It seems like we have asked this question before.
The court evangelicals got their Supreme Court justices and embassy in Israel. They got tax cuts. They think Trump is the most faith-friendly president in American history.
Today the court evangelicals are silent.
Yesterday Donald Trump told four members of the United States Congress–all women of color–to go back to their countries. As someone who spent two decades studying and teaching American history (including American immigrant history), this kind of rhetoric is racist.
It was racist when Anglo-Americans told the Irish to go back to their country.
It was racist when Italians, Jews, and Chinese were told to go back to their country.
It is racist when immigrants from the Middle East, Asia, Central America, and Southern America are told to go back to their country.
It is racist when white people tell black people to “go back to Africa.”
Here is some additional historical context.
Trump is simply calling upon an old tradition in American history. Sadly, we have been telling people to “go back to your country” since the birth of the republic. None of this is new. Trump appeals to the darkest parts of our past. This is what demagogues do. Today he refused to rescind his comments because apparently a lot of people like them.
But America has always had its better angels. We have always had men and women who have tried to consistently apply our country’s ideals to matters of race, immigration, and injustice. Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. Jack Graham, Tony Perkins, Paula White, Ralph Reed, Gary Bauer, David Barton, Jim Bakker, Lance Wallnau, Steven Strang and the rest of the court evangelicals do not fall into this category.
Sadly, the court evangelicals have chosen to side with darkness over light. They are sycophants, incapable of speaking truth to power because they have made a deal with the devil (who apparently has come in the guise of a new King Cyrus). They have enabled Donald Trump. The silence speaks volumes.
Rather than speaking out today, some of them are simply quoting Bible verses:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10)
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) July 16, 2019
— Dr. Robert Jeffress (@robertjeffress) July 16, 2019
And there is this:
The Evangelical-Trump coalition is changing America…and winning. This is why the liberal media attack evangelicals and Trump so viciously. Must-read column in @WashTimes by @RebeccaHagelin.https://t.co/SYoLludbqI
— Ralph Reed (@ralphreed) July 15, 2019
Click here to see what Trump says in private about his evangelical enablers.
Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) in PM magazine, 1941. (Here is some context).
You can definitely expect a lot of this kind of “presidential” rhetoric over the course of the next fifteen months as Donald Trump ramps up his re-election campaign. He won on white nationalism in 2016 and he will try to do it again. Trump is a racist and a xenophobe.
It is also worth noting that Robert Mueller will be testifying soon and Trump needs a distraction.
…..Sorry, can’t let them into our Country. If too crowded, tell them not to come to USA, and tell the Dems to fix the Loopholes – Problem Solved!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
And let’s not forget this:
So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
According to Trump, the members of “The Squad” do not just disagree with him politically, but they are also racially inferior because they come from the wrong countries. Wow! It almost sounds like these congresswomen came from Germany (18th-century), Ireland (19th-century) or Italy and China (20th-century). “Go back to where you came from.”
Read more at The Washington Post.
Several weeks ago, I was invited by White House staff to visit our southern border at McAllen, Texas, where federal agents are struggling to deal with a massive influx of poor and destitute human beings. They come in never-ending waves. Please believe me when I tell you that the media and leftist politicians have not been truthful about what is going on there. It is a human tragedy.
I promised the exhausted U.S. Custom and Border Patrol agents that I would go home and tell as many people as possible what I had seen “up close and personal.” Today, I am attempting to fulfill that commitment.
Approximately 5,500 people show up every day in districts organized along our southern U.S. border. McAllen is the site of only one of them, but it is the busiest and most besieged. The “refugees” arrive exhausted and ragged from walking hundreds of miles. Among them are large numbers of children, many of whom are unaccompanied by a caring adult. Last year, 382,000 aliens were apprehended for illegally crossing into this country and almost 100,000 of them were minors. Some of the kids have been abused along the way. Many of them carry lice, scabies or other diseases. Currently, the facility I visited is experiencing a flu epidemic, and there are no additional beds on which to lie. Some of the women have been raped. More than 70 people of all ages are sent to local hospitals daily along the southern border. Doctors and medical staff are overwhelmed by their patient load. Remember that word, “overwhelmed.” It describes every aspect of the effort to deal with the situation there.
The most heart-wrenching experience occurred during our tour of the holding area. It is a huge gym-like building consisting of dozens of fenced-in areas. Each one is crowded with detainees standing or sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on benches. They stared out at us with plaintive eyes.
