If you’re older than a Millennial, this post might not be for you. I’m convinced, at this point, that a generation or two older than me might not get where I’m coming from on this issue, and that’s okay. This is primarily for Millennials – those born in the late 70s to late 90s.
There has been a great deal written on the Millennial recoil from traditional political involvement, e.g. voting. The assessment of Millennial political views from major media outlets tends to include disparaging terms like “apathy,” “entitlement,” or “incoherence.”
I suppose those assessments could be accurate, and perhaps part of the issue. But, it’s worth noting that those labels are also often tossed around when people simply don’t understand something. They say it “makes no sense.” Translating what I believe to be the media’s misdiagnosis, what they’re really trying to say is that Millennial political views “don’t fit neatly into one of our two parties.”
Uh huh. Yes. That’s a Millennial.
And all I’m trying to do is tell you Christian Millennials that not only is this is okay, but I also believe that it’s biblically supported.
For instance, I personally don’t feel as though EITHER major political party in our country captures the gospel perfectly. Generally speaking, Conservatives/Republicans seem to value the biblical sexual ethic, traditional family values, and the sanctity of unborn human life. They tend to seem less concerned, however, about social justice issues. Generally speaking, Liberals/Democrats seem to champion a defense of the weak, downtrodden, and marginalized of society. They also appear very concerned about preserving/protecting much of God’s creation. They tend to seem less concerned, however, about any true basis for morality.
I’m sorry, but if that simple assessment reflects reality at all, my personal values don’t line up neatly with either party.
Additionally, my perception is that a lot of Christians seem to bandwagon certain causes NOT because the Bible has shaped their thoughts, NOT because they’ve wrestled with these things in prayer, but merely because it’s comfortable to fall in line with a party platform. They’ve been victim to this simplistic EITHER/OR, US/THEM type of thinking.
Just look at the two political candidates currently leading the polls for Republication nomination. At the first Republican debate in August, FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly had to ask Donald Trump, “When did you actually become a Republican?” Like him or not, Trump can’t just be Trump. He’s got to pander. He’s got to change his positions on certain issues in order to be accepted.
Similarly, having just read Dr. Ben Carson’s third political book, I was a little saddened to see that Dr. Carson, whom I think very highly of in many ways, as he’s moved closer to becoming a legitimate potential Republican candidate, has had to change his stance on some issues in order to maintain party approval.
I’m not at all supporting or opposing Trump’s or Carson’s views on certain issues here (although I’d be lying if I didn’t suggest that having a Young Earth Creationist like Carson as president would be kinda cool. And yes, he’s even backed off of some of those beliefs.) What I find troubling, especially for the purposes of this post, is the fact that both candidates have felt the need to change previously held convictions because they were ultimately unpopular, at least within the group that they are now trying to reach out to for support.
Millennials, that doesn’t have to be you. Believe it or not, as a Christian, you can be ethically conservative AND AT THE SAME TIME liberal about social justice. In fact, as just one example, my reading of the Book of Isaiah moves me to feel exactly that way. Just look at the sins God calls his people to repent of. Look at the word pictures he paints of the Israelites. He talks about oppression of the poor (e.g. 10:2), greed of the wealthy class (e.g. 13:17-22), racial prejudice (e.g. 16:6, 14), sexual impurity (e.g. 1:21, 29), marriage (e.g. 50:1), family & traditional values (43:6). Now some of those sound like left-wing talking points and some of those sound like right-wing talking points. In other words, he calls his people to repentance over “conservative sins” AND “liberal sins.” Apparently God has a higher standard than any political party. He’s more complex, more thoughtful, and more holy. And as his child, so are you.
It does not matter if the media doesn’t understand you, the world doesn’t understand you, and your parents, grandparents, or any other generations don’t understand you. Only if Christians grasp what it means that their citizenship is primarily in heaven (Phil. 3:20) will they understand earthly politics the way Christ himself did. Then and only then will we be able to interact with politics in a healthy way.
The failure to establish that balance in evangelical America has cost both the church and modern politics in recent history. Truth be told, it really wasn’t until I listened to a speech by English author and social critic Os Guinness that I started to understand this much either. Guinness pointed out that beginning in the mid 70s with the Moral Majority, we’ve had in America a politicized evangelicalism, the Religious Right. That failed. In the process, what it did accomplish, however, was fuel the vehement repudiation of religion by the so-called New Atheists. Now, in reality, there probably aren’t more atheists today than there were in the 1950s. But in the 50s it was fashionable to call yourself a Christian. In 2015, it’s fashionable to label yourself an atheist. And the thing that’s made Christianity largely unfashionable, the thing that has left a hard-to-identify, yet unmistakable, bad taste about Christianity in the mouth of many Americans is the politicized evangelicalism of the Religious Right. This is one of the main causes of the exodus of the younger generation from BOTH organized religion AND politics. This alienation of young adults is explained nowhere better than in David Kinnaman’s research from unChristian. Os Guinness said he personally felt that the 2008 election was the official death of the Religious Right, and that what is seen in the Tea Party movement in recent years was simply the “scattered embers” of the Religious Right’s flame going out.
Now, while it’s certainly true that a “Christian America” offered many great things, the thing that could not be lost or confused, which seemingly has, the thing that should be obvious, is that, for a Christian, your allegiance is primarily to Christ, not to a nation. Your citizenship is primarily in heaven, not on earth. Consequently, in the same way that Augustine said that the Church was the City of God within the City of Man, so also, the Church today needs to break with Christian America. That does NOT mean to become anti-American. It means to reprioritize Christ as first. That means that our boast, our security, our hope for the future is all drawn primarily from the promises of Christ, not from political candidates, parties, or policies.
So, my Millennial friends, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt. 6:33) If the relationship of your faith to your nation has been entangled or imbalanced in the past, remember that Jesus died unjustly at the hands of his nation to pay for all of our mistakes. You don’t have to worry about that anymore. But move forward with the knowledge that you don’t have to fit neatly into a media-driven category. You’re different. Study your Bible, and, fueled by the grace of Jesus, be driven by the policies of the City of God.