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?


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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. I believe that the elections, especially the Republican primaries, will show where younger Evangelicals lie in their overall ideology. Elections tend to be benchmarks on how and why people vote the way they do.

    Without an “Evangelical” candidate and overall feelings of buyers remorse with President Obama, it is no surprise that many left-center Evangelicals are running to Paul. He hits on many of the things that young Evangelicals desire, no war, no increase in spending and non-confrontation.

    Historically, we are in a similar position prior to World War 2 where strong anti-war sentiment ruled the country until Pearl Harbor happened. This year’s events will definitely shape the next ten years in America.


    1. That’s a good point, Ben, about people running to Paul. There was a strong Paul contingent in ’08 as well among younger evangelical conservatives, although it seems to have grown some.

      I’m curious to see how economics plays into younger evangelical voting reasons this year, relative to foreign policy issues and social conservative issues. But Paul plays strongly there as well.


  2. Hey Matt

    Being from another continent, let alone country, I can’t comment on the political leaning side of your post. But on the question of what will happen to the thinking of the “New” Evangelicals, I think you will find some clues in your title. As Chesterton describes in Orthodoxy, he went on this fabulous journey only to arrive where everyone already lived. They may be younger than me, but I think that irrespective of how new they are, the defining feature is more their evangelicalism.

    I find one of the great joys and comforts of believing in Absolute Truth is that, no matter the flavours and fashions of current thinking, it remains absolute. And the truth.


    1. Matthew Lee Anderson January 5, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Thanks, John, for the comment. Agree that there’s a movement back to first principles, and hopeful that we’ll play our part in energizing that movement!


  3. Christopher Benson January 5, 2012 at 11:04 am

    I’m as suspicious of a “new conservatism” as you were rightly suspicious of a “new evangelicalism” in your review of Marcia Pally’s book. Following Darryl Hart’s cue in “From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism,” the way forward is backward to traditional conservatism. Traditionalists, anti-communists, and libertarians shaped the modern conservative outlook between 1950 to 1965 as they debated the future of the American republic. Evangelicals were absent from that debate, so they will have to play catch-up, listening before talking. Evangelicals have to stop treating the Bible, a book written millennia ago, as “capable of addressing the specific challenges of modern statecraft” (Hart). They have much to learn from the likes of Aristotle, Plato, Hume, Lock, Tocqueville Burke, Madison, Oakeshott, and Kirk.


    1. Matthew Lee Anderson January 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Thanks, Christopher. I think that’s basically what I said when I wrote, “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.”


  4. Christopher Benson January 5, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Not having read the book, I wonder if David E. Fitch’s “The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission” already begins to fulfill your prediction of re-envisioning and re-articulating evangelical political engagement.


    1. Matthew Lee Anderson January 5, 2012 at 11:55 am

      Yes, I suspect it does along anabaptist lines.


  5. Christopher Benson January 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Now, you’re next book, in my humble opinion, should be a re-envisioning and re-articulating of evangelical political engagement along Baptist/Reformed lines.


    1. Matthew Lee Anderson January 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      Hah. I’ve got to get a PhD in me before I go that route. Also, as long as Desire of the Nations and Ways of Judgment exist, I’m not sure I need to. : )


      1. Ahh… I don’t know if a PhD is the only route for that kind of endeavor. Sometimes it seems like a hindrance rather than a help. Too much political theology is done in a vacuum. You could just as easily – and perhaps more profitably – go the route of the practitioner, working at a think tank, lobbying organization or even serving in an elected office. Close your eyes from a brief moment and imagine your aide saying, “Senator Anderson.” Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Ha!


        1. Matthew Lee Anderson January 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm

          “Senator Anderson” sounds terrible enough to send me into depression. Ugh. : )


          1. And “Theoretician Anderson” sounds terrible enough to send me into depression. Ha! Seriously, though, what does Evangelicalism need today: another political theorist, however talented and erudite, or a principled and effective politician (or public policy analyst) who makes an actual difference in the world? Probably both, but there seems to be a greater need for practitioners than theoreticians.

          2. Matthew Lee Anderson January 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm

            I actually can’t think of very many evangelical political theorists, honestly. There are a gazillion people writing about evangelicals and politics, but most of those are sociological approaches (on a generous reading) or lay-level works. There are fewer theorists out there coming up with constructive solutions for new ways of speaking about the relationship between the gospel and politics (which I take is one of the theorist’s main jobs).

            But you’re right that we don’t have many policy folks out there. That is a weakness. But no one would ever think that I was going to go be a policy wonk. That’s just not in my nature.

          3. Not if you imagine Hugo Weaving saying it.

  6. It’s hard for me to say where “New Evangelicalism” is going, as I live and work in Appalachia in Virginia. The culturual centers of thought are certainly city-centric, and the concerns of my rural neighbors are a bit different. Rural areas tend to be the bleeding edge of recessions and economic shifts are felt first out here.

    These people aren’t spending much time with theoretical political engagement or shifts in their ideology. There is a deep distrust of politicians, quite a bit of partisan-ship still which is surprising, and a growing desire for pragmatism.

    Folks here are concerned with the basics of food and shelter. The frequent prayers of my youth group are for God’s provision over the finances of their parents, to keep their homes, etc. We’re still feeding a lot of people every week. My point is, at least here, there are too many first order concerns for many to care about political intricacies.

    My peers in the ~30 year old range are suspicious of every candidate. Ron Paul has traction with some, but the stance he took on allowing Iran to pursue nuclear weapons has alienated a lot of support. I haven’t heard of any consensus candidate, but I have heard a lot of dissatisfaction with politics as a whole. Though, I suppose that’s nothing new.

    A slightly different view from the country,


  7. […] Matthew Lee Anderson discusses predictions for the New Evangelicals in 2012. […]


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