The 2012 Election Results and What They Mean for “Evangelical Christian America”


Four more years.

Whether that phrase elicits joy or sorrow in you in the wake of the 2012 presidential election results says a great deal about you as a person and your future influence in America.

If you are an Evangelical Christian who votes Republican, today seems a far cry from just 12 years ago, when magazine covers and stories trumpeted that Evangelicals were hot and in control of America’s future.

No more.

woman voterThe demographics of America continue to flex, and this is what the election results tell us about who is really in charge:

  • Women
  • 18-45 years of age
  • Nonwhite
  • Urban (or college town)
  • Non-Evangelical

That demographic pwned all others and gave Barack Obama four more years. Today, we understand that the conservative white male has been consigned to the dust bin of American history. Any idea that such people run this country is now passé. Given trends in overall demographics within the United States, this will not reverse itself—ever.

Yesterday’s election showed three other trends:

  • Same-sex marriage restrictions that passed in two states less than four years ago went down to defeat
  • Legalization of marijuana passed in two more states
  • Prolife candidates who were cornered late with the question “What do you think about abortion in the case of rape?” went down to staggeringly bad defeats despite having led their opponents for much of the race

Abortion and opposition to same-sex marriage are hallmark positions for the majority of Evangelicals, with opposition to illegal drugs another definable (though less broadcast) position.

What is worrying for anyone who holds a prolife position is that despite the overwhelming opposition to abortion as a procedure, pro-abortion forces have a new weapon for derailing prolife candidates that is perhaps the most effective ever: the rape question. Until prolife candidates can answer that question without seemingly inserting foot in mouth, expect withering losses to continue.

And why is that question so effective? Because the new vote-deciding demographic is women of childbearing age who live in urban areas (or college towns). And they will mercilessly punish anyone who answers that question poorly. Worse, that question may even sway women who are not in that demographic simply because all women have a visceral reaction to anything dealing with rape. When it seems that male politicians condone certain aspects of a post-rape experience—well, the resulting backlash cannot be unexpected.

So where do Evangelical Christians stand as of November 2012?

The trends of the last few years are telling. Any political power that Evangelicals thought they wielded was always illusory, and the conceit of holding power only goes to show how low Evangelicalism has sunk with regard to genuine godly humility. What it will take for Evangelicals to wake up is anyone’s guess, though, as no amount of political pain seems to break through the arrogance.

Evangelicals don’t seem to understand the lives of non-Evangelicals, which is why Evangelicals continue to fail to connect with people who are different from them. Blame this on a bunker mentality. Honestly, how many liberal friends do most Evangelicals have? Why expect any influence at all then?

That lack of influence illustrates how Evangelicals have forgotten the root of their label: evangelism (though not to lead people to convert to a political party but to convert to Jesus). Evangelicals simply do not evangelize non-Christians anymore. And you especially will not find them evangelizing women 18-45 who are not born again and who live in cities and college towns. If Evangelicals were to stop plowing so much of their time and energy into political causes and start leading people to Jesus, that trio of causes so near and dear to them (upholding traditional heterosexual marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious freedom) will take care of itself. How this reality continues to elude Evangelicals is damning.

Conservative Evangelicals failed miserably to help nominate a viable presidential candidate, with most of the supposedly workable alternatives proving to be ridiculously repellent to the average non-Evangelical voter. What must be avoided is a sense of persecution at being rejected. Instead, Evangelicals need to look at themselves and genuinely question whether it is Jesus who is turning off others or the personality of major Evangelical politicians. That distinction is critical, yet most Evangelicals don’t get it. Winsome Evangelicals exist, but a failure to place them on any national stage is a major failing of Evangelicalism as a whole. Instead, Evangelicals ended up stuck with a non-Evangelical presidential candidate who thinks God is an ascended man enthroned on the planet Kobol. One must ask what exactly was in that Kool-Aid they were drinking. One must also ask how much of their souls Evangelicals will sell to achieve by politics what they should be achieving through converting others to Jesus (see above).

Evangelicals must come to grips with their own diminishing demographic. Simply put, the Church is not growing in America. Having now slid into minority status, Evangelicals must pursue much soul-searching and honest reflection to find that humility they so need to rediscover. This loss of power is what it means to be a minority. It doesn’t feel good, does it? Still, if this second class position does not result in a refocusing on the main and the plain in Evangelicalism, if being a minority within a larger culture does not clean out the dross that is holding Evangelicalism back, then Evangelicalism is finished as a movement not just within American politics but within American culture, society, and religious affiliation. Period.

