Role of Christianity in Politics
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: Religion|
|✅ Wordcount: 3338 words||✅ Published: 8th Feb 2020|
This paper will include information about how Christianity plays a role in 21st century politics and the white evangelical church. Since the beginning of American politics, the idea of God and Christianity has been a part of American history. In this paper, you will learn how Christianity was used to shape American politics, and how Christianity plays a major role in how Americans choose which side they are on. I will also show how the white evangelical church current and racial divide go together. In current events, we see that White Evangelical followers of Christ are somewhat making a bad reputation for themselves.
The question of has religion always influenced public policy in America can partly be answered by listening to a NPR interview that was recorded in summer of 2018. Cokie Roberts speaks on how our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, cites the creator as the bestower of unalienable rights. (Roberts, 2018) But the Constitution’s only mention – before the Bill of Rights was passed, guaranteeing freedom of religion – is to say that there’s no religious test for public office. (Roberts, 2018) Roberts end her interview by saying that some states still have religious tests on their books, saying no nonbelievers can hold office, but, of course, it is never enforced. (Roberts, 2018). Could politics exist without religion and could the relationship between white evangelicals and blacks be fixed?
For my paper, I collected my research through doing web searches about politics and Christianity. I found websites that explained the different stages of Christianity and how it influenced public policy before the 21st century, articles from the 1900’s that speaks on political parties and presidents, and listened to many interviews and opinions of people on both sides. In addition, I used the library online catalog to look at books about my topic, but was limited because I could not get access to the full book online.
A literature Review:
I used these sources in my paper.
Kimbriel, Samuel. Christianity is political. But America’s politically active Christians seem to be forgetting that.2017.
- This article speaks on the divide between liberals and conservatives and how Christianity plays a role in this debate. This also speaks about how media plays a role in politics. I will use this source for research to show the relation between Christianity and White Evangelicals.
Hansen, Brant. Blessed are the misfits.2017.
- Brant Hansen is not your ordinary believer. One will quickly find this out as they read the literature. Blessed are the misfits discusses two questions that I believe can relate to politics and Christians. One, “If I don’t relate to God as emotionally as others do, is something wrong with me?” and “How does one approach God, and approach faith, when devoid of the “good feelings” that seem to drive so much of evangelical church culture?” This book creates a discussion and I believe will open doors of what people think of evangelical Christians.
Roberts, Bryan. 7 Things Christians Need To Remember About Politics.2017.
- This article speaks the top things they believe Christians should know about politics. Though these are opinions, I believe getting different sources that express different perspectives on what Christians should believe regarding politics will help my research
,The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.
- I used the King James Version of the Bible for multiple scriptures that were used to speak on political issues.
In The Beginning
Christianity first began around 2000 years ago in present day Israel. Then it was called Judea. Jesus was a Jew that practiced Jewish law and traveled from village to village teaching and healing. Men began to follow Jesus, and called him teacher. These men became Jesus’ disciples. Jesus was later condemn to death by crucifixion that was overseen by Pontius Pilate. Today, Christianity can be found just about everywhere in the world
Evangelical Church and Racism
America has had a problem with race from its very beginnings. Jim Wallis said, “this nation was founded by the near genocide of one people and the kidnapping of another people to build this nation.” Churches are no exception to this either; in fact, some churches throughout the country are negatively contributing to the racial tension. Many studies show that there is a disconnection between the white Evangelical church and the black community in America, whether those black individuals identify as Christian or not. Evangelicals, for the purpose of this discussion, are a group of Christians who have four central ideals in their faith that include: believing the Bible being their highest authority, believing in the idea of conversion or being a “born again” Christian, believing they are “saved by grace through faith” in Jesus’ sacrifice, and believing it is their mission to spread the story of Jesus. Although the evangelical church has made some progress, there is still much more that needs to be done. The main job of the Christian community is to love God and to love people, just as Jesus came to do. Rebecca Kim calls Christians to be “salt in a decaying world” (127) so that they are able to overcome the hate and prejudice. The white Evangelical church is impacting, both positively and negatively, the racial issue in our society.
