The politics of white churchgoers

“If you are a white American today and [say]…’I go to church every week’…the probabilities are quite high that you are Republican. And if you…are white and you say, ‘No, I never go to religious services…I don’t have a religious identity,’ the chances are much higher than predicted that you would be a Democrat.” – Frank Newport in the current issue of Christian Science Monitor

I guess I’m an oddball, then. I’m a white political leftist who goes to church.

Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

10 thoughts on “The politics of white churchgoers”

  1. Hmm. Well, I’m not at church and I’m a………a………fiscal and social conservative (not sure what Republicans are these days.)
    – kristi


    1. Kristi,

      You are not a regular churchgoer? I thought you were.

      Are you on a temporary break from church? Or is it permanent?


    2. K,

      If you are up to it, I’d also be interested in hearing what it means to you that you are a social conservative. We’ve discussed fiscal issues quite a bit, but I’m curious about where you are coming from as a social conservative, curious that you would describe yourself as sc.


  2. I have acquired a bit of loathing of church. I’m just not one who thinks the main goal of hundred of people going to church should be to preach a nice sermon, network with your friends and potential business contacts and go home feeling like you are a better person now – I feel disgusted with megachurches that are nearly as big as the elementary schools – and do little beyond provide jobs to the church staff. :shrug: As for me being what I consider a social conservative: Hmm. Well, I’m pretty staunchly against abortion. Not particularly on religious grounds, but because I consider it barbaric. Not that I don’t understand circumstances sometimes make that the “logical” choice, but I resent the fact that we, as women sometimes find ourselves in a position that people have actually come to think that you are irresponsible if you DON”T get an abortion in some circumstances. I oppose abortion except to save the life of the mother. :shrug: I am pro marriage – however, I admit I lean what some consider moderate in that I don’t really oppose civil unions for gays. Gasp. I probably would be willing to get violent about a teacher who wanted to teach my child in elementary school about how two mommies is an equally valid lifestyle choice however. I get pretty worked up over things that impact children – I suppose in that I see more and more how vile we adults are. :shrug: I am in favor of the death penalty…I cling to the right to bear arms as well. Hmm. There are some left leaning issues that I embrace……such as recycling being a good thing – albeit not to the extreme of truly inconveniencing me I guess. Still, I believe we were commanded to care for animals and the planet by God in the garden and I don’t think that stopped with the advent of capitalism. I am opposed to things that institutionalize children – from daycare to early childhood full day kindergarten. I think it should be encouraged that a PARENT raise their children – not someone making minimum wage or the govt. I actually do think, for example, that some countries, like Australia for example, supplement the households of people who stay home with their children. Gasp. I really do believe that the social change that has occurred with mothers being in the workforce has had a detrimental impact on the family. Not a fan of the “barefoot and pregnant” scenario with the little woman uneducated and pumping out babies – but I do see something of a breakdown of the family as parents who are keen on a big house and two SUV’s in the driveway can’t be bothered to raise their kids – and then these kids grow up and not surprisingly have no interest in giving up their big house and two SUV’s in the driveway to take care of their Baby Boomer aging parents. I am violently opposed to nursing homes (my 86 year old grandmother moved in with us and actually died about a month ago). I think it is beneath our dignity to treat our very young and very old the way we do these days.
    Ok, I’m grabbing a late dinner out of the oven – not proofing all that rambling. – Kristi


    1. Very cool. Thanks for sharing your political perspectives with me. I don’t think I’ve ever received the executive summary on your positions on social issues.

      From what I’ve read, it’s not actually all that unusual for people who are social conservatives to be okay with civil unions and be on board with gay rights. You may not see that as much in Winona, b/c it is a small religious town in the heart of the Bible Belt, but statistics show that the nation as a whole has changed its mind regarding treating homosexuals with equal rights. Legislation, though, is sometimes behind public opinion!


  3. I come from an odd perspective.. I was born into a Catholic family. The Catholic church itself is far less social than many of the other churches I have been to. We then had moved in a Charismatic Catholic church which was very influential on it’s members. Segregating students that were members from other students at school, boycotting stores, picketing (peacefully) abortion clinics, etc. The social issues spilled into the political issues and you got on a one track mind. The place was horrible. I swore off church for the longest time when I left around 16. I was further influenced by a teacher and a good friend that had strong opinions as well about organized religion. I guess it solidified the next 12 or so years about churches and the people.

    I did discover a few places that are quite different and I think it has somewhat restored my faith (no pun) in organized religion. I now attend a church that challenges its members to grow spiritually, socially, academically, but tries to not be the social steering wheel. I feel more at home now.

    One last point. I am growing tired of the sentiment about dividing people based on beliefs whether they are political, social, or religious. The jabs back and forth are getting old.


    1. Drew,

      I don’t think your perspective is all that odd. For one thing, many of us are getting tired of the acid and toxic political tone. There is a good deal of violence and competition, politically, and I think that it often results in politicians being unable to see the wise and prudent course of action.

      I also understand where you are coming from regarding faith communities being the steering wheel for a particular political agenda. It can get to the point where anyone who dissents from “our political positions” is an outsider to the faith community, and his/her opinions are viewed with suspicion if they are entertained at all. I’ve been there.

      Historically, though, faith communities have been able to mobilize for political causes that we recognize (in retrospect) were definitely just and right. The civil rights movements of the 1960s would not have happened without widespread support from black churches. These movements were mostly nonviolent, so people were able to take to the streets in peaceful protest to dramatize their unjust situations and lack of civil rights.

      So, in my humble opinion, a faith community needs to somehow bring together both a concern to mobilize people to create a more just world while at the same time providing an environment where diverse political perspectives are welcomed. Not an easy task. Yet if it can be pulled off, then I think that very powerful personal and social change might take place.


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