Jimmy Carter and the mystery of the Evangelicals

A short while ago we published a little piece on Elizabeth Blackwell (LSS 28.2 23) in which we opined:

she was a product of that remarkable culture of Protestant Christianity that rooted in New England in the seventeenth century. ……….. all were united in their aspiring, hopeful lives, which prized Duty way above individual greed.

Hang on, that doesn’t sound too much like those gun-totin’, Trump-votin’ good ol’ boys from the Deep South we know and love so much today, does it? To quote John Blake of CNN [1]

Today White evangelical Christians are associated, rightly or wrongly, with a conservative set of theological and political stances. Those include opposition to abortion, being the most enthusiastic supporters of a brand of Christian nationalism that seeks to turn the US into a White Christian nation, and championing a former president who boasted about sexually assaulting women.

Not exactly a wholesome bunch. The biblical injunction “for there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2.11) seems to have passed them by. So has “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.28) And all that tricky stuff about the meek from the Sermon on the Mount! But we won’t go on, lest we start sounding like an overexcited Fox News anchorman.

But as John observes:

Yet there were periods in the 19th and early 20th century when White evangelical leaders led campaigns against slavery, fought for women’s rights and became leaders in an array of social justice reform movements.

So, how did this essentially progressive, hopeful movement get hi jacked and how was it turned into a reliable voting machine for Donald Trump and some other equally unsavoury characters? One clue lies in the life of Jimmy Carter, surely one of the most honest and upright men who has ever held the office of President of the United States. We’ll let John tell his story, he does things much better than we ever could; do please click, because it’s a good one.

And our thoughts? There’s a strange strand in the human psyche where people like to portray themselves to themselves as gallant underdogs, full of homely virtues like equality, humour and matey-ness, struggling against corrupt elites. Until our underdogs find another group below them. A group who must thereby be oppressed, lest they get out and spoil the comfortable little hierarchies of unreason. The Boers of South Africa were like it with anyone who had a browner complexion. The Australians with the Aborigines. And always, always, the old Slavocracy of the southern United States, ever ready to destroy the Constitution in abeyance to their deepest hatred. Jesus was just another way to do it.


#jimmy carter #southern baptists #reform #racism #christianity

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