Wednesday, April 3, 2019
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Younger generations are moving to the left: What cultural conditions have led to this change and what should the church’s response be?
As we're thinking about cultural, social and political change in the United States, sometimes the analysis inevitably turns to generations. Generations, and of course, generations are themselves a way of abstracting different cohorts of humanity by age. Generations, for example of family are fairly easy to trace. But in a culture you have to design some kind of arbitrary begin date and ending date for birth.
For example, the greatest generation the baby boomers, Generation X and of course later the millennials and now Generation Z. But one of the most interesting questions has to do with the extent to which you can assign worldview distinctives generation by generation. Are generations different in how they think and how they make political or economic or social judgment?
Again, you could trace this in your family. The question is, can you trace it in the larger society? The answer is often yes. Every generation has formative experiences that shape the outlook on the world, and many of these experiences come when generations are quite young. They become shaping and formative experiences that have a great deal of impact later in life. If you look at the generation that experienced as children the great depression, you're looking at a generation that grew up with economic insecurity. That is very much on their minds.
If you look to the generation that later grew up and had their childhood and young adulthood during the period of the second world war, that had a material impact. So did those who came into life during the cold war with the great battle being between capitalism and communism, western democracy and socialism. If you look at the generation that was largely shaped by the events of September 11, 2001, you can see a certain pattern. If you look at other generations, you can trace similar kinds of issues.
But this arose interestingly, yesterday in the pages of the New York Times. An article with the headline In The Trump Era, Younger Generation Leans Left. Now, here's an argument. The youngest Americans dealing with these kinds of issues right now, teenagers and young adults, the article says, they are distinctively shifting left. Not just as a few individuals, but as a social phenomenon. The article is by Emily Badger and Claire Kane Miller. They begin by pointing to a young man who's now 16 but became rather famous across the United States because of a photograph when he was 13. The young man is Jaden Rams. As Badger and Miller write, Jaden Rams used to be on fire for Donald Trump shortly before the 2016 presidential election. When he was 13, he put on a red MAGA, Make America Great Again hat and matching tie and yelled his support at a rally in his hometown Grand Junction, Colorado.
The picture of the 13 year old gained a great deal of national and international publicity showing a 13 year old boy's representative of youthful support for Donald Trump. But now we are told that Jaden, who is no longer 13, he is 16, he has now a very different political outlook. Quote, "Today he calls the presidential campaign and its aftermath a travesty for American unity. He believes president trump has fulfilled his campaign promises but, I don't feel largely those had been positive." Two years closer to voting age, he now leans left and said he would register as an independent.
But then comes the thesis point of the article, "These are critical years for the voters of tomorrow. Political science research shows that a generation of voters is shaped for life by what happens during the teenage years and early 20s. Whether the country is at war, how the economy is doing, whether the president is popular. Evidence they say in the Trump era so far shows young people coming of age are now tilting left."
Now, you could assume that to the writers and editors of the New York Times this is coming is good news, the assumption that the coming generation is shifting left. Furthermore, the Democratic Party is clearly making its bet in that direction with the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination race, shaping up to be a race to the left to see who can get there as fast as possible. And of course, at this point, we've already seen that the left is a moving target. Someone reaches a certain point on the boundary and then the next candidate has to come along and exceed that boundary. The boundary on the liquid margin is shifting continually left.
But this article makes very clear that something is going on among younger Americans and Christians of all ages should pay some attention to this article that after all, does give direct attention to worldview analysis. One of the interesting points made in that thesis paragraph is the fact that generations are shaped for life by what happens during the teenage years and early 20s.
One of the interesting things for us to note is that the assumptions previously had been otherwise. The assumption of both the center left and the center right, in recent decades had been that generations tend to be liberal, young and conservative, old. Now as you're looking across human history, there's some good reason to see that kind of pattern. For one thing, we come to understand that getting married, owning property, having a job, raising children, these are essentially conserving experiences.
Indeed, the Christian biblical worldview points to the experiences and responsibilities of being married and having children as bringing the structures of meaning and responsibility into life that would account for a certain conservative impulse or intuition. There's a reason why people who have children tend to vote far more conservatively than those who do not.
Just to give one example, in a recent gubernatorial race in Virginia, pollsters indicated that if those who had children in the home were the only people voting, the Republican candidate would have won by a landslide. But if you look at the other side, and you consider voters who would include single women or women without children in the household, it turns out that the Democrat would have won by a landslide. Actually, since voters don't live in just those two worlds. The election was closer than that. In that election cycle, the Democrat won by a far slimmer margin. But the point is simply made, if you look at the most important determining factor that researchers were looking at in that election, it had everything to do with whether or not the voter was even then actively responsible for children and for raising them.
