Sometimes we good church people like to avoid confronting our corporate failures.
We gloss over the racism and sexism at the historical core of American Christianity, particularly in the South We don’t want to face the ways we err — hoping no one will remember, or worse, think we’re capable of continuing wrong-headed abuses.
However, there is a healthier and more honest approach than denial. It is an intentional course of confession, restoration and redirection.
And it all starts with asking hard questions — such as this one: Are white American evangelicals the agents of change they claim to be or rather the subjects of social change?
In a 2011 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey, those identifying as white, evangelical Protestants took the highest position (63 percent) in demanding personal ethical behavior from politicians.
However, in 2016 — five years and an election later — this same group changed its minds drastically. Only 20 percent of white evangelicals — the lowest of any religious group surveyed — considered such personal morality important in their political leaders.
Baptist preacher turned politician Mike Huckabee wrote a book in 2007 titled Character Makes a Difference, in which he called for holding to the standards of God rather than the “culture of the moment.” In his book’s introduction Huckabee denounces fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton’s moral standards — and affirms that “our character defines the world we live in.”
Now Huckabee, a new TV host on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, simply defines “character” as “being the same person in public as you are in private” — even if of poor moral character one can surmise — according to a recent interview in The Atlantic.
Apparently, character doesn’t make as much of a difference now.
So the question remains: Are white American evangelicals the agents of change they claim to be or rather the subjects of change?
At least this one drastic shift suggests the latter.
Perhaps a follow-up question is: How does it feels to throw away one’s witness and a once-strongly-held emphasis on moral character for a little political porridge?