Publishers Weekly on David Gushee: ‘Debunking an Imagined Past’

Gushee author photoIn the November 7, 2016, issue of Publishers Weekly, the magazine devoted an full-page profile to author David Gushee, by PW writer Robin Farmer.

The article referred to Gushee’s A Letter to My Anxious Christian Friends, the follow-up to his landmark Changing Our Mind.

This PW issue went to press before Election Day, but Farmer quotes Gushee as explaining prophetically: “I was already beginning to see the appeal of Donald Trump to at least a certain part of the white Christian community, and I was trying to make sense of that without focusing on a particular individual. … A widely felt anxiety is one of the major stories of the American election of 2016, so I wanted to offer an alternative kind of spirit and vision, at least for Christian readers.”

Just after Election Day, veteran journalism scholar Stewart Hoover posted four columns all arguing that the biggest mistake forecasters made in recent months was misunderstanding Trump’s deep appeal to “white Christians.” In one column, Hoover writes that “White Christians were the central demographic driving the rhetorical success of Trump’s call to make things great again. For them, that meant a return to the 1950s. The resonance of the ’50s clearly has more than just the prospects of waged labor in it. It is resonant because it was the time when things made the most cultural sense, when a White Protestant moral architecture defined values, behaviors, and public images.”

In PW, speaking to Farmer before Election Day, Gushee said, “We have all this nostalgia about the Christian values of our past. That’s very strong among conservative Christians, but it is usually uninformed by serious reflection on all the evils of American history.” He calls it “a white nostalgia for an imaginary Christian past that doesn’t take seriously the problems of racism,” among other ills.

Gushee said he wants “my fellow Christians” to “lift your head up, don’t be hysterical, try to be as constructive as you can be and engage in our culture at this time. And try to see the good in our country as well as the things we are concerned about.”

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  1. Nash Smith says

    Wonderful article. These so-called “white Christians” are nothing more than “closet racists.” They are what I call “silent sleeping giants” who were awakened by the emerging powerful Latino vote. Just the sound of the media sounding the alarm of the emerging Latino power scared them so much so that they were woken from their slumber. They are mostly Republicans but have a few suburban Democrats in their midst. It was not the Obama administration that woke them up but the alarm of the Latino voting power. They are not afraid of the Black vote because they know the lazy attitude of 7% of Black voters in places like Michigan, North Carolina,Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They are unreliable and never a threat.

    Had the media not sounded the alarm about this Latino vote, these closet racists would still be in their slumber in spite of Trump’s rhetoric. Remember the saying of Japanese Navy Admiral, Isoroku Yamamoto about waking up “The Silent Sleeping Giant.”

    “I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

    This is a quote attributed to Naval Marshal General Isoroku Yamamoto in the depiction of the Pearl Harbor attack, in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor. The sneak attack enraged the Americans to the point where there was no limit to their anger.

    These “white Christians” are not Christians but pure closet racists. They are dangerous because they are very silent. They lie to pollsters about their intentions and pounce when they are in the polling booth. You see them also in mainstream churches and even as members of the clergy. Only God can destroy them. All we can do is plead to our God saying in the words of Lewis Hensley (1867):

    Thy kingdom come, O God!
    Thy rule, O Christ begin!
    Break with thine iron rod
    the tyrannies of sin!

    Where is thy reign of peace,
    and purity and love?
    When shall all hatred cease,
    as in the realms above?

    When comes the promised time
    that war shall be no more,
    oppression, lust, and crime
    shall flee thy face before?

    We pray thee, Lord, arise,
    and come in thy great might;
    revive our longing eyes,
    which languish for thy sight.

    Men scorn thy sacred Name,
    and wolves devour thy fold;
    by many deeds of shame
    we learn that love grows cold.

    O’er heathen lands afar
    thick darkness broodeth yet:
    arise, O Morning Star,
    arise, and never set!