The End of White Christian Americaby Robert P. Jones
For most of our nation’s history,/i>
Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, spells out the profound political and cultural consequences of a new reality—that America is no longer a majority white Christian nation. “Quite possibly the most illuminating text for this election year” (The New York Times Book Review).
For most of our nation’s history, White Christian America (WCA) set the tone for our national policy and shaped American ideals. But especially since the 1990s, WCA has steadily lost influence, following declines within both its mainline and evangelical branches. Today, America is no longer demographically or culturally a majority white, Christian nation.
Drawing on more than four decades of polling data, The End of White Christian America explains and analyzes the waning vitality of WCA. Robert P. Jones argues that the visceral nature of today’s most heated issues—the vociferous arguments around same-sex marriage and religious and sexual liberty, the rise of the Tea Party following the election of our first black president, and stark disagreements between black and white Americans over the fairness of the criminal justice system—can only be understood against the backdrop of white Christians’ anxieties as America’s racial and religious topography shifts around them.
Beyond 2016, the descendants of WCA will lack the political power they once had to set the terms of the nation’s debate over values and morals and to determine election outcomes. Looking ahead, Jones forecasts the ways that they might adjust to find their place in the new America—and the consequences for us all if they don’t. “Jones’s analysis is an insightful combination of history, sociology, religious studies, and political science….This book will be of interest to a wide range of readers across the political spectrum” (Library Journal).
Providing an obituary of “white Christian America,” a eulogy, and a look at stages of grief over its death, Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute and online columnist for the Atlantic, urges America to come to grips with the fact that it is no longer a nation composed mostly of white Christians. Jones follows the emergence and rise of what he calls white Christian America (WCA), often with some interesting, little-known tidbits, and then examines how that majority has disappeared. His thoughts focus on white men, however, leaving readers to ponder how discontented women play into the declining WCA numbers on top of the increasing numbers of non-white Christians. In addition, Jones never thoroughly considers whether Christians refusing to change their attitudes toward same-sex marriage, for example, might be doing so because of solid belief in the scriptures rather than because they don’t want to join non-whites who support marriage equality. Jones’s assumption that white Christians are having a harder time getting elected because they represent an old way of thinking fails to consider that voters might think those particular politicians are incompetent regardless of their race. The book is full of facts, figures, charts, and illustrations, but even as Jones opines that the death of white Christian America is a good thing, he never fully engages with the source of this transformation. Agent: Roger Freet, Foundry Literary & Media. (July)
Demographic and cultural shifts over the past few decades have led to a changing America in which the majority of people are not white Christians. Jones (Progressive & Religious), founding CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, examines this new reality and how it developed. Christian here includes both the mainline and Evangelical branches of Protestantism, each of which has increasingly lost political and social influence and power in recent years. Jones's analysis is an insightful combination of history, sociology, religious studies, and political science. Topics explored include same-sex marriage and religious liberty, the end of the GOP's "White Christian Strategy" (an outgrowth of its "Southern Strategy"), and the relationship between white Christian Americans and race. Throughout, Jones remains dispassionate, neither celebrating nor grieving these changes but meticulously documenting his claims with statistics and helpful graphics. He ends hopefully, with ways in which this population might explore different roles in American society. VERDICT This book will be of interest to a wide range of readers across the political spectrum who are interested in politics and religion. [See Prepub Alert, 1/11/16.]—Brian Sullivan, Alfred Univ. Lib., NY
A pundit considers the decline of Christian religious influence on American politics and culture.For most of America's history, white Protestantism has been a dominant cultural force, providing what E.J. Dionne calls "the civic and moral glue that held American public life together." A combination of demographic change and the abandonment of churches by younger generations may be bringing this era to an end, creating theological challenges for churches and political and cultural challenges for the nation. Public Religion Research Institute founding CEO Jones (Progressive & Religious: How Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist Leaders are Moving Beyond the Culture Wars and Transforming American Public Life, 2008, etc.) charts the rise and decline of white Protestant churches and their cultural hegemony over the past century. He hits his stride in his description of the two great branches of American Protestantism, the mainline churches and the evangelicals, and their competition for cultural dominance, and in his all-too-brief conclusion, with its thoughtful consideration of how Protestant churches and American society could best adapt to the new dispensation. Unfortunately, a core definitional issue plagues the work. The author at first indistinctly defines the phrase "white Christian America" as "the domain of white Protestants in America"; Irish Catholics, for example, do not count. Further uncertainty persists throughout as Jones uses the term differently according to context, referring variously to a group of people today, a similar group in the past and their cultural norms, and even some evangelicals' social agenda. These constantly shifting meanings confuse readers and are reflected in a failure of topical focus, leading the author to pay excessive attention to well-documented but ultimately tangential discussions of sectarian foot-dragging on such issues as desegregation and gay rights and a purported "white Christian strategy" on the part of some Republican operatives. Finally, the author's thesis is overstated. Though white Protestants may no longer be a demographic majority or a dominant social force, they remain a significant social and political influence. A missed opportunity to explore an important cultural change in the making.
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Meet 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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