I was looking for some statistics on the number of self-professed evangelicals in America and I found this poll from June of last year:
According to the poll, 83 percent of Americans describe themselves as Christian.
Of this number, 37 percent of all Christians describe themselves as born-again or evangelical; that includes nearly half of all Protestants (47 percent), as well as a small share (14 percent) of Catholics.
So assuming the current census numbers of just over 301 million, there are 250 million “Christians” in the United States and 92 million evangelicals.
Evangelicals are by definition people who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ; the inerrancy of scripture; and that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone.
If we include conservative Roman Catholics who don’t describe themselves as “evangelical,” but who nevertheless share our values, the number swells even larger — perhaps more than 100 million or one-third of all Americans.
Consider that this voting block goes for the Republican presidential candidate by 70 to 80 percent in every election. Then consider that no presidential candidate has ever won with more than 70 million votes.
What we have is a sleeping giant among evangelical non-voters.
If conservative Christians want to capture the majority of the executive, congressional and judicial offices at the national level and in most states in the next four to six years, a simple strategy can be employed.
1. Promote the truth that voting is not only a privilege it is a duty.
Jesus taught: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.” For too long, many Christians have taken this to mean that we are exempt from political involvement. “We belong to God and therefore our vote does not need to be rendered unto Caesar.” Whether this is thought consciously or unconsciously, this is the attitude and the behavior. However, in a representative democracy, “Caesar” is “We the People.” This means that we have the God mandated responsibility to represent ourselves by casting our vote. We cannot simply opt out of the process and say that we are exempt from rendering to Caesar since we belong to God. Evangelical Christians as a potential majority voting bloc are Caesar. In our democratic republic, Caesar — “We the People” — belongs to God!
2. Hold two national caucuses made up of prominent evangelical leaders every two years to endorse candidates.
The Conservative Christian Caucus could be called prior to the primaries in each election year to examine Democratic, Republican and Independent candidates according to a three pronged test.
- Pro-life and pro-family issues
- Domestic spending and tax reform
- Lessening the size of the federal government and regulation
All candidates would be invited to give a short speech on their policy positions. Then each delegate would give each candidate a “yea or nay” on each area and votes would be tabulated with each candidate receiving a rating.
In each presidential primary cycle the evangelical vote is usually split between several candidates and what invariably happens is that the plurality ends up going to a moderate Republican who then disappoints conservative evangelicals by caving in on one or more of the three areas of our concern.
After the third or fourth primary, the Caucus would reconvene in order to unite behind a single candidate. The same process would be used as before, with the “winner” of the caucus publicized. In this way, evangelical voters would not be hoodwinked into thinking that they must support the “front runner” in order to win the presidency in the fall. The tail will no longer wag the dog. The front runner would become the candidate we unite behind.
In every two year congressional election, these caucuses might occur on the state and district level as well to evaluate conservative candidates.
A national caucus would be also be held during the mid-term election cycle in order to evaluate the performance of the sitting president and to evaluate some important senatorial and congressional races.
Waking The Sleeping Giant
Let’s face it. Gulliver has been held captive by the Lilliputians for too long. We have been told we can’t organize or risk losing our 501©3 status. But a majority of conservatives in power (not just “Republicans in name only”) would have the power to abolish the IRS with one stroke of the pen. We could revert to a “fair tax” — a national sales tax — that would make losing 501©3 status moot.
(And for those church and ministry leaders who fear the losing the motivating factor of having tax exempt donations on donors’ 1040 “Schedule A” forms, please realize that donations would still be tax exempt under a “fair tax” in that we would not pay any income tax or sales tax on these donations!)
We therefore need to complete steps one and two and then revert to step one in an effort to motivate all evangelical voters to participate in the primaries and the general election. It is not even necessary at this point to educate evangelicals how to vote, but to get them to vote. This huge voting bloc is going to generally fall along an 80/20 ratio and has the ability to tilt any election if enough vote. A few strategies can be employed.
1. Encourage pastors and priests to give short election day sermons in which the Christian duty to vote is expounded upon.
2. Distribute absentee ballots to church members with simple easy to explain instructions on how to use them. Absentee ballots are far more effective than “voter guide” because it requires the individual to examine his or her choices prior to election day. Absentee ballots might be coupled with voter guides, but might be better received than voter guides among pastors and church elders who are squeamish about having a “Christian Coalition Voter Guide” available among the church’s “Gospel” literature.
3. Conduct frequent voter registrations in churches prior to the primaries, after Easter Day service and prior to the general elections.
These two strategies of uniting behind a single candidate through local, state and national caucuses and mobilizing the “sleeping giant” can have a huge effect in restoring some moral sanity to the politics and culture of our nation.
On the other hand, a problem most Christians don't see is rampant "pietism."
Pietism is distinguished from "piety" -- and is an emphasis on the "inner spiritual life" and having a "relationship with Jesus" but neglecting the outward flow of this experience.
In modern evangelicalism, we too often see a message of cheap grace, and it is producing “Me”-centered Christians, and selfish, “blessed,” feelings-oriented “converts.”
Too many Christians forget that we serve God in our daily lives, at how we do our jobs, in how we perform in school, in all our social and civic responsibilities -- as well as through prayer and personal devotion. This responsibility to serve God includes participation in the political process.
I am not so concerned that evangelicals will vote the right way (it's a safe bet to say that at least 80 percent will support candidates that stand for biblical moral values) as I am that evangelicals will neglect their duty to vote.