Millennial Christian Politics

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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.

American politicsAdditionally, 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 - politics 3

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.

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21 thoughts on “Millennial Christian Politics

  1. saidthebear says:

    Really well explained, Pastor Hein. I have this convo a lot with my Christian (typically WELS Lutheran) friends who don’t understand why I vote as an independent. I have to point out that the conservative Republican party is missing out on a whole side of social issues, and that conflicts with my (more important) faith…so, to ease that cognitive dissonance, I move my voting alliances. Simple as that. 🙂 Thanks for putting this argument into words so nicely!

  2. Rachel says:

    As a Christian Millenial, this gives me a lot to think about. Thank you for your interesting way of dissecting issues. I generally vote Republican mostly for moral issues, like you named above. One question, though, that I’m wondering about: As Christians, should WE not be leading the cause for social issues, and not the government? I, personally, feel like those who vote Democrat are looking for a hand-out. Not all, but a lot of them are. However, I read a little factoid in the Thrivent magazine about a month ago that women NOT associated with a religious affiliation are the highest givers. That should be a huge wake-up call to Christians. WE should be the highest givers, regardless of gender and political affiliation.

    • You’re right that we should be leading the way on social causes as well as ethical issues. BOTH have moral implications. I think Christians try to leverage government to do work that God designed the Church to do. At this point, when Christians are upset that the government is taking too much money and distributing it, I guess I’d just ask, “Why are you upset?” Is it because you think it’s enabling? That’s probably a fair concern. Is it because you’d like to give more money to other worthy causes? That’s probably legitimate too. If it’s because it’s “my money”, that’s contrary to a Christian’s view that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” as well as “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”. So, yes, Christians should be leading primarily by way of the City within the City on everything.

      • Rachel says:

        Thank you for your response. Yes, I agree that it’s important to remember that “our” money is the Lord’s… something that many today forget, myself included. Anyways, again, thank you! (Ps – whoever said that your writing is “pompous” above is reading it with an eye of defensiveness. Keep on keeping on!)

      • Guest says:

        It does matter what you believe, and it it’s simply incorrect to say that liberal and conservative ideals are equal, or that one is at least no worse than the other. Conservatism basically stands for individual liberty, but liberalism’s ideal endgame is a societal utopia (remember Hitler’s free schools, libraries, and welfare programs?). Conservatism says you are free to keep or donate your own money as you see fit (God is the source of free will, remember), but liberalism says “how DARE you have more than others? I’m taking what you own forcefully and giving it to this other guy that has less, you pig!” I understand that it’s tempting to want to sacrifice aspects of traditional Christian conservatism when you’re surrounded by liberal friends, but don’t give in.
        Have you considered that, under this current liberal administration, a tremendous amount of your own tax dollars have aided and abbeded ISIS, legally funded abortion clinics, and that the IRS continues to obstruct and punish Christian and conservative organizations, businesses, and individuals? Stealing from the rich to give to the poor is wrong, is it not? That’s a liberal idea. Taxation without representation is theft, is it not? Our founding fathers were overwhelmingly and unapologetically Christian, and their views are what we choose to now call “conservative,” aka “Constitutionalist.” Liberalism openly hails abortion, among other atrocities, passively if not actively (“a woman has a right to choose”) Are you for liberty or tyranny? Which do you think is Biblical? Guess which is conservative or liberal. Of course there are both liberals and conservatives that will go to Heaven and Hell, but our passion as Christians is to strive to know and teach the truth about how God wishes us to live out our lives, and how to treat each other with love. Love isn’t always warm and fuzzy, often it corrects and disciplines. God has not been silent on this topic. We can voluntarily choose to forgo our own rights, but the moment we infringe on others’ rights for “their own good,” we are sinning. This is NOT love, but a corruption of it.

      • Guest,
        I didn’t say that political views or platforms are “equal”. I said my personal Christian beliefs don’t line up neatly into one or the other political party. I also said that the talking points of the two major parties both, in part, affirm some biblical truth – so it’s unwise to be blindly supportive OR wholeheartedly critical of either side.

        Clearly you feel strongly that conservative political ideals are superior to liberal political ideals. You are free to do so. What we’re NOT free to do (and I’m not suggesting you’ve necessarily crossed this line) is consider the ideology of any secular party to be superior to (or equal to) the viewpoint of Scripture.

