Really, White Christians?

The Religion News Service has reported on a recent survey from Pew:

In April, Pew asked Americans which was the bigger problem facing the country when it comes to matters of race: People overlooking racism when it exists or seeing racism in places where there is none.

Overall, just about half (53%) of Americans said people not seeing discrimination where it does exist was a bigger problem. Just under half (45%) said people seeing discrimination where is does not exist is the bigger issue. 

What was most illuminating about this split in public opinion was the breakdown of who believed what.

Among religious groups, however, white Christians are most likely to say claims about non-existent racial discrimination is the biggest problem, including majorities of white Evangelicals (72%), white Catholics (60%) and white Mainline Protestants (54%), according to data provided to Religion News Service from Pew Research.

Few Black Protestants (10%), unaffiliated Americans (35%) or non-Christian religious Americans (31%) agreed….

Among Non-White unaffiliated adults, 71% say overlooking racial discrimination is the bigger issue, compared with 29% who give the opposite answer.  

Well, I’m just shocked. NOT.

The report noted that the wide divide over issues of race and racism has become more heated among American Christians over the past few years. It has prompted the so-called war against “woke” and has pitted those who believe America still suffers from systemic racism against those who dismiss any concern about those structural disadvantages as the dreaded (and totally mischaracterized) “CRT.”

That divide has fueled conflicts in the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical groups, led to feuds in local churches and Christian colleges, become a major debate during school board meetings and been a major talking point in the current race for U.S. president. The issue of race also led to concerns about the rise of white Christian nationalism in churches.

The divide wasn’t just between White Christians and everyone else; it was also–predictably–partisan:

Most Republicans and those who lean Republican (74%) said that people seeing non-existent racism is a bigger problem, while 80% of Democrats say the bigger problem is people not seeing racism that exists.

To be fair, one of the problems with polls of this sort is that language is imprecise. If a respondent defines “racism” as overt hostility–burning a cross on a black family’s lawn, or shooting random people because they are Black–that respondent is more likely to see the problem as people being labeled “Karens” for less blatant behaviors.

A recent column in the Guardian reacting to the recent racist shooting in Jacksonville, Florida illustrates what we might call the continuum of racism.

As the article noted, Jacksonville’s murders followed a larger mass shooting of Black Americans in Buffalo, New York. Both were motivated by an explicit desire to kill Black people.

The gunmen’s ideology of white supremacy, revealed in their rants, revolved around the perceived threat to White people from higher birth rates among non-whites, and included  animus against gays and Jews. The Buffalo gunman’s manifesto, for example, included his belief that gender fluidity is a plot by Jews to subvert the west (AKA White civilization), and that critical race theory is a Jewish plot “to brainwash Whites into hating themselves and their people.” 

Plenty of those who think American racism is overplayed harbor similar, albeit modified, versions of those beliefs: As the article points out, the idea that Whites face a threat of replacement by non-Whites explains much of the brutal treatment of immigrants, emerges in the mass incarceration of Black Americans, and helps explain the lack of action on America’s vast racial wealth gap and militarized police force. 

As the essay notes, politicians like Ron DeSantis “recenter the world through the lens of an America defined by whiteness and Christianity.”

Through this lens, it certainly does appear that America is under threat by non-white mass immigration. Critical race theory is indeed a threat to such a perspective, as is an education that also allows a Black perspective on US history, or one that normalizes LGBTQ+ citizens. It is a politics that has justified DeSantis’s treatment of immigrants as things. More recently, DeSantis has essentially suggested shooting migrants even suspected to be drug smugglers – here, he connects immigrants to crime, and uses that connection to justify killing some of them on sight.

It’s easy to make sense of the Pew survey. If you are a Republican White Christian American who  thinks “racism” is defined as overt violence against people who aren’t White Christians, then America is indeed overhyping its prevalence. If you dismiss as irrelevant the defense of privilege and the persistence of structures that operate to disadvantage those “others” then concerns about systemic racism are clearly overblown. 


Today’s Americans don’t just occupy different realities; we speak different languages.


  1. The more I learn the worse this situation appears. For example, I recently viewed Henry Louis Gates program on PBS :
    I knew life was hard for these people but it was far WORSE than I ever knew. For example, there is the story of a black man coming back from the war. He needed to use the restroom on the way back home (on a bus). The driver stopped and got a local cop who gouged the mans eyes out with his night stick. As I recall, there was no price to pay for the cop. Welcome Home Soldier. Thank you for your service. I can see why the haters are so afraid of teaching real history. Once you see these stories, it is impossible to believe the right wing anti-black lies.

