White evangelicals: Three critiques and a clueless open letter

I’m about to share three harsh, but truthful, criticisms from three different people. Each is directed toward a slightly different audience, but each says essentially the same thing.

Kevin Drum is addressing Republicans; Chris Hayes is addressing Republicans as influenced by white Christianity; and William D. Lindsey is addressing white Christians.

But before we turn to those posts, I first want to share this astonishing “open letter,” written by white evangelical Michael L. Brown and published on The Christian Post under the headline: “White Evangelical Asks Black Evangelicals Why They Re-elected Obama.”

Brown is the president/founder/pope/CEO of something called ICN Ministries (which stands for Israel, the Church and the Nations). He’s the author of many books including The Real Kosher Jesus, A Queer Thing Happened to America, and Revolution: The Call to Holy War.

Brown seems to regard his “open letter” as a generous gesture — offering black Christians the opportunity to confess their sin and to beg forgiveness for having voted for Barack Obama.

Are you guilty, on any level, of blind allegiance to the Democratic party? And, on Election Day, did any of you compromise your convictions out of racial solidarity?

Michael L. Brown wants black Christians to know that God is merciful, and if they repent, God will forgive them for voting for a black president.

… Was there no moral compromise involved in voting for him? Are there no issues that could disqualify him in your eyes? And must Barack Obama be elected and then reelected in order to make up for past injustices, as one black evangelical woman claimed?

… One black pastor explained to me that he is convinced that “many African American believers compromised God’s Word during the election in the name of Obama Care and social program such as foods stamps etc.” Is there any truth to this?

… In 2008, I warned my listeners that Mr. Obama, if elected, would support the goals of gay activism, including redefining marriage, but many listeners did not believe me. Now that President Obama has actually abused the teaching and example of Jesus to advocate same-sex marriage, how could you vote for him again?

OK. So that happened. And now, having read that, you don’t have to wonder if Drum, Hayes and Lindsey are overstating anything in the posts below.

Kevin Drum is specifically speaking of Republicans, but I think everything he says here is something that a particular sub-set of Republicans — white evangelicals — should particularly heed:

Lightening up on immigration won’t be enough. Like it or not, conservatives are going to need a much more thorough housecleaning if they want to survive in an increasingly diverse future. No more gratuitous ethnic mockery. No more pretense that reverse racism is the real racism. No more suggestions that minorities just want a handout. No more screeching about the incipient threat of Sharia law. No more saturation coverage of the pathetic New Black Panthers. No more complaining that blacks get to use the N word but whites don’t. No more summers of hate on Fox News. No more tolerance for Dinesh D’Souza and his “roots of Obama’s rage” schtick; or for Glenn Beck saying Obama has a “deep-seated hatred of white people”; or for Rush Limbaugh claiming that “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations.” No more jeering at the mere concept of “diversity.” And no more too-clever-by-half attempts to say all this stuff without really saying it, and then pretending to be shocked when you’re called on it. Pretending might make you feel virtuous, but it doesn’t fool anyone and it won’t win you any new supporters.

That’s just a start. One way or another, the Republican Party simply has to stamp this out. And not just because they need to do it to survive, but because it’s the right thing to do. That still counts, doesn’t it?

Chris Hayes says “Conservatives Are Creating Their Own Electoral Enemies,” and he traces that problem to the “anxieties and fears of white Christians”:

The beating heart of modern conservatism is its visceral appeal to anxieties and fears of white Christians. This is a different statement than saying the beating heart of modern conservatism is white racism or white supremacy. It’s not, or not principally. It is simply white “identity” politics, with all of the pathos and ugliness that implies. And if you don’t believe that, go read some conservative comment threads, or click over to the Drudge Report or Fox News, two outlets with a preternatural sense of the deepest anxieties of the modern conservative base.

Look at the ceaseless coverage of the New Black panthers, and voter fraud and immigrants living high on the hog off government welfare, and the absolute frenzy the right whipped up over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque.

Once you understand this then you can see that the Republican party’s problems are deeper than, say, Republican opposition to comprehensive immigration reform, or even the far less controversial DREAM Act. That policy opposition is a symptom of the problem, not the cause. The deeper issue is that for conservative politicians and networks and websites there is simply too much to be gained by feeding the sense of persecution and siege that many white Christians feel down to their toes. I’m not sure what is going to shift those incentives, because that insecurity, as an emotional fact is real and isn’t going away.

