W-w Giveth, W-w Taketh Away, Short Live W-w

Tim Carney’s piece on Trump-voting evangelicals is getting a lot of play and for good reason. He looks at churches outside the urban, suburban bubble, the ones that Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition try to own. And he finds that evangelicalism is not nearly as monolithic as scholars and evangelical leaders have said. He may even give reasons for abandoning evangelicalism altogether.

But Carney also opens a window on those Protestants where neo-Calvinist influence has had the longest shelf-life. In some cases, the results should hearten the redeemers of every square inch:

Trump’s single worst county in all of Iowa—far worse than Polk County (where Des Moines is) or Story County (home to Iowa State), or Johnson County (University of Iowa)—was Sioux County. Trump finished fourth place there, behind Ben Carson. Ted Cruz won every precinct of Sioux County.

Sioux is home to Orange City and Sioux Center, and it is the Dutchest county in America. Dutch ancestry is probably one of the best proxies the Census has for religious attendance.

Jordan Helming, a transplant whom I met at a Jeb Bush rally in Sioux Center, was astounded by the religiosity of the place, including the sheer number of churches. “There are 19 of them in this town—a town of 7,000 has 19 churches.”

Different strains of Reformed Christianity dominate in this overwhelmingly Dutch county, from austere old-world Calvinism (“the frozen chosen” they call themselves) to more evangelical flavors. Attendance (often twice on Sundays) is high, and the churches build strong community bonds.

“You care about your neighbors,” Helming explained, “you care about your environment, but you also take care of it yourself—don’t rely on the government.”

Carney does not mention that these Iowans also selected Steve King to represent them in the House of Representatives.

Reinforcing that uncomfortable detail are Carney’s tabulations of Michigan’s voting habits:

Back in the 2008 and 2012 Republican primaries, analysts saw the GOP electorate in two categories: (a) establishment Republicans or (b) Evangelicals. The Establishment types voted for Mitt Romney or John McCain in 2008, and the “evangelical vote” went for Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012.

It turns out we were all oversimplifying things. That supposedly “evangelical vote” was a combination of two electorates: (1) the evangelical vote and (2) the rural populist vote. The 2016 primaries illuminated this distinction.

In Michigan, for instance, 2012 saw Romney carry the stretch of the state from Ann Arbor to Detroit, while Santorum won most of the rest of the state. Four years later, it was much more complex: Kasich won Ann Arbor, Trump won Detroit and most of the rural counties, while Cruz dominated in the handful of counties around Holland and Grand Rapids, where the Dutch Reformed church dominates.

Cruz would likely be better than Trump. But why don’t Christian Reformed institutions own up to being oh so Republican? You’d never know from reading the Banner, Reformed Journal, Pro Rege, or In All Things. If the leaders of Evangelicalism, Inc. could be so out of touch with non-urban Protestants, are the professors and pastors in the Christian Reformed and Reformed Church of America world all that connected?

Advertisements

Why Does Tom Brady Prevail but not Kim Davis?

I have a few questions about the situation in Kentucky.

If Tom Brady would have received a 4-game suspension for his cheating, why can’t Kim Davis merely be suspended or fired? Joe Carter is the only one that has tried to answer this one (as far as I can see):

Because Davis is an elected official, she can only be removed from office by impeachment. That would require the Kentucky House of Representatives to charge her with an impeachable offense and the Senate would then try her. Impeachment is unlikely since relatively few citizens in Kentucky support same-sex marriage.

A poll taken in August found that 38 percent of the state’s residents said county clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses should be removed from office, 36 percent said clerks should be allowed to refuse, and 16 percent said the power to issue marriage licenses should be transferred to a state agency.

So because the legislature won’t act — how about the executive, we have three branches of government, right? — she goes to jail? Seems like something that would harsh Ms. Davis’ buzz.

Is the judge in this case, David L. Bunning, the son of Kentucky’s U.S. Senator, Jim Bunning, one of my boyhood heroes and who pitched a perfect game against the Mets on Father’s Day, 1964? Doh!

