Alan Bean: Custodians of American civil religion?

Below I am excerpting an excellent article by Alan Bean reflecting on the unholy alliance between “aging white evangelicals” and Donald Trump and the changing American civil religion. Alan is executive director of Friends of Justice, an alliance of community members that advocates for criminal justice reform. He lives in Arlington, Texas.–Rose Berger

An excerpt from Last call for aging white evangelicals: The political marriage to Trump will collapse. What then? by Alan Bean (in Baptist News Global).

Alan Bean, Friends of Justice

>>Conservative evangelicals punch above their weight because they are custodians of American civil religion, a vision of America as God’s beacon in a dark world. Civil religion enjoyed bipartisan support during the Eisenhower years. For generations, American history and civics classes were exercises in self-congratulation.

For the past half century, however, our civil religion has been “deconstructed” by academics who see it as little more than a mask for white supremacy and the oppression of women and racial and sexual minorities. America, in this view, has a lot of explaining to do. College educated whites broke decisively for Hillary Clinton in 2016, the only white demographic to do so.

In response, aging white evangelicals have doubled down on the myth of American righteousness. In the hands of evangelical faux historians like David Barton, the old civil religion has become a great, sprawling story of God’s providential love for America with footnotes a mile long. Trump’s promise to make America great again dovetails perfectly with American civil religion in both its classic and expanded iterations.

In defending Trump, aging white evangelicals are fighting for their identity. The liberals have transformed a gleaming army of Christian soldiers into a rabble of bigots and fools. Evangelicals won’t take this demotion lying down, especially with Donald John Trump emerging as their champion. A civil religion designed to unify a nation now serves as a dividing line.

All this is quite by design. Trump’s political strategy comes straight out of professional wrestling. Half the crowd is hailing Trump as a Savior while everybody else is baying for his blood. The president has our attention, and that’s all he has ever wanted.

As the impeachment process so clearly reveals, the GOP is now the party of Trump. But the power behind the throne is a band of aging white evangelicals, the most powerful people on earth, and therefore the most to be pitied.

Like the biblical Samson, Trump will eventually bring the entire edifice of American conservatism crashing down around him. Some species of evangelical religion will ultimately rise from the rubble, but it will be greatly curtailed, politically irrelevant and, I pray, more recognizably Christian.

Sometimes it takes a cataclysm to advance the cause of Christ.–Alan Bean<<

An excerpt from Last call for aging white evangelicals: The political marriage to Trump will collapse. What then? by Alan Bean (in Baptist News Global).

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