Will White Protestantism Continue to Guide Democracy?
Over the past year, there have been many publicized events, including protests and marches to make social change in some way. The primary topic has been addressing racial inequality and systematic racism that still occurs in the United States. Over the summer, hundreds of Black Lives Matter protests occurred after the needless death of George Floyd by a white police officer based on potentially possessing counterfeit money. The sheer publicity of this event sparked outrage across the nation. However, this outrage and the subsequent marches that occurred afterward were met with more suppression efforts. Responses sanctioned by the U.S. government included tear-gassing, arresting, and sometimes beating protestors. It’s important to note that most of the Black Lives Matter protests occurred on public property – they occupied highways, streets, and occasionally physical stores to make a statement about the racial injustice prevalent in America. They were still met with violence, generally, by the state.
On January 6th, 2021, there was an attempted insurrection against the U.S. government. During this insurrection, thousands of notably majority-white citizens were able to break down the outside barriers of the U.S. capitol building, pass security, and gain direct access to where U.S. Senators were attempting to certify the votes of the 2020 election. This attempt was moments after Former President Trump gave his constituents a speech vowing he would walk alongside them to the Capitol Building. They also wore clothing and items that read “Keep America Great Again” and “Trump 2020.” A few hours passed before the National Guard was called in after insurrectionists crossed the gates. When they were called in, most insurrectionists were peacefully helped down the stairs by officers and were left alone once past the boundary of the Capitol building (regardless of a city-wide curfew that was implemented). Since the insurrection, the response from the U.S. government has been one that is confusing, and that does not fit the responses to earlier protests. Some of the insurrectionists who were proven to be there have since been put on do-not-fly lists or have been arrested, but there has not been a unified statement condemning the insurrections’ actions. Instead, there is a message of “unity” and coming together that is being pushed.
Some officials have decided to charge former President Trump with insurrection; however, many do not. Our country has had a tumultuous history regarding the separation of church and state. Arguably, this is well reflected in the sentiments of U.S. officials who are asking for peace and unity following an attempted, violent insurrection. This country and its government were built upon White Protestantism, which incorporates all aspects of Christianity, including being “all-loving” and “all-forgiving.” While this is a generally positive mindset to live by, it also reduces accountability and responsibility. I mostly want to focus on the responses by the Republican senators who are choosing not to impeach Trump when discussing this issue. U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, upon asking whether he would vote to impeach Trump, responded with “Democrats appear intent on weaponizing every tool at their disposal… to divide the country further.” Even though Senator Hawley was also victimized in the attempted insurrection, the blame is now being placed on Democrats as a whole for trying to divide the country rather than unify it. It’s distorting the narrative to show that if a person wanted to press charges or punish Trump, they wouldn’t represent the ideal Christian American image of no division and no hate, even though division and hate is a noted cause for the insurrection. It’s a structural form of gaslighting Americans into not pressing charges against former President Trump for fear of not being a true “American” or real “Christian.” White Protestantism also fails to recognize racism as a prominent factor in society, as it treats “all men as equal under God” and incidentally promotes color-blindness regarding race. This color-blindness is also well reflected on a government level (read here for further analysis on the connections between White Protestantism and White Supremacy).
However, this racial color-blindness did not apply to the responses by the U.S. government against BLM protestors. Those that participated and organized were prosecuted to the full extent under the guise of needing “law and order.”
White Protestantism is not the only problem present in the current situation – there is the continued criminalization of blackness, the disproportionate response the U.S. government has against people of color, etc. However, for a country that prides itself on democracy and constitutionality, there have been many religious elements included in the discourse surrounding how to respond to the insurrection to suppress and guilt people into upholding the status quo.