Sunday: The Most Cognitively Dissonant Day In Evangelical America

Sunday: The Most Cognitively Dissonant Day In Evangelical America May 6, 2018

This morning, millions of evangelicals who voted for the current president, and continue to not only support but defend him, went to church.

They sang hymns about holiness, while defending a man who has had multiple affairs and paid hush money to a porn star.

They sang about grace and mercy, while supporting an administration that’s deporting innocent kids to dangerous countries.

They sang, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight,” while doing nothing to oppose racial profiling, economic inequality, police brutality and a criminal justice system that incarcerates an overwhelmingly disproportionate percentage of black men.

They prayed for God to use them to make Jesus’ “on earth as it is in heaven” prayer a reality.  Yes, they prayed for earth to look like heaven, where people of all nations gather together as brothers and sisters and equals, while at the same time supporting a bombastic bully who wants to build walls and close borders to innocent refugees who are dying in droves.

They praised truth and honesty while, at the very same time, the lawyer of the president they voted for was on ABC telling George Stephanopoulos that the president’s lies were “political not criminal,” and therefore it didn’t matter whether he told the truth or not.

They prayed for their lives to be filled with the Fruits of the Spirit, which include gentleness and kindness, while praising a president who’s called others fat and ugly and dogs — and mocked the disabled.  A president who said that Mexicans commit high percentages of murder and rape in the U.S., a claim which has been documented to be absolutely untrue.  (Didn’t God say something somewhere about not bearing false witness….?)

Southern Baptists went to churches and read sacred words of Jesus, who considered women valuable, and equal and precious.  And yet, their convention is led by Paige Patterson, a 75-year-old misogynist who has preached on several occasions that women who are domestically abused by their husbands shouldn’t take their husbands to court to seek justice, and shouldn’t divorce their violent and vindictive spouses.  Instead, he said, they should suffer the abuse gladly, like Jesus suffered on the cross.  Women with black eyes and broken ribs should view the continual beatings from their husbands as the price of admission to sharing more deeply in the sufferings of Christ.

I’m sorry, what?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the most segregated hour in America is the hour in which blacks and whites went to separate churches to worship the God who asked us all to become one.

Sunday morning has also become the most cognitively dissonant — maybe even hypocritical — hour in Evangelical America.

80% of Evangelical Christians voted for a man who’s nothing like the God they claim to follow.  And, in the name of that same God, they continue to support and defend him.

I don’t care about politics.  It doesn’t matter to me if people vote for different candidates out of differing economic or foreign policy or political part views.  But I do care deeply about what people do in the name of God.

To do something in the name of God that is the antithesis of what God asked us to do…..and to support a person in the name of God who has spent 71 years of his life acting nothing like God — and making no apologies or amends for it…..what is that?

And why is that?

What will it take for us to unite our actions with the words we repeat on Sunday?

What will it take for us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, even if that leads us out of the limelight?  Even if it puts us in a slice of American society that’s no longer pandered to by politicians?  Even if it requires us to give up the popularity and power and political leverage the Religious Right spent the past four decades accruing?

What will it take for Sunday mornings to become the most cognitively unified, the most heart-and-body-and-mind-and-soul aligned hour of our week?






“…if you’re abused…it’s okay.  You can trust it to

Martin Luther

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  • Ivan T. Errible

    You’re right-Sunday morning is the most segregated time in the US.
    And the most “progressive” churches are the most segregated-Unitarians, Quakers, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Church of Christ, Lutherans-all as “diverse” and “vibrant” as skim milk.

  • Do you mean “most segregated” or “least diverse”? Because segregation is an act of purposeful separation; historically segregated churches did not allow the “mixing” of races in assemblies. Very few churches actively segregate now; they are either diverse or not based on social factors, some inherited from the history of segregation, some not.

    The least diverse denomination in America, according to Pew, is the National Baptist Convention.

  • Sarah Thebarge

    I agree that now, “least diverse” would be a more accurate description, but in this instance I’m quoting MLK Jr, who used the word “segregated.”