  2. You cant rely on polls to make such huge conclusions. There are a majority of white or black Christians that are peace loving that understand we are all related to Noah as cousins. The more knowledge we have, the less reactive we are.

  3. Many whites rely on black commentators like Candace Owens or Thomas Sowell to hear what they want to hear, not what reality is, sort of why they watch FOX or Newsmaxx. They seek confirmation not information. I used to fall for that myself, to my shame, until I decided to try and confirm my right wing beliefs & talking points. What I found was that the other side was using facts so I followed the facts. Too many won’t follow facts either because they don’t want to admit they were wrong or because they are so sure they know what is what and use the comments from people like Owens or Sowell to rationalize their obstinate behaviors.

  4. What really gets me about the Guardian article is that it does not really provide any solutions. People who have such horrible ideologies are used to make political statements instead of trying to find out what leads them down this road.
    By the time you got done reading, the iHeart article would think that Ron DeSantis actually taught him how to do this. I know some people actually believe that and want to believe that.

    Both my wife and I have been fighting discrimination by actively being involved in the community educating and finding jobs for the black individuals. So when I read some things like this about white people killing Black people it’s heartbreaking . Blacks whether they are liberal or conservative or Cannon Lee tell you that the discrimination they go through even today as well as what they’ve gone through. In the past the stories need to be told.
    The white bothers me the most about articles like the guardians is that it is used for political purposes, instead of finding solutions that actually make a difference.
    Black on black crime is no different than white on white crime, but where people become haters of other ethnic groups, ghat becomes a real problem. This sdministration is doing less to solve problems of sec trafficking by allowing children to immigrate without their parents even.
    There is real discord in this country, but thise who said they would be a solution to Trump are now appearing to be worse. No one can afford a botyke of ketchup for almost$4.50.

  5. Perhaps it would be helpful if every citizen made a firm decision to be racism free. Excoriating skin color as a determining factor in one’s existence is a fabulous choice for thinking people. Well, thinking is a factor in loving. Loving each other is a staunch reality leading to a peaceful, healthy society.

  6. With the Bible thumpers; the Sons of Ham are supposed to be discriminated against, being the lower form of humanity. Whatever the reasoning behind it; IT IS ALL WRONG. Discrimination should not be the ruling factor in our lives and especially not in our government which is designed to work for all equally. Republicans repealing our human and civil rights Amendments have their few tokens on display but we do not know what goes on inside their placements in government regarding their treatment or level of respect.

  7. If you are comfortable with your belief system; if you are content living in a 95%+ white world, why would you see and recognize racial discrimination? If everyone at your church, everyone at the store where you shop, everyone in your “group”, everyone of your relatives that you associate with, everyone at work that you must interact with….if all of these people are white, of course all you see is a racist free world?
    For me, what is heartbreaking about this topic is that we are discussing it 60 years after the March on Washington. Have we learned nothing?

  8. As a Christian, a liberal Episcopalian, once again, I’m deeply sadden to see the corruption of faith. But, a perspective: Evangelicals have a deep-seated superiority that comes from the emphasis on ‘being saved.’ They see the world in terms of those who are ‘saved’ (which means belonging to their church, usually) and those who are not. Yet, even though they are ‘saved’ they suffer the same indignities of life we all do–bad marriages, uncontrollable kids, unpaid bills, etc. So, for them, life is unfair. Their strong sense of victimhood makes it really hard for them to see real victims. They really do see the world in terms of those who belong to their faith having the God-given right to be superior and those who don’t.

    I remember 40 years ago hearing a lecture where the now-forgotten speaker was saying the biggest threat to the world was the emergence of fundamentalism of all stripes. I thought at the time, he was crazy. Little did I know!

  9. This is somewhat a “truth” issue with polls, as Sheila importantly pointed out:

    “To be fair, one of the problems with polls of this sort is that language is imprecise. If a respondent defines “racism” as overt hostility–burning a cross on a black family’s lawn, or shooting random people because they are Black–that respondent is more likely to see the problem as people being labeled “Karens” for less blatant behaviors.”

    The English language is highly known to be twisted by the personal connotations of words, such as racism.

    It is disappointing to see Pew be so lazy in its work…

  10. It’s 2023, and race should no longer be an issue. The younger generations are mixed in all sorts of colors. One of the traditional groups I attend just scrubbed “men” and “women” from their literature to replace it with “people.” It’s more politically correct and brings our literature out of the 30s.

    Guess who balked?

    Older white men.

    They complained that California groups had too much influence over the organization and should stay as it has always been. They claimed it was coming from the “woke crowd.”

