Jim Wallis and a new generation of evangelicals
In my brand new Sojourners magazine, Jim Wallis has an editorial piece, A Generation Comes of Age, in which he suggests that young evangelicals are in fact very different than their parents. This very fact may be an indication of an important shift that liberals should pay careful attention to, and point to a new alignment and new energy for the causes of human rights and our future.
Jim Wallis, of course, is in touch with emerging trends in the "evangelical" culture.
But many on DailyKos may not read Sojourners, or listen to Jim Wallis. So here are some salient points from Wallis (loosely editorializing by me):
*This movement may be called a "post Religious Right"
*Instead of focusing primarily on what happens after death, young evangelicals are concerned about the environment, about peace and justice.
*The focus has shifted to what Jesus taught -- to what Luke 4, Matthew 25, and the Sermon on the Mount emphasize -- rather than focusing on personal salvation alone.
*this movement is broader than just evangelics. There is a similar stirring among young catholics, Jews, and non-Christian religious/spiritual focused youth.
*All of this points to a new idealism, and new energy, and new concern for our society, driven by religious convictions.
For me, this really rings true. Shift now to my "affirmation" of Wallis' article:
I teach a small Christian college. While I would not claim the term "evangelical," for general purposes that is where we would be located. Most of the students have been conservative, religiously and politically. You would find here similar student perspectives as at Wheaton College, Messiah College, Calvin College, and the like. Most of you probably have an image of what our students look like and act like.
And 5 years ago (heck, 3 years ago), you would have been right. In the last election, Mine was one of the few Gore/Edwards bumper stickers on campus. "W" the president stickers still abounded.
But not today. Today, Obama stickers have already appeared and McCain supporters are very hesitant. Today, a straw poll showed Obama almost equal in votes to McCain (and beating Hillary completely). Today the environment is a hot topic. Today discussion of homosexuality is undertaken honestly and openly. Today students are questioning profits, exploring micro-credit, the desirability of shopping locally (with a student published list of locally owned stores), and gardening for vegetables.
In other words, today this conservative Christian college is showing signs of a real shift in perspective. Being overtly Christian is no longer linked to Republican policies. In fact a real re-alignment is, I think, taking place.
So what does this mean?
First, it is important for liberals to be open to the "conservative" Christians -- their political alignment may not be conservative or Republican, but rather may be very progressive, idealistic. This is a time for openness, for creating new alliances, new linkages.
Secondly, it is crucial not to stereotype. And cutting comments by passionate progressives could be counterproductive. I don't expect everyone to understand biblically-focused Christians (I so like that better than "conservative"), but like the civil rights movement (MLK) and much of the energy against the Vietnam war (American Friends and Mennonites), a bibically motivated force can add energy and powerful motivation to a progressive movement.
Finally, we simply must come together to solve our nations problems. We must take care of the sick, protect the environment, reach out across all races and peoples. These are Christian ideals too -- properly understood. And I think our youth are getting the message.
Yes we Can.