The Center for Religious and Civic Culture (CRCC) at the University of Southern California (USC) was published that looked to classify American Evangelicals politically into a number of smaller groups based upon unifying factors of how they interpret (and act upon) civic life. The entire study can be found at this link.
The published criteria for the study is as follows:
“First, each type shares a basic agreement on evangelical theology. Second, they each understand themselves as existing within the larger tradition of American evangelicalism, whether or not they refer to themselves, their churches and other organizations as ‘evangelical.’ And third, their theology motivates how they act in the world, including appropriate social and political actions, and attitudes toward people who do not share their religious commitments.”
While the report does note that there are some groups of Evangelicals that don’t fit neatly into any of these groups, and some smaller subgroups who actually combine the beliefs of multiple groups, they feel that these are the 5 most prominent and descriptive groupings of American Evangelicals.
The five varieties are as follows:
Trump-vangelicals – Currently, this group is the loudest and most visible political grouping of evangelicals. They are the modern continuation of the Religious Right movement of the past to bring political power to Evangelicals (the study notes that this means predominantly white Evangelicals). The focus is on abortion, religious freedom, and both stopping the restriction of rights they hold dear while also restricting the rights of those who disagree. It finally notes that many Trump-vangelicals have reconciled President Trump’s seemingly disconnect with Biblical values with a rationalization and comparison to the ungodly kings of the Old Testament who God used to fulfill His goals on earth in spite of their wickedness.
Neo-fundamentalist – This group aligns almost entirely with the political and theological conservatism of the Trump-vangelicals, however they maintain a pure approach to whom they will cooperate with to achieve these goals. As such, they tend to call out their Evangelical peers for supporting Donald Trump, but happily enjoy the furthering of their own agenda when done by this administration, specifically the study cites the appointment of anti-abortion judges and restrictions on LGBTQ rights.
iVangelicals – This group is primarily involved in the Evangelical megachurch movement. They are trying to reach large groups of people through popular worship music, social programs, small group ministries, and other “relevant” church movement items. This group, due to their desire to reach large numbers of people, stay non-controversial in their political and social engagements.
Kingdom Christians – These Christians are more focused on building the Kingdom of God by creating relationships in local communities. They also seek to shape policy through relationships with local officials, regardless of the beliefs of said official. These Christians tend to be neither liberal or conservative and embrace a form of “Kingdom Thelogoy” that is both inclusive and localized to their communities. These Evangelicals can be seen as different from many groups as they don’t use Kingdom language as a way to pursue political power at a national level or to exclude religious and political others.
Peace and Justice – These are more of a loose network of pastors, non-profit leaders, and other activists who focus their work on poverty, racial injustice, gender equality, various reforms, militarism, and what they call “creation care” (environmentalism). This is still very much a minority in the Evangelical world and, in fact, is very much at tension with the rest of Evangelicals due to the left-leaning beliefs and political practices of its membership.
It is said that 81% of Evangelicals voted for President Trump in 2016, so discovering what unites these groups and how to speak to them can be an important tool in the future of America’s politics. It also provides an interesting view into the political workings of many churches in America. If you’re Evangelical, where do you feel you and your church fit? Where do you think they should be?