        By the way, I don’t disagree that many liberals may very well be hypocritical when it comes to issues about social justice. To prove this quantitatively, I generally commend to people Arthur Brooks’s research from “Who Really Cares?” That said, it’s also be unfair to not also recognize that many conservatives may very well be hypocritical when it comes to moral issues. So, again, the evidence of both beliefs and practice is that both major sides are far from perfect.

    • saidthebear says:

      I completely agree with you, Rachel! We should absolutely be leading the charge to care for our fellow humans, providing necessities like food, shelter, health needs, AND the saving Word. If that were the case, the government wouldn’t need to address it, ever. It’s unfortunate that we can get so distracted from that cause, even though I know that’s what Christ did, as well as the early Christians, and they should be my example.

  3. David Schleicher says:

    Pastor, even though warned off reading this blog, I skimmed through it and a friendly word of advice from a much older Christian brother, be careful that no one can be justified in applying any adjectives like imperious, overbearing, domineering, magisterial, pontifical, sententious, grandiose, affected, pretentious, puffed up, arrogant, vain, haughty, proud, conceited, egotistic, supercilious, condescending, patronizing to what you write. Dave

  4. Bryan Prell says:

    This is a very good one James 🙂 One practical benefit for the pastor coming from this starting point: you are freed to preach Law and Gospel outside of modern political stereotypes and your democrat, republican, independent, and “other/none” members can’t simply accuse you of bashing only one side of the political aisle. Like Scripture, we preach against the sins of all just as we deliver the Gospel to the hearts of all repentant regardless of political affiliation.

    • Thanks, Brian. Yeah, I think there is some painful alienation for members at times due to the political affiliations of pastors. That said, politics are indeed an area affected by faith, so we also obviously can’t ignore them. In general, it’s been very refreshing to me to see how well Christians respond to the truth that no political party encapsulates the gospel. It’s theologically accurate and unifying in its practicality.

  5. millenialxian says:

    Your ability to articulate so many of my viewpoints gives me a great chance to share my faith and reasons for my beliefs to so many. Thank you and keep it up!

  6. Dave Leistekow says:

    I appreciate your article very much. As a tail-ender of the baby boomer generation and a pastor for 28 years, I have watched with dismay the damage that the Religious Right has done both to American politics and more concerning, the Church and its ability to reach our culture. Too many Christians are willing to get their theology from Fox News or, to a lesser degree, the Daily Show. Your encouragement to go back to God’s Word as the guide is a much needed reminder. Christians need to let their politics be directed by their theology and not the other way around.

  7. Millennial says:

    ….but we also need to remember that the primary cause of poverty in America is sin. The vast majority of inner-city children (some report over 90%) are born into single-parent homes, and therefore are born with an unfair playing field. Not because of social injustice, but because their parents sinned against the sixth commandment.

    Adding to poverty is drug and alcohol abuse, sins against the fifth commandment.

    No nation will ever be completely fair, but America is about as close as it gets in history. And the victimhood mentality is a huge problem, especially among millennials. Want to give you and your children the best possible chance at success? Obey the fifth and sixth commandments (heck, obey them all), and teach them to do the same.

    I firmly believe this is where the “social justice” conversation must start. Perhaps with an unbeliever you don’t cite the commandments but you do cite the importance of living a sexually pure, sober, and hard-working lifestyle. Things will improve for you and your clan of you do those things.

    (I realize there are exceptions. For instance: people with special needs)

    – A millennial who believes the law shouldn’t be soft-pedaled to millennials or any generation for that matter

  8. John J Flanagan says:

    As a seventy something, not a millennial, I enjoyed reading the comments as much as the article itself. There is hope for America’s soul only where God’s wisdom is spoken. And the propaganda of the left, and the accompanying Intolerance of progressives on a host of cultural, political, and scientific issues(. Ex. “climate change), have attempted to shut down true dialogue and discussion over many years. Perhaps, the Millennials can help save the land by learning from the mistakes of the day.

  9. matt says:

    I understand the point this article is making. It is incorrect though to say that one group cares more about the “weak, downtrodden, and marginalized of society” etc. The two sides defiantly have different ideas as to what works best to help these people. My experience tells me though that both sides care at least equally.

      • Guest says:

        I would strongly suggest you look into the works of Milton Friedman and then honestly reevaluate your views on what it means to truly help the poor, to clarify whether liberalism or conservatism is more nearly correct (since nothing is perfect) in achieving that goal.
        Spoiler alert: liberalism is greatly expanding poverty and single-parent households despite unprecedented spending by innumerable government-run social safety net programs for the poor. (Detroit, Chicago, etc are prime examples.)

