In chp 4 of A. Greeley and M. Hout’s The Truth about Conservative Christians [CCs] the authors explore the statistics about the difference between African Americans and white Conservative Protestants (CPs). Listen to this conclusion:
“There may be a link between CC religious convictions and political behavior but it is modest, even by social science standards” (69). Now what this conclusion — and we’ll get into this below — is suggesting is that the reason for CCs (white) being Republican may not be attributable to theological convictions but to other factors.
Now the incisive point of this chp, calling into question whether or not it is theology that shapes the evangelical (white) political leaning: “Any attempt to forge a link of logical or doctrinal consistency between cons rel belief and cons politcs falters when one considers African American CCs” (69). Why? Religious African Americans are the most liberal political voting block in the USA.
52% of lower-income, white, CPs vote Democrat; 90% lower-income, AfrAm Prots vote Democrat. Race reshapes the link between CC and cons politics.
Is the white proclivity for cons politics “a protest against their perceived loss of political power, a protest only marginally linked to their religious convictions?” (71).
Conclusion: “Literal interpretation of the Bible and frequent religious practice push AfrAms toward the Democrats and whites toward the Republicans” (72). Read that twice and think about it. It boggles.
Now here it is put even more potently: “the Gospel [sic, gospel] does correlate with political orientation: the direction of correlation depends on believers’ social contexts, which in this case mans their differing racial ancestries” (72). Is this suggesting that folks vote on the basis of income/economic status, regardless of their faith, or that their faith supports their perceived income needs, or that one of these groups is consistent and the other one not?
Now they point fingers: “Liberals who decry the militant political stands of CPs should beware of trying to have it both ways when they turn around to praise the militant stands of Afro-American Prots” (74).
What haunted my mind as I read this chp? Do we simply use our theology to prop up our economic status or economic desires? Are many white CCs simply finding passages that justify their economic status of wealth and are AfrAms simply finding passages that justify their desire to rise in the economic world? This chp makes me go back to the Bible — “What does it say?,” I kept asking myself. Well, I justify myself, it says what I think it does — but does that mean “it says what my context wants me to see?” Lord have mercy.