One of the many tragedies of the religious currents swirling around the capitol insurrection and the amplification of white Christian nationalist discourse in American politics and public life is the cementing of evangelicalism with whiteness and Trumpism in the minds of many Americans.
To be sure, the association is not without warrant. Though increasingly diverse, evangelicalism remains a majority-white religion in the United States. White evangelicals have continued to overwhelmingly support Trump. White evangelical racism is real. And while more than half of all white Americans support or sympathize with white Christian nationalism, white evangelicals are the strongest supporters of white Christian nationalist perspectives and policies in the US.
But neither, however, does the association tell the whole story. The conflation of evangelicalism with whiteness and MAGA Republicanism erases the witness and experiences of Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and white progressive and multicultural evangelicals for whom white Christian nationalism is anathema.
It is a well-known fact that evangelical Protestantism has overtaken mainline Protestantism as the predominant form of Christianity in the United States over the past fifty years. While approximately 60% of white Protestants in the US identify as “born-again or evangelical Christian,” the number is even higher for Black Protestants. Approximately two-thirds of Black Protestants identify as “born-again or evangelical Christians.”
Among Latino Protestants, over three-quarters identify as born-again or evangelical Christians. Approximately two-thirds of all Hispanic Protestants in the United States are charismatic or Pentecostal, as are approximately half of all Hispanic Catholics. Overall, a slight majority of all Hispanic Americans identify as Catholic, while approximately one-quarter identify as Protestant. Hispanic and Asian American evangelicals are among the fastest-growing segments of American evangelicalism. Approximately 5% of American evangelicals are Native American, other, or mixed race.
“Approximately one-third of all evangelicals in the United States are people of color—constituting 8% of the total US population.”
Overall, approximately one-third of all evangelicals in the United States are people of color—constituting 8% of the total US population. And like nearly all demographic groups in the US, American evangelicalism is becoming increasingly multiethnic and multiracial. Among American evangelicals under the age of 30, only one-half are white, while one-half are people of color. Globally, Black and brown majority-world Christians and evangelicals now significantly outnumber those in the United States and Europe. Combined with white liberal, progressive, holistic communitarian, #NeverTrump, and dissenting evangelicals, one-third to one-half of all evangelicals in the United States are multicultural evangelicals—10% or more of the total US population.
Why should anyone care about multicultural evangelicalism?
So, why should anyone care about multicultural evangelicalism? One answer: there are a lot of multicultural evangelicals, and their social and political identities diverge significantly from the stereotypical white conservative evangelical Trump loyalists and MAGA Republicans who dominate headlines and have, for many Americans, turned the word “evangelical” into a racial (white) and political (Republican)—rather than religious—label.
“Multicultural evangelicals recognize that ethical democracy is impossible without racial justice.”
In addition to sheer numbers, another reason to care about multicultural evangelicalism is that it represents an alternative vision of the relationship between evangelical Christianity and democracy in America, one that—unlike white Christian nationalism—is consistent with pluralistic, multiracial, and ethical democracy.
For example, multicultural evangelicals recognize that ethical democracy is impossible without racial justice. In Los Angeles, multicultural evangelicals fight environmental racism in low-income Hispanic neighborhoods as part of racially and religiously diverse coalitions of grassroots democratic community organizers. In Atlanta, multicultural evangelicals live and work alongside residents of low-income majority Black neighborhoods to close the racial wealth and opportunity gap through Black homeownership, quality affordable housing, job creation, educational programming, and political advocacy.
“Multicultural evangelicals recognize that ethical democracy is impossible without support for religious, cultural, and political pluralism.”
Multicultural evangelicals also recognize that ethical democracy is impossible without support for religious, cultural, and political pluralism. In Oregon, multicultural evangelicals participate in ecumenical, transpartisan political advocacy to advance anti-poverty, health care, and environmental protection legislation. In Portland, multicultural evangelicals help lead secular and multifaith asset-based community development initiatives, participate in interfaith dialogues across deep religious and political divides, and organize massive public service collaborations to support local public schools and neighborhoods.
Multicultural evangelicals recognize that ethical democracy is impossible without economic justice and opportunity. In Boston, multicultural evangelicals participate in community organizing and development work as intentional residents of low-income neighborhoods while creating “economic discipleship” resources to mobilize economic redistribution and justice advocacy. In Los Angeles, multicultural evangelical residents of low-income Black and brown neighborhoods organize for educational, environmental, and economic justice and opportunity in their communities.
“Multicultural evangelicals recognize that ethical democracy is impossible without economic justice and opportunity.”
While some multicultural evangelicals are across-the-board progressives or political liberals, others are mosaic multiculturalists who combine a bricolage of conservative and left-liberal perspectives across various dimensions of difference and disagreement in American public life. Many multicultural evangelicals occupy a contradictory cultural location between the secular left and religious right, at odds with the binary political grammar and deepening partisan polarization of contemporary US politics and public life. It is multicultural evangelicals, with the help of their socially reflexive religious and secular partners, who are best positioned to challenge white Christian nationalist and anti-democratic expressions of evangelical Christianity in the United States. They do so by showing how evangelicals can and do work with others across race, class, religious, and political lines to achieve common good solutions to public problems, without abandoning their own distinctive convictions and identities or demanding that others do so. Ethical democracy requires no less.