In the last couple of years there have been a number of stories about an increase in the death rate of working class whites that has not been paralleled among their African American and Latino counterparts. At the same time, even the Pentecostals and Catholics now are losing their grip on the white working class. Four sociologists, W. Bradford Wilcox, Andrew J. Cherlin, Jeremy E. Uecker, and Matthew Messel, issued a paper provocatively entitled “No Money, No Honey, No Church” back in 2012, explaining that the white evangelical church was increasingly affluent and that the white working class was losing faith in it; while the church plays a different role in black and Latino cultures. [Wilcox is in fact a Christian in a tenured post at the secular University of Virginia.]
Ross Douthat and even more Rod Dreher have commented that the white spiritual problem is that they “do not know how to suffer successfully.” The traditions of the black and Latino churches never included an expectation of cultural dominion that they now had to give up. Perhaps the church of color now has something to offer the white church? Perhaps it’s time to reach out! They may not trust you. But remember how the white ‘reconcilers’ had to work to build trust in the black community; how they had to not think of themselves as bringing in all kinds of delightful knowledge from outside that they were to teach you! Well, when the churches of color start to reach out to the imperiled white working class, they will have to be sensitive in the same way. They will not be able to come in with a ‘We’re here to help you’ mentality. They will have to remember Relocation, Redistribution of skills, and Reconciliation. The shoe is on the other foot now. It may be time to give back.
And no ‘Prosperity Theology,’ please! That’s the last thing we need now.