Your weekend think piece: Rumors that 'white' Christianity is dead may be off a bit

It's amazing how many different subjects people are arguing about in the wake of the shocking White House win by Citizen Donald Trump.

There is, of course, the whole CNN "whitelash" angle, which fits nicely with trends -- real ones, trends seen in the exit polls -- that make the Democratic Party establishment feel better about itself.

Then there is the more specific, and accurate, point that Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the White House because of a culture gap between her campaign (as opposed to those run by her husband) and the labor, working-class, heavily Catholic culture of the pivotal "Rust Belt" states -- such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

You put all of that together, while highlighting the valid religion-trends angles, and you get a headline like this from The American Conservative magazine (a journal of cultural conservatism, not Republican Party orthodoxy):

White Christian Apocalypse?
That’s not what it means for America to become majority-minority.

Now, the byline on this think piece belongs to a scholar whose work is familiar to any modern reader interested in global and national trends linked to Christian life and demographics -- that of historian Philip Jenkins, best known as the author of "The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity" and numerous other important books. He currently holds a joint appointment as professor of the Humanities in history and religious studies at Penn State University and as distinguished professor of history at Baylor University.

This piece is must reading for anyone seeking to understand trends linked to the potential influence of the church -- minus ethnic adjectives -- in the coming decades. Most of all, Jenkins believes that journalists and other public thinkers need to adopt a broader definition of the word "white." Thus:

For some 15 years now, I have been writing about the idea of the U.S. becoming a majority-minority country, in which no single ethnic or racial group constitutes a majority. I discussed this, for instance, in my book The Next Christendom, back in 2002. That idea has recently become quite standard and orthodox, and is an increasingly familiar element of political rhetoric, especially among liberals and Democrats. But at least as the idea is appearing in the media and political discourse, it is being badly misunderstood, in two critical ways. For some, these misunderstandings arise from excessive optimism; for others the flaw lies in pessimism. These points may seem stunningly obvious, but as I say, they escape a lot of otherwise informed commentators. Consciously or otherwise, observers are letting themselves be deceived by the fluid nature of American ethnic classifications.

First of all “minority” is not a uniform category.

It's hard to offer snippets of this kind of essay, but here is another crucial bite:

... What do we mean by “white”? Historically, the category of “whiteness” has been very flexible, gradually extending over various groups not originally included in that constituency. In the mid-19th century, the Irish were assuredly not white, but then they became so. And then the same fate eventually befell Poles and Italians, and then Jews. A great many U.S. Latinos today certainly think of themselves as white. Ask most Cubans, or Argentines, or Puerto Ricans, and a lot of Mexicans. Any discussion of “whiteness” at different points in U.S. history has to take account of those labels and definitions.
Nor are Latinos alone in this regard. In recent controversies over diversity in Silicon Valley, complaints about workplaces that are overwhelmingly “white” were actually focused on targets where a quarter or more are of Asian origin. Even firms with a great many workers from India, Taiwan, or Korea found themselves condemned for lacking true ethnic diversity. Does that not mean that Asians are in the process of achieving whiteness?
Meanwhile, intermarriage proceeds apace, with a great many matches involving non-Latino whites and either Latinos or people of Asian origin. (Such unions are much more common than black-white relationships.) Anyone who expects the offspring of such matches to mobilize and rise up against White Supremacy is going to be sorely disappointed.

In other words, the future always seems to have a way of getting more complex, as opposed to bowing to some simple explanation of What. Must. Happen. Now.

So journalists, please read it all. Jenkins has a way of being about a decade ahead of the curve.

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