What Color Are Your Fundamentalists?

Who are the “fundamentalists” who hope to keep America’s public schools religious?

Some of us may picture a Saddleback-type white suburban evangelical, driving around in a Biblically-sized SUV, worrying in equal measure about sin and soccer.

New!  School Prayer Barbie!

New! School Prayer Barbie!

But as Peter Berger reminds us this morning on The American Interest, that image of conservative evangelicalism might represent the past more than the future.

Berger notes the dramatic effects of immigration on the nature of American Christianity.  New immigrants tend to be Christian, and their Christianity tends to lean conservative.  As Berger concludes,

Both in their theology and religious practice, non-Western Christians are more conservative. Their worldview is strongly supernaturalist: The spiritual world, both benign and sinister, is very close—the Holy Spirit, the Virgin and the saints, miracles of healing—but also the devil and other malevolent spirits. This supernaturalism is strongest in the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, but it is also very visible in Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. But non-Western Christians are also more conservative in their moral convictions—very little sympathy here for the feminism, let alone the agenda of the gay movement, that has become so prominent in mainline Protestantism in America—and, I suspect, would be more prominent in American Catholicism, were it not for surveillance and intervention from Rome.

The implication of all this is simple and exceedingly important: Immigration will strengthen the conservative forces in American Christianity.

In the future, the fight over religion in America’s public schools may have a very different tone.  Instead of a ring of white conservative suburbs around every ethnically diverse urban core, we may see a shift to immigrant-led demands for more vibrant religion in schools.  Instead of whitebread traditionalism resisting a multicultural liberalism, we might have an ethnically diverse group of conservatives battling to keep morals pure in public education.

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