Being a compulsive statistics nerd, I spent far too much time studying the Electoral College map over the last six months. In October, I was reading the polls on my i-phone twice a day. When asked to predict the election outcome the day before November 6, I got it right except for Florida. The major reason that I felt Obama would win the election finally was a steady demographic shift that has been ongoing for most of my life. Basically every four years, non-Latino white people represent about two percent less of the electorate from the previous presidential election. This is just something that we statistical nerds have quietly noticed.
But on the day after the election, the American media seized upon this news. Bigger than the headline about who won the election was the headline about the rise of the brown people! Now I found it odd, creepily so, that every rally for Romney was a sea of lily-white faces. But I also assumed that somehow the white people were angrier or more motivated to vote than the brown people. Not necessarily so. At all.
And if, after all the hulla-balloo and billions of dollars that was just spent to mobilize the white church folks and the white suburban folks to go vote, finally, there were just fewer of them this time around, and there will be fewer still in 2016. And Republicans who study the voting patterns of young white people have even more reason to panic. Their party is not just becoming isolated as a bastion of white people. The median age of Republican voters is rising steadily. They are in danger of becoming a bastion of old white people before very long.
They are going the way of the Presbyterians!
Here is a prognostication for you. I do not hold the statistical proof in hand, but I am predicting this: Any movement, institution, church, political party hotel chain or soccer club that is limiting its perspectives and market to straight white people… is likely already declining as a movement in the United States – and almost certainly will be declining soon.
This is a big deal for the United States. But it is a bigger deal for anything in the United States that has defined itself and customized itself around the tastes, values and perspectives of white people without reference to other folk.
You will be able to grow white enclave congregations for many more years, if that is what you are interested in doing. But they will be harder to grow, and their shelf life will be shorter, before they tip into decline. Denominational movements that are disconnected with young people and brown people face continued decline.
Many of those I coach wonder why I am always asking churches to do one-on-one surveys, interviews and focus groups with their neighbors and their kids. This is why. Unless old denominational churches and white enclave churches learn how to listen to what our community is really thinking and learn to care about what they really care about, we will not be happy with the state of our churches in the year 2022.
And as for the state of the Republicans ten years hence, I give them better odds than most of our churches. They will adapt, painfully, but they will adapt. Issue positions will morph in response to the beliefs and concerns of younger, browner voters and they probably will find a way to win again.
Will your church find such a way?