The End of White Evangelical Hegemony

We aren't going back to a world of white evangelical privilege.

For decades, white evangelicalism has positioned itself as the apogee of Christianity. This claim was never legitimate, but the media prowess, monied interests, and political clout of white evangelical leaders in the 20th and 21st centuries in America meant that this became the de facto understanding.

Nonetheless, we are witnessing that era coming to an end.

We are witnessing the end of white evangelical hegemony.

This is not persecution, though white evangelical leaders will interpret it as such and further internalize this narrative. This is not cancel culture (though true cancel culture was born in evangelicalism—ask Rob Bell, Jennifer Knapp, Jen Hatmaker, Amy Grant, Sixpence, Ray Boltz, and countless others). This is the consequence of decades of trends coalescing at once, as white evangelical institutions and norms became more and more constricting, pushing out would-be reformers.

This is the consequence of refusing to engage said reformers pushing the church toward gender equality, LGBTQ+ affirmation, and racial justice and reparations.

This is the consequence of white evangelicals wedding the future of their faith to the GOP since the 1970s, culminating in them not being the Bride of Christ but becoming the Bride of Trump.

This is the consequence of steady white evangelical support for President Trump, to whom they gave infinite mulligans, no matter what he did.

The country and the world watched. Their congregants watched. Many left.

With Trump, white evangelicals and their Christian nationalist allies gained considerable political power and clout. With Trump’s loss and the events of January 6th, the world saw the outcome of the Christian nationalism allowed and encouraged to run rampant in white evangelical communities.

In this last-ditch attempt to keep its power, it showed its truest self. No amount of back-pedaling will make that less true.

Let’s be clear: White evangelical institutions will endure. They remain well-funded. But they have lost something they’ve long controlled: the narrative.

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White evangelical institutions and their prominent leaders are facing scrutiny from all sides. The media has had a crash course in Christian nationalism, elevating the profile of academics and experts on the topic over the last two months. Just this week, The Witness Black Christian Collective launched the #LeaveLoud campaign, and prominent evangelical teacher1 Beth Moore left the Southern Baptist Convention. The #LeaveLoud campaign in particular calls attention to the lived experience of racism in predominantly white evangelical churches:

“In recent months, we’ve seen a surge of Black leaders and congregants in predominantly white or multiethnic churches and Christian spaces decide that it’s time for them to go. We bear witness to the hurt, harm, and frustration that our siblings have experienced. Enough is enough. It’s time to #LeaveLOUD

To #LeaveLOUD is to tell our stories, to name things for what they are, to take back the dignity we’ve lost while being in institutions that don’t value the fullness of the image of God within us, and to go where we are celebrated and not just tolerated.”

The steady work of people publicly sharing their stories of deconstruction, their stories of abuse, their stories of triumph and flourishing after leaving evangelicalism over the past several years is yielding results. Hashtags like #exvangelical, #EmptyThePews, #ChurchToo, #deconstruction, #decolonize, #religioustrauma, and #LeaveLoud make it much easier for those still embedded in these communities than it has been in the past. Podcasts and books and Instagram feeds and Facebook groups explore these topics from all manner of perspectives, and do not require a particular set of theological belief.

There is evidence white evangelical groups feel the winds shifting, and they have sought to appropriate and reframe deconstruction with hackneyed attempts like “#revangelical.2

As of today, Franklin Graham consistently ranks in the Top 10 best-performing links on Facebook. Influential white evangelicals maintain incredible privilege, power, and reach. But their age of hegemony and agenda-setting is over.

They have isolated themselves. Their prior congregants will move on and find new beliefs to affirm, and they will be empowered to be honest about their trauma by the long line of leavers before them. The exvangelical dispersal will bear witness to and affirm their choice.3

White evangelicalism has lost control of the narrative. It is up to us to tell our own.

1

She is not called a “pastor” because of the rigid discriminatory complementarianism of her former denomination.

3

I use the term “exvangelical dispersal” to describe people who have left white evangelical faith communities, regardless of their self-identifying label. “Exodus” and “diaspora” felt inappropriate in this context. See this short thread on Twitter for more.