But even as the assumption had been that the pattern was younger liberals and older conservatives, meaning the very same people, as these reporters tell us, "Conventional wisdom suggests that people hold more liberal views when they're young and age into conservatism, but history doesn't back that up. The generation that came of age during the New Deal remained reliably democratic as it aged. The generation that grew up with the Reagan revolution has consistently tilted Republican.
As Badger and Miller write concerning the current generation of younger Americans, "The election data suggests that the youngest voters are supporting Democrats and surveys of teenagers not yet old enough to vote reveal them to be anxious about the current state of the country and likely to embrace liberal views. Overall, 59% of people aged 18 to 24 say they're Democrats, compared with 33% who say they are Republicans. That according to an Upshot analysis of the data from the Pew Research Center over the last year." The article continues, "Even young people who self-identify as Republicans, another Pew Research survey found say they hold more liberal views than older Republicans on a wide range of issues, including race relations, the issues of climate change and the involvement of government in people's lives."
So, most people at least operating out of a secular concern, looking at this kind of article are really interested in the questions, where's the culture going, and what does this mean for electoral politics? What it appears to me and for electoral politics is good news for Democrats and bad news for Republicans. But Christians are interested in a far deeper analysis, and that deeper analysis if this data turns out to be accurate, will point out that even when you are looking at those young people who identify and register as Republicans, they aren't as conservative as older Republicans.
We're being told here that the culture is not only moving left, and at this point to the electoral advantage of Democrats among younger Americans, we're told that even the younger Americans who identify as Republican are more liberal on many issues, particularly social issues than older Republicans.
Kristen Solstice Anderson, identified as a Republican pollster who has written a book on Millennial voters said simply, "Republicans are in trouble." She went on to say, it would not surprise me if the problem is worse, not better with Generation Z, given the moment we're in. We are then told, "As these young people age, it could take years before their influences felt in the electorate. That according to political scientists. Given that older voters turnout at much higher rates and young Americans who connect to Mr. Trump could retain lasting ties to his party. It is also possible," They say, "That this generation will be exposed to very different influences, like an unpopular democratic president or an economic downturn in just a few years."
The researchers are in effect hedging their bets, they're putting in protective clauses in their argument. They're saying, it isn't necessarily the case that this picture won't change, but they're also telling us look, this is the picture right now. The picture is of a generation tilting significantly to the left. That would include even the young people who identify as more conservative.
The main issue here is the trajectory, the general pattern and direction of cultural change. But of course, we're talking about cultural change, we're talking about an even more fundamental moral change, the change at the very level of worldview.
But leaving this article for a moment, let's just ponder the fact that social issues were identified as the fulcrum or the catalyst for why younger Americans are now turning left. Let's ask ourselves the question, how would that have happened? I think the answer is actually quite easy. The people who are now moving into young adulthood and into teenage years in the United States have never known a moment when the entire culture was not messaging very liberal positions on these social issues. You take the LGBTQ issues, the entire culture has been sending in every way possible, signals, this is the reality, this is the right position, join this or you're going to be on the wrong side of history.
There is also enormous generational pressure on issues that are related to climate change. You could go through the entire list of headline or frontline issues. But here's where we have to understand, it would be very difficult, it is very difficult for adult Christians to withstand this kind of social pressure. Just as Christians who are trying to be faithful right now in the workplace or in higher education, in academia, or in much of the society writ large, just ask those who are now coaching athletic teams. Ask people who are now entering professions, such as law and medicine. Ask veterans in those fields, are you finding it very comfortable to be a conventional Christian in the midst of this moral revolution? I think you know the answer in advance.
But older Americans, and I have to count myself amongst that number, we had experiences that grounded us in very important values and social structures that have largely been eliminated if not reversed for younger Americans. But another thought that Christians and maybe particularly Christian parents and churches, you keep in mind is given by that opening illustration with that boy who was 13 in 2016, but is 16 now, Jason Rams. The article began by pointing out his political transformation, the transformation that after all has taken place between age 13 and 16. We're talking about three years. But this is where Christians have better think carefully. Those are not just any three years. You talk about someone who's 52 and say, well, now he's 55. She was 61, now she's 64. Even he was 24, and now he's 27. That is a far less significant period of time, even though it is the same chronological period of time as saying, this is where someone was at 13, this is where he or she is at 16.
