After a crushing loss at the polls, many in the conservative movement are soul-searching about why, despite an abysmal economic recovery, high gas prices, and other indicators, the GOP got drubbed at the polls. One of the more salient points made by more than a few commentators is the racial makeup of the GOP constituency. For all intents and purposes, Governor Romney turned out the same coalition that was previously successful for the conservative movement—white, heavily male evangelical voters.
Full disclosure: I voted for Romney, based on a number of factors. I’m proud of my vote and I’d do it all over again. But after the returns came in on November 6th, much earlier than we thought, it was clear that the conservative movement is no longer speaking to a majority of the country as it once did. I have had this sneaky suspicion for a while, cringing through a silly, out-of-touch, and often crass GOP primary season where the candidates seemed to appeal to a crude caricature of evangelicals.
I still feel that the conservative message is solid: a value for the dignity of life, the benefit of capitalist markets, and a strong national defense. But the GOP has been talking to its increasingly shrinking self for far too long. The message has grown stale and has been, at times, sidetracked by irrational fear and nativism. Consequently, a message that resonates with a large swath of seeming allies has only pushed away the fastest growing minorities groups.
I’ve had more than one conversation about immigration in the last year in which I told conservatives this: “Minority groups largely agree with you on most issues, but when your movement’s rhetoric sounds threatening, they will not vote for you.” A prominent Hispanic California pastor told a friend of mine, “They may agree with you on 3 out of 4 issues, but if you’re continually speaking of kicking their grandmother out of the country, they will not vote for you.”
Now, as a church leader, I have less concern about the electoral welfare than I do about the issues I think benefit our great country. So I don’t spend nights awake, sweating the future of the GOP. But, if this once-great party wishes to be a serious player on the political scene, I’d suggest they look no further than the evangelicals they wish to woo.
Over the last several years, the evangelical church has been engaging in serious discussions about racial diversity, immigration, and the nations coming together. The motivation is not political, but spiritual. Revelation 21-22 has a vision of the Kingdom that includes every nation, tribe, and tongue. If the Church is to be a model of the Kingdom, then we can’t help but pursue intentional diversity.
Books like John Piper’s Bloodlines have been honest, balanced, and prescriptive about the lack of diversity on Sunday morning. Movements led by pastors such as Tim Keller and Darrin Patrick have urged believers to go into the urban cities, rather than fleeing to more comfortable, racially homogenous areas. And the G92 movement has brought more and more conservative leaders on board to advocate common sense immigration reform. The Church still has a long way to go, of course. But today’s evangelicals are not just unafraid of racial diversity; they are pursuing it as a kingdom value.
That’s why the GOP’s old playbook has really failed them. Sure, it turned out the similar white evangelical coalition, but it missed opportunities with Hispanic evangelicals, African American evangelicals, Asian American evangelicals and other rising minority groups. It’s like it was using a 1980’s playbook in 2012. And it spectacularly failed.
If the GOP wants to regain power again, they’d be wise to speak the language of today’s evangelical church. Sure, abortion and marriage are still bedrock issues, but they join a host of other important concerns like human trafficking, immigration reform, and racial tension.
There is a movement afoot among God’s people that reflects the beauty of the Kingdom of God.And those who wish to secure this vote would be wise to educate themselves on what is happening. Unless they want to endure another head-scratching night four years from now.
Daniel Darling is the Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church and the author of several books, including his latest, Real, Owning Your Christian Faith. You can read more of his writings at danieldarling.com.
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