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Young Evangelicals and a Generation Gap

When you hear the word “evangelical,” what comes to mind? Perhaps you see a group of white males––with matching white (or gray) hair. After all, the group commonly associated with the term “American evangelical” consists of white, male elders.

Yet, the voices of millennial evangelicals are slowly becoming louder, as if to remind the country we are here, we have voices and we are different.

In America, we typically associate evangelical faith to conservative political values. In other words, it is stereotypical for Christians to be Republicans, especially Christians in the “Bible Belt” of the South.

As a southern Christian, I have battled with my personal convictions when it comes to politics. I do not associate myself with any specific political party, but growing up I most identified with being a conservative Republican. I believed everything I heard from my predecessors when it came to politics, and I never had a doubt in my mind about the words coming from their mouths.

That is, until I began witnessing firsthand the painful injustice around me.

All of a sudden, my views concerning social justice issues began to shift in an opposite direction, and I began to take a hard look at the actions of some Christians compared to the God I worshipped. My eyes were opened to a Jesus crafted carefully over thousands of years in the image of a white, American man––a Jesus who came to seek and save those in the majority.

I was disgusted and continue to be repulsed by men and women who loudly declare they follow the same Jesus I do yet seem to have no place in their hearts for the LGBTQ community, immigrants, struggling mothers and the wrongly incarcerated. These individuals, quite frankly, have also been some of the largest obstacles women have endured on the road to establishing themselves as equals.

Thankfully, I am not the only one who wrestles with such thoughts.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times asked young evangelical readers to tell them about their relationship with faith and politics. Nearly 1,500 readers replied and while each personal story is different, each one has a common denominator: young evangelicals are questioning typical ties between evangelicalism and politics.

Many of those who sent in responses struggle with the way our current administration has handled issues such as immigration, Muslims, the LGBTQ community and the poor, all of which they feel reflect a loss of humanity conflicting with their faith.

However, at the same time, they are thankful to the Trump administration for helping advance religious liberties.

The article features six young evangelicals who all have close ties to their church communities but say they feel their voices are being “drowned out by white elders.”

While I will not go into details surrounding each of their stories, I think each and every one brings a unique perspective to the table. There are Republicans, Democrats, Independents and those with no political affiliation. There are Trump-supporters and those who disagree with many of President Trump’s actions. Yet, the common factor is overwhelmingly present: they want to be heard.

It seemed each one of them felt convicted by common beliefs about marginalized groups in our nation. While the generations before them seem to hold unwavering, cold opinions, they find themselves intrinsically more compassionate.

Perhaps the key to understanding the compassion of the millennial generation when it comes to social justice issues is considering how our lives have been in stark contrast to generations before us. I went to middle and high school with friends who identified as homosexual. I attend a Christian college, and I still encounter several individuals who wrestle with questions of sexual identity.

I have met individuals who underwent an 18-year, arduous process to finally achieve their citizenship status. I saw tears well up in the eyes of a foreign-exchange student who held Syrian citizenship when President Trump enacted the travel ban. I have heard accounts of Muslims who are profiled every time they leave their house.

When I read about my Jesus, I read about how He loved the poor and the neglected. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He saved an adulterous woman, and He spent time with lepers. He had no political agenda.

I find myself in opposition to those who promote sexism, racism, homophobia and a border wall. The Jesus I know and follow is not the Jesus I see promoted by many of my predecessors, and it is disheartening.

Just like one of the young women interviewed, I worry as evangelicals we have done more harm than good.

For those who have felt they have been outcasts and marginalized by those who claim to be Christians, I want you to know I stand with you. I firmly believe the God I worship loves and cares for you far more than any political agenda.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be reminded of Jesus’ example. We are not here to push an agenda. Our allegiance is not to red or blue, donkey or elephant. Our allegiance is to the kingdom of heaven. We will never lead people to Christ when we act nothing like Him.

The Talon welcomes all viewpoints. Realizing there may be an opposing view to today’s editorial, the Talon invites any Oklahoma Christian student to write an opposing editorial that is signed and less than 800 words. For more information on editorial guidelines or to submit an opinion idea, please email Hannah Brewster, the Talon’s opinion editor.

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