Here’s one of the most important observations that Steve Wilkens and Don Thorsen make in their new book, Everything You Know about Evangelicals Is Wrong (Well, Almost Everything): An Insider’s Look at Myths and Realities .
Not all Evangelicals are Republicans.
But it is one of the most common assumptions made in the media and in pulpits.
I begin with a simple experience that illustrates the issue: As a student at a well-known evangelical seminary in the late 70s and early 80s I sensed (no one did polls that I knew of) many students were political radicals, and part of this owed to the emergence out of Viet Nam protests. Then Kris and I went to England for two years and when we came back in 1983 there had been a notable shift toward … well, what to call it … Reaganology. The shift was not sudden but it was dramatic. Jim Wallis and his buddies were at that seminary in the early 70s, on the first day of my Synoptic Gospels class a student stood to filibuster the syllabus for not having enough social justice practice … and then here we were, back again, and Oh how things had changed.
The reigning assumption in the media and among many evangelicals is that All.Evangelicals.Are.Republican.
Question: How has evangelicalism been co-opted by the Republican party? Or, slightly different, how has the Republican party accommodated itself to evangelicalism?
Hence, the chp by Wilkens and Thorsen.
Steve Wilkens writes this chp and he is a registered Republican. Not only that, he fits the whole bill: Midwest Bible belt nurture, drives a big beefy pickup, a hound dog that rides in the truck, went to school at evangelical schools, and he and his family attend an evangelical church. And he votes Republican. (Don doesn’t.)
The majority of evangelicals do vote Republican, but the numbers are not as high as some think — and the numbers are shifting among the younger evangelicals. First of all, evangelicalism is not simply American so we have to say this (I’m summarizing their points): American evangelicals tend toward the Republican ticket. The issue is about being co-opted by a political party. And many fear that the Republican party controls the American evangelical. And millions — their number — perceive no difference between Republican and evangelical.
25% of electorate is evangelical.
66% of evangelicals voted for Bush. McCain got 74%.
But what happens when we factor in the word “white”? 20% of the electorate is non-white and they are often not identified as evangelicals and vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.
Pollsters exclude non-whites because they don’t vote Republican! An increasing number of evangelicals have bought this way of thinking, leading many to think nearly all evangelicals vote Republican. This is what it means to be co-opted.
Next Wilkens examines the God-gap: those who attend church/religious service once per week or even more (Christian, Jew, etc) voted Republican (64%) while those who didn’t voted Democrat (62%). Wilkens suggests the common factor here is “tradition.”
Wilkens thinks the Republican party is a threat to evangelicalism because it has has accommodated itself to evangelicalism.