Video: What Do We Really Know about Evangelicals and American Politics?

March 30, 2021
What Do We Really Know about Evangelicals and American Politics?
"What Do We Really Know about Evangelicals and American Politics?" was held March 9 and sponsored by the HDS Office of Ministry Studies.

Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond, Co-founder and Pastor of Bethel AME Church, led a conversation with Dr. Marla F. Frederick, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Religion and Culture at Emory University, and D. Michael Lindsay, the eighth president of Gordon College.

Full Transcript:

Dudley Rose: And it's my honor to welcome you to today's ministry colloquium, What do we really know about evangelicals and American politics. We are blessed to have the Reverend, Dr. Ray Hammond to lead the conversation on this important and often misunderstood topic. I will introduce the Reverend Dr. Hammond and ask him then to introduce his esteemed conversation partners.

Reverend Hammond is the co-founder of Bethel AME Church in Boston, with his wife, Gloria white-Hammond, herself a highly valued member of the HDS community. Reverend Hammond is the son of a Baptist preacher, and a school teacher in Philadelphia. He attended public schools before earning his degree from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, and then later earned a master's degree in religion focusing on Christian and medical ethics from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Reverend Hammond is recognized and admired in the religious and community areas in Boston and beyond. He is the co-founder of the Ten Point Coalition, an ecumenical group of Christian clergy and lay leaders that mobilized the greater Boston community around issues affecting Black and Latino youth.

He's had leadership roles in the Black Ministerial Alliance, the Boston Opportunity Agenda, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, the Boston Foundation and the Boston Green Ribbon Commission. He also serves as a trustee of the Yawkey Foundation, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the Boston Medical Center Health System and the Match School.

He is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the recipient of numerous honors and honorary degrees. Personally, I am privileged to have called him a friend for many years and honored to welcome him as the host of our ministry colloquium this afternoon. Without further delay, let me turn it over to you, Ray. And you can introduce your fellow panelists and begin what promises to be an extraordinary and informative conversation. Thank you

Ray Hammond: Thank you so much, Dudley. Everyone can hear me clearly? OK. Beautiful. My deep appreciation to all of you who've joined us for what I think is going to be a very interesting and in many ways, I believe, exciting conversation. I am so grateful to [? Lesley ?] for all the work you've put in, and Dudley into making this colloquium possible today.

Thanks for the friends you've been over many, many decades of collegial work. I'm one week past my second vaccination. Thrilled by what I'm hearing from the CDC in terms of some of their recommendations, now currently, for those who have been vaccinated. And yet, all the more stunned and kind of amazed by the fact that it's only been a year since America, along with much of the world, entered what I have often called America's health, wealth and stealth crisis.

It is and was a health crisis because, of course, COVID-19 is the worst pandemic we've seen in 100 years. And made particularly worse by the kind of toxic political polarization that contributed to some of the worst death figures among developed countries. Overlay that with the wealth crisis as millions struggle in the face of unemployment, deepening inequality and an uncertain recovery. And then that stealth crisis, as I call it, really an illusion to the origin of the word stealth which means, not unsurprisingly, steel.

What do we do as a nation? How do we come to grips with stolen land and liberty, and opportunity for Native Americans or African slaves, or poor colored and white immigrants who could never quite get on the escalator that was called the American Dream? And we are having to come to grips with all of these huge questions at the same time. That's made incredibly more difficult by the fact that we have a deeply fractured and polarized American electorate and political class.

And if anyone had any questions about just how deep those fractures were, they only had to watch the events of January 6th. The first ever storming of the Capitol, not by foreign invaders, but domestic insurrectionist. And no less a figure than David French, who would proudly call himself a conservative evangelical writer, labeled January 6th as a violent Christian insurrection.

Now, he would definitely connect it much more closely to Christian nationalism and evangelicalism, but he'd be the first to say that the evangelical church has to be at the forefront of addressing it. And that as a nation, somehow we've got to deal with this polarization that ironically supercharges and paralyzes our political life at the same time.

So in the hopes that a deeper understanding of ourselves and of those we might disagree with make some small contribution to that process, we're asking the question, what do we really know about evangelicals in politics? Beyond the stereotypes, beyond the hype and the heated rhetoric, what's really going on?

