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Born Too Early

August 6, 2016

If you are from my generation you might recognize that title as a take-off from the 1958 pop song Born Too Late by the Poni-Tails.  The original song was a “one hit wonder” as it climbed to #7 on the top 100 charts while nothing else the group ever did made it to better than #85.  They soon broke up and went into such mundane fields as real estate, school administration and advertising.  But their song of lament about a girl who was “born too late” to attract the attention of the older (like 18) guy she wanted is still in my head, and I suspect that a good number of my peers could also sing it today, 58 years later.

But I’m beginning to think that, in terms of my evangelical faith, I was born too early.  I read and study things from my generation and often find myself dismayed.  I’ve never felt this way more than when I read the article by evangelical scholar and professor of Christian ethics Wayne Grudem entitled Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice.  I wrote about this dismaying article earlier this week and, since then, have been following other reflections on it.  A large number of younger evangelicals have been as dismayed as I feel and written quite a bit about their uneasiness.

But none of her fellow millenials have expressed their dismay it quiet as neatly as Amy Gannett on the website “Word & Craft/ Lifestyle Theology for the Woman of God.” in her article How Evangelicals are Losing an Entire Generation.  I am tempted to stop right here and say go read the article, particularly if you, like Grudem, are a culture warrior “taking a stand for” the same things he champions and if you have the slightest interest in hearing from millenials.  (I almost said “speaking to” millenials but the need to listen is far greater.)  But, if you are a “never click on a link” advocate let me share a few quotes.

After talking about her Republican and evangelical roots and calling herself “politically-aware but not politically-obsessed” she says this:  “Over the last several months, I have lost respect for the Republican party, and I honestly thought that would be the biggest tragedy of this election. But the disappointing truth is this: I’m losing faith in Evangelicals.  And this is frightening. I am an Evangelical. I hold to Evangelical theology. I have attended not one, but two Evangelical schools. But I fear that we’re going to lose an entire generation because of the actions, words, and teachings of some Evangelicals. Including Wayne Grudem.”  If that doesn’t trouble you just a bit than I am worried about you.

She then goes to the heart of her concern:  “I have watched many Evangelicals endorse Donald Trump. But Grudem did not give an endorsement. No, he gave a moral imperative. Grudem’s article argues that it is morally constraining on the Christian person to vote for Donald Trump, particularly citing things like Trump’s upholding of religious rights for Christian schools and businesses, support of traditional marriage, and pro-life support of the rights of the unborn. Grudem dismisses accusations of Trump being a racist, anti-(legal) immigrant, and misogynistic. He feels Trump has been misunderstood, quoted out of context, and the victim of an unfair media.

What Grudem effectively does, then, is set up a hierarchy of morality. He is willing to hold some moral values (religious rights for Christian schools and businesses, support of traditional marriage, and pro-life notions) above others (the equality of races, genders, and ethnicities). All are moral concepts, all require a moral stance, and Grudem has chosen which he prefers over others.”

Her understanding of Grudem’s “hierarchy of morality” is dead-on.  She is 100% right.  What is even worse is that Grudem just assumes his hierarchy is correct without any attempt to justify or support his views.

Her article concludes with a message that is both hopeful and challenging in a way that makes it impossible to simply dismiss her out of hand:  “This is not an article asking millennials to leave Evangelicalism because I believe it can’t be saved, nor is this article saying that Evangelicalism is dead. It also is not a proposal of a useful way forward in this…election. It is a plea for reform. It is a big ask of Evangelical leaders to reevaluate the stakes they have put in the ground and ask if there could be a better, more truly Evangelical way. It’s a request to leaders in our communities to speak out against the evils that surround and are supported by Trump. Because you’re losing us, and we don’t want to be lost.  Win us back, and let’s complete the work ahead together.”

Do yourself a favor Grudem fans.  Go read the article and seriously ponder it.  Maybe then you might be like me and wonder if you were born too early.

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