I went back to my church this AM for the first time since January 2020. (We spent the next six months in the UK, and by the time we came back, all had been shut for the time being.) It was great. Really good to see people, to fall back into the rhythms of speech (I'm an Episcopalian which means we have the best liturgy), to recover some of the affects of a church service. It was glorious. Also, the tarts in coffee hour were to die for.
The title of my post is not just about that, however. Nor is it only a shout-out to the Philip Larkin poem with that title. (I'll do a post on "Church Going" sometime soon--it's beautiful: "someone will forever be surprising / A hunger in himself to be more serious". Oh Lord, bless Larkin and at least some of his works.)
No, my post is about the strange uncoupling, in American right wing white Christianity right now, of affiliation and belief, or even affiliation and (ecclesial) association.
On this, here are two bits of evidence about what is happening to reactionary white Christianity right now. One is this curious piece that is preoccupying certain corners of the interwebs, on "Cracker Barrel Christians". Not a worthwhile read, to be sure--just another attempt to expel some people ("elite evangelicals") from the core of "real" Christianity. Like similar acts of boundary setting on "real America," it ends up descending into bathos ("Cracker Barrel") that would be sad if it weren't bloody.
As I said when I first encountered this: We're already approaching life and death as a matter of pure ideology b/c of vaccine-denialism (and death-rate denialism), but now we're invited to reinterpret eating itself as not so much saturated with as simply replaced by political semiotics.
The other is this nice piece by Ryan Burge, about the conflation of white evangelicalism & the GOP--in this case, about how GOPers increasingly ID not just with but as white evangelicals, even while not attending any church. Good lord, this association is happening not only with GOP Protestants, but also with Catholics, LDSers, even Muslims and Hindus who ID as GOP; are of them now increasingly claim the term "evangelical". As Burge puts it, "many Americans are coming to the understanding that to be very religiously engaged and very politically conservative means that they are evangelical, even if they don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ."
There's a lot to say here--I said some stuff on Friday, and when that recording drops I'll post it here--but for now I will say this: This is an interesting moment for those who would imagine a Christianity with some theological integrity ten or fifteen years from now.
I wish it wasn't quite as interesting as it is. So do all who live to see such times, I guess.