And finally, here is William D. Lindsey on “Race Matters and 2012 Elections.” He’s specifically addressing white Christians, but everything he says also applies, I think, to the rest of the party to which those white Christians have pledged allegiance:

Since the cousin most fervently sharing these messages hasn’t darkened the door of any church in years and cares little at all for religion (or the Bible whose pictures she plastered across her Facebook page in the lead-up to the elections), I have to assume that there’s some other explanatory factor for her new-found zeal for Jesus and crucifixes and Bibles and patriotic schoolchildren and God-serving soldiers.

And I know full well what that explanatory factor is. It’s race.  … She has responded to the demographic changes in her county with fury about the loss of control of “her” county. “Her” county voted, in fact, for Obama in this election, as did the county in which I live and as did all the counties along the Mississippi River in the Arkansas Delta — counties with a large majority of African Americans. The rest of the state went solidly red.

It went solidly red this election cycle, and, with lavish infusions of Koch brothers money, swept into office everywhere in the state an astonishing assortment of tea party knaves, fools, and bible-pounding con men, for one reason and one reason alone: race. All this was in direct relation to — in direct reaction to — the election of the nation’s first African American president in 2008 and his impending re-election in 2012.

This in a state with churches on every corner in every nook and cranny of the state. A story replicated all across the American South.

 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Are you guilty, on any level, of blind allegiance to the Democratic
    party? And, on Election Day, did any of you compromise your convictions
    out of racial solidarity?

    Why am I not surprised that some white, well-off, male douchebag wrote this?

    Talk about whitesplaining.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    I just want to “Find & Replace” the word “black” in that letter & swap it for “white” & then resubmit it to him about Romney.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    That open letter is something else.

    There will always be people who, due to ignorance or presupposition, view black Americans as inscrutable alien group. But the amazing part is how many of those people also believe that they have some deeper understanding of black America. Presumably, it traces back to the not-at-all-racist belief that while is the default or neutral race, and therefore white people are the only people with truly objective clarity on issues of race.

  • aunursa

    I know Michael Brown as the author of the 5-volume book series: Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.  He was a secular Jew who converted to Christianity as a teenager and now spends much of his time proselytizing Jews and debating rabbis.  I exchanged a few emails with him about a decade ago.

  • aunursa

    It does seem rather bizarre for him to open his letter with…

    I am not writing this letter to accuse but rather to advance understanding.

    …and then follow that with…

    Are you guilty, on any level, of blind allegiance to the Democratic party? And, on Election Day, did any of you compromise your convictions out of racial solidarity?

    Was there no moral compromise involved in voting for him?

  • JustoneK

    And now to lol for several minutes.

  • Hilary

    OK I have a question.  What is the current social term for an American citizen of ethnic European background who voted for Obama?  I know I’m not a real ‘white’ white voter since I’m a homosexual Jew, but still, if 60% of white voters went for Romney, then 40% went for Obama.  Or are you only a Real White Voter (RWV) TM if you voted for Romney, with no relation to the actual amount of melanin in your epidermal tissue? 

    If a straight, older Christian male vietnam era vet votes for Obama, is he no longer white?  I speaking of someone I actually know. Very pale skin, blond, burns easily, very cool guy though.

    So then what are we?  Any good links to the analysis of Obama’s white support and vote?  Because 4 out of 10 white votes is not a small amount. 

    Hilary

  • histrogeek

    As a white male, I feel I should translate part of Michael Brown’s letter. I realize that many people also know this dialect of whitemale (referred to academic linguists by as Southern Dipshitistani), but as a courtesy to anyone who doesn’t.

    “Are you guilty, on any level, of blind allegiance to not being white? And, on Election Day, did any of you not vote correctly
    out of racial solidarity?


    Was there no moral compromise involved in disagreeing with your white superiors? Are there no
    issues that could get you to vote for representatives of the 1% who are white? And must Barack Obama be
    elected and then reelected because of blah-blah racism, blah-blah slavery, blah-blah whatever other silly complaint you idiots have about the second-class citizenship you deserve, as some stupid chick I once heard babble something claimed?”

