Is Evangelical Support For Trump Alienating Young Christians?

This postscript, from Rod Dreher (who is both anti-gay and pro-evangelical), is anecdotal but interesting:

I just returned from a lunch meeting with a group of conservative Evangelicals, including a few pastors. […] A couple of people in college ministry were at the table. They said that it is impossible to overstate how alienating the enthusiastic support their parents gave to Donald Trump was to their students. A number of college students have left the church entirely over it.

“How is that possible?” I asked one of the campus ministers. “How do you decide to leave Christianity altogether over who your parents voted for? That makes no sense to me.”

He said that in Evangelical circles, it’s common for college students to be skeptical at best of their parents’ theological views. For a lot of them, their parents’ backing of Donald Trump made everything they had been taught as kids about Christianity a lie. Their parents were the primary face of Evangelical Christianity to them, and to see this happen was shattering. They concluded that Christianity must be all about the economy, or tribalism, and so forth. One pastor said that a young man he ministers to in college posted a criticism of Trump on Facebook, and was cut off financially by his parents because of it.

Listening to these pastors and laypeople talking about the Trump effect on younger Christians was quite sobering to me. An older pastor said that it is impossible to separate the Nashville Statement1 from the massive support white Evangelicals gave to Trump. Impossible to separate, I mean, in the mind of the young.

“But Russell Moore signed it, and other Trump critics among Evangelicals,” I said.

“I know, and I’ve tried to tell people that,” said this pastor, a conservative Evangelical. “It doesn’t matter to them. All they see is a bunch of leaders of a movement who voted for a sexually corrupt man like Donald Trump are now trying to take a public stand on sexual morality for gays. It’s totally hypocritical to them.

Young evangelicals are simply more pro-gay than their parents – although less pro-gay than other young people. I haven’t seen any survey contrasting young evangelicals’ attitude about transsexuality to that of their parents, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s trending in a similar direction (although probably not as advanced yet).

  1. What Is The Nashville Statement, And Why Are People Mad About It? – Digg []
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14 Responses to Is Evangelical Support For Trump Alienating Young Christians?

  1. 1
    Duncan says:

    I don’t know if I care to read Dreher’s entire article. Did he ever think to juxtapose young evangelicals who would “leave Christianity altogether over who your parents voted for” with evangelical parents who cut off their children for criticizing the candidate they voted for? Let alone evangelical parents who cut off their children for having the wrong sexual orientation, sexual behavior, or gender expression? Apart from their basic inhumanity, such actions are likely to alienate their children from Christianity, so do they bother Dreher?

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    Honestly, I think I quoted the interesting part of Dreher’s article, so I wouldn’t recommend reading the whole thing if you don’t want to.

    He didn’t address any of the things you mention. My guess is that he wouldn’t approve of parents cutting off children for sexual orientation or gender expression, but that’s just my guess, I don’t have a specific quote I can point to.

  3. 3
    tommo says:

    I am confident the false foundation of all religions, that their leaders exclusively know God’s will, is also alienating young people.

    Fundamental authoritarianism, theocratic chauvinism, racism, xenophobia, gun fetishism and plutocratic protectionism have been the basis of the Republican agenda for decades. This is also, I’m sure, turning young folks from the GOP.

  4. 4
    Duncan says:

    Leaving “the church” does not equate to leaving the faith. There are millions of faithful believers who don’t attend church or buy into church dogma.

  5. 5
    nobody.really says:

    1. Always interesting to observe how the label “evangelical” covers a variety of views. So we should be cautious when discussing what “evangelicals” think. And when we note how the views of, say, Republicans have changed over time, it may be worth noting that people’s views may have changed less than the labels/party affiliations/religious affiliations that people choose to affirm.

    2. For what it’s worth, Ron Dreher is the author of the “Benedict Option”—a much-discussed idea that Christians should reconcile themselves to the idea that they are no longer the dominant force in society, surrender their prerogatives, and “withdraw.” That is, instead of trying to turn all of Western society into Christendom, Christians should acknowledge that their norms differ from society’s norms, and forthrightly label themselves as counter-cultural—with all the “othering” and prejudice this may invite.

    Sounds right to me—although some Jewish commenters find Dreher’s remarks laughably petulant and self-indulgent. Ooo, so you gotta abandon the attitude that everyone shares your religion? Must be rough….

  6. 6
    Ortvin Sarapuu says:

    “I am confident the false foundation of all religions, that their leaders exclusively know God’s will, is also alienating young people.”

