What changes would the Republican Party make if Christians, who have been a key bloc within their base, could no longer deliver enough votes to compete with Democrats for national offices? How would the party react to a 12 percent drop in giving from Christian donors over the next decade? Would they stick with the Christians?
We may find out. The number of Americans who identify as Christian has declined by 12 percent in just a decade. The Pew Research Center has projected that Christians could be a minority group in the United States by as early as 2055. Even if the rate of “switching” – a change in religious identity from the one in which a person was raised – stops increasing but remains constant, Christians will still lose their majority status by 2060.
Should switching cease entirely, which social scientists do not expect, the percentage of Christians in the U.S. would nevertheless decline due to Christian deaths outnumbering Christian births. Apart from a Christian spiritual awakening or revival, Christians are on their way to losing their majority status and, with it, their political clout.
They are already losing it. Six years ago, Fox News website ran an article titled, “A look at white Evangelical angst over declining clout.” Newsmax, a right-wing news agency, just ran an article that began: “Demographers predict evangelicals, who helped elect Donald Trump, will likely cease being a major political force in presidential elections by 2024.”
If even Fox News and Newsmax are convinced that Evangelical political power is waning, what must politicians be thinking? Does anyone seriously believe that conservative politicians won’t jettison Christian legislative commitments if that’s what it takes to form new election-winning coalitions?
When conservative Kansans voted down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have removed state protections for abortion, shockwaves were felt throughout the conservative political community around the nation. Catholic and Evangelical Christians in Kansas had failed to deliver. What did this portend for politics in the rest of the country?
The day is coming when historians will claim that a breakup between conservative Christians and the political right was an inevitability. And because Christians tend to be a loyal bunch – they consider faithfulness a virtue – it is doubtful that they will be the ones to initiate the breakup.
What will Christians do when their suitor and protector has abandoned them or, and this is the more likely scenario, tried to hang onto them while pursuing other voting blocs? Will they stick around for years, decades even, like a betrayed spouse hoping somehow to regain their partner’s devotion?
Where will Christians be when they are left behind by both parties, unwanted, ignored, and only remembered when some tight political contest brings old suitors calling again? They will be in a better place than they are now, for they will have discovered where their power lies and where it doesn’t.
The idea that Christians need governmental power for their cause to succeed is false. If history is any indication, the opposite is true. In its first three hundred years, Christianity was politically powerless and, by the mid-third century, fiercely persecuted. Yet for those first 300 years, the number of Christians grew at about 40 percent per decade. Compare that to the U.S., where Christians have exercised great political power but have gone from about 90 percent of the population to 64 percent in just three decades.
Some Christians will find all this discouraging – will experience “angst over their declining clout.” But from a biblical perspective, they needn’t worry about their clout; God has plenty. Their mission is not – and never was – to give their particular “kingdom of the world” a religious facelift but to disciple all the nations.
At the time of the communist takeover in China, the country had about a million Christians. After 70 years of repression and sometimes brutal persecution, the number of Christians has increased 100-fold and is predicted to top 200 million by 2030. Chinese Christians are fulfilling the mission Jesus gave them with spiritual, not political, clout. Christians here can do the same.