By Alan Pell Crawford
America’s a big place, chalk full of people with different experiences and beliefs. And that’s great. That’s also why we should distrust supposed experts who try to lump us together into great mushy masses, as if we are as indistinguishable as mollusks. This is especially misleading in matters of religion which—in this country, certainly—is highly individual.
Yet to hear political experts, we can neatly be divided into Christians and everybody else, and by Christian, the experts almost always mean Protestant evangelicals who are social conservatives. (That a great many Protestant evangelicals who are social conservatives supported Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic, gives you some idea how complicated we are.)
But as Tim Noah in The New Republic points out, while 78 percent of Americans are Christians, only about a third of them describe themselves as evangelicals—which all by itself exposes the media’s simplistic categorizations for the fool’s errand that it is.
Blogger Fred Clark is irked by these divisions, too, as well he should be. Clark, you see, is a Baptist. A graduate of Timothy Christian High School and Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, this married father of two is also (by his own description) “a Gen-Xer, a Gemini and a Mets fan.” He’s pretty sure the schools where he was educated consider him “a snarky, liberal, tree-hugging, pro-choice, pro-GLBT, peacenik, commie, evolutionist.”
Clark objects to the media’s classifications because an awful lot of other Christians in this country also do not fit the stereotype:
Millions of white evangelical Protestants voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Millions of them. Millions of us. More than the combined total populations of Alaska, Delaware, Montana, the Dakotas, Vermont, Wyoming, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
We are not, of course, taking sides here—except in defense of the wonderous multiplicity of American experience and expression. And against those who find it convenient to deny our diversity. We are more different from one another than they know, yet have more in common than is in their interest to admit.
Politically, that’s of profound importance, if only the politicians could figure it out.
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