Evangelicals must learn that no political party is their friend. Selling out to the GOP has hurt Evangelicalism more than it can imagine, and Evangelicals must stop believing that any one political party represents them. Strange bedfellows have hurt the cause of Christ in America, and it is high-time the reflex to vote Republican stops. Evangelicals must support political candidates, regardless of party affiliation, who more accurately reflect the nature of God’s character and who perfectly answer how God can be known. Evangelicals must also realize that values voting is a major failure because it does not take into account all aspects of who God is. Picking and choosing values only further muddies Evangelicalism’s larger stance on what it means to be in Christ. All of who God is must be considered, and that means looking at aspects of God’s character Evangelicals have neglected. If Evangelicals were as well-known for championing the causes of the poor in America as they were for championing the cause of traditional marriage, perhaps those single, urban mothers who went en masse for “the other guy” might have voted differently.

I believe it is possible for America to return to greatness if born-again Christians stopped running around like headless chickens and instead focused on what is really important to the cause of Christ. If this latest election failing in the eyes of Evangelicals does not teach them anything, then we can forget ever seeing the American Church influencing our nation anytime soon.

34 thoughts on “The 2012 Election Results and What They Mean for “Evangelical Christian America”

  1. Solid thoughts, I am working through some myself. Interesting that in my state of Indiana Mourdock lost even though Romney won big. In my congressional district the Republican more than doubled the Democrat. The difference? The Libertarian candidate for the senate in Indiana drew almost 6% of the vote. The GOP better wake up and realize that there are very few paths to win in the future on the present course.

    The church? This morning I am likening the church to a heroin addict that has run out. The American political process is our golden calf and we need to realize that and really soon.

  2. Scott Matthews

    Well said Dan. We had a Christian president (W) for 8 years and what did we get? 2 wars and an imploding economy. The misguided belief that with the right(correct) elected officials and party in power, God will be happy and everything our country does (or doesn’t do) is therefore blessed, is tragically delusional and irresponsible.

    Giving any elected officials (and their minions) carte blanche to do whatever they want because they are supposedly acting in accordance with the desires of God, relieves individuals from the responsibility of examining the actions of their government AND their own lives, under the lens of the teachings of Jesus. We elect leaders, not saviors.

      • Dave S.

        I’d suggest that Evangelicals think about how they relate to the fiscally conservative portion of the electorate. I heard several people who I know to be fiscally conservative say something to the effect that they need to separate themselves from social conservatives, because issues like abortion and gay marriage only distract from their fiscal agenda.

        I am fiscally conservative, but only because I think that is the way to best help the less fortunate in our society by fostering economic growth and more jobs. As I observe the big government practices of the last half century, it seems to me that the poor a d underclass have been it’s biggest victims.

        To me, Christ called us to care for the unborn, the poor, those struggling with sexual identity issues, and fiscal and social conservativism are the same thing.

        I’m not sure how we more clearly link those together and this works exactly, but there are people who care about one side of the equation or the other, and Evangelicals are positioned to act as a bridge between the two by spreading the love of Jesus.

        • Paul K.

          In considering the plight of the underclass, you might consider that many non-Evangelicals don’t attribute that primarily to big government practices. You might consider re-examining that position.

          Others see big business practices as the primary reason for the giant underclass (50% of the income now goes to the top 10% of people and 25% goes to the top 1%; the bottom 90% of the country shares half the income–a formula for a giant underclass). The “middle” used to have a much higher share of the income after WWII through the 1970’s.

          But we off-shored our manufacturing base (i.e., the highest paying jobs)and then introduced productivity gains via technology to the point where it now takes only 1 person to do the work of 3 before. The first of these developments was a choice, while the second was inevitable. But neither was primarily the fault of big government, except to the extent that it lacked an industrial policy to prevent the erosion of our manufacturing base. The Germans protected theirs, and still have a high-wage manufacturing economy in spite of China.

          Add to this that the wages/salaries of the remaining 1-in-3 have also been suppressed by the executive class in the name of productivity, for which Wall Street has rewarded them handsomely, while the bulk of profits have of course gone to the shareholders. Employees are not considered stakeholders in the success of a company.

          So while re-evaluating Evangelicalism and how to make it more effective politically, I strongly suggest you reconsider some of your economic assumptions. If you are trying to understand how to connect with today’s emerging majority, consider that they actually see this sort of analysis pretty clearly.

