Baker Academic

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

On White Evangelicals, the "Nones," and Political Affiliation (guest post)

In a shame(less)ful effort to promote our book, Larry and I have been guest posting to model political dialogue (to see how it might intersection with Jewish-Christian dialogue). There is part two of Larry's reflection on the baptizing of 45:

Anthony Le Donne and I are having one of our friendly Point/Counterpoint moments.
In a post here a few days ago, I broke down the demographics of the vote that elevated Donald Trump to the Presidency. Following research from such luminaries as Robert P. Jones, I pointed out that Trump won the election on the strength of the white Christian vote. Here, I’m not talking merely about the white evangelical vote—it’s already been heavily reported that Trump swept the board with white evangelical voters. What hasn’t received sufficient attention is how well Trump did with all varieties of white Christians, including white Catholics and white mainline Protestants. My rough estimate is that Trump won the overall white Christian vote by roughly a 2:1 margin, while he lost the vote of all other race-religious groups by that same 2:1 margin. Of particular note is how Clinton won an estimated 72% of the American Jewish vote, illustrating a significant Jewish-Christian political

In response, Anthony posted a piece on my blog site making a number of interesting arguments. Anthony pointed out that if we consider world Christianity, then only 2.3% of all Christians voted for Trump. Of course, by the same token, less than 2.3% of Christians worldwide voted against Trump. I’ll concede that global Christianity wasn’t given much of a say in our election. Anthony’s other argument is that close to half of eligible Americans did not vote at all in 2016, meaning that considerably less than 2/3 of American white Christians voted for Trump. Unfortunately, as I already pointed out in my last post, white Christians turned out to vote in relatively high numbers compared to the rest of us; if Anthony wants to avoid election of candidates like Trump in the future, he might urge instead that more white Christians stay home on Election Day.
Anthony returned to his global perspective at the end of his piece, asking me to consider whether Jews worldwide opposed Trump in the same numbers as American Jews. The short answer is, I can’t account for all those Jews. I don’t have any way to gauge how the Jews of France (roughly 450,000 of them), Canada (400,000) or the U.K. (300,000) might have voted if they’d miraculously been granted U.S. citizenship (and, I might have wished, been given ballots to vote in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). My rough guess is that these Jews don’t like Trump any better than other French people, Canadians or Brits, but these Jewish populations (the third, fourth and fifth largest populations of Jews worldwide) aren’t large enough for anyone to bother to poll. At this point in Jewish history, more than 80% of Jews worldwide live in either the United States or Israel … so when Anthony asks about non-American Jews, he’s really asking me to consider the opinion of Israeli Jews. During the 2016 campaign, Israelis favored Hillary Clinton by about the same 2:1 margin we saw in the U.S. for non-Christians. Since the election, Trump has proven to be relatively popular in Israel—mostly reflecting that Israelis think Trump is good for Israel. I’m not sure what our election says about Israeli Jews, or Bolivian Christians for that matter, just as I don’t know what my favorable opinion of Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel says about me.
[By the way … Israeli opinion is not the same as Jewish-Israeli opinion. Some 21% of Israeli citizens are Arab, and other 4.5% are non-Jewish non-Arabs. I have no data distinguishing how Israeli Jews and non-Jews view Trump.]
Let’s end our world tour and return to the question I raised in my original post (which as I pointed out, was first raised by Anthony himself): how could so many white American Christians have voted for Trump? Or, as I put it in my post, how could so many white American Christians have voted for a person who seems to contradict every value I might associate with Christianity (humility, honesty, empathy, kindness and generosity)? The easy answer, the one I pointed to in my last post, is status quo: white Christians vote Republican. But there’s evidence that white Christians did not participate in this election in a status quo way.  The voter turnout percentage for non-Hispanic whites in 2016 was the second-highest measured since 1988—this despite the fact that the religiously unaffiliated (who are mostly white) voted in relatively low numbers (the “Nones” made up 15% of the 2016 electorate, compared to 25% of the general population). So if we measure voter interest by voter turnout, then white Christians voted for Trump with near-record enthusiasm. We can see this most clearly in the white evangelical vote—white evangelicals made up 26% of the electorate in 2016, same as 2012, even though the white evangelical percentage of the U.S. population is in decline and is considerably less than 26%.  
