Interesting sociological argument, via valued commentor O. Felix Culpa. At USAToday, Robert P. Jones, author of The End of White Christian America, says “Fading white evangelicals have made a desperate end-of-life bargain with Trump”:
… The key to understanding the puzzling white evangelical/Trump alliance is grasping the large-scale changes — most prominently the declining numbers of white Christians in the country — that have transformed the American religious landscape over the last decade. These tectonic shifts are detailed in a new report Wednesday by the Public Research and Religion Institute, which I direct. Based on interviews with over 101,000 Americans in 2016, the American Values Atlas is the largest survey of American religious and denominational identity ever conducted…
…[O]ne of the most important findings of the survey is that over the last decade — as the country has crossed the threshold from being a majority white Christian country to a minority white Christian country — white evangelical Protestants have themselves succumbed to the prevailing winds and in turn contributed to a second wave of white Christian decline in the country. Over the last decade, white evangelical Protestants have declined from 23% to 17% of all Americans. To put this into perspective, during this same period, the proportion of religiously unaffiliated Americans has grown from 16% to 24%.
The engines of white evangelical decline are complex, but they are a combination of external factors, such as demographic change in the country as a whole, and internal factors, such as religious disaffiliation, particularly among younger adults who find themselves at odds with conservative Christian churches on issues like climate change and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. As a result, the median age of white evangelical Protestants is now 55, while the median age of religiously unaffiliated Americans is 37. While 26% of seniors (ages 65 and older) are white evangelicals, only 8% of Americans under the age of 30 claim this identity.
The evangelical alliance with Trump can only be understood in the context of these fading vital signs among white evangelicals. They are, in many ways, a community grieving its losses. After decades of equating growth with divine approval, white evangelicals today are finding themselves on the losing side of demographic changes and LGBT rights, one of their founding and flagship issues. In the 1980s, a term like “the moral majority” had a certain plausibility; today, such a sweeping claim would be met with a mountain of counter-evidence from public opinion polls, progressive religious voices, changing laws and court decisions.
Thinking about white evangelicals as a grieving community opens up new ways of understanding their behavior. Drawing on her interactions with dying patients and their families in the 1960s, psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross identified at least five common “stages” of grief, which have become staples of understanding responses to loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As Kübler-Ross found, when the stubborn facts of one’s own demise don’t yield to denial or anger, people commonly attempt to make a grand deal to postpone the inevitable.
While there are some lingering pockets of denial, and anger was an all-too-visible feature of Trump’s campaign, thinking about the white evangelical/Trump alliance as an end-of-life bargain is illuminating. It helps explain, for example, how white evangelical leaders could ignore so many problematic aspects of Trump’s character. When the stakes are high enough and the sun is setting, grand bargains are struck. And it is in the nature of these deals that they are marked not by principle, but by desperation…
“If we can’t be in charge, let’s burn the world down.”