Is There Anyone in the Press Who Can Recognize the Bad Faith in Evangelical Faith?

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Among the various and sundry problems endemic to the Washington press corps is the dearth of reporters and producers born into ultra-conservative religious traditions but who had, by the grace of God, found a way out.

If there were such people involved in deciding what’s news, we would scarcely see stories about the “difficulty” facing White evangelical Protestants when deciding whether to vote for people like Donald Trump and offspring, such as Senate candidate Herschel Walker.

We would not see opinion pieces laboring to explain why White evangelical Protestants are hypocrites for supporting a Republican candidate who’s admitted to paying for abortions, in addition to fathering a covey of children with multiple women he didn’t marry. 

We would not see, in other words, a Washington press corps grown complicit in a decades-long effort by White evangelical Protestant leaders to gaslight America into thinking their zealotry is not at all dangerous to democracy despite all appearances to the contrary.

We wouldn’t see evangelicals routinely escaping accountability.

The bad faith of White evangelical faith

A few days ago, National Public Radio aired a piece with this headline: “Evangelical voters grapple with Herschel Walker’s controversial image.”

“Grapple” connotes soul-searching, but the interview subject, Timothy Head of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, didn’t seem as vexed by the choice as much as he was vexed by press corps’ scrutiny of it

NPR clearly doesn’t have anyone in a key position who was born into, but left, an ultra-conservative religious tradition. If it did, the radio network wouldn’t have given Head a chance to explain why White evangelical Protestants are still good people despite the fact that their vote for Walker signals their desire for a return of a Jim Crow caste system. 

That person, in a news meeting, would have said whoa, hold up. White evangelical Protestants are going to vote for a Republican no matter who it is. Religion has nothing to do with it, unless by “religion” we mean the political power to protect social hierarchies that give White people advantages. In that case, sure, it’s about religion—but let’s say that. Let’s not give an ultra-conservative zealot a chance to gaslight us.

That person, though holding unfamiliar news judgment, would have seen their premonition bear out. Incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock won Georgia’s run-off, but Walker gleaned 48.6 percent of the vote, most of it from rural areas dominated by White evangelical Protestants.

The worst offenders are liberal

And NPR isn’t alone. 

The Times ran this howler: “‘Saved by Grace’: Evangelicals Find a Way Forward With Herschel Walker.” That’s pure comedy gold to anyone who grew up in an ultra-conservative religious tradition but left. 

Why? Because that person, who’s special, would say that anything can be rationalized by a religion that’s predicated on the idea that it is right and all others are wrong. Their choices are right before they’ve made them. Walker was toxic, but voting for him was right, because they are.

When White evangelical Protestants “find a way forward,” it’s not because they’re wrestling with hardship, controversy, whatever. The decision has been made. “Finding a way” is finding justification. Yeah, sure, they vote according to the demands of their faith—bad faith. [Not to be confused with “fake” faith.]

Perhaps the worst offenders are secular liberal intellectuals possessing no conception of the bad faith undergirding the faith of White evangelical Protestants. They then judge politics according to liberal values. The Guardian ran this whopper Tuesday: “Georgia Senate voters have a moral choice. White Christians are choosing hypocrisy.”

[Hardest groan.]

No, “White Christians” are not choosing hypocrisy. They are overwhelmingly unconcerned with intellectual integrity. If they contradict themselves, so be it. They’re right. Their vote is right

Instead, they’re choosing a Republican who will preserve “their way of life”—or bring back a two-tiered system of law and democracy according to which White people get to step on everyone else and everyone else is forced to put up with it. That’s not choosing hypocrisy. 

That’s choosing apartheid.

Having it both ways

Anyone who was born into but left such ultra-conservative religious traditions knows this. Alas, such special people are virtually absent from the ranks of the Washington press corps. The obvious result is endless reporting about religion as if religion had nothing to do with politics—as if bad faith weren’t central to White evangelical faith. 

If the press corps had more special people like this, perhaps we’d see reporting on how White evangelical Protestants are being held morally accountable for their choices in addition to more stories about real moral “grappling” as a result of being held accountable. In that alternative reality, they’d learn that true freedom isn’t what you can do to other people. It’s what you can do for yourself and others.

As it is, White evangelical Protestants have it both ways. 

A vote for apartheid free of consequence, free of guilt.