I noticed that almost none of them were talking to each other. The children looked traumatized and frightened. Tears flooded my eyes as I stood before them. They had no toys or dolls, except for a few items bought by compassionate border patrol agents. One tiny little girl clutched something that resembled a doll bought for her by an agent. There are few provisions made to accommodate the children. The week before we were there, a delegation of agents went to meet with members of Congress, and begged them for additional money to buy Pampers, toothbrushes, and other necessities. They were turned down flat. These meager supplies have to be purchased with the border patrol budget, which is stretched to the limit.
I then walked up to a fenced area holding many skinny young men. An agent standing beside me asked if I would like to speak to them. He offered to translate for me, to which I replied, “Please tell them that God loves them.” Then I said, “Now tell them that I love them, too.” They smiled and waved timidly.
My heart aches for these poor people. Lest I be misunderstood, let me make clear that I am among the majority of Americans who want the border to be closed to those who attempt to enter illegally. There has to be a better solution than this. I have wondered, with you, why the authorities don’t just deny these refugees access to this nation. Can’t we just send them back to their places of origin? The answer I received was “No,” for reasons I will explain.
Only 10 percent of the detainees are Mexicans. This year alone, people have come to our southern border from 127 countries, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey, India, China, Palestine, Albania, San Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and other nations around the world. They speak their native tongues, which means they can’t be understood by each other or the staff. What are we to do with them? The Mexican government will not take them back, and there is no place to send them. Our current laws do not permit us to repatriate them to their country of origin. This is a disaster with no solution or projected conclusion.
Let me tell you how these desperate people come to be our responsibility. They are the lowest rung of many societies. They sell their shanties and any other possessions to scrape together $3,500 to $10,000 to pay “coyotes” to guide them. I don’t know what happens to those who can’t meet this demand. Apparently, most manage to pay the fee, and arrive penniless and profoundly needy. I was told that some of the vulnerable children are “recycled” repeatedly to help men gain entry to this country. An unknown number of these men are hardened criminals and drug runners, and they are difficult to identify. Most make their way across the border.
Here’s something else you should know. I have been under the impression that these would-be immigrants try to cross the Rio Grande River and outrun or evade the agents. That is not true of most. They come in large groups, from 100 to 400 people at a time. As I write this letter, a record 1,200 people arrived together at El Paso. The refugees quickly give themselves up to agents. That is why they have made this journey. They know they will be fed, medicated, and treated humanely, even if they are in holding areas while they are in our custody. Then they will be released on American soil. This is the system set up by a liberal Congress and judges. It is a well-known fact that President Obama’s administration established many of these unworkable policies, and Congress is steadfastly unwilling to change them. Every effort at reform has been overridden or ignored. It is set in stone. Democrats want massive numbers of immigrants who will someday become voters. Some Republicans support the policies because they want cheap labor for agricultural purposes. The border could be fixed, but there are very few in authority who seem to care.
Getting back to my story, our group of national faith leaders and humanitarian organizations was taken to a grassy park underneath the international bridges where the “coyotes” bring the refugees. We stood 50 feet away from them and watched as about 200 people sat on the ground. Then buses arrived to transport them to Border Control. Agents have to work fast because another group will be showing up soon, and then another and another. The would-be immigrants are taken to the center and given cursory medical exams. Then they are segregated by sex and age and placed in the fenced-in areas to be held for the next 20 days until they are processed and given a Notice to Appear. If that sounds inhumane, what would you or I do? There is simply no other place to “house” them.
Mismanagement of the border has a long history. A federal judge years ago issued a ruling called the Flores Settlement Agreement. It is still the source of many problems. It requires that any unaccompanied alien child must be released within 72 hours. This is now the law of the land, and poor people around the world know it. A single male typically seeks to find a child and a woman to help him “game the system.” Clearly, many of these are “fake families,” but there is no documentation in Pakistani or Bangladesh to challenge their claims. Lawyers at home have told them to claim that they are fleeing from oppression or seeking asylum. They are allowed to plead their cases to judges, but there are too few of them to keep up with the volume. These people are given a court case and released. The vast majority are never seen again. Most then become “anchor babies” who are citizens with rights to bring members of their families. Others are given transportation to an American city where they disappear into the culture.
In addition to this influx of people from places around the world steeped in poverty and despair, Senator Chuck Schumer authored and helped pass a “lottery” system, whereby winners are brought to the United States. They become permanent residents, who then begin bringing their families to our shores. Thank you, Senator.
