Religion and Culture, Global Justice
In spite of the nearly global consensus amongst scientists regarding the imminent and devastating impacts of climate change, U.S. President Donald Trump has implemented and repealed nearly one hundred legislations to the detriment of the environment on both domestic and international levels. Often referred to as the “worst President for the environment in history,” his support amongst white evangelicals is also the highest in history, with 81% voting for him in the 2016 presidential election. As one of the most consistent and dependable voting blocks for the Republican party since President Ronald Reagan’s administration, white evangelicals play a significant and strategic role in influencing and informing the political landscape, including decisions related to the environment. This has occurred in spite of the fact that white evangelicals comprise only 16% of the U.S. population; a number that is steadily declining. Therefore, the goal of this paper is to examine how white evangelicals manage to influence environmental policies, or lack thereof, in the era of President Trump. By utilizing a qualitative methodological approach that draws on materials ranging from legislative documents to news media articles, and by leveraging theories of the power elite by C. Wright Mills and G. William Domhoff, this paper determines that white evangelicals employ three key narratives to manipulate the political landscape against pro-environmental policies. The first narrative relies on a literal interpretation of the Bible. The second narrative involves the conflation of the white evangelical identity with the conservative Republican identity. The third narrative, which has been increasingly leveraged in the age of President Trump, involves the vilification and demonization of environmentalists and of those on the Left. These findings demonstrate the contemporary mechanisms through which the white evangelical identity is operationalized for political power, particularly through climate change-related policies. While the rationale and motivations of white evangelicals to influence policies, such as those related to women’s reproductive rights, may be more obvious, those related to environmental policies are more complex. Therefore, this paper also examines the rationale and motivation behind this political stance, which has important implications for understanding and predicting future political stances and strategies of white evangelicals, as well as the actions necessary to democratize their influence in U.S. politics.
Scanlon, Hillary, "Faith Trumps Climate Change: The Engagement of White Evangelicals with Climate Change Narratives" (2020). Religion and Culture Major Research Papers. 1.