This reminds us of a truth that even the ancients such as Aristotle well understood, the formation of the adult is concentrated in a particular number of years. They are the gears of early adolescence, through the teenage and into the young adult years. Those years have far more meaning in the shaping of personality and worldview and adult identity than any other years. Three years during that period, they are huge, perhaps more than three decades later in life as you're thinking about the personal information, personal identity, moral worldview, even the spiritual convictions.
Study after study over the last say 80 years and more have indicated that the vast majority of those who in advanced years are identified as believing Christians became Christians early in life. For instance, before age 20. That's not to say that no one after age 20 comes to faith in Christ. It is to say that the vast majority well over 90, perhaps even over 95% of Christians who are identifying as Christians in later ages, they began identifying as Christians, they point to their own relationship with Christ as going back to younger ages. Particularly to under age 20.
This should point out the strategic importance of parents. It should point to the fact that when we are looking at young adults, when we're looking at teenagers, when we're looking even at early adolescence, we are looking at individuals who are worldviews in the making. It should make a very loud statement to churches about the importance of teaching young people. Not only that, surrounding them with conviction of Christians who are warm hearted, faithful and living out their Christian witness. Ready to give an answer to young believers seeking to understand the meaning of the Christian gospel, what the Bible teaches, how faithful biblical Christianity is translated into everyday life.
Just consider the meaning of this article on one question, let's just think about a big front line issue in current policy, and that has to do of course, with the issue of abortion and the sanctity of human life. We are being told here that the basic convictions on issues even as urgent as abortion are generally forged long before persons graduate from college. That is an alarm bell for us. That's a wakeup call if ever we knew a wakeup call.
Christians, thinking carefully, understand the inevitability of partisan politics. Of course, we understand that the parties as they are currently represented not only in the United States, but elsewhere, they represent organizations around certain convictions. They represent a worldview. But even as Christians understand this, we understand there's something far more basic. That certainly points to the urgent reality of defending the sanctity and dignity of human life, specifically on an issue such as abortion. Inevitably, one's convictions on a question like abortion will have partisan, political, electoral consequences.
This article in The New York Times is written as if it should be an alarm to Republicans. And of course, it should be. But far more than that, it should be alarm to Christian parents and Christian churches, to all Christians, because the issues for us are far more important than even the New York Times can understand.
Society is celebrating that a grandma gave birth to her granddaughter, but Christians understand that not every means by which a child is conceived is equally laudatory
Next, we're going to shift to another story and for this, we're going to go to the state of Nebraska, not exactly one of those states you think of is customarily on the leading edge of the culture war. But in this case, a headline In USA Today from Nebraska, "Grandma 61, gave birth to own granddaughter so her son and his husband could be dads." Again, that's just a headline. The headline can vary by online edition. But let's just look at those words again, grandma gave birth to own granddaughter so that her son and his husband could be dads.
From time to time, we just have to ask ourselves, what would happen if we could rewind history, say just a decade and try to read this headline. Would anyone be able to make sense out of even what the headline's trying to tell us. A grandmother who gave birth to her own granddaughter, so her son and his husband could be dads? This is on the other side of vast transformations. For one thing, obviously, the legalization of same sex marriage, talking about a son and his husband, and then it's on the other side of a reproductive revolution. And it shows up in various ways here. First of all, in a grandmother giving birth to her own granddaughter. Now, that's going to have to be explained, but it can only be explained by In vitro fertilization by IVF technology and advanced reproductive technologies.
The article's by Sonja Haller, she writes, "Cecile Eledge gave up coffee for nine months, she did everything doctors told her. At age 61, she said she was joking when she offered to be the gestational surrogate her son and his husband needed. To her surprise, she passed a battery of tests, including heart, cholesterol and stress. Just a week ago, this grandmother gave birth to her granddaughter, Uma Louise weighing five pounds and 13 ounces, that's at Nebraska Medical Center. The married dads, we are told him the story Matthew Eledge and Elliot Dougherty said the birth of their daughter was possible thanks to the women in their life; Eledge's mother and Daugherty's sister."
Well, let's just look at this story for a moment. Trust me, we have to. We're talking here about two gay men married to one another who wanted to be parents. But of course that requires in so many different ways a woman. A woman is the source of the eggs, and a woman has the womb to bring the baby through gestational development and give birth to the baby. It takes the sister of one of the men and the mother of the other of the men and sperm from one of the men to come up with all the biology necessary to have a fertilized egg. And then of course, there is the quandary of understanding that in the midst of all this confusion, you have a grandmother who has given birth to her own granddaughter.