Ten years ago, 90 percent of illegals apprehended at the border were single males, mainly from Mexico. Now, more than 50 percent show up with babies and children, and 90 percent of them are from countries other than Mexico with 64 percent being family units or unaccompanied alien children. Together, they claim to be “families” and within three weeks, they will be home free in America. Is there any doubt why there have been more than half a million illegal immigrants this year alone?
Before I conclude, I must tell you about the agents who have to deal with this chaos. They are compassionate men and women, sworn to uphold federal law and protect our borders.
They obviously care about the detainees, and I respect them highly. They work tirelessly feeding people three times a day and providing clean clothing. They must also maintain the portable toilets in the cells. It is a never-ending task. There are only two large showers in the facility, one for males, the other for females. Their capacity is for only 20 people at a time, which is insufficient.
The border patrol agents administer this program, but most of them didn’t sign up to be caregivers. Agents were trained to patrol the border and apprehend drug runners, traffickers, smugglers, murderers, and every kind of lawbreaker. This is very dangerous work. But, please understand this: the border patrol agents are so busy caring for refugees seeking entry to the United States that they have very little time to police the borders. It is so porous that huge quantities of contraband, including all kinds of narcotics, flow into this country every day. Then it is transported northward to America’s cities to be consumed by adolescents and millennials. Lawless gangs, such as MS-13, are also pouring into the culture, making violence for inner cities a way of life.
There is one more aspect to the work of the agents that you should know. They are openly hated by citizens who resent the work they do. They are routinely vilified and mocked and demonized. Their families are also subjected to ridicule. These agents need our appreciation and prayers. They have one of the most thankless jobs in America.
The situation I have described is the reason President Donald Trump’s border wall is so urgently needed. He seems to be the only leader in America who comprehends this tragedy and is willing to address it. Those who oppose him do everything they can to impede his effort. That is why I went to the border to see the situation for myself. I came away with an array of intense emotions. First, I was profoundly grieved over the misery of thousands of people. Second, I felt a deep appreciation for those who are doing their best to help in an impossible circumstance. Third, and frankly, I was angry at the political fat cats who have deliberately allowed this chaos to occur for political or financial gain. They, and their friends in the fake media, have told the American people that there is no crisis at the border! Shame on them all.
What I’ve told you is only a glimpse of what is occurring on the nation’s border. I don’t know what it will take to change the circumstances. I can only report that without an overhaul of the law and the allocation of resources, millions of illegal immigrants will continue flooding to this great land from around the world. Many of them have no marketable skills. They are illiterate and unhealthy. Some are violent criminals. Their numbers will soon overwhelm the culture as we have known it, and it could bankrupt the nation. America has been a wonderfully generous and caring country since its founding. That is our Christian nature. But in this instance, we have met a worldwide wave of poverty that will take us down if we don’t deal with it. And it won’t take long for the inevitable consequences to happen.
Thanks for letting me set the record straight.
Here are some thoughts:
1. James Dobson saw what is happening at the border and he believes that what he saw was immoral. This separates Dobson from some other court evangelicals and “family values” advocates who think that there is no crisis of human dignity at the border.
This is a very inaccurate report! I’ve been to the border and seen the great work our Border Agents are doing along with churches like ours which are ministering in Jesus Name. Extremely disappointing @dmoore https://t.co/LZ6WQnQP3F
— Jack Graham (@jackngraham) June 25, 2019
2. When Dobson says “thank you” to Chuck Schumer for his lottery system I can’t tell if he is being serious or sarcastic.
3. Essentially, Dobson says that we must treat these refugees with Christian love. He even told a group of detained men that Jesus loves them. Then, several paragraphs later, he concludes that the building of Trump’s wall is the only way to solve this crisis. I must admit, the early paragraphs of Dobson’s letter surprised me. He seems to show real Christian compassion. But then I got to the end of the letter only to find that his Christian compassion got hijacked by his nationalism. We love you. God loves you. But you can’t come into our country. Sorry.
Don’t get me wrong, we have a humanitarian crisis at the border. But Trump and the politicians have failed to offer creative solutions for how to fix it. Instead, they just blame their political opponents. I am no expert, but there must be a way to balance compassion and security.
4. At the end of the letter, Dobson takes a really ugly turns toward nativism. He says that these refugees and immigrants are unskilled, illiterate, unhealthy, and violent. He adds that they will soon “overwhelm the culture as we have known it.” He makes an appeal to history: the United States has always been a generous, caring, and Christian country, but in this instance (italics mine) we have met a worldwide wave of poverty that will take us down….”
