Are American churches doing their job?
There’s been a lot of justifiable hand-wringing regarding the Christian vote in this election cycle. Unfortunately, the reality is even worse than the perception.
That’s because data suggests that what’s driving many believers to vote isn’t their beliefs as much as it is their racial/ethnic identity — just like the electorate at large. In other words, voters coming from the institution charged with preserving America’s vitally important moral foundation — the church — collectively aren’t approaching the ballot box any differently than the secularly-minded.
That’s bad news if you’re trying to conserve a society based on God-given (not government granted) rights, but more on that later. First, let’s permit the troubling data to speak for itself.
Let’s begin with Catholic voters, which are a crucial voting bloc for both Republicans and Democrats. Since Roe v. Wade, only once has either side won the presidency without winning the Catholic vote. And that was in 2000 when George W. Bush won the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote, so that’s obviously an outlier.
How critical is this bloc of voters? Consider Obama won Catholics by three points in 2012, which mirrored almost precisely his national popular vote advantage (3.8 points).
While polls have shown Democrats with a decided edge among Catholics ever since the race was narrowed to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump doesn’t have a Catholic problem as much as he has a minority problem. Trump has narrowly led among white Catholics since last summer. However, that’s not enough to overcome Clinton’s astounding three-to-one lead among Hispanic Catholics.
The same pattern exists among evangelical protestants, but it’s even more striking.
For the sake of its survey, LifeWay defined evangelical beliefs as the following:
- Trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
- Believe they have a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with others.
- Believe the Bible is the final authority in their lives.
What’s unsettling is how those who claim they “believe the Bible is the final authority in their lives” could have such starkly different voting patterns. Especially because the Bible makes it clear the Christian is to set aside their worldly identity (race, ethnicity, gender, family legacy, nation of origin, etc.) in order to find his/her identity in Christ first and foremost.
Sadly, just the opposite appears to be happening with many voters.
Either way, morality and limited government are hand-in-hand. You cannot have one without the other.
Whites with evangelical beliefs are voting for a Republican whose lack of character and tendency to bully/demean flies in the face of what the Bible requires of our leaders. On the other hand, non-whites with evangelical beliefs are voting for a Democrat who is a staunch advocate for infanticide and sexual immorality, which are clearly condemned by the Scriptures. Not to mention Clinton’s willingness to have government violate the First Amendment to punish those who believe in Biblical morality.
Here’s why this trend spells certain doom for American Exceptionalism if it continues.
John Adams once said our Constitution establishing self-government was “meant only for a moral and religious people.” Many of his fellow founding fathers echoed similar sentiments. It’s no coincidence that as the culture has become more decadent the government has gotten bigger. The less moral restraint we have, the more government is needed to suffer the consequences of our actions.
Furthermore, those who fundamentally just believe in big government will seek to further incentivize immorality in order to justify their calls for more government. Thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Either way, morality and limited government are hand-in-hand. You cannot have one without the other.
This is why great spiritual awakenings came before liberty in our history, and then later revivals were required to secure that liberty for future generations once it was established. Spiritual revival leads to a morally-restrained people. A morally-restrained people require less government to restrain them.
But if we are now living in a time, as this data suggests, when even those who have inherited that spiritual legacy will instead see things as racially polarized and ethnically balkanized like the general population does, then the last line of defense to preserve our heritage has also been lost.
Many of us long for a day when it seems the majority of Americans once more believe in the right things regardless of our political differences. Those days will not return if believers, who are required to set their cultural biases aside to serve a greater cause, are unable to do so. For if someone is unable to set what divides us aside to serve God, they’ll never do it to serve their fellow man.
This puts us in existential danger. Without a moral and religious people, good luck preserving the notion of God-given rights that empowers individual freedom and limits government intrusion.
Is it any wonder we’re mired in a depressing presidential action between, as 19-year-old Janae Petijean told the Boston Globe, a man who “is everything wrong with America’s culture” and a woman who “is everything wrong with our government,” given everything wrong with the church?