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Predictions for New Evangelicals in the New Year

January 3rd, 2012 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

I've stayed abreast of stories on the "young evangelicals," but haven't written about us recently because there's not much new to say.

However, predictions are always fun, like those offered by contributors at CNN.  Not surprisingly, everyone who mentioned the younger set pointed to the ongoing generational backlash against the Religious Right.  Here are the commentaries to note:

6. There's no question the worldview of most younger Christians already differs from previous generations regarding social justice, cultural engagement and politics. The next issue of probable divergence? The conflict in Israel and Palestine. The American church has largely purported just one theology about the modern state of Israel, but now questions are being asked - especially by younger Christians learning of persecution and human rights issues happening in the region - if the church should have a more active role in peacemaking. Is there a way for the Church to be pro-Israel, pro-Palestine and pro-peace?
–Cameron Strang, publisher of RELEVANT magazine

7. Significant numbers of millennials (young people born in the 1980s and 1990s) will continue to walk away from socially conservative religious traditions. Bringing them back will be tough, especially for religious organizations deeply invested in brick-and-mortar and bureaucracy. Millennials who are facing the erosion of access to affordable, quality education and meaningful employment and who stand to inherit from their elders a great deal of debt and environmental destruction want to know why and how faith matters.
Joanna Brooks, Mormon author and columnist for Religion Dispatches

15. We are seeing the divide between younger generation evangelicals and older generation (baby boom and older) get wider every year both theologically and culturally (lifestyle). 2012 promises to widen the gap even more with Gen X and younger evangelicals having trouble understanding why the traditional lines make sense and/or just outright rejecting those lines.
–Mark Tauber, publisher at HarperOne

Not terribly surprising, so let me offer one prediction of my own.

Young socially conservative evangelicals will coalesce to re-envision and re-articulate evangelical political engagement.  They will rediscover sources of political reflection that point in traditionally conservative directions, like Russell Kirk and unlike the current faves of the Fox News Channel.  This new conservatism won’t look, smell, or sound like your grandma’s values voterism, but it will vote similarly, even if they hold their nose while doing it.  And they will drink tea, not coffee.  (That last one is for free.)

I'm curious to hear from you, astute cultural observers of Mere-O:  what happens amongst the "young evangelicals" in 2012?


Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.