Like most liberals, after seeing Obama’s victory, my first thought was not to that specific event, but rather to the other side of it. This wasn’t because Republicans lost the election – no, it was because this was their last effort. 2012, for them, was not just another election.
You see, the Republican base is shrinking. America’s demographics are shifting – and they are changing into something that does not favor conservatism. This isn’t because of a younger generation’s fear of conservative fiscal policy (else libertarianism wouldn’t be so popular among young voters), but rather because of a new inclusive left in American politics. While the right has failed to connect with minorities and under-privileged Americans, the left has. The exit polls don’t lie: if you don’t fit the spitting image of privilege, you likely voted for Obama in 2012.
This is not just because these groups were strategically targeted – it’s because they were strategically lost by Republicans. For the most part, the Republican long-game has consisted of trying to strengthen their base instead of expanding it. So for the most part, the policies – moral and economic (if you make a distinction between the two) – of the party have been increasingly favorable to white, Christian Americans. A strategic choice made two decades ago – one that had worked for years, but now clearly needs to be thrown out.
But wait, what does Christianity have to do with any of this?
In a word: worldview.
Since Roe v. Wade, American conservative politics have been controlled primarily by moral issues influenced by a “Christian” perspective. The country’s implicit Christianity served as a unifier against the encroachment of “left” (or even moderate) ideals in American politics. I could expand on this idea more, but I’ll leave it at this: in the vacuum created by the end of the Cold War (even in its winding down in the mid-late 80s), right-wing American politics needed a new pillar to support their weight. With the ever-increasing diversification of the Democratic Party, a trend that had started in the mid-20th century, they needed a unifier.
They found it in a double-down on Christianity, specifically of the Evangelical denomination(s) that were exploding due to the inability to comply with a shifting Christian theological paradigm.
For years, the right was able to use abortion as a wedge issue. They were able to corral a sizeable chunk of the populace simply because they identified as Christian. By galvanizing their entire party around abortion, they were able to restructure American politics into a Christian friendly* dualistic binary. If you were Christian, then there was only one choice: theirs. So began the creation of the “Christian” worldview, one which would later be applied to gay marriage and contraception.
They falsely assumed that anyone standing with them was standing completely with them. While they were using abortion as a wedge issue, they never realized that was the case. Republicans (at least the Evangelical Christian ones) did not believe that these people voting on this issue might’ve been doing it for numerous reasons – instead, they simply assumed that by casting a red vote, they were baptizing themselves in a Christian worldview. They believed it to be more lock-and-key than slight wedge that might convince moderates to slide just barely right.
If Republicans stood for Christianity, Democrats (anyone on the left – the leftist spectrum is considerably wider, as the American spectrum is center-right) stood for the opposite, whatever that was. It was set in stone. This was the belief: a Christian core could not fall to the left, because how could any true Christian have leftist beliefs?
All of these things helped create what seemed like a unified Christian worldview in (right) American politics. But it didn’t create a worldview: it created a temporary camp of Evangelicals monopolizing as much of the Abrahamic hold as they could.
Following the election, what I expected to happen didn’t. Instead of licking their wounds and starting to make strategic gains (and finding insight into their demographic problem), Republicans started to claim (and I’m group paraphrasing here) that America had turned away from republicanism – that they’d turned away from Christianity.
Once again, they returned to that Christian dualistic tendency: arranging everything in the binary. This was America dying, because it was becoming European – a place that had tossed off Christianity to turn to 21st century technopaganism. It was Christianity shifting to secularism. There was no way it could be both. There was no way this could be America’s tendency to elect moderates (and keep them in office). It couldn’t be a problem with their candidate. It couldn’t be their relation with the social sciences. It couldn’t be their inability to connect with minorities. It couldn’t be the exclusiveness of the party.
Leftism is relativism. It’s moral decay. It’s handouts. The coalition of the Legion overtook that of the righteous crusader.
Liberty is dead. Justice is dead. The Divine Light handed to America from the heavens had been smothered.
After all, in this Christian mindset, they have to be. Good lost. Evil won.
The problem is that the above signifies an America which is drawn in a line: one of which is Christian on one side and left on the other. This flow of belief implies that Christianity is controlled, that it is unified, that it is a total body. That hermeneutics isn’t really a thing – that Biblical scripture is as it is, that one Christianity (Evangelicalism) sits at the top of all of them. This is what the religious right in America has grown to believe – that Christianity is Christianity, and there is nothing more to it than that.
It ignores that it isn’t. That past the belief in Jesus Christ, Christianity is divided.
And so, we get to the title: there is no Christian worldview. Or perhaps, more correctly, there is no unified Christian worldview. There might be an Evangelical worldview, but there is no unified Christian one.
Ask the Anglicans. Or the Pentecostals. Or the Presbyterians. Or even the Unitarian Universalists.
Perhaps, one would argue, that there once was a unified Christian worldview – but I disagree. I don’t think the “Christian worldview” came into political play until the rise of Evangelicalism.
So what’s the point in all this?
Black and white is dying. The Left/Christian divide is dying – for it has never really existed.
For years the American right has invested time, money, and effort into the idea that Christianity is the last bastion of their power. But that’s false. Sure, if you concern yourself with a specific breed of apologetics, Christianity seems unified – but a quick chat with any proper theologian will tell you otherwise.
And this is something that has been obvious to many on the left for years, perhaps because we can see past the dualism presented by the right-defined spectrum. Perhaps, even more than that, we can see the devout Christians among our ranks. The Evangelical Christian worldview that simply assumes Christianity is cannot last simply because it chooses to define us in terms of black or white. It does so because of how it reads scripture. The prior comment about hermeneutics was not just a sly nod – if you truly believe there is only one way to read the Bible then you’re going to transpose that into your worldview, into believing that your way is the only way – and that your way is the way.
You’re going to end up believing, for four years, that your party is galvanized in the same way you are, for there is nothing else. You’re going to believe everyone who is Christian believes as you do, and you’re going to be utterly blindsided when that methodology fails you.
So the takeaway is this: stop blaming your failures on the decline of the Christian worldview, because there is no such thing. There is only your scattered view of belief – and only you share it. It is not unified, and you can no longer create an illusion to the contrary.
People didn’t vote for Obama because their worldview is un-Christian. They did so because you failed to connect with them. Put down the Bible and pick up a demographic study. It’ll do you some good.
* A caveat of sorts here: I’m completely ignoring how problematic it is to assume America is a “Christian nation,” but it’s sort of necessary for this post, else I’d end up rambling for much longer. I also find it problematic that a belief system is rooted within biblical reason in the modern world (unless your name is Kierkegaard), but that’s another post for another time.