*Newsweek* Cover Story Tackles Young Evangelicals and Politics

newsweek evangelical coverYou can read Nina Burleigh’s piece here.   A taste:

In the 2018 midterms, exit polls showed, white evangelicals backed Republicans by 75 to 22 percent, while the rest of the voting population favored Democrats 66 to 32 percent. But evangelicals were slightly less likely to support House Republicans in 2018 than they were to support Trump in 2016—which may have contributed to the Democrats’ pickup of House seats. Trump’s support actually declined more among white evangelical men than women. The 11-point gender gap between evangelical men and women from 2016 shrank to 6 in the midterms.

To be sure, evangelical Christians have been rewarded for their support of Trump after enduring eight years wandering in Barack Obama’s political desert. They have two new conservative Supreme Court justices, and there have been nine self-professed evangelical Cabinet members, plus a flurry of laws and executive orders clamping down on gender roles, abortion and LGBTQ rights. But experts say this may represent the last bounty for a waning political power. Unlike their parents, the younger generation is not animated by the culture wars; many are pushing for social justice for migrants and LGBTQ people and campaigning against mass incarceration—positions more in line with the Democratic Party.

The result is a shrinking conservative bloc, something that could weaken white Christian political power—and, consequently, a Republican Party that has staked its future on its alliance with the religious right. It’s a conundrum that the father of modern GOP conservatism, Barry Goldwater, predicted in 1994: “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem.”

Read the entire piece here.

I dabble a bit with these issues in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump and people ask about young evangelicals and Trump when I am on the road with the book. But I am apt to let the sociologists and political scientists talk about future trends.  Having said that, here are a few thoughts about Burleigh’s piece:

  • Young evangelicals are disgusted by Trump.  Some have left evangelical churches and others have abandoned Christianity altogether.  I have met many of these folks on the book tour trail.  On the other hand, sociologists and political scientists tell us that the connection between young evangelicals and the GOP remains strong.
  • Russell Moore is NOT the “president of the Southern Baptist Convention.”  He is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church.
  • I think it will be interesting to see what happens once the Moral Majority generation fades from the scene.  The Christian Right voters that learned how to engage politics from the likes of Jerry Falwell are still alive and still voting.  These, of course, are many of the folks who voted for Trump based upon his promise of conservative Supreme Court justices and “religious liberty” issues.
  • Punditry, commentary and even scholarship on younger evangelicals has been around for a long time. In 1974, writer Richard Quebedeaux equated the “younger evangelicals” with the evangelical left and a commitment to social justice.  In 2002, theologian Robert E. Webber said that “the younger evangelicals” were interested in what he called “the ancient-future faith,” a Christian faith that was more historical and liturgical in nature.  James Davison Hunter also wrote about young evangelicals.

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2 thoughts on “*Newsweek* Cover Story Tackles Young Evangelicals and Politics

  1. Something that would be important to study is whether “young evangelicals” from before 2016 are even the same people as “young evangelicals” after 2016. I’m sure a lot of young evangelicals who were not Trump fans left their churches and no longer identify as evangelical, but were replaced by young people who were big fans of President Trump. I’d be curious if there are any studies about how significant that switch has been, and how much it’s making the Evangelical Church more like Trump.
    I think since people know how hard it is to change people’s opinions they underestimate how quickly opinions held by a demographic can change purely by how quickly which people are in that demographic can change.


  2. Ah, yes, Nina Burleigh, fair-minded and credible observer of the Evangelical movement. I won’t quote Nina’s entire, ahem, encomium to Bill Clinton for preserving abortion (because this is a family blog, as they say) but this was her culminating exhortation to the sisterhood: “I think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.”

    You’ll excuse me if I don’t give great weight to Ms. Burleigh’s nuanced reporting on “the theocracy.”


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