I italicized the words “in this instance” because Dobson makes it sounds as if Americans have been warm and fuzzy toward newcomers in the past, but this instance is different. These immigrants, he suggests, are a serious threat to American culture. Dobson shows his ignorance of American history here. Historically, this kind of nativism arises whenever people fear immigrants and they demographic change they bring to the country. I have offered a few examples of this below. Read these quotes carefully and notice how the rhetoric is nearly identical to the language Dobson uses in his letter.
In a May 9, 1753 letter to Peter Collinson, Benjamin Franklin described German immigrants as “the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation.” He did not believe that they could assimilate to our political culture, saying that since they are “not…used to Liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of it.” He worried that these Germans were coming to America “in droves.” (Notice Dobson’s use of the word “flooding” to describe refugees). Franklin concludes: “in short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies…they will soon so out number us , that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our [English] language, and even our Government will become precarious.”
In Franklin’s Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind (1751) he writes: “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.”‘
In his 1835 speech, “A Plea for the West,” evangelical preacher and reformer Lyman Beecher warned against the “danger from the uneducated mind [that] is augmenting daily by the rapid influx of foreign emigrants, unacquainted with our institutions, unaccustomed to self-government, inaccessible to education, and easily accessible to prepossession, and inveterate credulity, and intrigue, and easily embodied and wielded by sinister design.” He added, “In the beginning this eruption of revolutionary Europe was not anticipated, and we opened our doors wide to the influx and naturalization of foreigners. But it is become a terrific inundation; it has increased upon our native population from five to thirty-seven percent, and is every year advancing….” Notice Beecher’s argument here. We have always welcomed immigrants, but this instance (the influx of Irish Catholic immigrants) is different.
Here is nativist Frederick Saunders in 1856: “The foreign voters, who are proved to be ignorant and in every incompetent, are admitted to the enjoyment of the electoral franchise. We, who never knew what a blind and passive obedience to law is, can form no adequate idea of the recklessness and delirium which seize hold of so many foreign immigrants the moment they put foot upon our shores. We admit that some of them are men of intellectual culture, while it will not be denied that too many are persons of the most degraded character, and destitute even of the most meager attainments….” When I read this quote about Irish immigrants I thought about Dobson’s remarks about these immigrants voting for Democrats and their lack of education.
Here is Texas congressman John Box in 1928: “The admission of large and increasing number of Mexican peons to engage in all kinds of work is at variance with the American purpose to protect the wages of its working people and maintain their standard of living. Mexican labor is not free; it is not well paid; its standard of living is low….To keep out the illiterate and the diseased is another essential part of the Nation’s immigration policy. The Mexican peons are illiterate and ignorant. Because of their unsanitary habits and living conditions and their vices they are especially subject to smallpox, venereal diseases, tuberculosis, and other dangerous contagions.”
Of course my own people (on my father’s side), the Italian immigrants who arrived to the United States at the turn of the 20th century, were also considered unclean, smelly, illiterate, unskilled, and violent.
There is nothing new about Dobson’s words here. He is not only echoing his president, but he is also echoing some of the darker moments of American history.
Perhaps you have seen the new NPR/PBS/Marist Poll on Americans reaction to Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” on the Mexican border. I used this poll to begin my lecture yesterday at the University of Southern California. If you haven’t seen it yet, here are a few things worth noting:
- 61% of all Americans disapprove of Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency. 36% approve.
- But only 26% of white evangelicals disapprove of Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency. 67% approve
- 39% of Americans believe that there is a national emergency at the Mexican border. 58% of Americans do not believe this.
- But 70% of white evangelicals believe that there is a national emergency at the Mexican border. 22% of white evangelicals do not believe this.
- 36% of Americans believe that Trump is “properly using” his presidential powers by declaring a national emergency on the border. 57% do not.
- But 69% of white evangelicals believe that Trump is “properly using” his presidential powers by declaring a national emergency on the border. 23% do not.
- 54% of Americans said that they are “less likely” to vote for Trump in 2020 because he has declared a national emergency to build a border wall. 33% of Americans said they were more “likely” to vote for Trump because of the national emergency and the wall. 12% of Americans said the wall will not make any difference in how they vote in 2020.
- Only 22% of white evangelicals said that they are “less likely” to vote for Trump in 2020 because he has declared a national emergency to build a border wall. 60% said they are more likely to vote for Trump in 2020 because he wants to build a border wall. 15% of white evangelicals said the wall will not make any difference in how they vote in 2020.
These are very revealing statistics. They tell us a lot about white evangelicals today. Why are they so supportive of Trump’s national emergency and his border wall and why are they so out of step with the rest of the American population? Read the report here and draw your own conclusions.
