Let me begin with a pop quiz. Dear readers, did Americans enjoy more religious liberty 30 years ago than they do now, in 2020? How about 50 years ago? Or 100 years ago?
Now, let’s ask a different series of questions. Did white Protestants enjoy more political power 30 years ago? Fifty years ago? One hundred years ago?
The answers to the first series of questions are 1) “No”; 2) “Heck no”; and 3) “Hold on, I’ve got an anti-Catholic state constitutional amendment to pass.” The answers to the second set are similarly dramatic. 1) “Yes”; 2) “Absolutely”; and 3) “Let’s raise a glass of grape juice to toast temperance.”
The longer the American culture war persists, the more convinced I am that the distinction between religious power and religious liberty is the key to understanding the incredible angst felt by so many white American Christians.