Where else should we look for an explanation for strong white Christian support for Trump? In Christian circles, much of the blame falls on Hillary Clinton, who is seen as a historically terrible candidate from a certain white Christian point of view. But much of the white Christian opposition to Clinton seems horribly overblown, and there’s no explanation for why Clinton (a practicing Methodist and former member of her church’s altar guild) should have been regarded as a mortal threat to Christianity. White Christians may have objected to Clinton’s political views, but these views were squarely in the Democratic Party mainstream, and it’s hard to see how these views were all that different from those held by previous Democratic Party nominees for President. I’ll grant that voters increasingly express unhappiness with politics in general and speak as if they vote for the lesser of evils … but this is a trend that predates the nomination of Trump and Clinton. No … the enthusiastic white Christian support of Trump speaks to interest in Trump, every bit as much as antipathy for Clinton.
We might ask whether there is something in Christian belief (for example, a low view of human nature) that leads Christians to support candidates like Trump. But I’m going to reject this idea quickly, because Christians of color did not support Trump. I’m ready to be corrected, but I don’t know of any schism between Black and white American Christian religious belief that might have led one group to vote Clinton and the other Trump. We can then ask whether Trump’s white Christian support was based on his appeal to white people. But again … while we do need to seriously consider Trump’s appeal to white voters, I need to emphasize how Trump’s appeal was limited to white Christians. White Jews (in the U.S., 90% of Jews are considered white) rejected Trump in large numbers. And the largest group of white non-Christians in America, those without religious affiliation (often referred to as “Nones”), mostly rejected Trump as well.
Let’s talk a bit about the Nones. Racially and ethnically, Nones represent a reasonably typical American mix: about 68% of Nones are white, 9% are Black, 5% are Asian, 13% are Latinx and 4% fall into another category. Compared to the general population, Nones skew a bit more white than average, are more male than female, are more likely than the average American to be unmarried, and seem to favor life on the west coast over that in the South.
One fact that distinguishes Nones: they are by far the fastest growing religious group in America. Over the past 25 years, the number of Nones has more than quadrupled, from around 6% to 25%.
Where are all these Nones coming from? Mostly, from the ranks of white Christianity. The vast majority of Nones were raised with some religious affiliation but have given it up. Nearly two-thirds of Nones were raised in either Catholic (38%) or white mainline Protestant (26%) households. More than 1-in-10 were raised white evangelical Protestant (14%) or in some other Christian faith (11%). While we don’t have a racial breakdown of those Catholics who have become Nones, we can surmise that most of them are white, as American Catholicism is rapidly becoming a religion of color: roughly 34% of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic today, compared to 10% in 1987.
The trends identified above come into sharper focus if we examine them generationally. The below chart shows the sharp decline in religious observance as we move from older to younger generations, in every religious group measured other than historically Black Protestants:
And if you’re thinking that Millennials will join the church as they get older, get married and have children … there’s simply no evidence for such a “religious life cycle.” Instead, the number of Nones in each generation is increasing over time, not decreasing. Few (7%) Nones even express an interest in looking for a new religious home. The decline in religious affiliation shows no sign of reversing, or even slowing down.
What do the Nones have to do with our main question, about why white Christians so enthusiastically supported Trump? The explanation begins with the advent of the American Religious Right. For this discussion, I’ll rely heavily on American Grace, the seminal 2010 study by Robert Putnam and David Campbell on religious life in contemporary America. According to Putnam and Campbell, the rise of the American Religious Right can be dated to the mid-1970s, when Americans unhappy with the sexual revolution of the 1960s reacted by embracing religious identity and church attendance—and the church preferred in this “aftershock” was mostly conservative and evangelical Protestant. Astute evangelical leaders like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell drew on this religious fervor to create the Religious Right, aligning conservative Protestantism with conservative, Republican politics.
But the advent of the Religious Right triggered a counter-reaction of its own, beginning in the 1980s and becoming more evident by the 1990s, where the marriage of conservative religion and politics grew increasingly suspect. In 1980, Americans said they’d be more likely to vote for an evangelical candidate for President; by 1988 the majority of those polled said just the opposite. The number of Americans agreeing strongly that religious leaders should not try to exert influence on government decisions nearly doubled between 1991 and 2008. Symbols of the religious right, like Falwell and the Moral Majority, came to be viewed unfavorably by most voters, and “Christian fundamentalists” were increasingly identified with an unwelcome conservative ideological intervention in American politics. And significantly, the group that most strongly embraced this view of the Religious Right was the newly emerging group of Nones.
