It may look like a pair of recent editorials in Christianity Today, a prominent evangelical Christian magazine, criticizing President Trump and the evangelicals who stalwartly support him caused a fracture in the white evangelical community. A group of nearly 200 prominent evangelical conservatives quickly attacked the first CT editorial, in which outgoing editor-in-chief Mark Galli argued that Trump should be removed from office, and a large group of religious scholars and speakers pushed back.
But the fight over evangelical fealty to Trump is only "exacerbating a long-term crisis facing white evangelicalism, some Christians say — it is being abandoned by younger generations," Reuters notes. And "Trump's presidency may make the age gap worse." White evangelicals made up 15 percent of the U.S. population in 2018, versus 23 percent in 2006, and the average age of white evangelicals is 55, compared with 44 for the overall white population, according to Public Religion Research Institute data.
Napp Nazworth, the politics editor at the more conservative Christian Post, resigned last week over his publication's plans to criticize Christianity Today's anti-Trump editorial. "Having to go out and defend this guy day after day, as many of these Trump evangelicals are doing, they're just destroying their credibility," Nazworth tells Reuters, and they "will have no moral authority to speak to moral issues of the day after defending him."
There has been a big drop-off in white evangelical church participation among adults under 40, and "one of the major factors is that the church is too tied up in right-wing politics," Greg Carey, a professor at Pennsylvania's Lancaster Theological Seminary, tells Reuters. He specifically mentioning evangelical activism against gay rights. The evangelical church's "singular focus" on gay marriage and abortion just makes the younger generation "shrug," agreed Dartmouth religion professor Randall Balmer.
That doesn't mean young white evangelicals are embracing Democrats. "No political party embodies Jesus' teaching closely," says Christian writer Marlena Graves. Listen to how the last Rachel Held Evans threaded that needle at The New York Times' "The Daily" podcast. Peter Weber
A group of alumni of Liberty University are returning their diplomas to their alma mater with a letter protesting the close association between the school's chancellor and president, Jerry Falwell Jr., and President Trump.
"While this state of affairs has been in place for many months, the Chancellor's recent comments on the attack upon our neighbors in Charlottesville have brought our outrage and our sorrow to a boiling point. During the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, white supremacists, nationalists, and neo-Nazis perpetrated brutal violence against anti-racist protesters, murdering one woman and injuring many. Instead of condemning racist and white nationalist ideologies, Mr. Trump provided equivocal and contradictory comments. The Chancellor then characterized Mr. Trump's remarks, which included the claim that some of the persons marching as white nationalists and white supremacists at the rally were 'very fine people,' as 'bold' and 'truthful.' This is incompatible with Liberty University's stated values, and incompatible with a Christian witness." [via NPR]
"I'm sending my diploma back because the president of the United States is defending Nazis and white supremacists," said one Liberty alumnus who signed the letter, former student government president Chris Gaumer. "And in defending the president's comments, Jerry Falwell Jr. is making himself and, it seems to me, the university he represents, complicit." Bonnie Kristian