  3. Lia

    Well stated, Dan. I was searching for a way to formulate my thoughts on the topic when I came across your article. Brilliantly written and no truer words have ever been stated. Thank you for sharing the truth which will truly set us free.

      • Hans

        You asked so here goes
        In a properly Biblical structured society only the head of households ( married men ) would have the vote. Before anyone goes ballistic over this, stop and consider how well this has worked in Switzerland. As a matter of fact a few years back when there was a move to give women the vote, they themselves fought against it realizing the wisdom and benefits of what they had.

        • Duke

          Not sure if I’m misunderstanding you here. This from wiki:-
          All Swiss citizens aged 18 years or older have been allowed to vote at the federal level since women were granted suffrage on February 7, 1971. All adult citizens have been able to vote at the canton level since November 27, 1990, when Appenzell Innerrhoden, the last canton to deny universal suffrage, was compelled by a federal court decision.

  4. I will add that Evangelicalism has got to do a better job of marrying talk of sin and personal morality with unmistakable action on the social issues that affect the broader culture. This keeps getting poo-pooed by Evangelicals, especially the more doctrinally focused kind, but Christians MUST be on the forefronts of issues such as preservation of natural resources and the environment, abolishing slavery worldwide, fighting for justice for the poor, and so on. If unbelievers look at those movements, which they themselves support, and see Christians spearheading them, it will allow Christians a chance to speak the truth outside of those issues. If we do not lead this way, then we will ensure that a truly Christian voice in our society becomes a footnote that sadly reads “pissed off at everyone.”

  5. boethius

    My relationship with politics like most Christians and people in general is love-hate. It seems perpetually to be that “necessary evil” that we accommodate because we have to. We try to elect people we think are not so much good or even aligned with our value system but that aren’t as bad as the “other guy.” Why would an Evangelical really want a Mormon or a Catholic or an utterly nebulous politician like McCain elected, after all – but we accept it because it’s not the “other guy.”

    That America was primarily and traditionally center-right demographically became the received wisdom and for much of our history we’ve coasted on that point of view, that we could occasionally have a center-right candidate and a center-right Congress in place and that the political and cultural tides would push Americans one way or another.

    Yesterday’s election put the nail in the coffin of that received wisdom. The center-right demographic is dead and buried and I don’t believe it’s going to be revived any time real soon. The modern demographic split is alarming – and it probably shouldn’t be, given how much tectonic shifting we’ve seen socio-culturally in the last 30 years – and your post and all the demographic stats that came out yesterday and today reveal really what’s in play. It seems like any vein of conservatism is substantively dead from a demographic point of view – it no longer “speaks” to women or so-called minorities or urban sophisticates and that’s a major voting bloc now – in fact combined it’s THE major voting bloc.

    And you’re dead on. Pushing the same ideological cart (liberal vs. conservative; Christian vs. non) up the hill politically is Sisyphean at best. When I was not a Christian and was decidedly socially and fiscally liberal I feared constantly how Christian tastemakers like Dobson or Jerry Falwell were going to “take over” American politics – and naturally that the “moral majority” bogeyman was and is still constantly being used to stoke fear in the hearts of liberals. When I became a Christian it finally occurred to me how ridiculous and unfounded my fears were. Evangelicals are not and I’m not sure they’ve ever been kingmakers. Demographically this has been proven time and again. This election certainly proved it. We’ve practically been resigned to a statistical aberration.

    Ultimately it seems like the political arena is a pointless one for Christians to try to wrangle their resources and lobby around. America is very much a post-Christian society and has been for a very long time, all indicative of how far the church has fallen and how far away we are from truly evangelizing the nation we were born and live in. If we want any hope of a return to fundamental Judeo-Christian values it’s safe to say preaching it from a political platform won’t get us there. We have to actually return to those values, exhibit them to others, and preach to and win souls on the purity of the Gospel message of Christ and Him crucified and live as though the reality of Jesus is actually evident in our hearts and minds and lives. No matter how deeply deluded our culture is, hearing the unvarnished, unfiltered truth of Christ is what will draw people to Him. It has throughout history – including our own – and has proven again and again to be what appeals quite dramatically to the lost world around us. If anything will change the demographics and therefore the political landscape in America, that is it.

    • Amen, boethius.

      More than anything, Evangelicals need to learn humility. Perhaps being reduced back to second class citizenship will wake them up. I think people still respond to genuine humility, particularly because its rareness is so startling. I’m convinced that anything Evangelicals want to do will need to start there.

