…but sometimes simple logic allows one to foresee things. As best as our search function can determine, I first discussed the possibility of Evangelicals sequestering themselves in a political ghetto in February of 2008. It did not dawn on me when I wrote this on Monday reflecting on the Romney/Ryan ticket and the absence of a Protestant:
What seems obvious to this observer, and completely unremarked upon anywhere else, is that this also marks a shift in who is in front of the Evangelical/Catholic coalition. After a couple of decades of Evangelicals in the lead, it is now plain that Catholics have assumed that position. This would, I think, be a fascinating topic for a thesis by some grad student out there. Evangelicals and Catholics are roughly equal demographically in the nation, but Protestants generally, which includes Evangelicals, enjoy a huge demographic advantage. At first glance it appears a major failure for Evangelicals to have lost the lead. It really would be interesting to chronicle the why’s and wherefore’s of this decline in political clout. But such is a long term project for someone with more time and a different education than I.
That my worries about the political sequestration of Evangelicals had pretty much come to pass. And for the time being I think they are content to stay there. Being evangelical myself, I ran across two articles this week that I found fascinating. One was a discussion of how God intends us to do economics. The other was a three part (to date) discussion of whether the president really is the “nation’s pastor-in-chief” at Christianity Today. Here they are – Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3. I set them aside and said, “What wonderful stuff to go over in detail and discuss on the blog on the weekend.” And then it dawned on me – such discussions are part of living in the ghetto. Back in that 2008 post I wrote:
The problem is simple, when all you do is hang around with people who are like you and talk about stuff only you all are interested in, you create a ghetto. Is that ghetto imposed on you? Not really, its just that no one else cares about what you care about so much. In such a circumstance you have two choices, really. One start talking about other things so that more and other people will want to join the conversation, or somehow change other people so they want to talk about what you are talking about.
It seems clear that Evangelicals are not yet waking up to the realities of American politics. Are they impactful? Absolutely, but are the effective? Only in a limited sense. Paul Ryan’s VP nod is certainly due in part to the Tea Party and the Tea Party is largely, though not exclusively, composed of Evangelicals. But Ryan is Catholic and “only” the vice-presidential nominee. Any success that Evangelicals might claim this cycle is due to two factors. The first is rebranding as the “Tea Party,” largely focusing on fiscal, not social, issues. The second is tightening the coalition with the Roman Catholics. Alone and on the things that are truly closest to their hearts, Evangelicals can claim no success.
Evangelicals have no choice now but to work as hard as they can to elect Romney/Ryan. But once that job is done, it is time for a major rethink and reorganization. To do otherwise is to be satisfied in the ghetto.