Go left, young evangelical. Some liberal pundits say that’s our reality, but it’s only their dream. Sure, some in their 20s and 30s who went to liberal colleges and read liberal media still believe what they’re told, but many have become skeptics.
Russell Moore expressed this better than I have when he spoke with journalists recently at one of the forums Michael Cromartie runs in Florida. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said, “A vibrant evangelical church plant often will include people wearing tattoos and earrings and nose rings, but this doesn’t mean that these people are moving into the age of Aquarius.”
Moore said these folks “are, in many cases, not to the left of their parents and grandparents, but theologically speaking, to the right of their parents and grandparents. Many of them are rejecting a style of preaching that they heard in the seeker-sensitive movement of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s that essentially turned the biblical text into the equivalent of Aesop’s Fables: Here are the ways to apply the text in terms of having your best life now.”
Many are suspicious of attempts to see America as the new Israel, a holy land if only we push hard enough. Nor do they go along with the notion that Glenn Beck or Donald Trump are Christian leaders, or that Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were. As Moore writes, they’re wary of taking “texts applying to Old Testament Israel, bypassing Jesus and the Church, and applying those things to some illusion of a Christian America.”
Moore described the developing evangelical mindset this way: “a loss of the illusion of a majority in this country. And I think that is a good thing for the gospel and for the church.” He’s right. Since I come from a Jewish background and became a Christian in 1976, I understand what it is to be part of a minority. (Looks like I moved from an increasingly respected minority to an increasingly disrespected one.)
I’ve learned that many of the things Protestants did on the assumption that they were and would remain a majority—for example, the late 19th century Blaine Amendments designed to force Catholic families to pay for both public and parochial schools—have come back to bite today’s evangelicals. We need to think like a minority.
Politically, Moore rightly points out, “Many of these very conservative, younger evangelicals are also quite suspicious and skeptical of politicians. Again, that does not mean that they are moving to adopt another group of politicians and public officials. It means that they have been disappointed by some of the attempts in the last generation to adopt or to baptize political figures as spiritual leaders.”
Muslims see Muhammad as both spiritual and political leader, and many Muslim leaders today want to follow in Muhammad’s footsteps. The Bible, though, describes the different callings of prophet, priest, and king. We should operate as Christians rather than Muslims, and that means faith in God and skepticism toward ourselves and all others touched by original sin—which means anyone who’s ever lived, except for Jesus.