    • A note on Evangelical humility…

      A friend, Rick, posted a link to the following Evangelical rant. Sadly, it stands as a perfect example of the attitude Evangelicals CANNOT take. Christians have got to tone down the anger and stop making this an Us vs. Them conversation. Ire and a “stupid sinners” mentality will work to the wrong effect, which has been the one Evangelicals have cultivated for far too long.

      • ccinnova

        Dan, I agree that the rant was, for the most part, not helpful. However, I wonder if there is some truth to the part about God judging America. Just take a look at all the disasters, natural and man-made (including economic matters), that the United States has experienced in recent years. If God isn’t judging America, at the very least He’s trying to get our attention.

  6. Swithun

    Christians need to realise that federal government is the problem not the solution. Getting our man to the top will, even if he’s genuine, have little influence. If we keep playing into the hands of the established system we’ll get nowhere. The way to achieve gains is to support secessionist movements be it Native American Tribes, Texans or even cities, on the principle that problems ought to be tackled on the most local level possible.

    Only by removing the federal government of its tax base will it change its tune. By supporting secession we’ll have to accept the possible existence of libertine communities however it would allow the cultural Christian, or even real Christian communities to live our way which would allow us to more easily demonstrate a different way of living and evangelise better. By having smaller political units does not mean you ought not associate with anyone outside it.

    Further evangelising is only part of the solution. There are many genuine Christians who are completely wrong headed on culture and politics. They need a thorough Biblical worldview as Doug Wilson argues here in his summing up of the election result.

    Finally a comment on rape. The increased profile of this issue seems in the main part of the feminist narrative of history- patriarchal subjugation of women. This can be seen in the constant debasement of the term. Whenever it is used it conjures images of violent sexual assault when in fact it is also used in the context of a young lady who got hopelessly drunk and had a one night stand she later regretted. Note I’m not saying that unconsensual sex can take place in that context I just think the word rape is inappropriate and that certain movements encouraged this behaviour amongst women.

  7. Dire Dan: “conservative white male has been consigned to the dust bin of American history.”

    That’s more or less the explanation I heard on NPR this morning.

    I do have one question: Aren’t these the guys who are busting their behinds and paying most of the taxes? When they’re gone, where does money come from?

    I think it was Thatcher who said that “the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” A lot of the world has found out the painful truth of this. Here in America we’re going to find out as well, as the government now proceeds to spend itself into insolvency, in which case any modest bump upward on the interest rates will be the chain reaction that sets off the catastrophe. For the Laws of Arithmetic are hideously cruel and unforgiving. (Even the Clintons, to their credit, understood the harsh reality of the bond markets. The present crew has no clue as what the consequences will be.)

    But it is the final Brick Wall of Reality, we are colliding with, and it doesn’t matter how the several aforementioned groups vote.

    • Neal

      I think we are seeing “Atlas Shrugged” re-enacted. Ayn Rand was somehow able to see what was happening in the 50’s but it has taken this long to really take root. I wish that this book would be required reading but I know that it won’t. I do not agree with everything she says but there are startling similarities going on in our Country right now.

      • Regarding the Brick Wall of Reality, one thing to watch carefully what Congress does about the looming “fiscal cliff” that’s coming up soon. My personal opinion is that the likely outcome will be that nothing of real substance will be done.

        And The Countdown to Meltdown will continue. Keep an eye on the interest rates and the price of commodities. The Fed Reserve (via QE) cannot keep “printing money” forever. At some point, the interests will have to notch upwards if the government is going to sell its treasury bills, etc., to keep borrowing money to finance the spending.

      • I was talking to a friend this morning at Starbucks before heading out to work. He runs a small local business, and he wants very much to hire younger people to work the business, because the work is physically demanding and he is getting older.

        Guess what? He tells me that because of the onerous upcoming requirements of “ObamaCare”, he cannot hire anyone. He wants very much to hire, but he cannot because of our lunatic government. And people wonder why there’s so much unemployment.

  8. Dire Dan: “Any political power that Evangelicals thought they wielded was always illusory”

    The illusion was largely generated by certain parachurch organizations intent on using it as a money raising tool. But it was always an illusion from the start. I thought everyone knew this by now. Even the Left Wing found it a useful illusion — “those awful Dominionist are about to stage a theocratic coup d’etat … we must fight them! Please contribute to our X, Y and Z campaigns.”

  9. James

    A quote that I reread periodically:

    “I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant, a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations. And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme — whose highest claim is to reasonable prudence — the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication.”

