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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Evangelicals in Politics

The Washington Examiner interviews Prof. Mark Smith of Cedarville College, coauthor of Meandering to Zion: The Political Thought of the Christian Left

What's different about the faith of the students you're teaching, compared to the faith of their parents and grandparents?

They're looking for a more experiential faith -- more activity related to their faith. Their parents and grandparents were a little more satisfied with a set of doctrines and beliefs, whereas this generation really wants to connect those to what they're actually doing. For some, that's a really positive thing, but for others, the faith becomes very individualistic, and all about their own experience. Politically, they're asking questions their parents and grandparents didn't ask. They're interested in matters of poverty and race and the environment and stewardship. Their parents and grandparents would be more interested in abortion, or school prayer, or gay rights. Young evangelicals are broadening their political agenda quite a bit.

What does that mean for the future of the evangelical movement in the political arena?

What it means is that we're looking at the possibility that conservative evangelicals will start to have strong political disagreements with each other. Some will maintain more conservative politics, and some will drift toward progressive politics, and both will still hold on to their faith. Historically, this is nothing new -- William Jennings Bryan would be considered an evangelical by our standards, but he was very progressive politically. For the past 40 years or so, evangelicals have been associated with conservative politics, but it is possible we are seeing young evangelicals drift more toward the left.