    I hope that clears things up for anyone who was confused.

  • histrogeek

     I prefer “sane” as a self-identifier. “Not-an-asshole” is also a popular label.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    Thanks, Fred, for a great summary of how people see the problem.

    I found that 73% to 26% vote among Asian Americans particularly interesting.  For that is in the same ball park as I believe Americans as a whole would have voted, were racism not involved.

    Those critiques by Hayes and Drum seem very much to the point.  Regrettably, I see it as unlikely that the Republicans will take the advice given.

  • Katie

     I think that the correct term is ‘women’.  I’m only half-joking here, although I did see a commentator who seriously suggested that the Republicans didn’t have a ‘woman problem’ because Romney won white women by 14%, which was roughly half of his win with white men.

  • Thrownaway

    “Are you now, or have you ever been, a Ford owner?”

    Or for a touch of Scientology, “What are your crimes?”

  • Magic_Cracker

    Very pale skin, blond, burns easily, very cool guy though.

    Sounds like you friend could be Irish. They’ve only been white for a century now.

  • Magic_Cracker

    He should have cut to the chase:

    “Dear Brothers in Christ,

    Why did you black assholes vote for that black asshole Obama? Is it because he’s black? Or because you’re assholes?

    Yours in Christ,
    Whiteguy Von Butthurt

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Oh goodness… the original letter was posted at ClownHall, dumping ground for right-wing detritus. (with an emphasis on “dump”)

    “…as one black evangelical woman claimed…”
    “…some of these black Christians have told me…”
    “One black pastor explained to me…”
    “One caller to my program…”

    Wow. It sure is odd that this fellow needs to write an “open letter” asking questions, when he already knows so many black people who are willing to talk to him. Puzzling, that.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

     What is the current social term for an American citizen of ethnic European background who voted for Obama?
    Depends on what part of Europe. As already mentioned, Irish only counts as white for the last century; Greeks and Spaniards are on shaky ground as well. Poles are pretty iffy too, and don’t get me started on the Romany! 

    If a straight, older Christian male vietnam era vet votes for Obama, is he no longer white?
    Well, since he was alive during the 60′s and didn’t vote for Romney, he’s obviously a hippy. I bet he opposed the Afghan and Iraq wars too, big peace-nic that he is! 

    So he’s not white, he’s a hippy. I mean, they’re “white”, but not in the way that counts.

  • cminus

    What is the current social term for an American citizen of ethnic European background who voted for Obama?

    “Woman”.

    (Somewhat less unseriously, how about “Yankee”?  Or possibly just “non-southerner”, since while the only part of the country where Obama won the white vote was the northeast, he did come very close among white westerners and midwesterners.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    Are you guilty, on any level, of blind allegiance to the Democratic party?

    Maybe he ought to have a doctor take a look at that plank in his own eye.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I am normally not given to affecting a sneer of disgust when exposed to something, but that Micheal Brown writing certainly plastered one across my face.  

    Jesus, it seems like something L&J would write in their fiction, something that depends on having absolutely no idea why other people might think the way they do, taking at best awkward guesses based on fallacious assumptions.  

  • Magic_Cracker

    That’s no plank. It’s the last of the giant sequoias.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    Michael L. Brown’s column reminds me of Rush Limbaugh asking what it would take for blacks and women to vote for the Republican Party.  Both men evince that same level of utter cluelessness about the people they are addressing.  Here is a link to Matt Taibbi’s analysis of Rush’s butt-hurt queries:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/hey-rush-limbaugh-starting-an-abortion-industry-wont-win-you-female-voters-20121108

  • Matri

    That makes his eye a U.N. Heritage Site.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    You know how social conservatives have been asking questions, trying to figure out why white evangelicals (mostly younger) might vote for Obama? They don’t seem to be asking those questions about black evangelicals.

    I can’t imagine why that would be.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Brown’s open letter reveals another bit of odd reasoning.

    He makes a few concessions to reality, namely that “Evangelicals are reluctant to vote for Romney, and I understand why” and that the Republican party hasn’t done a very good job reaching out to African-Americans. So he clearly understands why they wouldn’t vote for Romney, but to his reasoning, that means that they shouldn’t vote at all!  Interesting, that.

