For Religious Voters, Risk Is Good Like God
Republicans Target Believers’ Sensibilities – and Not Just Through Social Issues
BY: G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Emerging is a portrait of a worldview shared by millions of Americans whom the GOP is actively courting. They believe it’s good to trust God by taking risks for worthy causes. This might involve joining the military, having a child instead of an abortion, or starting a business on a shoestring. It certainly doesn’t involve collecting unemployment checks if you’re able-bodied, at least according to 53 percent of those who strongly agree that “God has a plan for me.” (Those who are less certain of God’s plan for them are also proportionally more open to government-issued unemployment checks for the able-bodied).
These values are well-known to the GOP. Republicans have long held sway as God’s Old Party, but they’ve made further inroads since 2008, according to Pew surveys of 15,000 registered voters in 2011. The largest gains of the past three years, in terms of percent who say they identify or lean GOP, came among people of faith: Mormons, Jews, white Catholics and mainline Protestants. Now 70 percent of evangelicals lean Republican, as do 80 percent of Mormons. Meanwhile 71 percent of atheists lean Democratic, as do 61 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.
The neat lines from doctrine to pro-business ideology, however, beg a few pesky questions. If God can provide via market forces, why can’t He provide via government programs, too? And if the GOP is so keen to trust God, not government, why must a host of industries (agriculture, energy and so on) depend on government support?
What’s more, all the lines don’t point in the same direction. African-American Protestants, for instance, lean Democratic to the tune of 88 percent. Yet according to Baylor, they’re almost three times more likely than either Catholics or other Protestants to hear in church that they should start businesses. Entrepreneurial people of faith can apparently rally behind Democrats as long as the group politics make sense.
Still, links between faith and political praise for risk-taking offer clues into what voters might feel is at stake. These are, after all, people of faith. While they care about issues from debts to war and education, they might care even more about whether faith ultimately flourishes or fizzles in America. If faith tends to thrive amidst risk-taking, will faith fade when risk is mitigated by a provider government? For those who believe, there could be no greater loss. In that sense, safety net issues in 2012 are about much more than bread and butter.
Beliefnet Contributing Editor G. Jeffrey MacDonald is a journalist, ordained minister and author of Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul . For more information visit www.thievesinthetemplebook.com and www.gjeffreymacdonald.com