One might guess that the Nones began their dramatic growth during the upheaval of the 1960s, but in fact the 1960s produced a very small downtick in religious observance. It was not until the 1990s that Nones began their meteoric rise into national prominence. For the authors of American Grace, the timing of this ascent is no coincidence—it coincides both with the trend to view the Religious Right negatively and with a dramatic, more liberal shift in American opinion on such “culture war” issues as marijuana and homosexuality. Significantly, this shift in opinion was and is most pronounced (as was and is the growth of the Nones) among young Americans.
When surveyed, Nones give a myriad of reasons why organized religion no longer speaks to them. 16% of Nones surveyed indicate that an important reason for leaving their childhood religion was that their church or congregation “became too focused on politics.” A full 29% of Nones cite “negative religious teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people” as a reason they gave up religious affiliation. Notably, women and ex-Catholics are about twice as likely as other Nones to cite treatment of gays and lesbians as a primary reason they left the church.
More often, Nones say that they’ve left the church because of their “lack of belief.” But in most cases, the belief lacking is not that in G-d; fewer than 1/3 of Nones describe themselves as atheist or agnostic, 30% say they’re absolutely certain they believe in G-d or a universal spirit, and another 38% profess this same belief with less certainty. When asked for explanations for their “lack of belief,” Nones surveyed will mention “culture war” issues such as church teaching on evolution, a preference for “rational thought” and a lack of belief in miracles. What’s evident is that Nones express a conventional confidence in science, in distinction to an evangelical church that denies climate change, promotes “intelligent design”, invests $100 million to illustrate the literal truth of the Noah’s Ark story, and teaches that there were dinosaurs on that Ark.
[OK, I’ll grant that the Noah’s Ark people are probably a bit fringe-y even in white evangelical circles.]
Putnam and Campbell make the point explicitly: white American Christianity is doing a good job retaining its politically conservative congregants. It’s moderates and liberals (particularly young white moderates and liberals) who are fleeing the church to join the ranks of the Nones. And for reasons I cannot explain, Christians who have left conservative Christianity have not opted in significant numbers to join more liberal churches; they’ve instead left organized religion altogether to join the ranks of the Nones. Here, finally, is my explanation for why white Christians supported Trump so enthusiastically: the ranks of white Christianity have been drained of many who might have opposed Trump had they remained Christians. The rise of the Religious Right, and the reaction against the Religious Right represented by the growth in the numbers of Nones, has effectively divided what was once a more politically diverse group of white Christians into what is today one group of mostly conservative Christians and a second group of mostly liberal ex-Christians. If not for this divide, white American Christendom would have been more lukewarm when it came to Trump.
I should take a step back. There are other explanations we can give for the rise of the Nones; clearly, politics is not the only reason for this phenomenon. Moreover, I’ve ignored here how Nones are likely to become more liberal after they’ve left the church, under the influence of their new peers. Finally, I need to emphasize what I said in my first post: I’m talking here about general trends and not iron-clad rules. There are plenty of white Christians who loathe Trump—just not as many of them as I wish there were. There are politically liberal evangelicals. There are liberal churches in America whose congregants are predominantly white, as well as Nones who left liberal churches because they don’t like liberal politics.
Demography is not destiny … but at the same time, we’re witnessing a sea change in the history of American religion. Since World War II, large populations in the developed world have abandoned religion and religious identity. While the United States long bucked this trend, the growth of U.S. Nones shows that we’ll eventually join the ranks of countries where a majority claims to be either atheist or not religious, such as the UK, Japan, Germany, Australia, Spain, Canada, France, Denmark and Israel (yes, Israel; 42% of Israelis characterize themselves as secular and another 25% say they’re “not very religious”). But while religion may be on the decline in places like North America, it is booming in places like Africa. Religiously, the world is turning into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” And perhaps not coincidentally, predominantly Black churches in the U.S. are holding on to their numbers, and there appears to be no crisis of unbelief among America’s Hispanic Catholics.
Maybe this is as it should be. Maybe we should express no surprise that global Christianity is losing its hold on the portion of the world which is relatively privileged and affluent, and seems to have the most to say to peoples struggling for a fair share of the planet’s resources and a fair say in the planet’s future. If Christianity today speaks most clearly to those with the least … as a non-Christian admirer of Christianity, I think there’s something in this that Jesus would approve.