  • SisterCoyote

    Additionally, Republicans have not done much to win the confidence of black Americans, he noted.
    But he still can’t understand why most black voters backed Obama…

    I’m… uh, sensing a lack of empathy. A serious lack of empathy.

    (I know. A white evangelical media figure showing a lack of empathy? SHOCK AND HORROR.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    The correct term for whites like you, your veteran friend, and myself is “race traitor,” of course.  It fills me with such shame, having violated the oath I took upon being born and finding myself white.

    (I’m having some trouble with Poe’s Law here, it seems, so just to make sure: yes, I’m being quite sarcastic.)

  • Katie

    Although I do like the suggestion of ‘sane’ and ‘not an asshole’, it looks like another possible answer is QUILTBAG.  http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/gay-vote-seen-as-crucial-in-obamas-victory/?gwh=E80B953D23DD40DA3B93B7044A702287

  • http://amavra.wordpress.com/ MotherDemeter

    I think it is a bit odd that he assumes that a majority of black evangelicals are especially anti- gay rights.  There are vocal black church leaders who side with white evangelicals about gay rights and abortion, but it seems fairly rare for those issues to be anywhere close to the most important with most black evangelicals.  That he is baffled by this difference in priorities is telling.

    I don’t know the statistics on that, but even if a majority of black evangelicals would vote against gay marriage given a choice, I doubt very much that it is the issue they identify with most, as a citizen or a Christian.  That it seems to be such a cornerstone in white evangelical faith is rather sad.  

    Sort of like how a slight majority of Catholics voted for Obama.  The abortion/ gay marriage thing just isn’t the most important issue for everyone no matter what the church higher ups say.  Not sure how much clearer we can make it for these guys.

  • fraser

     I thought of this when Bill O’Reilly was bitching about how 20 years ago, the “white establishment” would never have let Obama get elected. Yeah, but 100 years ago, they wouldn’t have been terribly nice to O’Reilly either.

  • Hilary

    Although I do like the suggestion of ‘sane’ and ‘not an asshole’, it looks like another possible answer is QUILTBAG.  http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.n

    That’s cool.  Thanks again, Nate!

  • Asha

    I always feel like I have to defend the fact that not all Southerners voted for Romney. Yeah, a lot did, but some of us aren’t assholes. Really. And we even try to change other people’s minds, too. 

  • Carstonio

    Excellent analysis. Only one point of disagreement – the “traditional conservative message of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility.” Going back almost to the Gilded Age, those terms have been euphemisms for preserving wealth and power for a tiny elite. These simply acquired another layer of meaning with the advent of the Southern Strategy.

  • D. Potter

    <facetious> Why yes, Mr. Brown, I voted my race.

    I am human.  President Obama is human.

    Mr. Romney is an android. </facetious>

  • Hilary

    So what is a White American? Does it have any actual relationship to epidermal melanin?  If women, hippies, gays, Yankee’s, Jews, and other various and sundry non-Christians aren’t ‘really white’ and Catholics, Italians, Irish, Poles, Greeks, and Spaniards haven’t been White for very long, what is it?  Is it just White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP)?  I bred parasitical wasps one summer in an entomology internship, which my Rabbi joked was an interesting job for a Jew. 

    Is race traiter like a blood traiter in the Wizarding World, like the Weasely’s not caring about pure-blood vs mudblood status?  If that is the case, sign me up for one traiterous helping of dinner over at the Burrow.

    Does anybody else feel like we were voting for the Huxtables over the Cleavers?

    Hilary

  • Hilary

    I didn’t know vietnam vets could be hippies.  But then again he goes to a UCC church, so maybe he isn’t ‘really Christian’ /snark

    Hilary

  • Loquat

    I can’t help but wonder how Michael L. Brown would react if asked, by a young person appearing to be ignorant of Christ, whether Christianity involved anything beyond opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

    His open letter sure as hell suggests his answer is “no”.

  • Hilary

    Like!

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    That letter is so terrible it’s art.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Is race traiter like a blood traiter in the Wizarding World, like the Weasely’s not caring about pure-blood vs mudblood status?  If that is the case, sign me up for one traiterous helping of dinner over at the Burrow.

    Exactly. It’s more than likely that’s precisely what Rowling was shooting for. Assuming you’re not being facetious, that someone has to go to a Harry Potter reference to define that particular phrase really gives me hope.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    What is the current social term for an American citizen of ethnic European background who voted for Obama?