    I’ve heard the same men and women talk about people of color attending groups. Bigotry and stupidity seem to go hand in hand. Maybe this is why Republicans hate education of all sorts. They believe it should be limited to rich white kids.

    I guess stupid people won’t question that ignorant, lying people are becoming millionaires working for the billionaire oligarchs. 😉

  11. How do we fix it? Whoever can answer that question would be a hero to many, but may also be crucified. “The prophet is not without honor, except in his own town and his own home.” (Matthew 13, v 53 – 58).

    We have to do what we’ve never done. We have to teach the real history of the world. We don’t have to ram all the bad down the throats of children, but we do have to face our demons. Children can understand that we have often struggled to find the correct way to go. Make sure that they can find information about those struggles. Encourage them to report and discuss what they find. It’s not a cure, but it might be a start.

  12. “…DeSantis has essentially suggested shooting migrants even suspected to be drug smugglers – here, he connects immigrants to crime, and uses that connection to justify killing some of them on sight.” Special! This is a direct descendant of Trump’s escalator idiocy about all Mexicans being rapists and drug runners. And, as i understand it, DeSantis was selected by Trump, from out of the benighted Florida legislature, to set him up for his first, and stolen, gubernatorial run.
    The replacement theory is full of hot air, but resonates well with the anxieties of the bigots.
    And, no, they do not see racism as an American problem, most likely because they see America as
    justifiably racist. If it’s justifiable, what’s wrong with it. Just go ask Governor Faubus

  13. I don’t argue with anyone about the existence of systemic racism in the US, I just ask them if they would trade places with a black person for the rest of their lives. It shuts them up and starts them thinking.

  14. Right out of HCR’s commentary of today:
    “But in his Editorial Board newsletter, John Stoehr pointed out that the increasing violence of white supremacists isn’t just about an “ideology of hate” rising, but it is “about a minority faction of the country going to war, literal war, with a majority faction.” He pointed to former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin’s recent prediction of civil war because “We’re not going to keep putting up with this…. We do need to rise up and take our country back.” Stoehr calls these white supremacists “Realamericans” who believe they should rule and, if they can’t do so lawfully, believe they are justified in taking the law into their own hands. “

  15. While the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, does it also protect online blogs or sources that push racism and anti-semitism? It seems to me that such sources could be prosecuted for defamation and slander – because they truly are defaming and slandering certain races of people with the intention to cause harm.

    I’m no lawyer, but it seems that our country has allowed far too much protection of speech. If the people that they hate have not caused any personal harm, then why is such hate speech protected when it clearly causes young white males to commit random mass murders.

    Are the violent young white males just losers within our society who feel the need to be accepted somewhere, so they find that acceptance in online hate groups?

  16. The word “racism” is in the “mind of the beholder”. One can understand that someone who feels strongly that society should take care of the “underserved” of any color/ethnicity/etc. feel that social programs based on race are “racist” .

  17. Here’s a question which doesn’t seem to be argued any longer; are Blacks capable of racism? They have denied it in the past but I haven’t seen evidence of it recently; is it just ignored these days. Like any relationship problem, there are always two sides which doesn’t mean any one is all right or all wrong.

  18. Nancy Hutchens, your comment was eye opening. I hadn’t viewed right wing white Christian behavior in that light. It clarifies things for me.

  19. Religions are cults. They ask that you believe the unbelievable.

    The bad news is that those who are lost to the cults are generally irredeemable.

    The good news is that they are dying, and the young people are largely having none of it.

  20. The difference is TRUTH. That poll like you said doesn’t state the question properly allowing for a different interpretation.

    Whenever I see racism, which isn’t very often except online, I ask, WHERE DID YOUR PEOPLE COME FROM? Because if they are lily white with freckles, they aren’t native Americans. Harvard University is calling Death Santis and asking for their degree back. Same with Candice Owens because I believe, she’s married to a white guy so I have no idea what her deal is.

    Anyway, being married to a brown man that is now a citizen, I have had the experience of racism in my face here and abroad. I can almost hear the question projecting from their face “What is she doing with that guy? Can’t she find a white guy?”

    Those people are strictly in denial and I won’t give them the time of day. If they did ask me I would tell them that I was once married to a white guy that couldn’t become a cop because he was TOO RACIST! He thought all black and brown people were criminals. One of the reasons I divorced him and thankfully, haven’t had to deal with him for 30 years either.

    If that is their belief, you can’t undo that without a lot of deprogramming. You have to get the Rush Limbaugh out of them. We’ve had 30 years of Rush Limbaugh poisoning the well of public ‘free speech’ and we need to undo that. We need to teach our children exactly what black folks have had to put up with for four centuries.