In the time we have, of course, we can't begin to fully address that question. But if there are two people who can point us in a more productive direction in much of our current discourse, it's the two scholars and friends who are here this afternoon. And our first presenter will be Dr. Marla Frederick of Asa Griggs Candler, Professor of Religion and Culture at Emory University's Candler School of Theology.

She's served for 16 years as Professor of religion and African-American studies at Harvard University. She's an anthropologist by training and graduate of Spelman College, and Duke University, who's authored or co-authored four books and several articles, including Between Sundays, Black Women and Everyday Struggles of Faith. Which was an amazing ethnographic study of Baptist women's social and political engagement in eastern North Carolina.

Co-authored book entitled Local Democracy Under Siege, Won the best Book Award for the Society for the Anthropology of North America. Her most recent book, Colored Television: American Religion Gone Global, really explores the rise of African-American and female televangelists, and their influence outside of the United States. And she continues to do really exciting research and study of religion and media, religion and economics, and the sustainability of Black institutions in a post-racial world.

She served as president in the past of the Association of Black Anthropologists and currently serves as president of the 9,000 member American Academy of Religion, the world's largest association of scholars and religious studies, and related fields. And then our second presenter, also a colleague and friend. Dr. D. Michael Lindsay serves as the eighth president of Gordon College. He's the author of two dozen scholarly publications.

Lindsay's Faith in the Halls of Power was nominated for the non-fiction prize in 2007. His book, View From the Top, won two awards, and has been translated into Chinese and Japanese. And his latest book Hinge Moments is coming out in April. As a scholar and educational leader, sociologist of religion, he's lectured on six continents and previously taught at Rice University where he won multiple awards for both his teaching and his research.

So as my grandfather would say, I am in high cotton today. These are two phenomenal scholars who I think will help us really think more incisively, and I hope more productively, about our nation and particularly our religious framework here in America. So with that, I'm going to ask Dr. Marla if she would get us rolling.

Marla Frederick: Thank you, Pastor Ray. And for those of you who don't know, I call him Pastor Ray because he's actually my pastor for 16 years, from the time I was in Boston. I was a member of Bethel AME. So when Pastor Ray called and asked me about serving on this panel I said, but of course, sign me up.

So it's an honor to be here and always a pleasure to be with my friend, Michael Lindsay, to share with you just some thoughts on this question Pastor Ray asked me about the 19% of evangelicals or the 20%, what do we make of that group. And so I thought that we would start, or I would start by framing my comment. He said just informal comments, but I kept writing notes so it's a lot of informal comments.

Just framing a way for us to think about how we got to the 19%. And by that he means this 81% that supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election, the 19% that were Never Trumpers in the evangelical community. But I think there's a larger story to tell about that that I want to share, that then brings us to the discussion around this 19% or 20%.

And so I'm coming to this conversation as a scholar and as a person of faith. I talk more about scholarship here but in the Q&A we can certainly talk more about how I fit into this equation. So I want to be just very blunt. white evangelicalism will be the death of all of us. white evangelicalism will be the death of all of us. Black, white, Brown it does not matter.

And not evangelicalism per se but white evangelicalism. And not necessarily white evangelicals but the institutionalized movement that has tied this group of people together and moved them towards a certain end. It's a movement that ultimately prioritizes whites and merely uses Black people. But not to the benefit of Blackness or Black and Brown communities, but too often to their detriment. And for this large institutionalized movement, Black and Brown people are ultimately expendable to the extent that we are perceived as threats to comfort, money and power.

But how do you separate an evangelicalism from a white evangelicalism? Especially given evangelicalism's historic foundations and whiteness. And what do I mean by that? white evangelicalism, by design, is ill-equipped to offer us the kind of opportunity for collective human flourishing because it's institutionalized form was built upon racist and sexist grounds, and has never truly reckoned with nor made amends for that very wrong.

If anything, white evangelicalism has charged forward as if there is no history of slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping and the like. Carolyn DuPont, a historian of the South and of evangelicalism, has written of the 20th century white evangelicalism. That in part, white supremacy doesn't exist in spite of white evangelicalism, but largely because of it.

And that's a real pill to swallow. How did she get there? And I want to talk first about the kind of death blows that white evangelicalism is dealing to the nation at large. Most recently we've seen it during COVID with mask-or-not deniers and the demands to reopen churches under the auspices of religious liberty, the logic of religious liberty and religious freedom. We see that with climate deniers, and then we see that with these issues of racism and social injustice.

