Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Trouble is brewing for the GOP as young evangelicals are continuing to leaving its camp. I sounded this alarm in my column in the AJC on April 18th entitled, WWJD? Vote for Obama, More and more young evangelicals say. It drew a heap of criticism even though the article was not an endorsement, but merely a cultural commentary based on a poll in Relevant Magazine. The poll asked younger evangelicals "Who would Jesus vote for?" and the number one response was Obama. But now I am not the only one playing that bugle.

The Seattle Times ran an article this week, Young, evangelical ... for Obama?, that says exactly the same thing. Interestingly, the article leads with Michael Dudley, a sophomore at Seattle Pacific University and son of an evangelical preacher, who says, "I think a lot of Christians are having trouble getting behind everything the Republicans stand for." A sentiment I believe resonates with many in our generation.

The article also cites a study by the Pew Forum showing that support for the GOP among young evangelicals has dropped 15%. While Pew reports that 19% of white evangelicals now vote democrat, only 5% of the 15% of evangelicals who have left the GOP now affiliate with the Democratic party. The others are what Shane Claiborne, author of Jesus for President, says are socially-conservative but globally aware. "I don't think it's a new evangelical left," Claiborne told the Seattle Times. "There's a new evangelical stuck-in-the-middle." These middle-dwelling Christ-followers are nomads, gypsies, wanderers in the land of the unaffiliated "independent" bloc.

This rise in independent voting among evangelicals is catalogued in detail in Marcia Ford's new book, We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter (Tyndale, 2008). The cover describes this group perfectly: "We are independent voters, neither Republican red nor democratic blue. Many of us are people of faith who are tired of partisanship in the church. We believe that together we can bring about radical reform by avoiding partisan politics and finding creative solutions to our nation's many problems. Starting now."

I predict this GOP exodus among evangelicals will continue unless, as I have stated, one or both of the parties adjust. If the GOP develops agressive platforms on issues like poverty, human rights and the environment or the Democrats can begin embracing non-negotiable issues like traditional marriage and the sanctity of human life, they will likely scoop up these evangelical misfits. Unfortunately, I don't see either solution happening anytime soon, which leaves many a young evangelical wandering in the wilderness for an indefinite period of time.

How do you feel about politics and the American political landscape?

Are you sensing this shift among your friends and peers?

1 comment:

Heather Marie said...

As one who feels caught in the "purple zone", if you will, it is nice to realize that I have company. For awhile I felt like I was practically alone in my disassociation with a political party. I have friends who identify with both parties, but I have never had a strong affiliation with either group. I believe that voting a straight party ticket, simply because my blood runs a certain color, is one of the most unintelligent things I could do. Not that I'm some genius, but I do like to think I possess a decent level of intelligence. Bipartisan politics often causes people cast their vote for a candidate that they don't agree with but who is part of their party. One of my co-workers has even told me that she cannot stand Obama (she is a hardcore Hillary fan), but if Obama wins the Democratic nomination she will walk in the booth, close her eyes, and vote Democrat. I cannot even begin to comprehend this ridiculous party allegiance. I believe, regardless of party affiliation, everyone should cast a vote for who they think is the best candidate. I personally could not vote for a person unless I thought they were the best candidate for the position. And this isn't confined to the presidential race; I believe people should vote for the best candidate on every level of government. Will this remove all of our problems? No. People are always going to disagree on what they think are the most important issues and who they consider to be the best candidate. But isn't it better to affiliate yourself with a person you can truly stand behind and endorse instead of a color? I'm only (almost) 23 and I'm already fed up with bipartisan politics.

The term colorblind has been tossed around for years in relation to race, but I would argue we need to be colorblind in our politics. Look past the red or blue surrounding a candidate and determine who that person is, what they stand for, and whether or not they deserve your support. Vote for who you think is the best candidate.

Heather Marie

p.s. Thanks for the thought provoking posts. I really enjoy reading them.