  • Ivan T. Errible

    I mean if you preach “Celebrate diversity!” but belong to an organization that remains at least 85 (if not 90-95%) White/middle upper middle class, your idea of “diversity” is extremely weird.

  • Obscurely

    1) The widely reported claim that 80% of evangelicals voted for Trump is misleading … the actual NET number is estimated at 35-40 percent — here’s a link to credible information backing that number:

    2) Since only 37% of all American Christians identify as evangelical or born-again (source: ABC News), presumably far smaller percentages of Christians as a whole voted for or currently support Trump.

  • Mark Pletscher

    Where does this need to lecture people who you disagree with come from? You call yourself a progressive christian yet at every turn you judge the heart of folks you do not even know based on the comments of half a dozen people. Your anger at people you disagree with or chose not to listen betrays you. Instead of quoting from a news program or google search go and talk to real people. I personally know plenty of Evangelicals that voted for HRC. Getting your facts correct makes for a better argument!!

  • Alan Rutherford

    I’m trying to understand the distinction you’re making between most-segregated and least-diverse. Are you saying that today’s racial divide is voluntary, while it was not in MLK’s day? Even if today’s racial is totally voluntary, Jesus’s prayers and Paul’s epistles (especially the first several chapters of Romans) clearly teach that a divided church is not a reflection of the gospel.

  • Well said.

  • Mark Pletscher – It is widely known — and thoroughly chronicled by every reliable pollster — that white people who self-describe as “Evangelical Christians” are and were the most ardent supporters of Donald Trump, even though his life-long failure to participate in anything remotely resembling a “Christian” community (AKA “church”) is well documented.

    And Trump’s moral failings in both business and his personal life are available (with copious proof) anywhere you care to look. Pointing out the glaring contradictions in his life — usually called “hypocrisy” in the Christian prophetic tradition — is well within the norms of Christians “speaking truth to power” in God’s name.

    Sarah Thebarge’s post takes a very reasonable approach to calling our (sort of) elected leader to account, exercising a wholly proper prophetic function, just like Nathan’s. And it is clear that she was not addressing Hilary Clinton voters in her post.

    Although one might also make a case that the former Secretary of State was a less-than-perfect Christian role model while a public servant, there is a world of difference between the president and his 2016 opponent. It has always been clear that one of them was well grounded in the Christian faith and values she learned and lived as a child and young adult. The president’s life, in contrast, has been a testament to just the opposite, which was Sarah Thebarge’s (relatively obvious) point.

  • White voters who describe themselves as “Evangelical Christians” — whether or not your source, Joe Carter, considers their self-description to be “correct” or “accurate” — were and are the most ardent supporters of the 45th president, despite Trump’s clear record of non-conformity to anything like a “Christian” life.

    By most reliable (i.e., not religiously-based or religiously-biased) political and sociological polls, white Americans who described themselves as conservative Christians were the undisputed key to Donald Trump’s Electoral College success.

  • Beau Quilter, have you read Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow”?
    Or “Soul on Ice” by Edridge Cleaver? Both make it crystal-clear that racism and de facto segregation are alive, well, and thriving in the United States of America today….

  • Random_acct

    We had a binary choice. Vote for Trump, or vote for a leftist (or at least a person who would kowtow to the evil and hateful/destructive social and economic Marxists). Thus, the choice was easy. Let us never forget that the leftists hate Christianity. They hate Judaism as well. The left hates the traditional family because it gets in their way of complete dominance over the lives of all via government social programs. The left is a death cult. It loves abortion and euthanasia. The state is their god.

    Never forget that leftist ideology has murdered over 100 million people in the past 100 years. So now, remind me which choice was best again?

    The choice was a slam dunk for Christians…or at least should have been. Yes, even with Trump’s personal issues. We are in a civil war for our survival as a nation founded on liberty, freedom, and understanding that God grants us our inalienable rights, not government. We must defeat the left.

  • Random_acct

    The left is evil. It must be stopped before it destroys the West. It is as simple as that.