And what do I mean by white evangelicalism? I think the growth of whiteness studies has helped us to understand more of how whiteness works to the detriment of not only Black and Brown people, but white people as well. It works to the detriment of everyone.

In his book, Dying of whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America's Heartland. Jonathan Metzl argues, he explores the effects of what became central GOP policy issues, loosening gun laws, repealing of the Affordable Care Act or enacting massive tax cuts that largely benefited wealthy persons and corporations.

He identified the effects of those policies on white populations. Succinctly put, he says, a host of complex anxieties prompt increasing numbers of white Americans to support right-wing politicians and policies even when these policies actually harm white Americans at growing rates. And so he points to three different cities that he's traveled and done research in.

He goes to Missouri, and he talks about pro National Rifle Association conservative lawmakers and their push to pass pro-gun legislation that effectively allow people to carry concealed handguns at schools, it annulled most of the city and regional gun restrictions and it allowed just about anyone over the age of 18 to carry a concealed weapon.

And he argues that the primary folks dying was assumed by white politicians to be inner city gang members, but this actually wasn't the case. As gun laws were liberalized, gun deaths spiked among white people. This was because white Missourians dominated injuries and deaths via gun related suicides, partner violence and accidental shootings, in ways that outpaced African-American gun deaths from homicide.

And then he takes us to Tennessee, and looks at the Affordable Care Act, the effects of not advancing the Affordable Care Act. And he says, where Conservative Republican establishment block the state's participation in the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion at turn, compared to Kentucky, the life expectancy of whites went down under Republican anti ACA policy positions.

And he points to this young man named Trevor, a 41-year-old uninsured guy who is a taxi cab driver. And he's talking to him about his deteriorating health conditions and why he doesn't support the Affordable Care Act. He has an inflamed liver, he has hepatitis C, and he says even on death's doorstep Trevor wasn't angry. In fact, he staunchly supported the stance promoted by elected officials, quote, "ain't no way I would ever support Obamacare or sign up for it, I would rather die." He told the author.

When Metzl asked him why he felt that way in the face of severe illness, the young man replies quote, "we don't need any more government in our lives. And in any case, no way I want my tax dollars paying for Mexicans or welfare queens." So he takes us into the Affordable Care debate, and its effects on white populations.

And then he takes us to Kansas, to the Tea Party-fueled economic experiment, led by Governor Sam Brownback, in which the largest income tax in the state history turned the state budget surplus into substantial deficits. And there he looks at how those tax cuts largely affected Black school districts, but because the tax cuts were so large, they also had to affect white school districts.

He says, in that time period 688 additional white students dropped out of Kansas public high schools in the first four years of budget cuts, than would have done so otherwise. On average in the United States, dropping out of high school correlates with nine years of lost life expectancy. And so in his case, in his argument about dying for whiteness, he's just looking at these three different policy positions and how it's affected the life expectancy of whites in these cities.

And then the stories that he tells of Trevor, he says, stories like Trevor's come to embody larger problems of an electorate that in its worst moments votes to sink the whole ship, except for a few privileged passengers who get lifeboats even when they are on it, rather than investing in communal systems that might rise all tides.

Anti-Blackness in a biological sense then produces its own anti-whiteness, an illness of the mind weaponized, he argues, onto the body of the nation. A similar argument is made in a recent book by a policy analyst named Heather McGhee Her book, Drained Pool Politics. She calls it drained pool politics. And you all may have heard of this, it's a very new book. But she's looking at the history of integration and the demand to not only integrate school, but to integrate public parks and recreation facilities.

And how across the country instead of integrating and enjoying the pools with Black residents and Black children, city councils and state legislatures across the country closed down public swimming pools. Thus not allowing anyone's children to play. And so there's a politics that suggests that if another group is able to benefit, the politics of whiteness says that nobody will benefit if my tax dollars have to have to help support it.

And this creates this critique of whiteness. And whiteness studies continues on. Earlier publications by Carol Anderson, white Rage. There's just a number of really helpful books that have come out to help us understand, what are the problems and limitations of that type of whiteness. And so you have this emerging discourse on whiteness and the detriment of whiteness, and how it's played out in society.

