Matt Lewis

Are Republicans missing the boat with today’s post-‘culture war’ Evangelicals?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

Daniel Darling, a pastor, author, and speaker, emails with some smart thoughts on why Republicans need to change how they talk to a new generation of Evangelicals:

“[W]hen it comes to the full range of issues evangelical churches are discussing, the GOP is really missing the boat. During the primary season, most of us were cringing at the statements being made by some of the candidates. I suspect they were being consulted by old-guard evangelical activists, who presented their candidates with the same portfolio of issues – taking our country back, abortion, tyranny, etc. So you had a Rick Perry running ads on ‘they are stripping God out of the country, etc).’ Most evangelicals now would cringe at that stuff.

Instead, we are talking about, yes abortion, but also human trafficking, poverty, orphan care, adoption, etc. The primary hit on none of these, precisely because I think GOP’ers think all they have to do is appease … white conservative evangelicals. But in narrowing their appeal to them, they do lock up the white evangelical vote in a sense, but lose out on Hispanic evangelicals, some younger evangelicals, etc.

And sadly, Obama outmaneuvered the GOP on some of these. Yes, he doubled down on abortion–which I think was a long-term mistake, honestly. But he was brilliant in addressing human trafficking and other issues. And he has better contacts with a rising generation of evangelicals with Joshua Dubois and Michael Wear.

Furthermore, evangelical churches are taking seriously intentional diversity. You have guys like John Piper and Tim Keller talking honestly about race. You have a whole movement of people going into the urban areas and planting churches. So there is a strong discord between what the GOP keeps insisting that evangelicals care about and the discussions actually taking place.

I know this in part because I’m a pastor, but also because I’m attending one of the top evangelical seminaries, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago. I’m amazed at how much discussion here is on race, poverty, justice, community–things I never, ever hear from the white, old, male, angry conservative talk show crowd.

If the GOP wants to win, I’d suggest a listening tour in some of the top churches like Tim Keller’s church in NY, Andy Stanley’s church in Atlanta, and other churches. I’d suggest attending conferences like Passion and Catalyst and The Gospel Coalition. I know the Obama folks are in tune with these, often attend these churches, and go to the conferences. Rather than going to Iowa and wooing old white culture warriors.”