  • Yes, I’m familiar with both and agree. My comment has more to do with the rather meaningless diversity percentage differences between evangelicals and progressive churches.

  • My comment was about the few percentage point differences in diversity between evangelicals and mainline Protestants. I am certainly not generalizing beyond that. I am well aware that discrimination is alive and well today.

    I couldn’t care less about the ancient proscriptions of Paul, which upheld slavery and the silencing and subjugation of women.

  • Obscurely

    As a pastor I agree with you that evangelicals who support Trump are betraying their faith — even the 35-40% estimate for the 2016 pro-Trump evangelical vote is scandalously high. I just thought it was important to correct the ‘fake news’ (pardon the expression) that 80% of them (implying both white and non-white) voted for someone who daily demonstrates their moral unfitness for office.

  • I agree. It’s one of many reasons that I don’t attend churches.

  • Right – 80% of evangelicals didn’t vote for Trump, 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump.

  • Obscurely
  • Obscurely

    Here’s a very instructive debate (moderated by NY Times columnist Ross Douthat) between evangelical leaders who disagree on support for Trump — well worth reading if you want to understand how so many evangelical Christians can support someone who daily demonstrates their moral unfitness for office …

  • Obscurely

    One more excellent link, to a recent Atlantic article by Michael Gerson critiquing evangelical support for Trump, with a powerful quote from it below …

    “Democracy is not merely a set of procedures. It has a moral structure. The values we celebrate or stigmatize eventually influence the character of our people and polity. Democracy does not insist on perfect virtue from its leaders. But there is a set of values that lends authority to power: empathy, honesty, integrity, and self-restraint. And the legitimation of cruelty, prejudice, falsehood, and corruption is the kind of thing, one would think, that religious people were born to oppose, not bless. This disfigurement of evangelical faith squanders the reputation of something valuable…. At its best, faith is the overflow of gratitude, the attempt to live as if we are loved, the fragile hope for something better on the other side of pain and death. And this feather of grace weighs more in the balance than any political gain.” (Michael Gerson)

  • Mark Pletscher

    Reliable and pollster in the same sentence. LOL!! Much like Sarah, you speak for folks you do not know and assume you know their full story as well as their heart. Then you thrust the dagger of selective outrage as HRC’s short comings are whitewashed because she’s your choice. The lecture on morality continues since you have no stomach to actually discuss policy differences, so full steam ahead with you cries of character assassination and hypocrisy. Not a peep about the DNC rigged primary, the billions of dollars flowing through the Clinton Foundation or Global Initiative which shut it’s door a week after the election from your less-than-perfect Christian role model. I would love for you to speak with the Haitian folks I know who saw the Clinton’s steal millions from their Relief fund. Anyone with a private server in their home that received classified government documents would have been in jail by now. HRC ran on 2 issues: I’m not Donald Trump and I want to be the first woman president! Some how you and Sarah need to get over the fact that the Democrats ran a lousy candidate who had no time for the forgotten deplorable working class people in the rust belt. The class warfare started with Obama and HRC tried her best to continue to divide people and it back fired. i suggest you take a breath and consider if this divide and conquer strategy is working? Mid-Terms are around the corner and all you have is we hate Trump!! Sarah’s ” relatively obvious ” point may only be obvious to those on the Left. That said, there is corruption on both sides of the aisle and I long for the day when DC would begin working for the average American again! Hopefully we can agree that term limits would be a great start for all of us even with our differences. Wishful thinking 🙂

  • Sorry, no. I can’t take that writer seriously when he begins with an outright falsehood: “the label “evangelical” is reserved for whites only.”

    Not true. The questions about race and religion are separate and not interdependent, as evidenced not only by the questionnaire itself, but by the fact that evangelicals who are not white are included in the survey.

    It’s only one of a number of false (or in some cases, ignorant) statements about the survey.

  • Obscurely

    Can you please provide a link to the questionnaire you’re referring to?

