Review of Anthea Butler’s White Evangelical Racism
Keywords:Evangelical, Evangelicalism, NAE, racism, whiteness, blackness, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Bob Jones, Religious Right, Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell, Ben Kinchlow, Randall Balmer, Voddie Baucham
Anthea Butler’s 2021 book White Evangelical Racism pulls no punches on the Evangelical movement, alleging that “racism [is] at the core of evangelical beliefs, practices, and political allegiances,” that “Race and racism have always been foundational parts of evangelicalism in America,” and that “evangelicals’ love for Trumpism” is explained by “one reason … most important: racism,” being quick to add, however, that “Trump isn’t the reason why evangelicals turned to racism. They were racist all along.” That’s fairly clear! … and problematic. Her book would not be problematic if Butler was decrying the racism in parts of American Evangelicalism’s past, where with other segments of America it shamefully supported both pre-Civil War slavery and post-Civil War Jim Crow laws. Her book is problematic only because she argues that this racism rages unabated today and, moreover, has been “at the core” of post-WWII American Evangelicalism, especially from the 1970s onward as it became politically engaged through the “Religious Right.” This review argues that while her allegations of racism are strong, her evidence is weak. Her evidence fails in multiple ways: by focusing on irrelevant outliers as supposedly typical Evangelicals, by ignoring important truly representative Evangelical figures, by misrepresenting or misinterpreting some of the major research upon which she relies, by misidentifying the exact problem in the “the problem of whiteness,” and lastly fails in its narrow-minded approach to differences: those with a different political position from hers are categorised as racist.