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Looking at the history of the white evangelical church in relation to the black community, it is easy to see why the two have not always gotten along well. During the Civil Rights movement, many evangelicals were opposed to the movement and “did very little in practical terms to advance social justice for African Americans during the 1960’s” (Evans 246). Many of them were against the growth of the government at that time along with the legislation that furthered black rights. Bradley Wright studied that evangelicals were also much more likely to approve laws that were against interracial marriage as well as vote for laws that would allow racial discrimination in home and business sales. Something shifted in the 1980’s though. Phillip Sinitiere said that “white evangelicals were more engaged with race relations than in the previous 100 years, and their recent swell of activity surrounding race relations may only be matched by the abolitionist period” (43). Although the relationships between the black and white communities within the church have grown stronger, there is still much that is being done wrong but there is also a way that it can be fixed.
Christianity and U.S. History
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents the government from having any authority in religion, and guarantees the free exercise of religion (Campbell, 2012). Many practices of faith have increased in the United States, including in the United States multicultural heritage as well as those founded within the country, and have led the United States to become the most religiously diverse country in the world (Campbell, 2012). Majority of Americans account that religion plays a “very important” role in their lives. This is a unusual among developed nations, though similar to other nations in the Americas (Campbell, 2012).
Historically, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the two major parties differentiated along ethnic and religious grounds (Calhoun-Brown, 2014). In the North, most Protestants were Republicans and most Catholics were Democrats (Calhoun-Brown, 2014). In the South, from the 1860s to the 1980s, most whites were Democrats and after 1865, most blacks were Republicans (Calhoun-Brown, 2014). According to the American Religious Identification Survey, “religious belief varies considerably across the country”: 59% of Americans living in Western states report a belief in God, and in the South, known as the “Bible Belt”, the number is as high as 86%. The American Religious Identification Survey also states that the majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians (71%), while non-Christian religions like Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and others, collectively make up about 6% of the adult population. Another 23% of the adult population identified as having no religious affiliation (Calhoun-Brown, 2014)
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According to the National Exit Polls, in 2012 20% of white Evangelicals voted for the Democratic candidate while 95% of black Protestants voted for the Democratic candidate. In the 2016 election only 16% of white Evangelicals voted for the Democratic Party. There has been a pattern over the last three elections with the black vote being 90% or higher for the Democratic candidate. It would be fair to assume that the percentage of black Protestants voting for that year’s Democratic candidate would be lower than 95% because 2012 was the reelection of Barack Obama, the country’s first black president. It is important to point out that most black Protestant churches do identify themselves as part of the Evangelical branch of faith but are placed in their own category for most surveys and polls. Regardless of the candidate, these statistics show that most White Evangelicals are deeply tied to conservative beliefs and therefore fall into the Republican Party. This statistic also shows a very clear insight to how race interacts with politics. It means that a majority (60%) of the white Evangelicals identify as Republicans whereas only a small portion (5%) of black Protestants would identify as Republicans, which is also not taking into account those that identify as Independent.
How Christians Vote
The United States has more Christians than any other country in the world (Bryan, 2017). The Unites States has also been called a Protestant nation by a number of sources (Bryan, 2017). When campaigning, one will notice politicians discussing their religion and one will also recognize that churches and religious figures can become politically active (Bryan,2017). The importance of religion in politics can be argued, but one cannot deny, that the separation of church and state, does not imply when choosing elected officials. The third president of the United States, Jefferson, fought his way in office because of his controversial opinions about religion (Calhoun-Brown, 2014) Some may say that Jefferson’s writing was seen as “anti-Christian” but ended up in office because he changed the narrative from his own religious beliefs, to his tolerance of religious freedom (Calhoun-Brown, 2014)
Research says that some fundamentalist religious people are less likely to gather information about who they will vote for because they “tend to engage mainstream political activity at higher rates than the average American” (Booth, 2009). There is a confidence that religious voters will always vote republican and that is not necessarily the case (Booth, 2009). The votes for one party or another is based on socioeconomic status (Glenna, 2009). In regards to low income religious people, there is just about no correlation between their religious beliefs and their voting decision (Glenna, 2009). George W. Bush was a Methodist and earned a slim victory over John Kerry, with voters who cited “moral values” which is a commonly used term among religiously inclined voters, playing a fundamental part in the election. Bush’s clear victory has been directly attributed to fundamentalist Christian groups (Booth, 2009).
