In the past week there’s been considerable analysis of the Republican’s demographic problems. Politicos point out how the Republicans will prove incapable of winning national elections if they continue to rely on the vote of white Protestants, an increasingly shrinking piece of the electoral pie. Only 1/5 voters last Tuesday so identified themselves. If Republicans want to put together a national, majority coalition, observers have said often since Tuesday night, they need to adapt and reach younger voters, more diverse voters and religiously unaffiliated voters.
Some Republicans in the press have embraced this reality- always the first step to change- while others have denied it and posited other explanations for their defeat Tuesday.
Here’s the truly sobering data from Tuesday night. The Republican Party’s problems is the same problem the Church faces.
According to the Pew Trust Survey, released last month, nearly 20% of Americans identify themselves as ‘religiously unaffiliated.’
The stigma against religious ambivalence that was once so strong among the greatest generation, and even their children- which, no doubt, led to a degree of shallow, cultural Christianity off of which the Church has been subsisting decades- is no longer. People today feel free to identify themselves as unbelievers without concern that someone will look down their nose at them.
No surprise: many of the religiously unaffiliated are my age and younger and they’re diverse.
In a nutshell, the Church is facing the future holding Mitt Romney’s electoral strategy, which a week’s hindsight demonstrates is a losing bet.
And just as Republicans have been doing this week past, some Christians are willing to face the reality (and the challenge) and vision for the future while other Christians seem determined to deny reality or, worse, blame the culture, turn their backs on it and jettison the universal implications of their beliefs.
Interestingly (tragically), the convergence between the Pew Trust survey and Tuesday night’s results goes deeper. The Pew results found that very many of those who identify as religiously unaffiliated do so because they perceive Christianity to be “deeply entangled with conservative politics and do not want to have any association with it. As a result, many young Americans view religion as judgmental, hypocritical, homophobic, and too political.”
What’s more, 2/3 of the unaffiliated say the Church is too concerned with money and power (70%) and too involved in politics (67%).
In other words, the ’80’s and ’90’s may have been good for the Christian Coalition but the fruit they’ve reaped has not been good for Christians.
As Mitt Romney found out Tuesday, the college students who voted for Obama this time around aren’t the same college students who voted in 2008. Meaning, the trends are only going to continue and get worse for the Church unless we face facts.
The bad news in the data is that the Church has allowed our infatuation with the trappings of Empire to define how many perceive us.
The good news in the data is that most of the unaffiliated have bowed out for good reasons and not- thank God- because they’re not open to Jesus.