As I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, white evangelicals are fearful that their white Christian nation is eroding and they believe Trump’s immigration policies are the best way to save it.
Thanks to John Haas for calling this poll to my attention.
Perhaps some of you missed it. Iowa congressman Steve King, in an interview with the New York Times, said this: “White nationalists, white supremacist, Western Civilization–how did that language become offensive?”
King later tried to back away from the statement, but it was too little, too late. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy removed King from the House Judiciary and Agriculture Committees earlier this week and he was almost censured. King’s remarks were the latest in a long career defined by racist and nativist comments.
Not everyone is happy with what McCarthy, the House Republicans, and Congress have done to King. Right Wing Watch has brought to my attention news of a group of Christian Right leaders who are supporting King. The group is led by Janet Porter, a Christian Right activist who served as the spokesperson for Roy Moore’s 2017 Alabama Senate race. Porter is asking Christian Right leaders to sign a letter to Kevin McCarthy. Here is the text of that letter:
Dear Leader McCarthy,
We are appalled that Republican leadership would choose to believe a liberal news organization famous for their bias over an outstanding member of Congress who has served the people of Iowa and the United States honorably and faithfully for 16 years.
If Congressman Steve King believed and stood by the outrageous misquote of the New York Times, then the actions taken against him would have been warranted, but the opposite is true.
Unlike North Korea, we in the United States are “innocent until proven guilty” and hold to the principles of Western Civilization, as Rep. King so admirably does. The foundational principle begins with the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These are the principles to which Rep. King was referring and which he has championed for more than two decades of public service.
Don’t make the fatal mistake of turning the reins of the U.S. Congress over to the liberal media, allowing them to target, misquote, and falsely brand any member of Congress they wish to remove.
We call on you to do the right thing as Minority Leader: issue a public apology and reinstate Rep. King to his committee assignments. If we don’t stand with this good man against the media-manufactured assault today, none of us will be safe from it tomorrow.
The Christian Right leaders who signed this letter include:
- The scandal-ridden former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
- Court evangelical and family values radio host James Dobson
- Court evangelical and charismatic media mogul Steven Strang
- Paul Blair, president of an organization called Reclaiming America for Christ
- Rick Scarborough, a conservative Southern Baptist political activist
- Lance Wallnau, a court evangelical who claims to have prophesied Donald Trump’s election.
- Rena Lindevaldsen, a law professor at Liberty University
- Jim Garlow, a pastor and prominent court evangelical who recently co-authored a book with David Barton.
- Cythnia Dunbar, a member of the Republican National Committee who is probably best known for trying to bring Christian nationalist ideas into American history books in Texas. (She also claimed that Barack Obama, if elected POTUS, would work with terrorists to attack the United States within his first 6 months in office).
- William Federer, a Christian nationalist known for collecting quotes about the founding fathers
I discuss Dobson, Strang, and Wallnau in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.
This letter may be more revealing for the people who DID NOT sign it, including Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, Ralph Reed, Gary Bauer, Franklin Graham, Paula White, Johnnie Moore, Eric Metaxas, and other court evangelicals.
Over at VOX, Tara Isabella Burton tackles this issue. She wonders why so many evangelical leaders reject anti-immigration rhetoric and so many of their followers embrace it.
Here is a taste:
From his dismissal of “shithole countries” to his attempts to institute a “Muslim travel ban,” from his incendiary rhetoric about Mexican immigrants being rapists and criminals, to his latest attempts to prevent the Honduran migrants to seeking asylum, Trump’s approach to borders has been one of nativism and insularity by protecting (his idea of white) America at the expense of everyone else. And, by and large, white evangelicals on the ground have followed suit — even when some in evangelical leadership is advocating for more nuanced policy positions.
The reasons for this discrepancy are complicated. They include a white evangelical population that gets its moral sense as much from conservative media as it does from scripture. There’s also a more general conflation of white evangelicalism with the GOP party agenda, which has been intensifying since the days of the Moral Majority in the 1980s.
As Jenny Yang, vice president for advocacy and policy for World Relief, the humanitarian wing of the National Association for Evangelicals, told Vox, white evangelicals’ views on immigration are more likely to be shaped “not from their local church or their pastor, but actually from the news media. … This has become an issue of the church being discipled by the media more than the Bible or the local pastor in terms of their views on immigration.”