From this perspective, white Christian American Trump supporters no longer seem so important to me … which might be why Anthony asked me to think globally in the first place.  

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Black History Month Promotion at Baylor University Press

Celebrating Black History Month, Baylor University Press is pleased to offer 40%-off plus free shipping on relevant titles.

Use discount code BFE8 at their website: during the entire month of February.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

What the Hell do Bible Scholars do Anyway?

Today my friend and colleague Jamie Smith, Prof. of New Testament at Cincinnati Christian University, was interviewed following an accident in downtown Cincinnati.'s Jason Williams reported that a streetcar (we call them cable cars in San Francisco) had been derailed and then suffered a power outage. Williams then writes: "So many bad things have happened in the project's infancy, we have to ask: Is the streetcar cursed?" So Williams turned to Prof. Smith with this question.

I'll let you read the article to find out how Smith answered. Let's focus for a moment on the premise: "....we have to ask: Is the streetcar cursed?"

Do we? Because I really don't think we do. Also, what the hell does Jason Williams think that Bible scholars do? Clearly, this guy is under the impression that academic interest in the Bible is something like water dowsing or doodlebugging. When the reporter didn't get the answer he'd hoped for from Smith, he turned to a local psychic for answers.

Welcome to 2018.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Podacre on Schweitzer

Mark Goodacre has posted a lecture that will be of interest to students of historical Jesus research:

Worth a listen. Albert Schweitzer, while a complicated and flawed figure, remains so very influential in our field.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Further Comments on MS 284 from the Silver-Haired Assassin Himself—Chris Keith

On January 2, I put a post on the Jesus Blog about MS 284 and the pericope adulterae's location in it.  I was interacting with some recently published comments by Maurice Robinson.  He then wrote me with some thoughts and I invited him to write them up for a post that I could then publish here as well.  He kindly agreed and I'm glad  to post them below.  I'm still much less certain than Maurice about the meaning of the obelus, but he seems to have a much better explanation for the missing patri that I had proposed.  Thanks for the discussion, Maurice.

Regarding Dr Keith’s comments on MS 284, I offer the following comments and clarifications (abridged and revised from a longer email sent to Dr Keith).

Since I had not seen MS 284 since my initial microfilm collation in Muenster in 1998, I had lacked a way to consult and verify the data until Dr Keith noted that it had been added to the VMR and now with photos of the pertinent sections made available on this blogsite.

Originally I had noted the lack of the PA at the Jn 7:52 location, with the inserted sheet placed (quite irregularly) between the page ending Jn 10.36a kosmon and the page beginning 10.36b umei=. Many years later, I theorized that the inserted sheet may have been intended to fit in a more appropriate location, namely, between Jn 10.38 and 10.39. Since I no longer had access to the document, I asked Ulrich Schmid to see whether an asterisk or insertion mark might occur in that location, which to my surprise, he reported to be the case.

My database comment now reports that the original order was 7:52; 7:53; 8:12, but with 7:53 erased and replaced by a widely spaced 8:12 in a significantly different hand. The PA subsequently was inserted on a separate paper sheet in a very late (16th century? But not from a printed TR edition) hand between Jn 10:35-36, with an obelus at the beginning of Jn 10:39 to indicate intended insertion. Further, the supplied leaf concludes with a peculiar extraneous kai following 8:11 (mhketi amartane kai sic) — peculiar since there is no suggestion in the addition or main text that Jn 8:12 should begin with kai (from my collation data such is read only by the original hand of 2193, subsequently corrected); nor would the inserted PA portion with kai fit the context in the middle of Jn 10:36 in any sensible manner.

Rather, the intent seems to have been the insertion of the PA following Jn 10:38 which itself is marked by an obelus, with the kai linking the passage to the first word (ezhtoun) of Jn 10:39, where the PA does seem to fit quite well.

Although this scenario might not be the only possible explanation regarding the observed phenomena, it certainly seems plausible and best under the circumstances.

Regarding Dr Keith’s blog comments (“An Update on the Location of the Pericope Adulterae in MS 284—Chris Keith”, Tuesday, January 2, 2018), some observations and correction are necessary.