    Do you think it’s more alienating to young people now than it was to young people 10, 20, 50, 100 years ago? Has there been a broad societal shift in views on God’s will and its knowability comparable to the shift on homosexuality?

  7. 7
    tommo says:

    Ortvin, yes I do believe younger people these days are more empowered to ditch that old time religious superstitious mindset of their elders. It may be partly due to the “dirty hippies” and other freethinkers of generations past, along with improved education. I don’t have data, but I imagine similar to how studies have shown the more educated women become the fewer / later children they have. Apparently younger people are also being alienated from churches over issues like science, particularly climate change and evolution.

  8. 8
    Harlequin says:

    Has there been a broad societal shift in views on God’s will and its knowability comparable to the shift on homosexuality?

    I think there’s been a general societal shift away from strong hierarchies, which has probably increased the number of believers who don’t feel as strongly bound to, or by, formal churches.

    On the main topic of the post: I have some friends who are politically liberal evangelical Christians, and their opinions on the Nashville Statement are sort of like Dreher’s, except that I think they’d say he’s overstating the influence of Trump: it’s the issue stances of many evangelical Republicans in general, and their focus in particular (focusing on culture war issues rather than eg poverty), that they feel has been driving people out for years. Trump made it worse, I’m sure, because he’s such a stark example–but it’s not a new phenomenon. (My friends are also examples of the fact that not everyone who leaves conservative Evangelical churches also leaves Christianity, but I don’t know how common that is.)

  9. 9
    Ortvin Sarapuu says:

    “I think there’s been a general societal shift away from strong hierarchies”

    In religion, or generally?

  10. 10
    hf says:

    Ortvin, I absolutely feel like religious leaders are more likely to assert they know God’s will on political and cultural issues. Young people seem driven to ask, ‘Why do we even have a democracy if God tells us who to vote for?’ They definitely ask why the all-powerful Creator would have an opinion on various sexual matters (though here it’s partly a case of religious figures becoming more explicit.)

    Now on reflection, this feeling could reflect all sorts of biases on my part. I hear people used to put pictures of FDR next to the saints. But for the gods’ sakes, this thread is about Dreher identifying his politicized sect with “Christianity.” Young people are more atheistic than they used to be, but sadly not as much as he’s suggesting here – and only part of that is about retention. He almost has to be doubling down on his error while seeming to address the problem. Dreher is claiming to speak for God to a degree that I think used to be rare outside of tiny marginalized sects – or, in the case of Catholics, the tiny number who believed all that garbage Rome said.

  11. 11
    Harlequin says:

    In religion, or generally?

    Generally. (Looking at, for example, the rise of the gig economy–which is partly caused by employers feeling less duty to their employees–and the increasing (though still suppressed) social power of women.)

  12. 12
    Ortvin Sarapuu says:

    “Ortvin, I absolutely feel like religious leaders are more likely to assert they know God’s will on political and cultural issues.”

    More likely now than they were historically?


    I think strong hierarchies are very much still with us. They take different forms from the ‘old fashioned’ strong hierarchies, but it’s a difference of style, not substance.

    Society is not significantly less hierarchical than it was in the 70s, the 50s, the 20s or even the 19th century (with the major exception of the presence of slavery and Jim Crow laws, admittedly). But for people not subject to race based chattel slavery, it’s extremely arguable that they are less subject to hierarchical controls now than they were at any point in American history.

    Probably less hierarchical than it was during the middle ages, I’ll give you that.

  13. 13
    hf says:

    More likely now than they were historically?

    Yes, if we’re talking about democracies and the 20th century in particular.

    Though I also disagree with the rest of your comment. First, talking about slavery kind of misses the point. White Americans lynched African-American businessmen who had property to steal for a long while after that; segregation and institutionalized racial hierarchy lasted much longer (not that I would definitely say the latter is gone).

    Second, the doctrine that a wife is subordinate to her husband actually lasted longer outside the US in some Western nations, and US law only put an end to it completely with Kirchberg v. Feenstra in 1979-1981.

    Employers may well have more power now than in the 50s, but I highly doubt we’ve reached 1800s levels. I’ll grant you than Henry Ford eventually backed off from his 1915 attempt to control his workers’ lives through a Social/Sociological Department.

  14. 14
    hf says:

    If you don’t know what I’m talking about, maybe start with company towns.