Ahead of Debate, Gen Z Evangelicals of Color Want Better Choices | Sojourners

Ahead of Debate, Gen Z Evangelicals of Color Want Better Choices

Then-President Donald Trump and then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their first 2020 presidential campaign debate held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Sept. 29, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

With presumptive Republican nominee Donald J. Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee President Joe Biden preparing for their upcoming presidential debate on June 27, what do Generation Z Christians hope for in the 2024 election?

“We’re watching two 80-year-olds battle for who’s going to be on the seat,” D’Marre Craddock, a religion and philosophy student at Morehouse College, told Sojourners. Biden is 81 and Trump is 78, and many young Black voters like Craddock are having a hard time relating. Biden, who gave the 2024 Morehouse commencement speech, was met with backs turned and fists raised in support of Palestinians.

“The two candidates do not represent our generation at all,” Craddock said. Craddock is also frustrated at the reality that Trump, who, as Craddock sees it, has “gone to court more than he has gone campaigning,” might be president again.

Craddock is one of 41 million eligible Gen Z voters across the United States who are feeling burdened by the prospect of choosing a president. Gen Zers, also known as “Zoomers,” are people born between 1997-2012. We are digital natives who care about a lot of social issues — among them health care access, economic security, and climate change — because the legislation around these problems directly impacts our futures.

Zoomers are voting at a time when people’s religious and partisan identities are intricately intertwined, specifically evangelicalism and conservatism. A Pew Research study found that an overwhelming 85 percent of white evangelicals lean toward the Republican party. In contrast, a PRRI study found that Gen Zers generally lean more liberal, this includes around 3 in 10 Gen Zers who identify as Christians of color. A 2022 report from Neighborly Faith found high levels of civic engagement — like voting, volunteerism, and activism — among Gen-Z evangelicals of color, yet many of us feel our interests diverge from the majority of evangelical voters.

Asia Lavender, who is Black, told Sojourners that she wonders if a new president will help. A Gen Z evangelical from Louisville, Ky., Lavender shared how her landlord raised her rent recently, how food prices continue to climb at the grocery store, and how righteous anger bubbles up inside her as she watches the U.S.-backed genocide in Gaza. “Our generation has experienced a lot of broken promises from [the] local and national government,” she said.

Lavender said that although the police killing of Breonna Taylor encouraged people to begin caring about justice, they don’t understand how local concerns about housing insecurity, homicide rates, and school shootings relate to the national elections. Looking to the example that Jesus set in Matthew 23:23-24, she believes that holding people in authority accountable for their actions makes a difference. She believes asserting pressure on the national level is necessary to see change on the ground level.

“When I’m looking at candidates running for office, I am looking at how their platforms align with being just and merciful toward their neighbors,” Lavender said. She hopes that the politicians will address the bombardment in Gaza, the rising cost of living, and the future of Gen Zers like her. Although Lavender is a registered Democrat, she is heavily considering voting for another candidate in a much smaller party because she does not believe the Democratic candidates have her best interests in mind.

Craddock said similarly: “We want you to see us if we vote for you.

“These people have neglected us for so long and now they come back to our communities to get our vote.”

He said he prays that our generation would stop being neglected by elected officials. He hopes that politicians address policing, structural racism, and “modern-day slavery” in the prison industrial system.

Amid the uncertainty that Craddock feels about the upcoming elections, he said that Psalm 23:4 grounds him, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” He believes that whoever wins, God will be there with him through it all. “If Trump does win, that’s just four years. It’s not eternity.”

From my perspective, we can look at the present through our faith which says evil does not triumph over good. As a Filipino Gen Z evangelical, I often find myself struggling with the feeling that elected officials don’t represent my generation. Although I have lived in the U.S. for the past five years, I am not an American citizen, so I cannot vote. And yet, the elections will affect my life here and in my homeland, the Philippines, where the U.S. militarizes our shores. I feel powerless and am filled with woe at the thought of how my life, and the lives of many young people like me, will be affected by the results of this election.

The elections feel like a dark valley for the U.S. My friends and I look at each other in disbelief and express fear and trepidation at the possibility of another Trump presidency. We are equally perturbed by Biden’s response (or lack thereof) to the murder of Palestinians. We are putting our future into their hands, and I wonder how they will hold it. I wonder if our concerns will be addressed. I wonder if the elections will change education systems, gun laws, and health care for the better. Does it even make sense to hope?

It does not make sense to hope. It seems impossible to do so when it seems like we are choosing the lesser of two evils. But at the same time, I am hopeful knowing that Gen Z evangelicals of color will fight for justice whatever the results of the elections will be. We will keep our officials accountable and pray while we struggle for liberation.

When asked about what she would say to her fellow Gen Z evangelicals, Lavender responded, “I pray that we would remember the power of organized people. We hold more power than we think we do.”

No matter who comes to power in the White House, I look to November with my head lifted, believing that young evangelicals across the country who act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God can simultaneously vote and hope. Voting is a privilege that must not be wasted. People like me who cannot vote also hope upon those who can.