    – C.S. Lewis, On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature, p. 75-76

  10. Mr. Poet

    I did not want Romney to be the Republican candidate for President. Nor did I want Ron Paul to be it. At the primary, that was my choice. I had a choice between a center-right Establishment Republican for Senate or a Tea Party Republican who used to attend church up the street from where I live. The “people” voted for the Establishment Republican, while I voted for the Tea Party candidate. I do not like the Republican I have as my Congressman, either.

    I am cynical, too. I think Paul Ryan may have been chosen for VP because he was putting forth what seemed like solidly conservative ideas for the reduction of government. So Establishment Republicans dropped him into the VP slot to get him out of his policymaking position in Congress. The VP may run things behind the scenes, I guess, but he does not seem to have any real power unless the Senate needs a tie-breaking vote. So I think Paul Ryan’s selection was a way to get conservative votes while voiding Ryan’s actual ideas.

    I have liberal friends, if you count my coworkers. But I don’t consider them my friends, mainly because (a) I rarely ever get invited to anything they do; and (b) if I do get invited once, I don’t get invited a second time; because (c) I don’t drink, and when I do open my mouth, I espouse conservative-leaning ideas, even if I don’t openly evangelize.

    I gave up on Republicans ideologically after one Republican governor raided Medicaid during the last year of a complex loophole in order to pad the state’s coffers; another Republican governor raided the state’s retirement system to balance the budget, then declared victory with a “surplus” which was made possible by borrowing money from that system, which will not be paid back, and then telling state workers they would have to pay more into the retirement system he had just raided; and when the Republican-controlled House and Senate spent like there was no tomorrow under Bush.

    Now there may be no fiscal tomorrow. I voted the Republican ticket this time simply because I thought the country would go broke slower under the Republicans than under the Democrats. I told people I would have covered my eyes and held my nose, but I needed at least one free hand to vote.

    And this is the last election where I will put any stock in what pundits say, including the right-wing talk radio hosts that I like. The last few elections have been so close, I do not think political commentators know whereof they speak. The country is double-minded, in my opinion. That is why we keep getting 50/50 votes.

    To conclude my rambling: Love your enemies, but don’t forget that they’re your enemies. They’re not your friends.

  11. Mr. Poet

    That said, I think once Obamacare-related layoffs and taxes and other burdensome regulations come into play in 2013 and 2014, the Democrats will face a Congressional bloodbath in the 2014 elections. It still will be a close election, but I think the 50/50 will swing to Republicans.

  12. Concerned

    I am an Evangelical Christian and I voted for Romney with less of a focus on abortion and homosexual marriage than I did on the issue of big government. It does seem odd to me that the clincher for many women was the abortion issue. It seems that it is okay for the government to become more entangled in our healthcare through socialized medicine but NOT okay to get involved with the abortion process which many times is physically harming to women.

    How do you reconcile the Christian belief that they can back up with science proving that the fetus is human with the need to shut up for the unborn so that elections can be won? Would homosexuals or immigration reformers stop discussing the issues that matter to them just so they can win elections?

    The election showed us that we are a house divided. Obama won, but the popular vote was not that wide of a margin. I believe that many Christian Evangelicals sat on the sidelines and said nothing either out of fear of the IRS or because they didn’t like either candidate. Here in Ohio, the inner city churches did a Souls to the Polls campaign that brought out thousands who couldn’t point to any Obama issues they supported, but rather they voted based on color. My vote was placed because I feel the policies that are enticing these voters, big government, only enslave the poor….but there was no discussing these issues with them. They were excited to elect a non-white president for a second term and nothing else mattered.

    This is troubling. How can Christians stand for the truth they believe in, a truth that can and will be offensive in an upside down world? Maybe it’s that time that Christians will lose any influence and the end is near. The only option I can see for candidates to keep their values and possibly still win an election is to say that Americans are divided. Nobody should wake up the day after the election and feel that they need to flee the country. If we are really the country that is tolerant and accepts everyone, then even the Christian beliefs should be respected. To reconcile that, perhaps the only option is to make abortion and gay marriage a strictly states rights issue. Let each state determine their stance so that the federal government can do what it was designed to do in the first place….prevent chaos internationally.

    It is easy to get passionate about issues while stating facts and not sound loving, especially when being attacked as intolerant for speaking out for the unborn. We can’t back away from our principles as Christians just to win elections. Common ground may never be found, but if we give the power to the states, perhaps we can live in harmony where everyone has a place to call home.

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