Jesus Christ was racist.
OK, I’m not saying that the actual historical Jesus—who may have been Black—was racist. He seemed to be a pretty chill guy.
But certainly the European Christian concept of Jesus, all blonde and blue-eyed and ready to do some smiting, was crazy bigoted.
Of course, the link between racism and Christianity has been strong for centuries. Think of the forced conversions of indigenous people in the Americas, or the zealotry of missionaries in Africa.
However, we don’t have to look to the past. Right here in 2021, it is difficult “to overstate how central to White Christians’ worldview is this idea of America as a White Christian nation,” even though this idea “is more myth than reality.”
Research shows that religious people tend to be more nationalistic and that “nationalism and religious beliefs are somewhat interchangeable,” meaning that many Christians see their religion and the USA as the same thing.
Now consider that White Christians often “prefer other people who look like them, think like them, and live like them” (i.e., White), and that “racism among White Christians is higher than among the nonreligious.”
Mix it together, and we see why “a strong majority of White Christians flocked to Trump’s promise to ‘make America great again’ and implicitly restore a social order that placed them at its center.”
OK, so I’ve maligned White Christians by implying that they are jingoistic bigots. Let me be more specific: White Christians who supported Trump are jingoistic bigots.
Don’t believe me?
Well, consider that “a near unanimous 97% of White evangelical Trump supporters believe that Christian faith is an essential part of American greatness,” and 75 percent think that immigrants are “invading America and replacing its culture.” About 60 percent say that Whites “face as much discrimination as Blacks and that the values of Islam are incompatible with American values.”
And speaking of Islam, studies of White Christians found a desire to restrict the civil rights of Muslims, especially when those Christians felt that their religion was in competition with Islam. This fear, which researchers call “existential concerns,” often occurs when demographic change occurs and your culture is no longer the unquestioned number one. By the way, you’ll be intrigued to know that those Christians’ “existential concerns were relieved after experimenters showed participants reports about Muslims killed in a plane crash.”
So much for love thy neighbor.
Now, all of this is disturbing, but not necessarily worrisome. After all, the majority of “white evangelicals are aging,” and many younger Christians “are engaging in both religion and politics differently.” Hey, younger people are more likely to ditch religion altogether, leading to a more secular society in the near future.
In fact, the “power of White, Trump-loving evangelical Christian leaders is waning,” and “with their numbers declining, evangelicals are trying to remain relevant and influential by doubling down on the culture war,” a dubious strategy that annoys everyone who isn’t predisposed to be furious about Dr. Seuss or the Cleveland Guardians.
So White Christian Trumpists will soon cease to be an issue, right?
Well, it’s not that simple.
Unfortunately, “nationalism tends to become more intense in times of crisis and uncertainty,” which certainly describes our current era. Furthermore, White Christians’ “negative attitude and resentment may become even stronger” because they are “losing ground to a generation with more diverse racial and religious (and non-religious) cultural experiences.”
This combo of nationalism, religious fervor, bigotry, and fear may lead to a radicalization spiral that “provides a huge pool of disaffected Whites willing to subvert democratic rules—or even resort to violence—if that’s what it takes to prevent a diverse and increasingly secular liberal coalition from remaking American society.”
Basically, there will be fewer White Christian conservatives in the future, but “as the group shrinks, it’s going to become more extreme.”
How extreme could it get? Well, you might see Christians commit violent acts of insurrection and then insist they are divine entities immune from secular laws. Oh wait, we’re already seeing that.
As Christianity becomes less associated with peace and good works, and more associated with holy war and racial subjugation, we may find ourselves asking the perennial question “What would Jesus do?”
But depending on who you ask, you may not like the answer.