Ed Stetzer, a Christian author and commentator who leads the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, agreed. “White evangelicals are more shaped on this issue by Republican views,” he told Vox. “They’re being discipled by their cable news network of choice and by their social media feeds.” He pointed out that, while white evangelicals are more likely than other religious voting blocs to express conservative views on immigration, they don’t necessarily do so at greater rates than nonwhite evangelical Republicans.
In other words, the political views of white evangelicals may say far more about their party affiliation than it does about their theological identity. In the Trump era, in particular, white evangelical Christianity and nativist political isolation have become particularly intertwined. Trump, his administration, and its allies have used the language of Christian nationalism to shore up their political base.
Read the entire piece here. Sadly, it appears that Fox News-style fear-mongering easily sways many white evangelicals. Or at least this is what I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.
In an interview with Axios on HBO, Trump confirmed what had been suspected since last summer: He is planning an executive order that would try to change the meaning of the Constitution as it has been applied for the past 150 years—and declare open season on millions of native-born Americans.
The order would apparently instruct federal agencies to refuse to recognize the citizenship of children born in the United States if their parents are not citizens. The Axios report was unclear on whether the order would target only American-born children of undocumented immigrants, children of foreigners visiting the U.S. on nonpermanent visas—or the children of any noncitizen.
No matter which of these options Trump pursues, the news is very somber. A nation that can rid itself of groups it dislikes has journeyed far down the road to authoritarian rule.
The idea behind the attack on birthright citizenship is often obscured by a wall of dubious originalist rhetoric and legalese. At its base, the claim is that children born in the U.S. are not citizens if they are born to noncitizen parents. The idea contradicts the Fourteenth Amendment’s citizenship clause, it flies in the face of more than a century of practice, and it would create a shadow population of American-born people who have no state, no legal protection, and no real rights that the government is bound to respect.
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
Sara Egge, an assistant professor of history at Centre College, reminds us that history is complicated. Over at Zocalo, Egge shows how some women fighting for the right to vote “saw German men as backward, ignorant, and less worthy of citizenship than themselves.”
Here is a taste:
Nativist fear built into outright hysteria, and Midwestern suffragists began recasting decades of foreign resistance to assimilation as treason. They argued that to protect democracy, only those citizens who understood civic responsibility should vote. By 1917, when the United States entered World War I, suffragists crystallized their message. In South Dakota, propaganda warned of the untrustworthy “alien enemy” while celebrating patriotic suffragists who sacrificed “so deeply for the world struggle.” Another message deemed the “women of America…too noble and too intelligent and too devoted to be slackers” like their German counterparts.
That rhetorical maneuver finally gave woman suffrage the political leverage it needed to achieve victory. In November 1918, voters in South Dakota passed a woman suffrage amendment to the state’s constitution with an impressive 64 percent majority. Of the first 15 states to ratify the 19th Amendment, about half were in the Midwest— a startling shift for a region that had seemed permanently opposed to woman suffrage.
While Shaw’s speech was meant for an audience living in an important historical moment and place, it also resonates today. Suffragists had no qualms about using nativism to open democracy to women. They were willing to skewer immigrants in their decades-long quest for political equality. Shaw’s remarks also remind us how many assumptions Americans have made—in 1914 and today—about the rights and responsibilities that accompany citizenship.
Read the entire piece here.
A poll conducted by Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic has much to say about white evangelicals in the United States.
- 61% of evangelicals believe that the United States is moving in the right direction. This compares to 64% of all Americans who believe that the United States is moving in the wrong direction.
- 79% percent of white evangelicals believe “media bias” is hurting the country. 50% of religious unaffiliated people believe this.
- 77% of white evangelicals view Trump favorably. 17% of non-white Protestants view Trump favorably.
- 52% of white evangelicals feel negatively about the very real possibility that whites will be a minority in the United States by 2043.
On the last point: When Trump said last week that immigration was changing the “culture” of Europe, he was appealing to a significant portion of his evangelical base.
Here is a taste of Yonat Shimron’s article at Religion News Service:
“I argued that white evangelical voters have really shifted from being values voters to being what I call ‘nostalgia voters,’” said Jones. “They’re voting to protect a past view of America that they feel is slipping away. That’s driving evangelical politics much more than the old culture-war dynamics.”
Brantley Gasaway, a professor of American religious studies at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., said white evangelicals’ fears about the nation’s growing racial diversity might be linked to their perception of religious diversity.
“They perceive that America becoming less white means America will become less Christian,” he said. “I don’t think that’s true. Many Latino immigrants are coming from predominantly Christian nations. But they perceive changes in racial demographics as being a threat to the predominance of Christians in the United States.”
