Robert P. Jones is the founder of the Public Religion Research Institute and author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. We learn about the historical role of white churches in perpetuating white supremacy, stunting the morality of white Americans, and in working to achieve justice going forward.
White Churches Perpetuate White Supremacy
The Southern Baptist Church was founded on white supremacist principles and maintained a caste system with whites at the top of the hierarchy. Other white denominations, like mainline Protestants and Catholics, also widely share affinities for white supremacy. Regular churchgoers are no less racist than the average American, and church-going evangelicals hold more racist attitudes than the average. The history of the supremacy of whites goes back to the Doctrine of Discovery of 1452, when the Catholic Church encouraged western European explorers to claim the lands of non-white, non-Christians.
White Christian America’s Warped Morality
Believing in the supremacy of whites over other races warps and stunts the morality of white Christian Americans. After the Civil War, Southern Baptists argued human civilization was in decline that could only be rectified by the Second Coming of Jesus on earth. This belief focused on inner piety and a personal relationship with God – being “good Christians” – and absolving them from having to engage in rectifying moral injustices in society. This inward looking theology prefers a framework that seeks reconciliation and forgiveness without the work of repairing the damage and/or achieving justice.
The Lost Cause
The Lost Cause is an ideology that stems from the grief of the loss by the Confederate States in the Civil War. It believes that the cause of the war was noble and heroic. Further, Southern Baptist leaders argued that slavery was morally just and the slaveholding South represented the pinnacle of human civilization. The Lost Cause was used to perpetuate racism and racist power structures during the Jim Crow era as well as protect states’ rights and the Southern way of life. It also purports that God would ultimately vindicate the South.
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Robert P. Jones is the CEO and Founder of PRRI and a leading scholar and commentator on religion, culture, and politics. He is the author of “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,” and “The End of White Christian America,” which won the 2019 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. Jones writes regularly on politics, culture, and religion for The Atlantic online, NBC Think, and other outlets. He is frequently featured in major national media, such as CNN, MSNBC, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others.
Jones serves on the national program committee for the American Academy of Religion and is a past member of the editorial boards for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and Politics and Religion, a journal of the American Political Science Association. He holds a Ph.D. in religion from Emory University, an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a B.S. in computing science and mathematics from Mississippi College. Jones was selected by Emory University’s Graduate Division of Religion as Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 2013, and by Mississippi College’s Mathematics Department as Alumnus of the Year in 2016.
Before founding PRRI, Jones worked as a consultant and senior research fellow at several think tanks in Washington, D.C., and was an assistant professor of religious studies at Missouri State University.
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