But what makes it really toxic is the way in which religion serves as a justification, an armor protecting whiteness and the politics of whiteness, which we find rooted in a type of toxic hyper individualism. In her book, Mississippi Praying: Southern white Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement 1945 to 1975, Carolyn DuPont, explains that the evident and enduring compatibility of evangelicalism, and I would say here white evangelicalism, and Black subordination suggests a Holy symbiosis.

Not hypocrisy or what was claimed as a kind of cultural captivity that the opposition to civil rights was about. That white evangelicals were not participants, they were not political. She says that's not the case. She says, indeed white supremacy flourished in part because of evangelical religion's strength, and not in spite of it.

She goes on to say, perhaps faith rendered its most important service to white supremacy by embodying, teaching and perpetuating this individualistic ethos so expertly that collective actions seemed to disappear. And with the help of this same cosmology, white supremacy cultivated its central myth, that Blacks' difficulties arose from their own failings, and that whites bore neither guilt nor responsibility for them.

White Mississippians' thus believe thoroughly in their own innocence, even as they practice an extravagantly wicked racial system. She goes on. She says, white Mississippians' religion embodied, transmitted and protected white supremacy's central myth, that Black Mississippians' inferior status ensued from their own failings and not from any doings of whites.

Placing strong priority on individual morality and private action, their cosmology described a world in which personal choices determine all things in this life and the next, and ignore to the point of absurdity the political, economic, educational, and social structures that shaped both Blacks' and whites' realities.

She goes on. She says, evangelical religion faithfully guarded white supremacy's central tenet and fundamental myths. Blacks suffered, but whites bore no blame for these travails. And so then you have, in this evangelical movement, these splintering moments. You have a kind of conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, the conservative takeover the Presbyterian Convention and a conservative kind of move away from the Methodist Church, move outside of the Methodist Church.

And she says, contemporarily, though most evangelicals today believe that Christianity requires a commitment to racial equality, they continue to frame morality and a special racial morality in individual terms. Thus white evangelicals, like many other Americans, celebrate racial egalitarianism and anti-racism with little understanding of the movement's goals and methods, and without grappling with aspects related to power and privilege.

Like the white evangelical church of the Civil Rights years, they nourish a myth and a morality rendered invisible the structural inequalities that continue to exist for Black Americans and other groups, as well as their own collusion in such systems. They enthusiastically support the idea of racial equality, they also nearly universally believe that all obstacles to Black advancement have disappeared.

Not unlike the white Mississippi Christians of the mid 20th century, their descendants all of the country placed sole blame for gaps in Black and white achievement on Black Americans themselves. And we can see that in debates contemporarily around health issues, around education, around mass incarceration, around mortality rates.

And so this 19% of evangelicals who try to insert these conversations around social structures and racial justice, when we talk about that 19% we have to understand that every attempt that white evangelicals and others make at forcing the structure of white evangelicalism to change, to reckon with itself, to do something different, those efforts do not ultimately change the institution or institutions, because the institutions simply marginalizes-- One could say, it chews up and then spits out those who are in opposition.

And this has been the case since the days of slavery, right? So if we look back in history, we see the split at the Baptist, we see the split among the Methodists, we see the split among the Presbyterians over the issue of slavery. You fast forward to the Civil Rights and Women's Rights movements, and instead of changing the institutions to embrace those rights, you have these movements that are talked about that can kind of conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

And then you fast forward to the election of Barack Obama and this Blacklash that occurred with Obama's election, and the rise of Trumpism. These are those who are attempting to-- there are those who are attempting to oppose a kind of Trumpism, but they are being chewed up and spit out, again, by this larger ethos. And so who are this 19%, who did not vote for Trump, or did not compromise everything they ever said they believed in to vote for him?

You have individuals, you have people like Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention who's over the ethics committee. You have people like Beth Moore, who is a writer and Bible teacher. You have the granddaughter of Billy Graham. And then there are evangelicals who are committed to the issues of justice, who are missionaries in urban centers. You have evangelical scholars, and then you have young evangelicals, more so than their parents, who've been in class and community with non-whites, with Muslims, with people of various religious, gender and sexual identities who are challenging some of the presuppositions of white evangelicalism.

We have a graduate student at Harvard, Jorden Sharick who's writing about the New Monastics. This group who is really trying to push forward these conversations around-- to disrupt the relationship between evangelicalism and the type of unrestrained capitalism, and racism, and sexism, and arguing for a more inclusive, anti-racist, non-sexist, evangelicalism.

