Letter to the editor News


Barely three months from now, the 2020 election may reveal whether America’s white evangelical “religious right” finally is losing political power.

So far, early polls imply that President Trump – the darling of born-again whites – may suffer a historic defeat. (Although I’m unreligious, I pray ardently for that outcome.)

Of course, a huge Trump loss could be attributed partly to his mishandling of the bizarre pandemic jangling America.  But it will be telling if the GOP’s fundamentalist wing cannot rescue him.

The religious right was so strong and organized that it was decisive in electing three Republican presidents:  Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Trump.  And it produced countless state-level GOP victories.  However, various indicators now suggest that it’s losing clout.  To wit:

Americans who say their faith is “none” are quitting religion at an amazing rate.  In the 1990s, they rose to one-tenth of the population, and now they’re one-fourth.  They generally hold progressive political values, making them the largest faith segment in the Democratic Party base. As religion retreats, white evangelicals have shrunk to just 15 percent of the populace.

Southern Baptists have lost 1.8 million members since 2006. Gallup found that American religious membership as a whole fell 20 percent in two decades.

Relentlessly changing demographics alter the electorate.  Robert Jones, author of “The End of White Christian America,” says the once-mighty majority has shrunk to just 42 percent, with more shrinkage ahead.

Unfortunately, many churchless “nones” shun politics and vote at low rates.  In contrast, fundamentalists are right-wing political dynamos, solidly Republican.  The New York Times calls them “God’s Red Army.” In the 2018 off-year election, evangelical organizer Ralph Reed spent $18 million in a massive get-out-the-vote drive in born-again churches.  Reed boasts that he averted a Democratic “blue wave.”  Also, the Family Research Council sent “values voter” guides to 28,000 far-right pastors.

(Actually, evangelicals refute Jesus by embracing the GOP. Jesus was a liberal who sided with underdogs, constantly preaching: help the poor, clothe the naked, heal the sick, feed the hungry, aid the unfortunate. You might say he endorsed the social “safety net” supported by progressive politics.  It’s a contradiction for evangelicals to back Republicans who want to slash the safety net and aid the rich.)

This year, another big-money political blitz is afoot.  “Evangelicals for Trump” was launched on Jan. 3 in Miami.  Millions will be spent to mobilize born-again congregations for the GOP.  Resurrection Pictures is ready to release a film declaring that the AntiChrist will win if Trump loses.

But the pandemic is preventing many churches from holding worship services.  Maybe that will hinder the attempt to use religion as a political machine.

The election is Nov. 3, about 14 weeks off. Will 2020 be the year when white evangelicals no longer can swing victory to the Republican Party?  I devoutly hope so.


James A. Haught

James Haught, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail. 

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  • I’m prefacing my comment by stating that I don’t support government establishment of religion by the Right any more than I support the attempts of the Left to strip America of any morality it still clings to. Both are dangerous and detrimental.

    But I really must point out an error of logic in your claim about Jesus: He never once suggested that *government* should be the one doing all of those things for the poor and needy. In following his example, a Christian is not impelled to claim other people’s money to spend on policies that may or may not actually help people in the long run. (Some undoubtedly do, but a few glances at data will show plenty of cases where pure handouts to certain groups without a well-designed recovery plan simply keep people trapped in their situations.) Nonprofit groups are the ones who have had the most success overall, ones that have the freedom to analyze the actual needs and act on them in such a way that will not only alleviate the temporary suffering, but will help people climb out of the holes they’ve fallen into, *should they want to*. When people don’t want to be helped and only want to be given things, no one is doing them any favors by handing them whatever they want.

    I live in a state that is crawling with people who don’t want to improve their lot, because the government here has decided that they should just give things to anyone who is homeless, let them sleep where they want, etc. As a result, people have come here from other states in droves just to get the handouts, and it’s negatively affected the security and beauty of quite a few areas of our cities. We’ve seen for ourselves that simply handing people money or things *does not work*, and that’s what tends to happen with many liberal policies that try to use government to solve social issues like homelessness and poverty.

    So if someone wants to actually follow Jesus, they should give of *their own money* – and if they are to do so, they should do so wisely. Research the nonprofits to find the ones that are the most effective at getting people back on their feet, teaching them to fish rather than handing them a fish, and give to them. That’s what I do.

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