More than half — 52 percent — of white evangelical Protestants say a majority of the U.S. population being nonwhite will be a negative development, according to the Public Religion Research Institute and the Atlantic.
According to the latest census projections, white Americans will be in the minority — 49.9 percent — by 2045, in part due to the aging white population. By that time, Latinos are expected to be about 25 percent of the population, while black Americans will make up just over 13 percent of the population. The Asian population will be nearly 8 percent. Multiracial people will make up nearly 4 percent of the population.
For those who have watched the responses of white evangelicals to some of the more racially charged moments in recent years, the results were not particularly surprising.
Jemar Tisby, author of the forthcoming "The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism," told the Fix that many white evangelicals tend to conflate Christianity with nationalism:
The insistence that not only was America founded as a “Christian nation” but that the standard citizen is a white person means resisting a racial and ethnic inclusivity. The fear is that new people would bring a new, less-Christian, less white-centered culture. It comes from a pervasive sense of “us”—meaning white people—and “them—meaning virtually anyone else of any different race or ethnicity. As long as white evangelicals either consciously or sub-consciously assume that American means white or European descended, they will always perceive changing demographics as a threat to “the American way.”
The Fix previously wrote about how Paula White, one of Trump's main evangelical advisers, pushed back on those who favor more liberal immigration policies by dismissing the claim that Jesus Christ himself was a refugee. She said:
I think so many people have taken biblical scriptures out of context on this, to say stuff like, “Well, Jesus was a refugee.” Yes, He did live in Egypt for three-and-a-half years. But it was not illegal. If He had broken the law then He would have been sinful and He would not have been our Messiah.
If the worldview that increased diversity, particularly of the immigrant kind, seems undesirable, that might be because it is pretty consistent with the view of diversity espoused by the man some white evangelicals called a “dream president”: Trump.
The president has repeatedly spoken — most recently while visiting Britain — about how immigrants change culture for the worse. He has called the desire to remove memorials honoring white men who fought to keep black people enslaved “sad” and “foolish.” And he has called for the firing of Americans protesting racism while using profanity to describe them.
These acts have often won him points with his base, which is made up of large percentages of white evangelicals. According to the survey, white evangelicals continue to overwhelmingly support Trump. More than three quarters (77 percent) of white evangelical Protestants have a favorable opinion of Trump. And half of white mainline Protestants and white Catholics — groups that have supported Democratic presidents in the recent past — have favorable views of Trump.
The recent survey was a reminder to many that one of the places where America's race relations problem is most prevalent is in the white evangelical church.