All Hands on Deck: Christians Need to Engage in the Election Now
Before classes began for the fall semester, the entire staff and faculty of Arizona Christian University gathered for two days of prayer and preparation. The event was called the “All Hands” meeting — as in, “all hands on deck,” the Navy call-to-action when everyone must be present to engage in the task at hand.
The November 8th midterm elections represent an “all hands on deck” moment for biblical Christians in America.
For many decades, Christians have felt they satisfied their citizen obligation by simply casting a ballot on Election Day. But the times have changed dramatically. Those votes were cast during an era when the government was legal and healthy (albeit sometimes misguided), and elections were generally fair and trustworthy. Those days are long gone. Corruption, deception, abuse of power, misuse of government funds, and media collusion are the new political norm in America. Merely voting is no longer enough to ensure the security and extension of a safe country driven by the Constitution, rule of law, and biblical morality. If there is any hope of stabilizing and restoring our nation, we desperately need an ALL HANDS ON DECK commitment from biblical Christians between now and November.
You might be surprised to learn how few devoted Christians actually participate in the election process beyond voting. Recent national research by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University indicates that most of the devoted Christians in America typically add little value to the process beyond their vote. Those who do provide a service beyond voting generally take part in a single election-related pursuit. In an age where millions of voting records are being falsified, elections are being stolen, and government agencies are guilty of selective enforcement of the law, followers of Christ cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and watch their country be destroyed from the inside-out.
Let’s get more specific. A recent Cultural Research Center survey measured election participation in eight ways. The complacency of the body of Christ despite this time of urgency is evident upon exploring the commitment of each of several key Christian segments.
Among theologically-defined born-again Christians:
- One out of five is not even registered to vote.
- Less than one out of every four volunteers to help a candidate, donates to political campaigns, participates in public demonstrations (e.g., marches, rallies, protests), or is willing to engage in civil disobedience.
- One out of four attempts to register unregistered adults as voters or to personally persuade another person to vote in a specific manner.
Among theologically-conservative adults (both Protestant and Catholic), the profile is almost identical:
- One out of five is not registered to vote.
- Less than one out of every four volunteers for a political candidate or campaign, donates money to a political campaign, participates in public demonstrations, or is willing to engage in civil disobedience.
- One out of four attempts to register unregistered adults as voters.
- One out of every three attempts to personally persuade someone to vote for a specific candidate or initiative.
Among adults who attend an evangelical church, the behavior patterns are again similar:
- One out of six is not registered to vote.
- Less than one out of every four volunteers to assist a candidate, donates to a political campaign, tries to register unregistered adults as voters, participates in public demonstrations, or is willing to engage in civil disobedience.
- Three out of every 10 attempt to personally persuade people to vote for a specific candidate or initiative.
Even among Integrated Disciples — i.e. adults who possess a biblical worldview — commitment to political engagement is sorely lacking and is eerily similar to that of the previously-described Christian niches:
- One out of seven has not bothered to register to vote.
- Less than one out of every four volunteers to help a candidate, donates to political campaigns, seeks to register unregistered adults as voters, takes part in a public demonstration, or is willing to engage in civil disobedience.
- Slightly more than one out of three engages in trying to persuade someone to vote for a specific candidate or initiative.
Perhaps the most striking realization is that when it comes to faith and politics, even our “showcase” niche (SAGE Cons) has a lot of room for growth. These Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christians (SAGE Cons) may be defined by engagement in both spiritual and political matters, but they bear more in common than in contrast with the other Christian segments just detailed.
By definition, SAGE Cons are registered to vote, but they take that privilege seriously: more than 90% of them have voted in each of the last four national elections (presidential and midterm), far surpassing the levels of the other Christian segments listed above. Reflecting their political awareness and spiritual commitment, SAGEs are three times more likely than other believers to say they are committed to participating in civil disobedience, if necessary. They are about 40% more likely to spend time researching the candidates and initiatives that will appear on their ballot. But what about those other, in-between indicators of engagement?
- SAGE Cons are only half as likely as the national average to volunteer in a political campaign (10%).
- Although they are substantially better informed politically and are much more likely to have a biblical worldview (or at least to know the Bible well), barely more than one-third of them invests in persuading other individuals they know to vote in a specified way.
- Slightly more than one-third of them actively recruit people to register as voters.
- Their incidence levels are no different than those of the other groups of Christians examined above when it comes to donating to political campaigns or participating in public demonstrations.
When asked to identify our “best of class” regarding faith-based sociopolitical engagement, SAGE Cons are our go-to segment. But clearly, in a time of national distress, everyone needs to step up their game — even SAGE Cons.
It seems that sometimes conservatives are in danger of being like the boy who cried “wolf” too often, turning the ears of his tribe deaf to his pleas for help when such action was truly needed. As I look at the state of our country today, during this time of government-driven oppression, persecution, deception, disunity, and redefinition, I do not believe that begging the true Church to stand strong and long is either ill-timed or overreaching. If we do not stand this November, we may not have the chance again. And standing in November means more than simply voting and carrying out some other non-strenuous election-related effort. This is a season for intensity, diligence, solidarity, sacrifice and intercession.
George Barna is a Senior Research Fellow at FRC's Center for Biblical Worldview.