CK: “If anyone has done more research on the paratextual matters of 284, I'd love to know more about how the obelus is used elsewhere in the manuscript.”

Frankly, so would I, since in my collation research on the PA, I certainly did not examine every MS in its entirety. However, since the obelus in this instance seems to be a late addition and not something from around the time of the original scribe (13th century), there might not be much to gain from further examination on this point.

CK: On the basis of Robinson and Text und Textwert, I previously noted that a corrector of MS 284 placed PA “after John 10:36” . . . . [also] Robinson, “The Pericope Adulterae: A Johannine Tapestry with Double Interlock,” 119.

For whatever reason, this was a misstatement on my part (and I knew better), since the inserted page is clearly between 10.36a (ending one page of the original MS) and 10.36b (beginning the next page).

MAR: However, a previously unnoticed obelus was inserted in the main text of MS 284 at the clearly more appropriate location following John 10:39.

Again a misstatement (or typo?), since the obelus appears between the end of 10.38 and the beginning of 10.39.

CK: It is not clear whether the “fact” that INTF confirmed for Robinson was the obelus’s presence or that the obelus indicated that PA should be read “following John 10:39.”

As mentioned, Ulrich Schmid (who is not to blame for any of the misstatements or typos) confirmed for me some years ago the presence of the obelus; at that time he seemed to be of the opinion that the obelus was a marker for the PA insertion (whether he still would concur, one would have to ask him). Now of course, the relevant photos are readily available (which they were not when I had asked Ulrich).

CK: I cannot personally judge whether 7:53 had originally been written in its normal location and then erased, but Robinson is correct that original script was erased and 8:12 written over it.

When I worked with the microfilm in Münster, it appeared to me that there were some indications (traces?) of 7.53 present in the erased portion. This supposition seemed to be borne out by letter-count estimates.

CK: It almost certainly indicates the omission of patri at the end of 10:38 by the original scribe, as the obelus occurs directly between tw and ezhtoun, where the missing word belongs.

Here is where I have to differ with Dr Keith’s interpretation: the obelus does not involve the omission of patri at the end of 10.38, but the -tw in question is merely the last part of autw, with the first portion (au-) appearing on the previous line.

Given that MS 284 is clearly a late Byzantine MS and a component part of Ï (according to NA27 p.713; this list no longer present in NA28), it would not be expected to follow the Alexandrian/Western reading kagw en tw patri at that point. Rather, the text of MS 284 simply followed the normal Byzantine reading kagw en autw.

Thus, the obelus could not indicate a missing patri, but would have to indicate something else. The insertion of a an initial kai preceding 10.39 (such as concludes the inserted leaf) seems to be the only viable possibility (Codex Bezae also includes kai at that point, with limited versional support) — yet that limited Western reading normally would not affect late Byzantine MSS (Swanson shows various MSS inserting the postpositive de or oun at that point: Ì45 Ì66 Í A K D P Y f1 f13 2 69 346 565 579 1071 1424 — but none other than Bezae appear to insert an initial kai before ezhtoun. So also various other published collations of Byzantine MSS (Scrivener et al.).

CK: Furthermore, 284 also reflects a practice of reading PA at John 7:53, though this evidence has not been mentioned by previous scholars. Someone wrote “L Jo” in the margin of 284 where John 7:53 would have been and the same thing at the top of the separate sheet of paper containing PA.

This is correct, and that indicator is apparently in the same late hand as that of the inserted leaf. Also at the 7.52/8.12 location is an additional note, apparently legetai (legt), which serves as a reading instruction regarding omission of the PA in the Pentecost lection, continuing with 8.12. However — not noted by Dr Keith — a similar but barely visible note appears in the margin of 10.39 in close position to the obelus. That note also appears to read L Jo, with what seems to be gr (the usual indication for a variant reading) written below. If this is correct, such would once more point to the insertion location for the supplied PA leaf, in a location that otherwise would not interrupt the Pentecost lection. This supposition if further supported by the fact that Jn 10.38 also represents the specific end of a lection within the Synaxarion (sabb. e in the Johannine section), while Jn 10.39 begins a separate lection (Jan 12 in the Menologion). In other words, the indicated insertion point seems to have been selected specifically so as not to interfere with the internal content of any particular lection.