And then, of course, you have organizations like Sojourners, who've had a long time commitment to the biblical faith that includes a commitment to social justice. But I would argue that they are largely on the margins if you think about this 19%, but why doesn't white evangelicalism conform to their demands? And I think that's because white evangelicalism is fundamentally opposed to everything they believe as it relates to these types of structural changes that demand justice.

And I went back over this history, the splits during slavery, the splits during Jim Crow, but I want to talk about how evangelicalism grew up in the 1800s as this mass movement that you had Northern evangelicals in opposition to Southern evangelicals over this issue of slavery. And you had Northern evangelicals after slavery coming South, after emancipation to build schools for Black children, who were committed to doing the work of supporting those on the margins.

And yet the charge from the late 1800s to the 1900s was that these were then social gospel to the extent that they wanted to insert these issues around justice, they were marginalized as social gospelers. And as the institution of white evangelicalism grew up, it grew up with this focus on a kind of biblical authority, but at the same time it pushed to the margins anyone who challenged this social structure and pushed for social equality.

You see that with this founding of the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Religious Broadcasters in the 40s, both of them in the 40s. You have these evangelical organizations that grow up in the 40s and 50s in this kind of context. And yet within that context you still have other evangelicals. You have this beyond the 19% that are kind of the other evangelicals.

You also have non-white evangelicals who are heavily committed to an evangelicalism. And part of the question is whether or not evangelicalism has the tools and resources to help rectify historic wrongs. And I think that if you look back at this movement of evangelical South to help build schools and colleges for Blacks after slavery. If you look at someone's work like Melani McAlister, her book, The Kingdom of God Has No Borders, in part she argues that evangelicals go into poor communities that sometimes more progressive Christians don't.

If you travel around the world you'll see evangelical churches in some of the poorest, favelas and shanty towns in the world and that they are doing the active work of social engagement. Cheryl Sanders argues early on that Pentecostals were fully engaged with the issues around poverty. But that is always on a volunteer basis that doesn't necessarily challenge these larger social structures.

And who are these other evangelicals? I just want to list some of them. Soong-Chan Ra argues, in The Next Evangelicalism, pointing out that by 2050 African, Asian, and Latin American Christians will constitute 71% of the world's Christian population. Black Christians, many of whom stopped calling themselves evangelical some time ago given this kind of tortured history, are often labeled as evangelical-- hold evangelical commitments.

Andrea Smith writes unreconciled about Black, Asian, and Latino women who are working inside of the Southern Baptist Convention to try to change it. Blacks who are in white evangelical spaces, who are really trying to push for change, are building on the work of people like a John Perkins or a Tom Skinner.

And so while evangelicals adopted integration as a reality in their churches and monasteries by the late '70s and '80s, the Southern Baptist issued a formal apology for the historic support of slavery in 1995. They adopted integration on their terms. When Black evangelical leaders like Tom Skinner and John Perkins, Samuel Hynes and Bill Pinnell helped to outline a program for true quote unquote "reconciliation," they included a four step model of reconciliation between Black and white Christians that emphasize developing, one, a primary across racial relationships. Two, recognizing and remedying social structures of inequality. Three, acknowledgment and repentance. And four, forgiveness.

But what was consistent about this movement, if we're talking about slavery, if we're talking about the push towards integration, if we talk about this moment even with Blacks inside of white evangelicalism, you see a rejection of this argument for social structural change. According to historian Brantley Gasaway, in his study of progressive evangelicals and race, while embracing three of the ideals, white evangelicals balked, he says, at the idea of social and economic justice as integral to reconciliation.

In 1978, John Perkins described in Sojourners the hostility shown toward Black evangelical leaders by white conservative Christians, not when he denounced racism, but when the former challenged economic inequalities. As soon as I questioned the economic order that has made America unfairly rich in creating massive poverty, he wrote, I find myself in very, very hot water.

He accused the leadership of white evangelicalism of defending a system that prevented substantive equality for African-Americans by unfairly distributing wealth and perpetuating poverty. And he says when black leaders like Skinner and Pinnell highlighted the association between economic and racial inequalities, they were called communist and barred from white evangelical institutions.