Church vs. State
The separation of church and state is a legal and political principle, which comes from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (Glenna, 2009). The phrase “separation of church and state”, does not appear in the Constitution itself, but is traced to an letter by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to the Danbury Baptists, where Thomas Jefferson spoke of the combined effect of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment (Glenna, 2009). Since then, it has been used in multiple opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court.
Left vs. Right
The term lefters, and righters, is a system of categorizing political positions, beliefs and parties, from equality on the left to social hierarchy on the right (Ware, 1996). Left wing persons and right wing persons usually opposes each other, but it is not unusual for a person to take a left wing stance on one hand, and a right wing stance on another (Ware, 1996). In addition, sometimes, they can overlap and be left or right wing depending on beliefs. The term left and right originated in France. The Left has been called ‘the party of movement’ and the Right ‘the party of order (Alan, 1996)
Liberal vs. Conservatives
The beliefs of liberals and conservatives are two sides that argues how we as America can achieve freedom, prosperity, and even healthy children. Liberals believe that the government should step up to achieve equal opportunity and equality for everyone. They believe the government’s role is to make sure that no one is in need. In lament, liberals believe that the government should solve the problems (Reed, 2005). Liberals remind me of the question that is asked in Blesses are The Misfits, “If I don’t relate to God as emotionally as others do, is something wrong with me?”
Conservatives believe in responsibility being personal. They believe in government being limited, free markets, and traditional American values and a strong national defense. (Ware, 1996). Conservatives believe that the government’s role is to provide the freedom people need to pursue their own goals (Ware, 1996) Policies regarding conservatives, usually emphasizes empowerment for the individual person to solve their own problems (Ware, 1996).
In regard to religion and government the beliefs of liberals and conservatives are extremely dissimilar (Ware,1996). While liberals support the separation of church and state, conservatives say that the phrase is not in the constitution (Ware, 1996). Liberals believe that expression of religion has no place in government, therefore, all references to God in public and government spaces should be removed (Ware, 1996). Conservatives believe that this should not prohibit God from being in places of government. They believe that government should not interfere with religion and religious freedom (Ware, 1996).
Black conservatism is a political and social philosophy rooted in the communities of persons of African descent and aligns mostly with the conservative beliefs around the world (Evans, 2017). From 1954-1968, during the Civil Rights Movement, the African-American community was mostly politically identified with liberalism. Then, you would hear black conservatives emphasize things such as free market, capitalism, patriotism, and cultural conservatism when speaking of the black church (Evans, 2017). In the United States, these beliefs can be associated with the Republican Party (Evans, 2017).
During the reconstruction, African-American voters started to align themselves with the beliefs of conservatism. Since there was no civil rights legislation made under Roosevelt’s administration in his two terms, the black votes soon became more split (Evans, 2017). During that Johnson administration, anti-discrimination legislation was passed and gained the black vote. Since this era, the Democratic Party has had majority of black votes in the United States (Evans, 2017).
In 2016, then candidate Donald Trump expressed to black voters, “What the hell do you have to lose?”(Duster, 2018). This one question answers the question why Kanye West is now a black conservative. West’s response to this question was, “He’s right”, and now he is currently the most talked about “black conservative” today (Duster, 2018). Many conservatives believe that Kanye could make the GOP “cool enough to upend black allegiance to the rival party” (Demby, 2018). While right now President Trump remains less popular in the African-American community group than any other racial group, research says that no other group are as heavy democratic, than “black folks”(Demby, 2018)
- Evans, Curtis J. “White Evangelical Protestant Responses to the Civil Rights Movement.” Harvard Theological Review. 102.2. (2009):245-273. Religion Database. Web. 5 Oct. 2017.
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- Wallis, Jim. America’s Original Sin. Brazos Press, 2016 Ada. 17 Oct 2017.
- Ware, Alan. Political Parties and Party Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
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