CK: What can be said is there is a placement of a separate sheet of paper containing PA between two pages that end and begin in the midst of John 10:36, with a reading aid in the margin at John 7:53 that corresponds to the separate sheet of paper.

That certainly can be said; but one should not ignore the similar marginal “reading aid” that appears opposite the obelus between 10.38 and 10.39.

CK: Clearly, more analysis of this interesting manuscript is needed.

So too for virtually all NT Greek MSS. Any takers?


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Tr*mp as a Topic of Jewish-Christian Dialogue - Part 1 (Larry Behrendt)

I am happy to feature a guest post by my co-author, Larry Behrendt. This is first of two parts wherein Larry addresses Christian support of Trump as a topic of Jewish-Christian dialogue. 

"Your vote will affect the future and be recorded in eternity. Will you vote the values that will stand the test of fire? This is Mike Huckabee asking you to join me November 6th and vote based on values that will stand the test of fire"

You read it here earlier: Anthony Le Donne and I wrote a book together about Jewish-Christian dialogue. We’ve begun to promote it, in a series of events last month near Anthony’s teaching gig at United Methodist Seminary, and also in Boston during the annual conference of the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion.

If you’ve listened to Anthony talk about Jewish-Christian dialogue, he’ll sometimes mention the thing he thinks Jews most want to ask Christians and Christians most want to ask Jews—these questions are sometimes asked in dialogue, and more often they’re not asked, but it’s interesting what we wonder about each other even when we leave it unsaid. Anthony thinks that the number one question Christians want to ask Jews is about Jesus, and that’s certainly my experience. Anthony’s said he thinks many Jews want to ask Christians about the Holocaust: how could Christians have participated in it, or allowed it to happen … and I’ve sometimes thought that Jews really want to ask Christians about proselytization: why do some Christians seem so keen on converting others (especially Jewish others) to Christianity? Other times, I’ve wondered whether there is any single thing Jews want to ask Christians (most Jews don’t seem to me to be all that interested in Christianity). But I’ve never objected to Anthony phrasing his inquiry in this way. If nothing else, it leads to good conversation.
At some point during our book promotion last month, Anthony wondered out loud whether he still had a bead on what Jews want to ask Christians. Maybe, Anthony asked, the number one question on the minds of Jews today is: How could so many Christians have voted for Donald Trump? His question has been bouncing around in my head since then. At least when it comes to me, Anthony is right.
A caveat: when I’m wondering how Christians and Jews could have voted the way they did, I’m not talking about all Jews and all Christians. I’m talking statistics, and trends. There are something like 2.7 billion Christians worldwide, and roughly 75% of U.S. residents identify as Christian, which means that there are a lot of different types of Christian: Catholics, Protestants, Mainline Protestants, Evangelical Protestants, white Christians, Christians of color, Christian men, Christian women, Hispanic Catholics, Hispanic Protestants (who knew there were so many Hispanic Protestants?). In the U.S., 70% of Mormons are Republican or lean Republican; 58% of the members of the United Church of Christ are Democrats or lean Democrat; 75% of Jehovah’s Witnesses have no party affiliation. Even within these subgroups of Christians, there are sub-subgroups, and sub-sub-subgroups, as well as individuals who simply don’t fit any pattern we might devise for them, and a lot of these people did not vote for Trump. So when we talk about “Christian support for Trump,” we can only speak in a broad general sense, one that needs all the nuance we can muster.
With this caveat in mind, let’s look at the broad numbers. Clinton won the Jewish vote by 47 percentage points, 71% to 24%. There is nothing surprising in this vote margin; it is on par with how Jews have voted in past Presidential elections. American Jews strongly identify as liberal and Democrats, with the minority Orthodox Jewish-American population representing something of an exception to this rule (though even Orthodox Jews supported Clinton over Trump by a wide margin).
Contrast the Christian vote. Per the respected analysis of the Pew Research Center, Trump won the Protestant vote by 19 percentage points (58% to 39%), and the Catholic vote by 4 percentage points (50% to 46%). Again, no huge surprises here. Since 1952, Protestants have supported the Republican Presidential candidate in every election except two—the 1964 Lyndon Johnson landslide, and the 1992 election where Protestants voted about equally for Bill Clinton and the first George Bush. As for Catholics … we generally expect the Catholic vote to be close and to go to the winning candidate. Between 1972 and 2016, Catholics supported the Republican Presidential candidate six times and the Democrat six times, and the majority of Catholics voted for the winning candidate in 11 of these 12 elections. 