As a group, white evangelicals are declining. A decade ago they made up 23 percent of the U.S. population; today it’s more like 15 percent, Jones said. But they have an outsize influence at the ballot box because they tend to vote in high numbers.
The one area where religious groups appeared united is in their support for legislation that would make it easier to vote — measures such as same-day voter registration and restoring voting rights for people convicted of felonies.
Here is a taste of CNN’s coverage of today’s Donald Trump–Theresa May press conference:
President Donald Trump said Friday that European leaders “better watch themselves” because immigration is “changing the culture” of their societies.
“I think it has been very bad, for Europe. … I think what has happened is very tough. It’s a very tough situation — you see the same terror attacks that I do,” Trump said at a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May outside of London.
“I just think it is changing the culture, I think it is a very negative thing for Europe,” Trump said.
“I know it is politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I will say it and I will say it loud,” Trump added.
Let’s face it. Trump’s remarks have very little to do with England or Europe. I think he could care less about what happens to these countries.
These comments are about the United States. They represent his ongoing nativism and racism. Comments like this appeal to his white Christian base and trigger the kind of fear I write about in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. Trump is telling white Christian Americans afraid of ethnic, racial, and religious diversity that he will be a strongman who will protect them from such diversity.
Here is a taste of his piece at Commonweal:
Kelly, an Irish-American Catholic from Boston, is either oblivious to the irony of someone with his family’s background trafficking in pernicious stereotypes or knowingly tapping into the power of caricatures to dehumanize people. Irish immigrants were similarly demonized in the nineteenth century when they fled the Potato Famine. Like the parents of today’s Dreamers, they took great risks in search of a better life for their family. The Irish were viewed as so alien to the Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority they were not even regarded by many as “white.” The Boston Globe described the zeitgeist of the era in a 2016 article.
In the popular press, the Irish were depicted as subhuman. They were carriers of disease. They were drawn as lazy, clannish, unclean, drunken brawlers who wallowed in crime and bred like rats. Most disturbingly, the Irish were Roman Catholics coming to an overwhelmingly Protestant nation and their devotion to the pope made their allegiance to the United States suspect.
It was out of this context that a nativist movement flourished. By the 1850s, the Know-Nothing Party, originally called the American Party, included eight governors, more than one-hundred congressmen, and held power in half a dozen state legislatures. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan expanded in New England and the Midwest, targeting immigrants and Catholics. A massive KKK rally in Worcester, Mass. attracted as many as fifteen-thousand people in 1924. At the end of the rally, the Klan clashed with Catholics who came to counter protest under a Knights of Columbus banner.
The politics of nativism is not new. But there is something particularly galling about Catholic members of this administration such as Kelly, and powerful members of Congress, including Speaker Paul Ryan, leading or enabling the contemporary incarnation of anti-immigrant policies and xenophobia. Ryan posted a picture on Twitter this week showing him welcoming a member of the Irish Parliament. “Even if my Gaelic is a little rough,” Ryan tweeted, “always great to connect with my roots.”
Kelly, Ryan, and others should remember those roots included immigrants from a different place but with the same dreams. In the face of craven politicians who perpetuated fear and ugly stereotypes, those immigrants persevered and made America great.
Read the entire piece here.
JF: What led you to write Anti-Catholicism in America?
MJF: The boring answer is that Cambridge asked me to put together a narrative about anti-Catholicism in early America that could be used in an undergraduate classroom. The more interesting answer, however, has to do with my sense, while watching protests over the construction of an Islamic Cultural Center in lower Manhattan in 2010, that we have been here before. Many immigrant groups have been viewed as a threat by native-born Americans — and sometimes, as is the case now, it’s been because those immigrant groups have been associated with violence. But in the case of nineteenth-century Catholics and twenty-first-century Muslims, I think the fears were — are — about something deeper, as well. The anxieties have been rooted in the not-entirely-unfounded sense that Catholics and Muslims have (or have had) an understanding of “freedom” that is different from the American understanding of freedom.
JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Anti-Catholicism in America?
MJF: The book argues that anti-Catholic bias played an essential role in shaping colonial and antebellum understandings of God, the individual, salvation, society, government, law, national identity, and freedom. For this reason, the early history of anti-Catholicism in America can provide us with a framework for understanding what is at stake in our contemporary debates about the place of Muslims and other non-Christian groups in the United States today.
JF: Why do we need to read Anti-Catholicism in America?