    “Woman”.

    Or “young adult”.

  • Launcifer

    That’s no plank. It’s the last of the giant sequoias.

    I’m on some incredibly potent medication at the moment (my excuse and I’m sticking with it) and read that as “the last of the giant squidopus”. Therefore, it is my belief that Mr Brown’s eye is not, in fact, a world heritage site as Matri suggested: it’s the gateway to R’yleh.

    Funny how this crap always makes me think of Eldritch Abominations, innit?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It still boggles my mind how on the one hand, Mitt Romney can utter things Republicans would clutch pearls over, and then a few weeks later, some dickbag can come along and whitesplain to blacks in far less conciliatory language that they should have voted for Romney.

    I do seem to recall an aphorism about attracting flies with honey here.

  • P J Evans

    he did come very close among white westerners

    Thanks for telling the West Coast how you think we voted.

  • cminus

    Okay, fine, the analyses of the 2012 election that I have read so far indicate that Obama won white northeasterners and came very close among white westerners and midwesterners.  The clearest breakdown was in an NYT article I can’t look up because I’ve used up my allotment of free articles, but http://www.tnr.com/blog/electionate/110039/the-gop-has-problems-white-voters-too kind of gets to the same point.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Excellent analysis. Only one point of disagreement – the “traditional conservative message of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility.” Going back almost to the Gilded Age, those terms have been euphemisms for preserving wealth and power for a tiny elite. These simply acquired another layer of meaning with the advent of the Southern Strategy.

    Strip away the euphemistic subtext of those terms though, and I can see where it is appealing to young voters.  Take some of the issues close to them, like cost control for student loans and easy access to reproductive control and health.  I would think that a lot of students going to college with government assistance (in various forms) would hardly think of themselves as takers, leeches, or wanting handouts.  Going to college requires effort, moreso if you are on an assistance program than if you have entirely private funding, and they have to put some work into their education.  They expect to repay what assistance they get by getting gainful employment after graduation and putting money back into the economy through consumption and taxation.  Birth control is something important to young people like that, as it allows them much more agency in determining when and if they start a family.  They have careers in mind that they want to establish, assets to lockdown, before they start bringing children into the picture, and an unexpected pregnancy can upset that. 

    I think of such people are very responsible.  They have a plan, they put in the work to realize that plan, and they make use of the tools and opportunities available to them in the process.  Such people would value ideals of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility, and consider themselves to be doing such.  The government assistance in this case simply expands the scope of opportunities so that those who would not otherwise get a chance have a chance.  Heck, I would argue that such a thing helps teach and encourage responsibility in those who otherwise would not have had an environment which leaves them with much to be responsible for.  

    Unfortunately, when “self-reliance and fiscal responsibility” means something like “I got mine, screw you,” then of course such young people will find a candidate espousing such to be unappealing.  

  • Tricksterson

    If you read the whole article he’s also criticized white evangelicals for supporting Romney…because he’s also prejudiced against Mormons.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Why yes, Mr. Brown, I voted my race.

    I am human.  President Obama is human.

    Mr. Romney is an android.

    Hey, do not get all anthropocentric speciest on us now!  

    I have always felt like an android trapped in a human’s body.  Unfortunately, medical science is not yet advanced enough to surgically turn the me on the outside into the me on the inside.  One day though, one day…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Thought this was an interesting observation by Alex Koppelman:

    “Conservatives have constructed a myth that says certain groups—blacks, Hispanics, women, young people—vote Democratic because they’re stupid, because they’re lazy, and because they can be purchased with trinkets and baubles. It’d be one thing if they kept that myth a secret, but instead they shout it from the rooftops. Then, when it’s over, they wonder why those people voted Democratic again.”

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/11/romney-blames-obama-gifts-for-loss.html

  • Tricksterson

    “But then again he goes to a UCC church so maybe he isn’t really Christian’”

    Brown and his ilk would probably say “Amen” to that.  They tend to have a very narrow definition of the term “Christian”/

  • Tricksterson

    You have my sympathy.  I’m am otherkin who idetifies as troll.  Was very dissapointed at the lack of elven and dwarven births in 2011 but still have hopes for 2021


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