If we stopped our analysis here, we’d say that 2016 is same old, same old: Jews and Christians voting in the usual ways. Certainly, there’s nothing in this Christian voting pattern that’s surprising to Jews. If there’s any wonder here, I think it flows in the opposite direction, with many Christians puzzled why Jews “paradoxically” keep voting liberal and Democratic. Even as Jews have assimilated into American life and been accepted as friends and neighbors by Christians, Jews have never joined other “white” ethnic Americans in voting for conservative candidates for public office. Indeed, Jews today vote more like Muslims than Christians. 
No, the wonder I feel about the 2016 election is why so many white Christians voted for Trump. Actually, I should place emphasis on how white Christians voted. No pollster (to my knowledge) provides us with numbers that neatly split the white and non-white Christian vote, but we can clearly see this split in the polling that was reported. Pew tells us that Trump won the white, born-again/evangelical Christian vote by 65 percentage points (81% to 16%), won the white Catholic vote by 23 percentage points (60% to 37%) and lost the Hispanic Catholic vote by 41 percentage points (67% to 26%). And an earlier Pew poll (taken before the election, in June of 2016) showed that Trump then led Clinton among white mainline Protestants by 11% (this at a time when Clinton led Trump in that same poll by 9%, and 11% of the mainline Protestant vote was undecided; my best guess is that Trump won the eventual white mainline Protestant vote by at least 15%), and that Clinton then led Trump among Black Protestant voters by 81 percentage points (89% to 8%). Obviously, there’s a pattern here: the Christian vote was dramatically split along racial lines.
I can show you my math if you want to see it, but I estimate that white Christians overall supported Trump by about a 2-1 margin, while Christians of color (and all non-Christians) supported Clinton by a bit more than that same 2-1. Trump beat Clinton in large part because his white Christian base showed up at the polls in large numbers. Consider that in 2016 white evangelicals made up about 17% of the U.S. population, but these same white evangelicals accounted for 20% of registered voters and represented about 26% of the U.S. electorate. Some of this 17%-26% gap might be due to different ways of measuring who is a white evangelical (and in this piece I’ve followed the path of many others, and failed to make any effort to distinguish “evangelical” from other relevant categories, like “fundamentalist” and “born again”), but some of this gap has to represent a high white evangelical interest in voting in national elections. Given this gap, it’s difficult to argue (as some have tried) that white evangelical voters were not enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump. 
Notice how I slipped in this discussion, from a focus on white Christians to one on white evangelicals. It’s easy to make this slip, because so much attention has been focused on the white evangelical vote. But it’s obvious from the polls that white mainline Protestants and white Catholics also voted for Trump in substantial numbers. In the 2016 Presidential vote, the sharpest political divide was not between white evangelicals and everyone else, but between white Christians and everyone else. If this seems unfair to progressive white Catholics and mainliners, then think of it this way: if we look at the vote solely in terms of race and religion, the only group that supported Trump were white Christians. Christians of color voted for Clinton, as did white non-Christians and every other non-Christian group I can measure (Jews and Muslims in particular), and the margin of the Clinton vote among these other groups was substantial in every case. I’ll throw in one additional factoid: PRRI’s data shows a substantial correlation between the percentage of white Christians in a given state, and support for Trump in that state. Four key battleground states where Trump performed better than expected had larger than average concentrations of white Christians, including Iowa (64 percent), Wisconsin (63 percent), Ohio (53 percent), and Pennsylvania (57 percent). Indeed, if we look at the 20 states with the largest populations of white Christians by percentage, only two of them (Maine and Minnesota) voted for Clinton.
So far, I’ve focused solely on the numbers. But the reason Jews might ask Christians about support for Trump is not limited to the numbers. It’s also a product of the way many Christians participate in politics. These Christians—conservative Christians, predominantly white conservative Christians, have announced their intent to vote their Christian values. So the online Christian Voter Guide proclaims their “mission” to be “to get unregistered Christians registered to vote, educated in the Biblical worldview, and voting accordingly on Election Day.” A second Christian voter guide explains its purpose, “simply put, to vote as Jesus would have us vote.” A third guide (calling itself queries all Presidential candidates “who claim to be Christian to share their Christian testimony with the voters by answering pointed questions about their walk with God, who precisely is their God, and their candidacy platforms.” There are evidently so many competing Christian voting guides that Christianity Today deemed it necessary to publish a “Guide to Christian Voting Guides.” Of course, the people who write Christian voting guides might be expected to think Christian voting is important, but there is evident interest in politics among evangelical leaders generally: fully 93% of evangelical leaders say that it is important or essential to take a public stand on social and political issues when those issues conflict with moral principles. The following declaration of Christian political faith is typical of what I’ve frequently read in Christian voting guides and voting guidance:
