The Millennial Evangelicals

millennials

While on the road speaking about evangelicals and Donald Trump, I am often asked if support for Trump among evangelicals is a generational phenomenon.

The average Donald Trump voter was 57.  I don’t know the age of the average evangelical Trump voter, but I think it is safe to say that many of them, if not most of them, learned how to merge faith and politics in the 1980s under the influence of Jerry Falwell, the Moral Majority, and the Christian Right.  This means that abortion, marriage, and the Supreme Court are all that matters when one enters the voting booth.

Most of the younger evangelicals I know (My daughters are 20 and 17 and I teach a lot of evangelical students) do not seem to be following the Christian Right playbook.  They are pro-life on abortion, but they extend their pro-life convictions to issues such as climate change, immigration, the death penalty, care for the poor, universal health care, and other social justice issues.  Many of them are open to same-sex marriage.

Over at The New Yorker, writer Eliza Griswold has a piece on the millennial evangelicals.  Here is a taste:

For younger evangelicals, the political fights waged by previous generations no longer hold the sway they once did. Many told me that their focus in reading the Bible is on broader questions, such as, How shall I live? “Young evangelicals don’t have any skin in the game when it comes to fights over Biblical literalism,” Jonathan Merritt, the author of the recently published “Learning to Speak God from Scratch,” told me. Merritt, a journalist who writes for The Atlantic and the son of James Merritt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is accustomed to acting as a translator between the faith-based and secular worlds.

He calls for Christians to stop relying on old, culturally conservative terms, like “lost,” to define people who have different beliefs from theirs, and invites his fellow-evangelicals to reconsider the feminine aspect of God. After all, being “born again” invokes feminine imagery: only mothers can give birth to children, and yet “born again” Christians often consider God solely masculine. Merritt’s most controversial argument revolves around homosexuality—a word in traditional evangelical circles often encoded by “brokenness.” According to P.R.R.I., fifty-three per cent of evangelicals between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine now support same-sex marriage, but the theological debate over homosexuality is still a fraught one. Merritt was outed in 2012 after having a homosexual encounter with a gay blogger. He doesn’t believe, however, that being called “broken” defines his complex sexual orientation or that of thousands of other Christians like him. “Being called ‘broken’ is a source of shame,” Merritt said. It implies that something needs fixing when, Merritt argues, it doesn’t.

Read the entire piece here.

One thought on “The Millennial Evangelicals

  1. I’m an evangelical millennial, and I’m not looking forward to having to spending the rest of my life talking about Trump every time I try to talk to someone about Jesus. Or having to explain that climate change doesn’t prove that God doesn’t exist. It just proves that all those outspoken evangelicals who said God would never let it happen just didn’t care about the consequences of being wrong.

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