A lot of Christians are commenting on Ms. Davis’ situation. Since she is a new believer, why don’t these people talk directly to Ms. Davis and give her seasoned counsel about the nature of a Christian’s duty rather than using her to make a point in the culture wars?

Might the people who see this situation as a frightening infringement of religious freedom also recognize that Ms. Davis is still free (even if compelled to issue the licenses) to practice her faith? The restrictions only apply to her work, not to her worship. And Mark Silk (thanks for the correction) invokes President Kennedy it seems to me in a fitting way:

But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do likewise.

Last and possibly least, why does Ms. Davis suffer while corporate America flourishes and is now going to run the University of Iowa?

Come November, the University of Iowa will have a businessman with little experience in academe at its helm — and many faculty members and others in Iowa City aren’t happy about it.

The Iowa Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously appointed former IBM senior vice president Bruce Harreld as Iowa’s next president, despite outspoken criticism of Harreld as lacking the necessary qualifications to lead a university.

Harreld was one of four publicly announced finalists for the position and the only one without experience in higher education administration. He is a consultant who formerly worked as an executive at IBM, Kraft General Foods and Boston Market Company restaurants. His higher education experience is limited to eight years as an adjunct business professor at Harvard University and Northwestern University.

No peace, no justice, and the Patriots cheat and lie. (They besmirch the good name of the true patriots.)

Two-Kingdom W— V— in Iowa

Mikelmann has been on a roll lately as the GOP hopefuls have rolled through Iowa. The inconsistencies that evangelical faith and w— v— convictions place upon Iowa’s citizens and the Republican’s candidates is indeed staggering. It even shows how faith-based political engagement is seriously hurting the integrity of Christ’s followers. But apparently the stakes in the greatest nation on God’s green earth are higher than those of kingdom of grace.

I draw attention to two particular posts. In the first, MM comments on the danger of divided political loyalties (as if the Republican candidates differ all that much) dividing the church:

After the election there will likely be groaning about how the evangelical vote broke up. But mourn not; it’s not always a bad thing to break up. Think of it as an opportunity. Think of it as an opportunity to see that there is no one way for a Christian to vote. Think of it as an opportunity to realize that looking at candidates from an alleged biblical worldview does not inexorably lead to one candidate or another. Maybe selecting political leaders isn’t the same as selecting church leaders. And for those who, like Michele Bachmann, want more political speech in the church maybe it’s a good demonstration of how folks get politically divided and a reminder that we shouldn’t bring that division into the church. Because breaking up a church over politics would be a bad thing.

In the second, MM observes the inadequacies of w—- v—-ism for finding the right candidate:

People who call themselves Evangelicals tend to have a bit of a bandwagon mentality – in part because of their self-perception of belonging under the Evangelical tent – and they may have hopped on board the Worldview Express with the general idea of living Christianly when, really, the worldview commitment is more specific and theologically loaded than that. . . .

The fault isn’t with the voters; it’s with worldview. What does worldview say about federal enforcement vs. state enforcement of marriage and abortion? What does it say about immigration? Does it tell us whether Iran should have nuclear weapons? Subsidies for ethanol? Tax reform? The answers are “nothing” and “no.”

Meanwhile, evangelical parachurch leaders are busily engaged in discussions to find a candidate who is not a Mormon. The last I checked, the U.S. Constitution forbade any religious tests for holding public office. Granted, the Constitution also grants citizens the freedom to use religious tests to oppose candidates. But the flip side of that freedom is the embarrassment to which Christian Americans are entitled when they observe such folly. If you don’t care for Romney’s policies or even his persona, fine. Don’t support him. But don’t use religion as an excuse to oppose the Mormon and then find reasons to support the divorced Roman Catholic. (Such hypocrisy is moving me to support Romney and even to feel a Chris Matthews tingle in my leg at the thought of the nation’s first Protestant president.)