Pollster discusses presence of white supremacy in U.S. Christianity with Elon audience

Robert P. Jones, CEO and founder of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and author of "White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity," spoke to the Elon community virtually about his most recent book.

On Oct. 30, scholar Robert P. Jones joined Professor of Religious Studies Toddie Peters, Associate Professor of Psychology Buffie Longmire-Avital and Assistant Professor of Political Science and Policy Studies Damion Blake for a discussion about the roots of white supremacy in American Christianity.

The conversation was based on Jones’ most recent book, White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. Jones is the founder and CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research firm that uses polling and other methods to study the intersection of religion, culture and public policy in the United States.

The 2020 book explores three major sources to understand racism in American Christianity: history, public opinion data collected by his polling firm, and memoir-style writing about his own personal reckoning with white supremacy. He argued that the American Christian Church has not just been complacent or complicit regarding white supremacy, but responsible for creating and sustaining these systems.

Recognizing the jarring nature of that claim, Jones asked, “What happens if we who are white and Christian listen to such a harsh witness…look at this in the mirror, and instead of walking away, looking away, dismissing it, we hold the gaze?”

During his virtual discussion and throughout his writing today, Jones said he aims “to tell a truer and truer story of this entanglement of white supremacy in American Christianity.”

Jones writes regularly on politics, culture and religion for The Atlantic online, NBC Think, and other outlets. He is frequently featured in major national media, such as CNN, MSNBC, NPR, The New York Times and The Washington Post. He holds a Ph.D. in religion from Emory University and a M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the author of The End of White Christian America, which won the 2019 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, one of the most prestigious awards in the Religious Studies field.

Jones’ lecture was co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society, the Religious Studies Department, the Poverty and Social Justice Program, the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education, the African and African-American Studies program, and Bringing Theory to Practice.

A recording of Jones’ discussion is available for viewing here.