
“Robert Jones has established himself as one of the country’s most intelligent and fair-minded explorers of the American religious and political minds. So it’s not surprising that The End of White Christian America is meticulous, engagingly written and full of insight. . . . An important achievement that will be discussed not for years but for decades.” (E. J. Dionne Jr., author of WHY THE RIGHT WENT WRONG: Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond)
“Robert Jones’ new book is a brilliant and eloquent epitaph for white Christian America. Jones deftly and insightfully shows how this new moment marked by white Christian America’s demise holds both promise and peril for those concerned about racial justice and the future of race relations in the country. This book is a must read!” (Michael Eric Dyson, author of THE BLACK PRESIDENCY: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America; University Professor of Sociology, Georgetown University)
“Jones persuasively articulates how both the fear and thehope of the new America are animating our faith and our politics. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who seeks to understand how we got to where weare in our churches and politics today, and how we might help build the bridgeto a new America.” (Jim Wallis, New York Times bestselling author of America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, president of Sojourners, and editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine)
“Robert Jones gives us an impressive, clear-minded account of an America that once was but will be no more. While the new realities may cause some to grieve, citizens from every demographic and faith perspective will applaud this book’s non-polemical approach and its insights for a changing nation that remains spiritual and religious as it finds new expressions for its core beliefs.” (Mike McCurry, Former Press Secretary to President Bill Clinton, Distinguished Professor of Public Theology, Wesley Theological Seminary)
“The 2016 election campaign revealed to all and sundry that we live in a new country. Robert Jones has written the best guide I have seen to the America taking shape around us.” (Alan Wolfe, Professor of Political Science and Director of The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, Boston College)
“Robert Jones provides essential insight not only into the politics of 2016, but into the broader cultural, ethnic and religious forces restructuring America in the 21st Century. . . . While everyone else was looking 25 years ahead in anticipation of demographic evolution, Robert P. Jones recognized that this country had already experienced crucial social and political change: that the very definition of ‘white Christian’ was undergoing radical transformation.” (Thomas B. Edsall, author of The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics)
“Robert Jones convincingly illumines the waning influence of white Protestantism in America as well as the reactions of those bewildered or angered by this inexorable shift. Fast-paced and keenly discerning, this book does a remarkable job of explaining why our culture and politics are so fraught and why we seem to be entering a whole new era in our history. Truly a must-read for understanding the divided state of our nation today.” (R. Marie Griffith, Director, John C. Danforth Center on Politics and Religion, and John C. Danforth Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Washington University)
"Provocative.'" (Joan Walsh The Nation)
"A haunting portrait of America as it was, and a window into what it is fast becoming. Anyone hoping to understand how we went from Obama's to Trump's America will benefit from reading this wonderfully written, exceptionally researched book."
(Joy-Ann Reid, MSNBC)
About the Author
Robert P. Jones is the founding CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and a leading scholar and commentator on religion and politics. Jones writes a column for The Atlantic online on politics, culture, and religion and appears regularly in a “Faith by the Numbers” segment on Interfaith Voices, the nation’s leading religion news magazine on public radio. He is frequently featured in major national media, such as CNN, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others. He is the author of The End of White Christian America.
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Jones argues that it is this demographic shift which has driven the furor over several key issues in recent years, including Gay marriage, abortion, and a number of initiatives to infuse politics with "Biblical values." Jones cites polling data indicating evangelical white Protestants are the least likely group to have black friends to explain their alienation from movements such as Black Lives Matter. He likens the passion driving the religious white conservative reaction to the "anger and denial" stage of grief, predicting believers will eventually refocus their energies to strengthening their own community of believers. '
Jone's interpretation of today's culture wars is shaped by his own liberal outlook, but his account should also be interesting to conservative readers. The data Jones provides derives from solid sources. Regardless of one's political views, the demographic changes he outlines are real and are changing America's politics and culture. Most of the explanations for the rise of the "angry voter" behind the Trump campaign have focused on economic issue. While Jones does not address the 2016 presidential campaigns, his work provides a useful background on how demographics also factor into the rise of Trump's popularity. The results of the campaign should also prove an interesting test of Jones's argument that "White Christian America" has lost the political clout to dominate national politics.
