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New data released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Pew Research Center have given rise to a number of analyses of white Christianity in general and white evangelicalism in particular. The numbers seem to suggest a decline in white Christianity across the board during the past decade. PRRI’s 2016 survey found that 43 percent of Americans identify as white and Christian, and only 17 percent identify as white evangelical Protestant. The Pew survey from 2017 adds that more whites are identifying as “spiritual but not religious,” so that 28 percent of white Americans now belong in that category, compared to 20 percent in 2012. The conclusion seems to be that Christianity in general, and white Christianity in particular, are in demographic decline.
Commentators such as Damon Linker have joined Robert Jones in reflecting on what this means for the future of the country. Jones has suggested that the Faustian bargain with Trump among evangelicals represented an application of desperate measures to a patient on life support. Linker looks beyond the immediate context and wonders whether a future secular America will in fact bode well for liberals, especially given recent trends in the alt-right. Secularism could easily involve the rise of an unconstrained post-religious right.
Analyses - Christian - America - Years - Remains
More analyses of white Christian America will doubtless be proffered in the years to come. But how useful they really are remains in doubt.
First, the PRRI identifies “white evangelicals” as a subcategory of evangelicals as a whole. The term “evangelical” is notoriously difficult to define; the authors of the report elected to apply it to those who self-identify as Protestant and “born again.” The PRRI finds that this category now accounts for 26 percent of Americans—the same percentage that identified as white evangelicals until 2006. One could interpret these numbers as showing a shift in...
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