  • Sarah Thebarge

    I didn’t mention a questionnaire in the essay. What are you asking for?

  • J. Paul Walsh

    I’m not an American, and I believe in fiscal conservatism. But, like many conservatives in our globe, I’m a social progressive. I had to read what you wrote regarding the “left” three times to be sure I actually read it correctly, for it represents the most ill-conceived notions of what people in this world believe. I encourage you, please, do a little reading. I was taught in school – in a Christian school at that – that you can not disagree with something you do not understand.

  • Republicans…the party of ‘family values’ while watching immigrant children torn apart from parents; the party of attacking the poor instead of poverty; the party of greed over sharing when it comes to public social policies; the party of guns over God; the party of war over Jesus, the king of peace; the party of ‘religious freedom’, but only when applied to Christians; the party of inequality to maintain the supremacy…

    Republicans, the party of hypocrisy…

  • You should ask Joe Carter, the writer you have linked to, because he never changes his top argument that “the label evangelical is reserved for whites only”, and only admits, in an “update” further down, that:

    “A reader who had worked as a survey taker sent me a picture of the questionnaire. It turns out the actual question on the form is, “Would you describe yourself as a born-again or evangelical Christian?” Race is not included on that question.”

    Carter then complains that news sources (he sites Pew as an example) don’t provide information about black evangelicals, but all he is really revealing is his own inability to do basic research:

  • Funny how when you say “Never forget”, you proceed to lump all vaguely “left” ideologists alongside totalitarian communist dictators.
    One could just as easily lump you and all vaguely “right” ideologists alongside Adolf Hitler and the Spanish Inquisition.

    But calling everyone you disagree with a murderer is just a stupid lie.

  • I know leftism very well sir. Perhaps you are mistaken about the ideology that has murdered over 100M people in the past 100 years. It is horrible.

  • Obscurely

    Thanks for the further info — we won’t be able to evaluate Carter’s statement without seeing the questionnaire (your post yesterday implied you’d seen it yourself). The points I believe we CAN agree on are 1) the widely cited 80% figure does NOT include non-white evangelicals, and 2) the 80% of WHITE evangelicals who voted for Trump does NOT include white evangelicals who did NOT vote — and as I’ve already conceded, even if Carter’s 35-40% figure is correct, that’s STILL an enormous scandal in this pastor’s view …

  • I had seen the survey, but not online – in the hands of a voting friend (not all research is done with links, and Carter could have requested a copy of the questionnaire from Edison before making up idiotic assumptions about it)

    But that’s beside the point when Carter admits himself that his opening statements turned out to be false! We most certainly can evaluate his statements!

    I see no reason to believe that Carter’s made-up numbers have any basis in reality. Yes, the exit polls only include people who actually care enough about our nation to show up for elections.

    And not finding either candidate viable is no excuse – you’ve still dropped out of all the other elections that day – you can always vote in the elections you choose, and make your point by leaving the presidential slot blank or a write-in.

    Obviously nonwhite evangelicals didn’t support this racist candidate. Why would they? But that only underscores the huge divide between them and white evangelicals.

    Because the exit polls have a huge number of participants, more than virtually any other national surveys; and they clearly show that 80% of white self-described evangelical voters voted for the most racist, sexist, narcissistic, and immoral candidate in modern memory.

  • Funny – that’s what they said about Hitler, who was Christian and conservative.

  • Obscurely

    There we have some more common ground between us — YES, Trump is morally UNFIT for office, and for that reason if even only 10% of (self-described) evangelicals had voted for him that would be scandalous to this pastor. (See my link to Michael Gerson’s Atlantic essay above.)

  • Well if you would find a hypothetical 10% evangelical Trump vote scandalous, then you must find the ACTUAL 80% white evangelical Trump vote horrific – as confirmed by Michael Gerson in the Atlantic Essay: “The president won four-fifths of the votes of white evangelical Christians.”

  • Obscurely

    At least he got the white part right … 🙂

  • That’s kind of the obvious part … it’s not like Trump is going after the minority vote …