Guest Writer: Tony Perkins and our Partners at FRC
If you were surprised by the media’s exaggerated (and incorrect) reports of the demise of the political influence of conservative Christians, then you’ll be happy to see Pew Research Center’s latest poll. According to the report, the Christian faith isn’t as rare on Capitol Hill as the media and those on the Left would have you to believe. A whopping 91 percent of the 115th Congress describe themselves as Christians, which is higher than the general population — and almost the same number as when these stats were first collected in 1961. Of the 293 Republicans who kicked off the new session this week, all but two are Christians (the others are Jewish).
And the faith factor isn’t just a conservative phenomenon. Eighty percent of Democrats also call themselves Christians — in addition to the 28 Jews, three Buddists, three Hindus, two Muslims, and a single atheist. “The group that is most notably underrepresented is the religiously unaffiliated,” Pew points out. “This group — also known as the religious ‘nones’ — now accounts for 23 percent of the general public but just 0.2 percent of Congress… [Only] Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) describes herself as religiously unaffiliated…” Aleksandra Sandstrom, who authored the report, is as surprised by the findings. “[This] really is telling,” she told reporters, “especially with the changing U.S. population and the very big change in the presidency. Congress is really, at least religiously, staying very, very steady.”
Sandstrom can’t explain the strong faith presence on the Hill, but the November election may have provided a few clues. At its core, the religious make-up of Congress reflects the increased engagement of Christians in the political process. They understand (sometimes painfully so) the government’s role in shaping — or denouncing — their values. After Obama’s eight-year war on religious freedom and expression, most believers desperately wanted to reverse the damage done by this White House.
That was abundantly clear in the overwhelming turnout of evangelicals in 2016 — which, as most every pundit agreed, is what ultimately propelled Donald Trump (and a host of Republicans) to the most stunning upset in modern history. By the end of that night, the GOP nominee had won 94 percent of engaged social conservatives — easily outperforming every Republican since Ronald Reagan. Remarkably, 90 percent of them turned out to vote — which was the result of a lot of hard work from FRC Action, who invested tremendous time and energy explaining the stakes of this election and urging battleground voters to get out and vote. It paid off. Donald Trump’s “largest segment of support,” George Barna pointed out, “was the Christian conservative vote.” Even Fox News credited our team with moving the needle on evangelical turnout.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of the rising stars of the conservative movement, is another case study in evangelical influence. A successful businessman in his own right, he saw the need for principled leadership in Congress after years of involvement with FRC, running for the seat in North Carolina’s 11th District where he won in a very crowded primary. Now, he’s the leader of the influential House Freedom Caucus and helping to elect other likeminded conservatives. Obviously, our country is looking for leaders who still believe in America’s godly heritage. Voters elected a big class of conservative Christians last November. And now that we have more believers on Capitol Hill, maybe we can put more faith in it!
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.