In a stunning new national survey, Barna Group finds, "Evangelicals are the least engaged...compared to other major faith groups, even though the acknowledge the importance" of the current presidential campaign."
Those who claim Islam, Buddhism and Judaism are considerably more engaged than evangelicals.
So are atheists.
What's going on?
The Christian Post notes that while 78% of evangelicals characterize the outcome of this year's presidential election as "extremely important to the future of the United States," only 20% of evangelicals are paying close attention to the election process.
Among non-Christian faiths---including Islam, Buddhism and Judaism--- 41% are closely following the election campaigns.
Even religious skeptics, which includes atheists and agnostics are more engaged, with 38% paying attention to the elections.
Also 38% of Catholics are engaged compared to 26% of Protestants. This is a reversal of the last 4 presidential elections.
This Barna Survey is likely the most accurate to date because Barna used a set of 9 theological beliefs to identify evangelicals, rather than denominational affiliation or the more commonly used self identification.
Evangelicals, for the purpose of the survey, met nine specific theological criteria:
They say they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today,” that their faith is very important; believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior; strongly believe they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; firmly believe that Satan exists; strongly believe that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; strongly agree that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; strongly asserts the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches; and describes God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent on church attendance, the denominational affiliation of the church attended or self-identification. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”
For the survey, Barna identified non-evangelical Christians as those who say they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. However, they do not accept all of the remaining seven conditions that categorize someone as an evangelical.
The obvious question then is, "Why are these people who say this election is extremely important to the future of the United States not much engaged?"
The Survey addressed that as well. Here's some of what they found:
- People's primary source of information about election news and activities is the news media. Evangelicals have a long running feud with the news media, believing they consistently and intentionally provide inaccurate and inadequate reporting of what is really happening in the world, including election-related events and information.
Barna found that only 5% of evangelicals believe the media is providing fair and objective news and information about the political campaigns.
They also found that only 8% of non-evangelicals trust the media.
More than 50% of evangelicals feel the media's handling of the campaign is either completely or mostly unfair and subjective.
So maybe evangelicals care but are not engaged because of their acute distrust of the news media?
- George Barna says, "Unexpected" is a word that could describe this election. "Nobody expected 17 to seek the GOP nomination. Nobody expected Donald Trump to be taken seriously by Republican voters, much less to emerge as the 'man to beat'," he says.
"Nobody expected the last two credible candidates to be those representing the Washington outsiders."
"Nobody expected a democratic socialist to give Hilary Clinton serious competition."
"Nobody expected so many evangelicals to back a Republican candidate whose lifestyle has consistently conflicted with their values."
"Nobody expected the televised debates to draw such record-breaking audiences."
Barna says he believes that when you use his way of defining actual evangelicals verses "self described," as the media does, you get a much more accurate view of the evangelical community.
Although the evangelicals are not engaged to any great degree at this point, Barna believes they will become engaged in the weeks ahead.
I pray he is right.
10 thoughts for "unengaged evangelicals" and all the rest who love the Lord and our country:
- Voting publicly recognizes that we submit to the authority of the political system in our nation as established by God (Romans 13:1-7).
- Voting recognizes the equality of all people and their right to speak and be heard (Deuteronomy 10:17-19).
- It is one way in which we can seek the good of those around us and the good of our nation and community (Jeremiah 29:5-6).
- It shows we deeply care about who our leaders are and are committed to pray for them as we are instructed to do (I Tim.2:1-2).
- It is something significant each of us can do. Edmund Burke said, "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing" (Ps. 34:14).
- Voting makes a difference, like a grain of salt makes a difference. We are salt (Matt. 5:13),
- Voting is a privilege and blessing that many in our world do not have. Choosing not to vote is rejecting the blessing.
- Not voting is a form of voting. Either will influence the outcome of an election. We are to be responsible for or actions and for our inactions (Luke 10: 25-37).
- Voting has biblical precedence. Even the early church voted on leadership (Acts 14:23).
- Voting is part of our stewardship to use all the resources we have been given in ways that honor God---to waste a vote is to squander a gift.
Be Informed. Be Active. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.