And so there's this pattern that continues with this 19% when we hear even today the charges of socialism and communism directed towards those who want to challenge these systems. But these other evangelicals are indeed people, as I indicated, Black Christians, they are people in other parts of the world as indicated by Soong-Chan Ra.

And then there are just a number of ethnographies that have come out about evangelicals in Latin America, and Caribbean and various parts of Africa. And the question will be, will they be able to integrate into their discourses these questions around social inequality and economic transformation that don't simply marginalize them to this larger evangelical movement? And so with that, I will stop and turn it over to Michael Lindsay.

D. Michael Lindsay: Well, thanks so very much, Marla. It's great to be on a panel with you. And Pastor Ray, thank you so much for the invitation. I'm delighted to be able to be here. My background is as a sociologist of religion and I spend a lot of my time thinking about issues of evangelicalism, not only because I lead an evangelical college, Gordon College on the North Shore of Boston. But I myself am an evangelical.

Today, however, I'm really going to speak as a sociologist and offer some perspective of what it looks like from a sociological perspective. But happy to take whatever questions you'd like to pose in the conversation. I would say evangelicals today are among the most discussed but least understood religious group in American public life. And it's, in part, because there's such a wide understanding around evangelicalism.

Depending on how you define evangelical, it can constitute anywhere from 7% to 47% of the US adult population, and it covers many different areas. By most standards and particularly the way that it's framed in national political polling, it represents anywhere from a quarter to a third of the US adult population.

Generally speaking, we define evangelicals as individuals who believe in the supreme authority of the Bible. So it's more important than church teaching or church tradition. Second is the importance of a conversion to Jesus Christ, which can either occur in a dramatic born-again moment or can be a gradual process. But the basic idea is that you own the faith, it's not something you just inherited from your parents, but something you yourself claim to be salient for your life.

And third and finally is that your faith compels you to take action, to bear witness to your faith. So it's an evangelizing faith. It Includes talking to friends and neighbors, and co-workers about your faith commitments. But also living out your faith in your family and your community.

Marla has already hit upon one of the key tension points within evangelicalism, particularly in the American context. I lived in the UK, did a degree over there. And evangelicals in Great Britain are very different than evangelicals in the United States. Whereas the United States they tend to be aligned with conservative political alignment, in the UK they tend to be on the progressive side. And in the UK evangelicals are much more interested in and committed to issues of systemic or structural change, whereas evangelicalism in America is very much an individualistic kind of faith.

And that goes way, way back. But particularly around evangelicalism in the mid 20th century was very much focused on individual transformation. And so I'd say they've had a love-hate relationship with institutions and with structures. They love them in that they build new ventures that they hope get big and significant. They hate them because they don't want to bestow upon them any authority or agency.

The reality is that evangelicalism in the US is both much more than you think, and it's a whole lot less than you think. It's much more because it's a lot more than just about politics. In fact, the political space is what gets all the attention. But there is significant activity around evangelicalism in corporate America and in business life. Places like Silicon Valley and Wall Street are significant areas where evangelical activism occurs. And it's also much less because there is no sense of unity within evangelicalism. So we'll talk a little bit about the 2016 and the 2020 elections. But the reality is that evangelicalism like pretty much every religious movement in America suffers from a degree of institutional inertia, and by a degree of divided loyalties.

I spent, I guess, 10 years of my life studying evangelicalism and doing interviews. I did face-to-face interviews with hundreds and hundreds of evangelical leaders, both people who led churches and evangelical ministries, and nonprofit organizations. But also people who were in secular jobs, so corporate CEOs, college presidents, people who were elected in public office who would identify as evangelical.

And interestingly enough, 25% of the people I interviewed don't like the term evangelical, but they fit the three criteria that I just laid out. And so I counted them as evangelical even though they had great misgivings about the term. And one of the big conclusions that I came to after studying this movement and particularly looking at it for the last 30 or 40 years, is that there are two significant cleavages within evangelicalism. One that I call populist evangelicalism and another I call cosmopolitan evangelicalism. And you really have to understand those dynamics to be able to appreciate what we see in American public life.

Populist evangelicalism is what gets all of the attention in the media. So it's the big marches that you have. 15 years ago it would be the large stadium events that an organization called Promise Keepers would put on. It's the domain of the Billy Graham Crusades. It's the space of Christian radio, it's a lot of the political action that you see is largely a populist movement. And certainly in the last five or six years of evangelical activism in the Republican Party is fundamentally a populist kind of phenomenon. And there are certainly important populist leaders that are represented within that evangelical spectrum.

