The decision by California’s Supreme Court to strike down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage revealed more than judicial activism run amok. Besides usurping the majority’s will, it exposed what is present even in the evangelical church: the differences of opinion between Millennials (those born after 1980) and previous generations on many cultural issues. Current surveys related to the evangelical community all exhibit a division based on one simple factor: age.
Warren Beemer, president of Third Day Generation Youth Network, confirms the ideological divide: “Many young people in the evangelical community between 13 and 25 years of age see same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue and not as a moral issue. From Will and Grace to Madonna and Britney’s kiss to A Shot at [Love With Tila] Tequila—an MTV program about a bisexual woman finding her love partner—[it] all speaks to the deliberate attempt to change the hearts and minds of an entire generation.”
Hollywood isn’t the only propagandist targeting the younger generation. Public education in California, for example, teaches students that the rights sought by gays and lesbians are equivalent to African-Americans’ struggle for civil rights. “Leaders such as Niger Innis from the Congress of Racial Equality, one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations, repudiate the notion,” says Bob Adams of the Alliance For Marriage. “How one can equate over 200 years of slavery ... to the legalization of a sexual act in the privacy of one’s bedroom is beyond me.”
Other issues similarly expose the generational differences. Though most evangelicals 35 and older regard sanctity of life and traditional marriage as bedrocks for the community, younger evangelicals include alleviating poverty and tackling global warming as integral parts of the evangelical 21st-century agenda. Does this mean the end of the movement as a sociopolitical presence in America? Or do the differences signal the emergence of a new movement with a broader coalition and a distinct DNA?
“We’re at a crossroad where we can either split or understand the importance of our core values and build a broader coalition,” says Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law. “The signs are actually promising to recapture the evangelical base, but it’s about transgenerational communication. ... Without abandoning our core values on marriage and life, we can appreciate the fact that the gospel encompasses ... the poor, aging and God’s creation itself.”
Undoubtedly, America still needs an evangelical movement that will serve as a firewall to the egregious usurpers of our core values. Yet unlike past alliances, we must truly represent the mosaic of God’s church in America.
To build such a firewall to thwart the viruses, Trojans and invaders we have today, the new evangelical movement needs to reconcile the kingdom salvation message of Billy Graham with the social-justice transformational spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. We can win the next generation and launch a new Jesus movement if we defend traditional marriage and simultaneously repudiate homophobia, stand up for life, address poverty, preach the gospel of salvation and incorporate biblical stewardship of God’s creation. It cannot be “either-or”; it must be “both-and.” Only a multiethnic, transgenerational, biblically committed coalition can push back on Satan’s charge in our nation.
Award-winning writer Sam Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the Hispanic NAE, serving 15 million Latino believers and 18,000 churches.
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