The demographics of America are changing — and not in a way that benefits white evangelicals.
According to Robert Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute, the percent of Americans who are white and Christian has fallen from 54 percent in 2008 to 43 percent in 2016, driven largely by younger generations being more diverse and more skeptical of organized religion. Meanwhile, cultural positions that used to be taken for granted as mainstream, like opposition to same-sex marriage, are now very much in the minority and disfavored in law.
As Ezra Klein wrote for Vox, evangelicals understand that they no longer hold the political power they used to, but they are divided on what to do about it.
Some Christian conservatives, like Rod Dreher, argue Christians should build insular, monastic communities and wait for the decadence of Western society to bring about the destruction of their enemies. “We in the modern West are living under barbarism, though we do not recognize it,” he argued in The Benedict Option. “Our scientists, our judges, our princes, our scholars, and our scribes — they are at work demolishing the faith, the family, gender, even what it means to be human. Our barbarians have exchanged the animal pelts and spears of the past for designer suits and smartphones.”
But other evangelicals instead want to stand and fight — and a key figure giving voice to this school of thought is Attorney General William Barr, who has made clear in his recent speeches that he sees modern society as an assault on Christianity.
“Today we face something different that may mean that we cannot count on the pendulum swinging back,” Barr said in a speech at Notre Dame. “First is the force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay; it is organized destruction. Secularists, and their allies among the ‘progressives,’ have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”
“In any age, the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion,” Barr said in his more recent speech to the Federalist Society. “Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection. Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end. They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of collateral consequences and the systemic implications. They never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides.”
This is ultimately what led the Christian Right to embrace President Donald Trump, despite him superficially being the embodiment of any number of sins they preach against. They believe that they are under attack, and they need someone who fights dirty on their behalf.