Are young people leaving the church over evangelical support for Trump?

By Jonathon Van Maren

Just last week, I wrote a column detailing several new data sets that bode ill for the future of the United States over the next generation or two–including increasing support for socialism and Marxism among young Christians. I should have waited a few days and included this, from BreakPoint:

According to recent survey, nearly a third of self-described evangelicals do not believe that Jesus Christ is truly God. Arianism, as it turns out, is a heresy that plagues multiple generations of the Church, not just the one of the fourth century.

I want to note here that this also casts a lot of doubt on the usefulness of the term “evangelical,” especially in the political context. With the election looming, we’re being treated to a nonstop stream of articles talking about the number of young evangelicals walking away from the church because their parents or their grandparents support Donald Trump. I’ll be honest: Yes, I understand that to some, Trump fans who hated Clinton probably look hypocritical. But it’s also important to remember that most of these young people we’re talking about weren’t even alive during the Clinton Administration, and certainly don’t remember the brawls over his character. This political narrative is too convenient for too many people with too little evidence beyond the anecdotal.

Sure, I believe that there are many people using Trump’s trashy character as a reason to walk away from the church. But white Boomers voting the straight Republican ticket isn’t the reason they are suddenly doubting the existence of God or the inspiration of Scripture, or sleeping around, or doubting the orthodox Christian position on LGBT issues. They have other problems, the most prominent of which is the relentless cultural currents driving everyone downstream—everyone who isn’t clinging to something solid, that is. So while I agree that many religious leaders have acted with shameless hypocrisy with regard to Donald Trump, I also think the “young evangelicals are leaving the church in droves because of Trump voters” storyline is wildly overblown. If your faith in the authority of the Bible, God’s existence, natural law, and so on is so weak that it can be broken by Grandpa voting for Trump, then it wasn’t really faith to begin with.

Data like this, for example, surely has something to do with what is going on:

And today, young women in the U.S. aren’t just unprecedentedly single; they also appear to be unprecedentedly uninterested in heterosexuality: According to private polling shared with Intelligencer by Democratic data scientist David Shor, roughly 30 percent of American women under 25 identify as LGBT; for women over 60, that figure is less than 5 percent.

Reread those numbers for a moment and consider the cultural implications.

Just to be clear: I’m not saying that many religious leaders haven’t beclowned themselves in their support of Trump. I’m not saying that the public witness of the Christian church hasn’t been hurt by the behavior of some of them (Jerry Falwell Jr.’s spectacular and public self-immolation being the most obvious, but not only, example). I’m just saying that the term “evangelical” is a pretty useless one in this context, and that I’d bet a lot of money that those young people supposedly walking away from Christianity over a Trump vote have a lot of other reasons for doing so.

(As a side note, I wrote on this topic last July, as well. I explained then why I find this narrative so unconvincing. There have been a number of long, well-written think pieces in The Atlantic positing the same thesis since then. I find them just as unconvincing now.)

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