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.
The demographics of America continue to flex, and this is what the election results tell us about who is really in charge:
- 18-45 years of age
- Urban (or college town)
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.