Eighty-one percent of Alabama’s white evangelicals who voted in Alabama’s senate election yesterday voted for Roy Moore, weighing his professed conservative Christian values against a record of racist, anti-LGBTQ and anti-women’s rights rhetoric, and more recent accusations of sexual assault against minors. He lost to Democrat Doug Jones, but throughout the campaign and the election it was a close run.
From the Washington Post:
Part of Moore’s campaign strategy was to appeal to Christian nationalism — the belief that God has a uniquely Christian purpose for the United States. It has long made him a polarizing figure nationwide but has also kept him popular in his own state.
Andrew Whitehead, a sociologist at Clemson University in South Carolina who studies Christian nationalism, said evangelicals are the religious group most likely to identify with Christian nationalism. Alabama has one of the highest percentages of white evangelicals, and, he said, more than half of Southerners identify with a Christian nationalist narrative.
“The view is that God can use anybody as long as they’re promoting Christian nationalist or ideals or values,” Whitehead said. “It’s all about a quest for power and what serves the purpose in the political moment.”
For decades, Moore rose to national prominence by painting a portrait of Christianity under attack. He espouses the view that America should ultimately be governed by “biblical law.” Under Moore, the law would punish homosexuality. He has expressed fear that sharia law is being imposed “in Illinois, Indiana — up there. I don’t know.”
From Christianity Today:
“[Moore] lost because so many evangelicals didn’t show up,” Mohler told CNN anchor Don Lemon. “That’s the big story … what didn’t happen. You didn’t have any major pastors or evangelical leaders [in Alabama], not a single one, willing to support Roy Moore.
“Given the percentage of evangelicals in Alabama, it’s inconceivable that a candidate supported by them could lose,” the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary continued. “They would not and could not vote for a pro-abortion candidate, and they would not and could not vote for Roy Moore.”
A Fox News poll reported Monday that 1 in 4 white evangelicals likely to vote for Jones mainly disliked Moore.
“It sends a signal to the Republican party. It also sends a signal to evangelicals,” Mohler told Lemon. He later analyzed the “political earthquake in Alabama” and what it revealed about “the limits of conservative tolerance on questions of character” on the Wednesday taping of his program, The Briefing. One of the most significant examples of shifted Republican votes: 2 out of 3 Alabama women with children under 18 voted for Jones instead of Moore.
Meanwhile, African Americans showed up in large numbers—comprising 29 percent of the vote—and voted nearly unanimously for Jones (96%). While the exit polls don’t publicly release breakouts for blacks by religious affiliation or church attendance, LifeWay Research recently found that black Americans are almost three times more likely than white Americans to hold evangelical beliefs (30% vs. 13%), and twice as likely to self-identify as “born again” (49% vs. 27%).
From “The Other ‘Values Voters’ in Alabama,” CNN:
…Moore lost in large part because another group of “values voters” — African-American women — voted overwhelmingly for his opponent, Doug Jones. A whopping 98% of black women voters cast their ballots for Jones, giving the Democrat a huge boost, exit polls show.
Black women, and men for that matter, aren’t usually categorized as “values voters” in the media, which usually reserve that term for conservative white Christians. But perhaps it’s well past time for that to change.
First of all, according to the Pew Research Center, nearly 15% of black Americans are themselves evangelicals, though a majority (53%) attend historically black Protestant denominations. More than 80% say they believe in God and attend church at least once or twice a month, and three in four say religion is “very important” in their lives, according to Pew. That makes African-Americans one of the country’s most devoutly religious groups.
African-Americans are also more likely than white Christians to blend religion and politics in church, according to a separate Pew study conducted last year. Nearly 60% said clergy at their house of worship had encouraged the congregation to vote in the general election for president, and half said the same about the presidential primaries. That’s a higher percentage than any other group, including white evangelicals.
Where African-American churchgoers differ is in the political issues they’re likely to talk about in church. White evangelicals were most likely to discuss religious liberty, abortion and homosexuality. Black churches, too, talked a lot about homosexuality — 39% told Pew they had heard clergy mention the issue. But they were also far more likely to talk about economic inequality and environmental issues.
From The Economist:
The results suggest Mr Jones threaded a difficult needle. Black voters turned out in droves: they usually comprise around one-quarter of Alabama’s electorate; on Tuesday they made up 28%, and Mr Jones won 96% of their votes. His strong performance in the state’s most populous counties suggest that he also flipped some white suburbanites.
White evangelicals—Mr Moore’s core supporters—comprised a smaller share of the electorate this year than in past elections. Some of them stayed home, or even voted for Mr Jones, despite vehemently disagreeing with his pro-choice position on abortion. Rushton Mellen Waltchack, a Christian and lifelong Republican from Birmingham, compared Mr Moore to “a televangelist who falls from grace,” and said she could not bring herself to vote for him. “He makes statements that to me don’t represent Jesus in the Bible…What does it say about us as a party if we continue to choose policy over character?”
…As for Mr Jones, he will face long odds when he runs again in three years, presuming Republicans learn their lessons and nominate a less divisive character. But on Tuesday he showed the world an Alabama that rejected hatred in favour of decency and competence.