But of course, that's not by any kind of normal biological means, it is by the use of this kind of technology. Trust me, the story has details we're not going to talk about on the briefing. But those details just affirm the point that this did not happen according to natural means. The coverage in the press has been almost universally laudatory and celebratory. After all, that's the way the press and the larger culture now work. We're told that this is something we're supposed to be really, really happy about that this is a sign of the future. A sign that we have overcome biology and we have overcome repressive morality. We have overcome the historic Christian and for that matter, nearly universal civilizational understanding of marriage. Now, we have two men who can be married and they can somehow have a baby.
But "have" has to be put in quotation marks because the way they have this baby or had this baby is not going to be sensical to any generation of human beings anywhere at any time who came before. The New York Post reports. "When Uma Louise was born Monday, the whole family was present. Now, home from the hospital, Elliot and Matthew say they're feeling especially grateful for the "village". That's put in quotation marks as in it takes a village, that it took to bring them their daughter whom they expect to be a little bit of diva like their fathers." Matthew says with a laugh, "We're preparing for her to be heard." Yes, we're also living in a time in which makes perfect sense for two gay men to announce to the New York Post that they expect their daughter to be like them, a little bit of a diva.
We should step back a moment not only to recognize what this means as we measure the moral revolution, but to understand that if this is possible, then many other arrangements are also simultaneously possible. One of the things we need to know is the limited celebration that this society is willing to exercise given the panorama of all of those potential options. We're living in a time in which however, the de-structuring of morality, the removal of any objective foundation for morality, the redefinition of marriage and the destabilizing the family has now led to a situation in which we can just expect one headline after another. A grandmother has her own granddaughter now, it could be something very similar, very different, very radically unimaginable in fairly short order.
One final thought on this issue, we have to remind ourselves that the Christian worldview says that every baby is to be welcomed as a gift to humanity. This little girl who is no doubt cute and beautiful is to be welcomed as that gift, and the moral status of the child is never in question given the circumstances of conception, gestation or birth. That is a dignity that is given to us by our creator. this little girl, who like every little baby who has ever been conceived is made in God's image is to be welcomed and celebrated for herself as God's gift.
But the Christian worldview also tells us that the means whereby this gift has been given, they are not all equal, they are not all legitimate, and they are not all to be celebrated. If you see the media coverage and you see a picture of this little girl, you are unlikely to be tempted to smile and you should smile. The birth of any baby is a reason to smile. Christians understand why. But at the same time, Christians understand that we rightly smile at the child, but we cannot rightly smile at the circumstances, the technologies, the relationships and the structures that have brought that child into being. Not every sexual act, not every reproductive act is equally valid. Not every sexual relationship or romantic relationship is equally valid.
Linking this back to our first story having to do with moral and even political change among younger Americans. This is a reminder as to why we have to talk about these things, why we need to talk about them explicitly as Christians, trying to make tangible and visible a Christian Scriptural reasoning.
The importance of the Apostles’ Creed for defining authentic Christianity and passing on that faith to the next generation
That, by the way, is one of the reasons why I wrote my most recent book released just a few days ago entitled, The Apostles Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits.
The Apostles Creed, along with the Lord's Prayer and the 10 Commandments, these have been the three basic legs of a three-legged stool of Christian instruction throughout the centuries that Christians have used in order to teach the Christian faith to their children. This was true of the early church, this was also true of the reformers during the great reformation. It was true of Puritans, it has been true throughout the histories and centuries of the Christian church.
As I argue in the book, all Christians believe more than the Apostles Creed, but no Christian can believe less. All Christians, wherever Christians are found have to agree with all of the Apostles Creed because it tells the story. Beginning, I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. That's the beginning point of a Christian biblical worldview, Christian theism. And then the creed goes on to say, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. And then are recited the great saving acts of the life and the work of Christ. And then the promise of the church and the forgiveness of sins and all that is given to us in the promises of God.
We are surrounded by so much pervasive, rampant, artificial, counterfeit Christianity. Recognizing true Christianity from the false Christianity, that turns out to have been one of the perpetual challenges of the Christian faith, a challenge that is found even in the New Testament. We are called to teach our children both as parents and of course, as congregations. We are to teach our children well, we are to teach them devotedly, consistently, diligently and we are to teach them faithfully.
This is not a book that is written primarily for children. It is written for all Christians. But the horizon of my concern in writing this book had a great deal to do with the generations to come. In the book I explain why, beginning with the dedication. The book again, is entitled The Apostles Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can find me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com. I
'm speaking to you from Indianapolis, Indiana, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.