Jollyblogger has an excellent post looking at the electoral maps (including a good comparison of the county maps from 2000 and 2004 and a purple-shade map for measuring the percentage of red and blue in each state). It's not the political analysis that interested me, though. He points out that most of the country is red when you look at counties, with almost 50% of the electorate concentrated in the 25% of the counties that are blue and just over 50% of the electorate in the 75% of the counties that are red. The fact of the matter is that most evangelical Christians are in those red counties, which means most of the people in the blue counties don't actually know any evangelical Christians. This explains why so many people don't even come close to understanding evangelical Christians (which doesn't stop some of them from talking about us as if we're demonic). What struck me was Jollyblogger's remark about what Christians should do. He says Christians need to migrate in large numbers to those blue counties if they ever hope to influence the culture around them. He's right, but perhaps I can elaborate on the point more specifically.
Christians have a biblical mandate to share the good news about Jesus Christ with those who are not believers. I happen to think the best way to do that is two-pronged. Genuine friendships with people over a long time, particularly if they can interact with a diverse group of Christians to see God's work in their lives, seem to me to be the most effective way to help someone understand what's so good about the Christian good news. At the same time, a larger level of interaction with a wider group of nonbelievers is important, even if it means it's a lesser degree of contact but still with words of grace here and there, small moments of interaction that removes intellectual and experiential obstacles of faith through seeing glimpses of the lives of real Christians, coming to understand pieces of what Christians believe that they never understood, taking part in reasoning that might help overcome intellectual obstacles to faith, moments of genuine Christian love, and so on. Given that so many people don't have those real friendships with Christians, there's always the need for the larger contacts that might lead to greater discussion, relationships, or demonstrations of love.
If evangelical Christians are largely clustered around those who are culturally and socially conservative, who are steeped in the church in some form, and not those who are at the forefront of the liberalization and secularization of America, then how are we to fulfill this mandate? Christians who live in their small towns and do have relationships with nonbelievers might play a role in fulfilling the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, but there are whole people-groups within the United States that are in some ways nearly unreached, and the majority of blue voters in blue states are among them. Most Christian conferences I've been to emphasize unreached people groups around the world, and I think that's necessary if we're to take Jesus' command seriously, but I'm not convinced we understand how close the unreached people groups are.
I've been to two countries whose main population has not, as far as I'm concerned, ever really heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of these countries was Muslim-controlled in Central Asia. The other was Germany, the land of the Reformation. The major cities of the United States are headed in the exact direction Germany and France have gone, just a little behind. Most major cultural trends that end up here were there six months earlier. Red states and counties aren't experiencing that to anywhere near the same degree. It's a tremendous cultural gap, and people in that cultural framework do not at all understand the gospel preached by Christianity, as evidenced by their not understanding the evangelical Christians who preach that gospel. If we as evangelicals want to have a real impact on the direction of this country (and I don't mean in merely political ways but where it really counts, with people's hearts and minds), it won't be with a strategy like Karl Rove's, who focused on the places that were red in each state with a chance of going for Bush. He succeeded, but his goal was to get a majority of the popular vote in the swing states, which allowed him almost to ignore the blue areas of all states and any area in states that were strongly red or blue. Christians should not do that. We need to be everywhere, so that everyone is rubbing shoulders with Christians. As Paul said in Romans 10, how shall they hear unless someone tells them?
There's no reason to focus most of our energies on red areas, though we should also be there, since red areas are not exclusively (or probably even largely, in my controversial opinion) genuinely Christian. Most evangelicals do live in those areas, though, and there's much greater need in the blue counties, particularly cities and college and university areas. Jollyblogger calls for Christians to move toward those areas. He's not the first to say this, but he's made it much clearer than some have how important this is. It may be true that the majority of people who made it to the polls were red-valued (not that that equates to being Christian), but almost half the voters who turned out are not, and a much greater percentage of them have never even met an evangelical Christian or heard a clear presentation of the gospel message. This call to move to blue areas is not for political dilution of those counties (this election shows Republicans don't need that to win elections) but so that Christians might actually be involved in the lives of those whose value system is in many places starkly opposed to Christianity. It would be bad if everyone followed this advice, for then there'd be no Christians in red areas, but I think we as Christians need to rethink where we live and why in light of this.
I made a choice when I went to college that I wanted to be whatever influence God would enable me to be wherever he places me. I had a strong sense that the environment I'd be in for the rest of my life would be one largely opposite in values to what I would prefer if I wanted to surround myself with those like me. I've never lived in a red county or a red state, but I still have a tendency to surround myself with Christians and those who more closely resemble Christians in their value system, and I have to work hard to be the influence I chose to seek to be twelve years ago. I've failed miserably in many ways since then, though I've also had a few glimpses of an effect I've had on a few people over the years. I'm incredibly grateful for what I have seen of that effect, and I wonder how much further effect I won't know about in this life, but regardless of the effect this is something we're all commanded to do. As I said before, it can be done and needs to be done in red states, in red counties. It's just that there's a much greater need and a much lesser Christian presence in the blue states, in the blue counties. The main group of evangelical Christians in large numbers in blue territory is black evangelicals, and since racial groupings unfortunately have not reached a point where the average blue-valued secularist is close with many black evangelicals, white evangelicals should take Jollyblogger's advice very seriously.