Probably one that would be representative would be Franklin Graham, this is the son of Dr. Billy Graham. Franklin Graham is now the CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, but also a spinoff organization called Samaritan's Purse. And Franklin Graham was a very strong and vocal supporter of Donald Trump, and has also been very involved in a whole host of political issues in the last 20 years.

One of his precursors would have been James Dobson the founder of Focus on the Family. And it goes, moral majority activism of a variety of different folks. That that's the populist side. The cosmopolitan side. This is the interesting group. They do read magazines like Christianity Today and they do sing praise choruses on Sunday morning. But they also listen to NPR and read the New York Times.

They have a much more worldly perspective. Worldly, here, in the very best sense of the term in that they have diverse perspectives, they are oftentimes much more comfortable with nuance even in their own spiritual journeys or discussions. I just saw a piece in The Atlantic by Tim Keller talking about grappling with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis that he received last year.

Tim Keller embodies cosmopolitan evangelicalism. He talks about his doubts. He talks about some of his own challenges. But he's also going to be able to draw upon source material that's not just in church tradition, but also great works of literature. Probably an even more representative example of cosmopolitan evangelicalism, would be Francis Collins. So the director of NIH, Dr. Collins, was first appointed to that position by President Bush, then appointed by President Obama, then appointed by President Trump and now has been appointed by President Biden.

Francis Collins wrote his book, The Language of God, in which he talks about how his own born-again experience that he had after completing his medical residency became an important part of his faith journey, but it didn't keep him away from important topics like human genomics. Instead, it motivated his study of genetics and brought him to the forefront of scientific discovery.

There are lots of myths about evangelicalism but I thought I would just briefly mention four that I think are worth-- to prime the pump for conversation. Number one is this idea that evangelicals are united, and that 80% of folks, particularly white evangelicals who voted for President Trump that there's sort of an understanding. And I would say there's a presumption that their vote of Donald Trump is also an endorsement for all that they see in the Trump Administration.

What I would say is that what we saw happen with evangelicals, particularly in 2015 and 2016, is very, very similar to what we saw with evangelicals in 1979 and 1980. Namely, there were executive actions that were taken that were perceived to be quite significant threats. In '79, it was President Carter instructing or affirming the IRS inquiries into church schools. And there were lots of church schools that were a part of the white flight in the American South, but there are lots of church schools that were not part of that. But they were uniformly pursued by the IRS in ways that non church schools were not. And that was really seen as a threat to evangelicals and that's when really they turned on President Carter.

The abortion debate had been going on, but remember in 1973 it was not evangelicals who were at the forefront of the pro-life movement, it was actually Catholics. What transpired in the 1970s was a sort of a growing alignment between conservative Catholics and conservative Protestants, and a large part of that was people who voted for President Carter felt threatened by him in 1979 and early 1980. In the latter part of the Obama Administration, I'd say certainly evangelicals were not at the forefront of voting for President Obama.

But I know there is a segment of evangelicals that really were disappointed that the Obama Administration was not able to find a way forward whereby gay rights and religious liberties could find a way to coexist, without it becoming sort of a zero-sum game. And that I think really did have an effect certainly among some evangelicals in feeling a degree of threat. And that's certainly been a part of the dynamic.

Marla rightly pointed to folks like Beth Moore and Russell Moore, two Moore's actually, who had some real concerns about the president's actions, whether it be on immigration or racial policies or rhetoric, or actions. But one of the interesting things is to look at the editorial pages of both the New York Times and the Washington Post, where you have two outspoken evangelical conservatives Michael Gerson and Peter Wayner. Both who worked in the Bush Administration, both of whom would be certainly representative of evangelicals in the halls of power. And both of them speaking very strongly against President Trump throughout his administration, his campaign in 2015 and 16, his administration, and then his re-election bid.

So the idea that evangelicals are united is just not the case, it's a myth. Number two, the idea that it's theology that drives evangelicals' political agenda, that is most certainly not the case. My sense is that evangelicals are largely pragmatists and that they embody what I call an [INAUDIBLE] orthodoxy, and by this I mean they're not fundamentalists who are largely driven by doctrine, instead they are much more focused on issues of results.