    I read the book 1619. It discusses Critical Race Theory. Also, reading Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States another great catalog of b.s. racism from our past. Educate yourself!

  21. Someone above said “all related to Noah as cousins.” Really?

    We have anthropology and genetics. We know from whence all humans came. There is no longer any link missing. We are not cousins though Noah. The story of Noah is symbolic and based on pre-Christian, pre-Jewish mythology invented by people who didn’t know where the sun went at night.

    We are indeed all cousins. We are all originated from Africa. There have been multiple forms of pre-humans and humans who preceded us – different species interbreeding after many migrations around the world, until our current form remained as the survivors. ONE form. ONE people.

  22. Let’s for contrast’s sake employ a “What if” out of the racism bag. What if black people had been the majority and had enslaved Caucasians as chattels to plant and pick their cotton and tobacco, replete with their own De Fascists and ingrained hatred of such slaves and their inferior culture? What would our responses to Sheila’s effort today be if we could put ourselves in the other guys’ shoes?

    We can’t know, of course, having been exposed primarily to a reverse culture than that suggested above, a culture in which our revered forefathers denied the right of slaves and women to vote, for instance, and with the worst Supreme Court decision ever, Dred Scott, whose reverberations from color to gender have been resurrected by the culture warriors in Dobbs, following Citizens United as the latest judicial atrocity crying out for reversal.

    Rather than making cultural progress it appears we are currently forced to use our civic energy in defending the status quo from culture warriors who want to go back to a yesteryear culture of religion and capital, racism and monopoly, and all undergirded by terminal greed.

    Perhaps a four member addition to a Supreme Court composed of Thomases and Alitos would put us progressives back on track. Perhaps.

  23. Probably central to white fear of and opposition to advancement of black and brown folks is concern that when the latter are the political majority, they will treat whites the way whites have treated them from 1619 to the present.

  24. not much has changed since Dr Kings vision. living around the underclass most of my days,there is still no let up on racism. either 1963,or 2023. except it now has a ignorant maga horn called social media. we may never see the end of this, and its prevelence. call em tariler trash, or whatever, butbthe evangelicos cant come to terms with those who dont believe. as far as scripture from the pulpit, double face theology. whatever suits the time and need. theres a few wokers,(white evans) who come up here to work from the south, and read,if they can social media for any and all drivel they can absorb. when i asked how come they dont work i fla? they said its a no living wage state even for road const. maybe then ya might wanna figure your wallets more important than that laser that the goverment used to toast Maui. (they said it,not me) they didnt smile after that..

  25. To everyone who denies the existence of white privilege, stop for a moment and consider that privilege includes all the things that white Americans don’t need to do every day. Like worrying about about being stopped for “driving while being black”, being suspect in a store because of your skin color, having “the talk” with your children on what to do when they’re stopped by the police, etc, etc, etc.

  26. The Atlantic magazine had an article about the harmful effects of statin drugs for cholesterol issues. A drug with an impossibly long name is deep in the research pipeline, but it may not be helpful to me, as I study my advanced age. At least there is ongoing research. It’s a start. Writer Sarah Zhang was talking about me and thousands of others. I subscribed right then and there! Today’s Atlantic newsletter has an article about cults, escaping them, the Trump cult, and how to handle his rabid followers, with the idea of helping them out of their tangle, twisted situation. Great writer/writing! I am sold on The Atlantic and their fine contributors! Jus’ sayin’….

  27. A few years ago I read a book by Kevin Kruse titled One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. I’d encourage its reading. His premise as a historian, corporate America invented the concept to reduce labor union’s influence in the 1930s. Socialism is godless and must be opposed. America has always been a Christian country. Short answer, not really.

  28. Betty, please do more research for your own benefit. The Atlantic magazine article was published in 1989 and the claims made by the author have since been refuted. I wouldn’t rely on it.

  29. Michael,
    There are so very many of us who are now maimed, crippled, or dead. I know better than to rely on one article or source. You failed to define which article you are referring to, but thanks for your input.

  30. If it exists, then God created it.
    When God finished creating the world he looked at what he had done and said “It is good ”
    Therefore, if it exists, it is good in God’s eyes!
    That means black and white and all shades in between.
    It means Christians, Muslims, and all other faith traditions.
    It means straight or queer, and all gradations in between.

    The Quakers used to teach that there is something of God in every person.

    Jesus said “even as you do unto the least of these, you have done unto me.”

    Is anyone listening?

Comments are closed.