Robert P. Jones’ The End of White Christian America sounds almost preposterous at first. How could we be living at the end of “Christian America”? The evidence of the Christian religion, whether mainline Protestant or evangelical Protestant, seems to be everywhere! In his six-chapter book, Jones argues convincingly that the cultural forces that shaped the life of 20th-century America and earlier have died or actually are currently dying. The final chapter, in fact, characterizes the death in terms of the stages of grief from the well-known book, On Death and Dying. A well-researched book from a highly credible scholar, The End of White Christian America should be read by anyone interested in religion and life in the US today.
The book begins with an obituary:
“After a long life spanning nearly two hundred forty years, White Christian America—a prominent cultural force in the nation’s history—has died. WCA first began to exhibit troubling symptoms in the 1960s when white mainline Protestant denominations began to shrink, but showed signs of rallying with the rise of the Christian Right in the 1980s. Following the 2004 presidential election, however, it became clear that WCA’s power were failing.” (p. 1).
The book begins with an examination of three significant cultural landmarks of organized religion: The United Methodist Building in Washington, DC; the Interchurch Center in NYC; and the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA. The UMC building establish in Washington, DC, in 1923 was built to establish a connection between the Methodist Church—a leading denomination—and governmental policy making. At that stage, Methodists were particularly interested in alcohol and its continuing elimination and thwarting the growth of Roman Catholicism in the US! It is now a building that features tenants from many Christian and other world religion traditions. The Interchurch Center, connected with the National Council of Churches, now opens its door to both religious and secular tenants. Finally, the empire church of Robert Schuler that once presented his sublimated, conservative evangelical Protestant agenda of Orange, Co., CA, is now a Roman Catholic building for public worship, after the Shuler descendants bankrupted the church. These buildings provide important metaphors for understanding change in both mainline and evangelical traditions. The book examines Roman Catholics only in the sense that they were not a part of the “original” White Christian synthesis and occupy the position now of the incursions to non-white Christians.
The book examines carefully the demographics provided by the Pew Foundation and surveys conducted by PRRI over the last few years as well as other normed studies. The book concludes with the idea that theologians such as Stanley Hauerwas have provided ways to suggest the end of mainline Protestantism and that scholars such as Russell Moore (SBC) and David Gushee (Baptist) have provided the ways of understanding decline and death to evangelical Protestants. For those people not “plugged in” to the traditions, these might sound like odd suggestions; however, for skill observers all of these writers suggest ways that the traditions may survive their own deaths—that is, beyond or after their own places in a cultural hegemony.
The book examines two topics in particular that will interest contemporary readers: gay marriage and the treatment of GLBTQ people and race relations since Ferguson. Jones examines the challenge where mainline Protestants have in many ways embraced GLBTQ people and that evangelical Protestants have not. I’m painting a broad sweep of what he examines with careful detail in light of how millennials understand this issue. Mainliners have moved toward acceptance while evangelicals have moved toward “religious liberty” as a way of understanding a cultural shift that has happened to alienate them from larger American life. Whatever can be said for evangelical Christians, the Supreme Court decision of 2015 was a “nuclear event” (145). With respect to race relations, Jones notes the institutional segregation that was set into civic structures as early as 1911 that provided for segregation as the order of the day in terms of organization. Jones moves behind the events that resulted in the deaths of several African Americans to talk about the way that socialization and the failures of socialization have set in those patterns both for mainline Protestants and evangelical Christians. What may surprise some mainline Protestants is how the surveys do not show the disparity between themselves and evangelical Protestants they have often been told.
Jones’ book does not suggest that Christianity will leave the face of America, but it is one that suggests the old order cannot be revived—it cannot be “great again”—but must accommodate itself to a diminished role. Any attempt to reassert the older mythic narratives of history will only make the challenges greater and the fall more apparent.
Jones’ analysis, based on a number of statistical studies from highly reputable sources, is illuminating. He seems to have limited “evangelical” at times to “Southern Baptist.” That seems to be a mistake in a world of an increasing post-denominational movement. Still, however, many of those churches are “Southern Baptist” in orientation, with the outward signposts removed. He does note that contemporary feelings and opinions seem to support the ideological position of mainline Protestant groups, but that too is deceptive for them. What he does not examine are other traditions rising from the gap between mainline and evangelical positions—a kind of “new monasticism” or the emerging church.
Jones’ book is very much on the mark with its investigation. Anyone interested in the trajectories of modern American Christianity would do well to read his book.