MJF: To give us hope — and maybe a bit of humility, too (she said with a striking lack of humility…). As I note in my introduction, anti-Catholicism — which was such a salient force in America’s political and cultural history for such a long period of time — is basically gone now. It’s a tool that is utilized primarily by internet trolls (and, recently, by one thoughtless and impolitic senator from California who was looking to derail the nomination of a conservative law professor from Notre Dame to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But I think the collective response of political and religious leaders to Diane Feinstein’s questioning of Amy Coney Barrett confirms my assertion that anti-Catholicism is no longer an “acceptable” impulse in America.). If the Catholic understanding of freedom can become more compatible with the American understanding of freedom — and the American understanding can become more compatible with the Catholic — then maybe the same will happen with Muslims? And certainly the fact that our cultural understandings of freedom are protean — as any serious study of history will reveal — should give us all pause as we make political claims that are based on our sense of what freedom is and what it takes to secure it.
JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?
MJF: My journey to this place has been marked by some rather significant diversions (I worked as a reporter for several years — though Phil Graham, if he were still alive, might say I was just playing with the “first rough draft of history”…). But I think I first fell in love with early American history when my family and I took a summer vacation to Massachusetts. I was maybe 14 or 15 years old? I still pinch myself, sometimes, that I now get to live in this state.
JF: What is your next project?
MJF: I may be leaving religion for a while. I don’t know. I’ve stumbled upon a tragic story from the late nineteenth century that involves people from two prominent American families. I’m hoping to use this story as a springboard into a greater exploration of the role of the frontier in defining American freedom (there’s the common thread, I guess…); the beginnings of the conservation movement; and the phenomenon of so-called “remittance men” and their place in the literature and lore of the American West.
JF: Thanks, Maura!
Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy.
—Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, August 24, 1855
HT: John Craig Hammond
We discussed this in my Pennsylvania History class today. This kind of nativism was very strong in Philadelphia in the 1840s and 1850s. We did our best to stay in the 19th century.
In case you have not heard, Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal, released today, eliminates funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. This morning I wrote an extended piece on this development. We are currently shopping it around.
In the meantime, here is another reason why the NEH might be useful. Read this recent tweet from our Vice President:
We may be separated by an ocean, but the American people have always been bound by kinship to the Irish people.
— Vice President Pence (@VP) March 16, 2017
I can’t imagine that mid-19th century Irish immigrants felt this deep sense of kinship.
Michael Gerson continues his full-blown frontal assault on Donald Trump from the pages of The Washington Post.
In yesterday’s column Gerson admits that evangelical Christians may have it easier under Trump. For example, today Trump reinstated a ban on using U.S. funds to promote abortions in foreign countries. We will see if this appeal to evangelical concerns continues when Trump gets around to appointing a Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia.
But evangelicals, Gerson argues, must take seriously three other important dimensions of their faith and political witness in the age of Trump.
- Trump is a nativist who devalues immigrants. Evangelicals must take him on when he demeans other human beings this way.
- Evangelicals need to remember that religious liberty does not only apply to them. It applies to Muslims as well. If they refuse to grant the same degree of religious liberty to Muslims they are ultimately shooting themselves in the foot. As Gerson writes, “hypocrisy is a form of self-harm.” Evangelicals should not fail to show love to their Muslim neighbors, especially since they fear what will happen to them now that Trump is President.
- Evangelicals should be cautious about seeking political power. Gerson writes: “when religion identifies with a political order, it is generally not the political order that suffers most.”
In politics, Christians should not be known primarily for defending their institutional liberty, as important as that is. They should be known for a Christian anthropology that puts the dignity of life — of every life — at the center of the political enterprise. And they should be known for courage in applying this commitment, without prejudice, to every party and ideology.
There are temptations of pride in this prophetic role as well. (Obviously, some of my regular readers might sigh.) It is easy, through an excess of outrage, to become the parody of a prophet. But Christian faith, at its best, points to a transcendent order of justice and hope that stands above politics. So it was in the abolitionist struggle and the civil rights movement. So it needs to be in the Trump era.
Read the entire piece here.
Yesterday we linked to John Turner’s Anxious Bench essay “Muslims are the New Mormons.” Turner is not the only one making historical analogies these days. In a recent essay at Religion Dispatches Patricia Miller reminds us that 19th-century Americans were not always very friendly to Catholics.
Here is a taste of her piece: “When Catholics Were the Muslims“:
Erika Lee, the director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota and the author of The Making of Asian America, argues that Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from the United States makes the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 look tame by comparison. The Chinese Exclusion Act only applied to manual laborers.
She explains in a recent seven-minute interview at Public Radio International.