Some people proclaim, “I don’t mix my politics with my faith” or “I don’t take my religion into the voting booth”. The problem with a statement like this is: for a true Christian that is not even possible. When a person confesses to be a Christian, then it logically follows that being a follower of Christ should invade every aspect of their life. The true believer cannot separate their Christianity from their politics … To do so is an open denial of the faith which they profess to hold to. In all of life and certainly politically, Christians are called to declare and defend a biblical worldview.
Today we might associate the evangelical movement with a keen interest in politics, but not so long ago the exact opposite was the case. The tendency among conservative Protestants in the first half of the 20th century was to separate from politics, not to engage in it. It’s also instructive, I think, to consider whether Jews think they should bring their “Torah values” into the voting booth, because for the most part I can’t find that view articulated by contemporary Jewish leaders. (By Jewish conservative Republicans, perhaps, but not by Jewish religious leaders). For example, the myth that American Jews vote mostly to promote U.S. support of Israel is … a myth (a 2015 poll showed that the “U.S.-Israel Relationship” scored fifth among the primary political concerns of American Jews, well below the concern expressed for the economy, national security and healthcare). You have to search hard to find Rabbis discuss whether Jews are even obligated to vote, but if you succeed, you’ll probably find some lukewarm statement about how Jews should “contribute to the general welfare of the lands in which we sojourn.” But if what we’re looking for is a Jewish view on voting for a “Biblical worldview,” I think Rabbi Yitz Greenberg nails it here:
It does not say in the Torah, “Thou shalt vote; I am the Lord.” The Torah’s laws generally take off from where the society is; they try to move the standard situation closer to the ideal. The Torah does not advocate voting for political leadership because it was given in a culture that was neither egalitarian nor democratic. The Torah does instruct that the king and the leaders be and act under the rule of law—but it does not deal with the population at large or with the selection process.
I mean … doesn’t that make sense?
I shouldn’t get too chauvinistic here. Let’s go back to what I said earlier, about statistics and different kinds of Christians and Jews, and the tendency of humans to break whatever patterns we describe for them. Jews are a tiny minority in the U.S., and something like 900,000 of us voted for Trump, including such prominent Trump supporters as Steve Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, Wilbur Ross, and of course Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. If we wanted to assemble a Jewish-Christian conference to assess responsibility for Trump, there’d plenty of shame to go around. Moreover … I can easily find prominent Christian voices who said “no” to Trump, from Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore to popular ex-evangelical Rachel Held Evans. (The Evans essay I’ve linked here might be the most thoughtful expression of Christian conscience I read during the 2016 campaign, even if I did disagree with much of it.)
But at the risk of self-righteousness, I find it hard to get over what I saw in last year’s election. With Trump, an overwhelming number of “values-based” white Christians voted for a President who personally contradicts every value I might associate with Christianity (humility, honesty, empathy, kindness and generosity). These very same Christians who proclaim the importance of voting for a Biblical worldview, voted by a large majority for a thrice-married failed casino mogul who has bragged that he has never asked God for forgiveness. Christians instructed to vote as Jesus would have us vote, voted in substantial numbers for a candidate who insisted (in an interview with Playboy magazine) that Jesus Christ had a massive ego, told a crowd at a Christian university not to forgive their enemies but to “get even,” championed the birther movement and lied with alarming frequency, talked about religious liberty (even claiming that he was personally a victim of anti-Christian persecution because he was subject to a routine IRS audit) but called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, and bragged on tape about engaging in sexual assault.
Yeah. I’d like to ask Christians about how this could have happened.
(If you want to know why I think white Christians voted for Trump in such numbers, tune into Part 2 of this discussion, which will appear in this space in a few days.)