I recently read an article in the National Catholic Reporter which included this quote; "The president touted his support from evangelical Christians — 81 percent of white evangelicals had voted for him". I’ve seen similar quotes, or heard similar statements more and more over the years since the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976. The term has become nearly synonymous with a Christian who is conservative, white and Republican.
Well I’m a Christian, and while a fiscal conservative, I’m more moderate in other issues, and I am not white. It seems that the media and others are attempting to lump all evangelical Christians as conservative and Republican. I’ve become more and more frustrated with the stereotype, so I asked this question on the social media platform Quora; “How did the term evangelical become synonymous with a white conservative Republican?”
The following are the answers to that question, without comment.
* It’s not.
These days, nearly all Evangelicals are “white conservative Republicans,” but not all “white conservative Republicans” are Evangelicals. There are plenty of white conservative Republicans who are non-literalist Christians, agnostics, and even atheists. There are some who are Jewish, or practice some other faith.
Anyone who uses those terms interchangeably is not anyone whose words should be granted any credence. They are not one and the same.
* I can see where this question is coming from.
The evangelical vote just voted a philandering, amoral kleptocrat into office on the promise that he would take money away from poor people and be less nice to our neighbors.
It’s confusing, isn’t it?
I mean, if Evangelicals were actually reading the book they claim to hew to… reading it and thinking about it, then you’d think the words and priorities of Jesus Christ would mean something to them… but to all appearances they don’t.
To answer your question, though, the reason Evangelical and Republican became synonymous is that Evangelicals have become a reliable base of the Republican Party.
… which makes so little sense it almost hurts to think about it, but there you have it.
If you do a thing reliably for long enough, people start to expect you to do it again.
* Given that I am an Evangelical Christian and a conservative Republican, I wondered how this happened. I am not fully white and I know many conservative Republicans who are not Evangelical’s or Christians and I know some Evangelical’s who are Democrats.
The 70’s was time when the politics of identity was born. Many Christians from the Evangelical sphere latched on to Reagan and to his position that became the party platform to be pro-life and pro-family.
One political movement was the moral majority that Jerry Falwell, Sr. was leading figure in. Hollywood and TV liked also to throw around stereotypes and the WASPY Republican became one. It was like the radical Socialist with the Che Guevara shirt, or the Blue Collared Union worker for the Democrats.
In fact if you do look at entertainment who are heroes and who are the vilified jerks. The Democrats are portrayed as the compassionate open minded ones. The only allowable spiritual people are native Americans or Buddhists, the harsh and judgemental people are those Evangelical Republican suburbanite rich people.
* I suspect that through the 1950s, most southern evangelicals voted for Democrats, and most northern evangelicals voted for Republicans.
What I think happened was that, beginning in the 1960s, the Democrats began collecting special interest groups to build a winning coalition that could replace their Dixiecrat voter base. One of the special interest groups they cultivated could be described as people who wanted to change the status quo by doing away with long-standing religiously-motivated customs, traditions and standards.
Because our election laws essentially result in a two-party system, that left evangelicals with nowhere to go but to the Republicans.
* It is probably atheist propaganda looking for a scapegoat to blame problems on… I am Evangelical and a Social Democrat like Bernie Sanders who moved to France to get away from all those people that you can’t talk to!!!!!
* It began with the megachurches whose leadership was fond of the Republicans, and their stand against birth control and abortion. While we’re supposed to have a separation between church and state, many churches were active in supporting Republicans because they wanted to end abortion and limit, or end access to birth control. This seemed to be their dominate beliefs about Christianity. Despite there being very little in the bible about birth control and abortion , but a whole lot about charity, sharing, leaving the riches of the world behind and helping the poor and sick. That part doesn’t resonate anymore. And frankly it’s making a lot of Evangelicals uneasy. When your pastor or minister is going on about aspects of cutting funding for Planned Parenthood and only one party is for that, it sends a message. When Christianity is suddenly the religion of “I’ve got mine and you can go to hell because you’re lazy’, we’ve lost the meaning of Christ’s teaching and are going for the greed. Minorities aren’t going to follow that thinking, they’re too close to the times when no matter how hard you worked, you weren’t going to get paid more or get promotions. Its going to take two more generations before they’ll go there. So we’re left with a series of actions that have led to a largely white, Republican base among the Evangelical movement in the US. And outside the pulpit’s support of the truly wicked Trump, considering that adultery, lying, cheating, lack of concern for the poor, using charity money for his own purposes and lack of respect for women to be truly wicked by the lights of the Church there are many churchgoers who are not happy with the turn their Church is taking in supporting so many selfish Republican programs that leave the needy out in the cold, and even teach us to resent and disparage the poor.
I wrote a blog post a few months ago that gave the description of an evangelical Christian (Who and What is an Evangelical?) Here is that description:
The term “evangelical” comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “the good news” or the “gospel.” Thus, the evangelical faith focuses on the “good news” of salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ.
The most widely accepted definition of evangelical is probably the one put forward by historian David Bebbington in 1989. It’s called the “Bebbington quadrilateral” because it identifies evangelicals as Christians who share four main qualities:
The NAE/LifeWay Research method includes four statements to which a person must agree to be categorized as evangelical:
Holding to the fundamentals of the Bible will result in a certain worldview and, yes, political belief. However, there is nothing about being an evangelical that demands a certain political party or affiliation.
I would love to hear your comments and answers to the question. Leave your comments below and I’ll respond right away.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.