Are Evangelicals Exiting the Republican Party? | Opinion

In addition to simple sociology, there are ideological forces at work as well. Some conservative Christian groups with a pacifist history refuse to vote, especially when the candidates and their parties leave so much to be desired. Theologically speaking, these groups follow the Mennonite approach to politics disseminated by John Howard Yoder (1927–1997) and his admirers. For Yoder, the Roman emperor Constantine, who legalized Christianity in the early fourth century, introduced a harmful joining of church and state that compromised the church’s witness. So the Christian decision not to vote as a matter of conscience is predicated on a separation of church and state that sees the two communities in competition with one another in a zero-sum game. Allegiance to one allegedly rules out any allegiance to the other. According to this understanding, the pious Christian is to be apolitical and should not seek social change or improvement through civil or political processes. Stanley Hauerwas, the leading proponent of Yoder’s general approach, has been enormously influential among evangelical leaders and church members.

Among evangelicals more open to political engagement, there may be an increasing exhaustion with culture wars and an accompanying acknowledgment of the waning influence of Christianity (especially of the evangelical variety) in public life in general. These evangelicals are close to giving up on political solutions. Many of them voted for Trump in hopes of gaining conservatives on the Supreme Court, and were repaid by Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch writing the opinion for Bostock v. Clayton County, a decision sure to curb evangelical religious freedom. If a disrupter like Trump couldn’t gain meaningful ground in the culture wars, then it may not be doable. Rod Dreher and others have long argued that evangelicals have lost the culture wars and that the primary battle in the public square should be for the basics—religious liberty and freedom of speech. These Christian conservatives have not given up their conservatism, but only their will to engage battles in the secular political forum.

In sum, these factors may portend a coming decline of evangelical participation in conservative politics, which could spell disaster for the GOP.

Newsweek Are Evangelicals Exiting the Republican Party? | Opinion