  10. Adam says:

    Politics is made even more complex when a political position may seem to align with Christianity (for example social justice, the environment) but the motives behind those positions by at least some in the party don’t (greed, power). That’s another factor to consider. It’s also another reason, I’ve learned, that it may not be so easy to understand a fellow Christian’s political position–so many factors at play.

  11. KV says:

    Pastor Hein, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject and how it relates to God’s Word – the ultimate truth. I feel that politics can single-handedly drive people away from their faith. It’s literally dangerous.

    I understand why a lot of commenters are getting into a dialogue about theoretical and economic philosophies of whether or not one political ideal is more “compassionate” than another.. But I think the core message here is a call for self-examination and reflection on whether or not *I* ever put politics, or the rhetoric that follows the subject, before and above my Biblical convictions.

    Ok… so new definitive studies show (this is a hypothetical) that political Conservatives had it right all along, that even moderate redistribution of wealth is actually harmful to the economy and more often than not enables people in poverty to stay that way. Turns out, it hurts people. Does that make it any less sinful that time I personally berated someone who held the opposing view? If I politically debate someone and in the process think, say or do something out of anger toward someone – but I’m correct in my point! – does that make it less sinful? The same goes for if we had a conversation with an atheist or agnostic friend about the Bible: In the talking points that we discuss with them, am I always doing it out of love toward them, with hope and love in my heart? We’re human, so probably not always.

    I think we should be concerned with the vitriol that is thrown around when politics are discussed. I understand that Christians should be involved in political conversation and action, but if we are caused to sin and alienate others in the process by speaking out of “YOU’RE WRONG AND I’M RIGHT!!” instead of loving care, is it not sinful?

    Suggestion for a follow up article: I graduated from MLS, too. Post graduation I’ve kept in touch with a few from MLS and am a casual Facebook friend with many that were there during my four years. But post MLS I went to public university and, thus, kept in touch mostly with other post-MLS grads who went to public university. I have no data collection process nor analysis to back this up, but from my personal experience and observation alone I’ve seen many people that I’ve graduated with from MLS say things on social media or in conversation that affirm to anti-Biblical teachings. This, despite having a Christian upbringing and professing a Christian faith and, in some cases, being active members at a WELS Lutheran church. Anti-Biblical teachings they say they’ll agree with include gay marriage, evolution, and a few other specific things that take too long to explain here.

    And I’m here to judge and rat them all out!! Muhahahaha… Kidding. Getting back to the point about putting politics before God’s Word, the reason I bring this up is because I know for a fact that in some of these cases, people ARE doing just that – putting their politics before God. And my fear is that it will cause them to turn to unbelief.

    I can think of several Facebook examples, and a few examples from face-to-face conversations I’ve had with these people, where I walked away knowing this person held an opinion or belief opposite of what the Bible teaches solely because they were politically a liberal Democrat. They’re so hell-bent that everything their party says or does is flawless that they couldn’t even open their mind to the other side of the conversation and see what they’re saying is in direct contradiction with God’s Word, when they know God’s Word is truth! So, the question is, since they were taught one thing and know from God’s Word that something like gay marriage is a sin, yet argue the contrary, what has pulled them in the opposite direction from God’s Word? I believe that for many it’s because their family, peers and/or parents have raised them to be a Democrat, and they would rather lay down their proverbial spiritual sword before they’d ever sheath their political one.

    I’m not singling out Democrats, because I know the same can be said about conservative Republicans too – Again, that we’re so politically jaded and polarized in this country that we get to the point where we start to compromise what the Bible teaches in order to “fit in with” or justify our party’s agenda (see the argument for “love above judgement” vis-a-vis same sex marriage).

    That’s why I think awareness of this issue is so crucial right now, at a time when people are so bent on politics that they forget that God’s Word supersedes human ideals. Politics is extremely dangerous, people. Thank you for spreading the awareness that there is no “one right way” to think or vote politically. The Bible is our source for truth – not Fox News, not “your guy/girl” running for President, and certainly not Jon Stewart.

  12. Cena says:

    I really hope that reading this article isn’t necessary for most believers to come to the conclusion that “God’s word transcends party lines”. I really don’t want to discourage you, it is well written and it is true, but it makes me sad reading this. Dear God, please have mercy on us. Please allow the true believers in this nation to root themselves in your truths and not get distracted from the Word when voting or engaging in politics. Throughout this and the upcoming election, please strengthen your children on earth and allow us to remember that no matter what happens, your will be done. Amen.

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