Jonathan Merritt is a friend, someone who I think very highly of and who has been enormously kind to me. We don’t always agree, as I outline in my review of his new book A Faith of our Own, but he’s someone whose voice I take very seriously. An excerpt:
More than anything, A Faith of Our Own is indispensable for understanding how millennial evangelicals understand their own heritage and their place in the world in light of it. Merritt is honest that millennials have sought a different tone in public predominantly because of their experiences of poverty in third world countries, gay friends, or what have you. As he puts it, “These experiences—these faith crises—are often the power train behind the shifts taking place in our culture. Experiences like these thrust people of faith back into the Scriptures to ask new and different questions.”
Merritt is careful to suggest that this generation is shaped more by its “reflection” than by “reaction or response.” That may be true enough on an individual plane, but Merritt also points out that the broader, younger evangelical world is still reacting: “No one will deny,” he writes, “that there is a reaction against the past several decades of Christian political engagement.” In every story Merritt tells on this theme, people move in a liberal direction after a perceived failure of their conservative outlook to explain their experiences. The reaction may be a matter of deliberate reflection, but it is a reaction nonetheless.