They want to see action and in this way they're different than fundamentalists because they're looking for brokering deals. So you think about evangelicals were at the vanguard of a number of different sort of movements. Think about the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, that was really a coalition of religious minorities, Mormons, Jews, Muslims. But also, evangelical Protestants were very involved with that.

If evangelicals were driven by theology they probably wouldn't find common cause with some of those other religious groups, particularly in the area of public policy. So it's not really theology that's driving it. I think it's much more about pragmatism and who will get results. Now, that's part of the coarseness that we see in evangelicalism and you have pastors saying things that you can't possibly imagine. They read the Sermon on the Mount in their devotional reading, and then they're saying the things they put on social media. But that I think is part of the issue that we see there.

Number three, is that this myth that the space of faith in politics is primarily about domestic politics. Actually, what I would say is that the real impact of religion is largely seen on foreign policy, not domestic policy. Why? Because in domestic policy you have congress which is divided and you have States, and other municipalities where there's a lot of debate about what happens whether it's on abortion, or abortion rights or around LGBTQ issues or thinking about even things like tax policy.

But by and large, Americans do not pay attention to foreign policy or international affairs. And so that is where administrations oftentimes have the widest latitude to bring forth their vision or to enact their public policy. And we certainly have seen that within the evangelical space. So a lot of what we assume and a lot of the airtime that we get in political campaigns about evangelicals is on domestic politics when, in fact, the real impetus, I would say, is on foreign policy, whether it be international religious freedom, or persecution of religious minorities, or foreign aid.

Particularly the relationship between the United States and Israel is at the forefront of this issue, and thinking about Israel and Palestine. But it even affects how we think about relationships with China and thinking about well a whole host of issues on a variety of different hot spots. Happy to talk more about that.

Fourth and finally is this myth that it's largely churches in evangelicalism that are driving the action when instead, I think, it's largely the parachurch sector that is much more powerful and much more important whether we're talking about evangelical ministries. So these would big organizations like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship or Cru which have robust campus ministries around the country. Or associations the National Association of Evangelicals which is sort of the collection body that is designed to represent a wide spectrum of evangelical denominations and organizations.

Or even the space of Christian colleges and schools around the country. All of these, these parachurch is really where most of the energy is. It's where most of the money goes, so most of the fundraising and most of the political activity is occurring through the parachurch not through local congregations.

Now there are exceptional churches so First Baptist Church of Dallas or Prestonwood Baptist church in Dallas, both of these are led by pastors who were close advisors to President Trump. And certainly they have been very involved in political action in recent years. But that's not the norm even at those churches, much less among churches around the United States.

What I found is that you really have to think about both the expressive and the structural dimensions of political activity. The expressive is really what people talk about, it's the rhetoric that's used. It's how people sort of bear witness to their faith or engage their faith, draw their faith to the surface when they're giving speeches. So you can hear it, for example, represented in some of the comments that Nikki Haley would make when she was the ambassador at the UN. Or you could hear it expressed in sermons, or radio, or music, or film, or other kinds of expressive outlets.

The structural aspect though of political activity, whether it be political action committees or funding or political campaigns, that's a much more complex arena. And what I found actually is that it's very difficult, for example, to point to a single piece of legislation that evangelicals were involved in that's primarily driven by religious activism.

The reason is because when you get a piece of legislation, it's complex and there are lots of factors, with lots of amendments, and lots of players that are shaping it. And so as a result, you can't really point to the structures being directly impacted. Now Marla has raised what that means around race relations and, I guess, I'd say either allergic reaction or complete inaction among evangelicals to tackle some of these issues of systemic racism or structural concerns.

I also would say though, it makes it more complex to point a direct line between evangelical, either conviction, belief or practice and structural outcomes. I think you have to think about what is evangelicalism's understanding of structures and systems, and the individual and how that also affects their desires and commitments to activism in those spaces.

So those are four myths that I think are at least worthy of some consideration. And I look forward to having robust conversation. I'll turn it back now to Dr. Hammond.

Ray Hammond: Thank you both. Thank you both for I think some wonderful and intriguing sort of reformulations. I think of some of the ways that we often tend to think about this, and I got 1,000 things I'd love to pursue, but I want to make sure that we do get the voices of those who tuned in.