Twenty-Something Evangelicals

By Jim Wallis 02-13-2008

The most considerable evidence that we're entering a "post-Religious Right America" is the shifting political agenda and theological emphasis of a new generation of 20-something evangelicals. I meet them all the time on the road; they are coming out of the woodwork for The Great Awakening book events in mass numbers.

I travel with one of these young evangelicals, a missionary kid who grew up in the former Soviet Union and who recently graduated from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. From the conversations he and I have been having with those in attendance at book events, churches, and evangelical college campuses, it's clear that churchgoers growing up in conservative pews are finally coming of age.

Last week at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, they packed the venue, with some sitting on the floor. Many of these students are disillusioned with the models of engaging the faith with which they were raised. This emerging generation of evangelical pastors and theologians realize that Christianity has an image problem: it is seen as hypocritical, judgmental, too focused on the afterlife, and too political. They desire something radically new and different, yet still solidly rooted in Jesus.

The quantitative picture painted by Barna pollster David Kinnaman in his recently released book, unChristian, is qualitatively borne out in this group of Generation Y "insiders"-those raised inside the church but frustrated with the status quo. They will shake things up in the years ahead, both politically and theologically.

Politically, these 20-somethings are less likely to associate with the Republican Party than ever before, as discovered by a recent Pew Research Center poll. It showed that party identification among white evangelicals ages 18-29 decreased from 55% to 40% between 2005 and 2007. That's 15 points in just two years.

This doesn't mean young evangelicals are automatically becoming Democrats (and I don't think they should). It does mean that their agenda is broader and deeper, no longer beholden to a single partisan ideology

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