I have seen the future of evangelical Christianity, and it is pierced. And sometimes tattooed. And often has one of those annoying, wispy chin beards.
Those who think of evangelical youths as the training cadre of the religious right would have been shocked at Jubilee 2008, a recent conference of 2,000 college students in Pittsburgh sponsored by the Coalition for Christian Outreach. I was struck by the students’ aggressive idealism ”” there were booths promoting causes from women’s rights to the fight against modern slavery to environmental protection. Judging from the questions I was pounded with, the students are generally pro-life ”” but also concerned about poverty and deeply opposed to capital punishment and torture. More than a few came up to me between sessions in anguished uncertainty, unable to consider themselves Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative ”” homeless in the stark partisanship of American politics.
Many observers have detected a shift ”” a broadening or maturation ”” of evangelical social concerns beyond the traditional agenda of the religious right. But does this have political implications?
Perhaps. Recent Zogby polls in Missouri and Tennessee found that about a third of white evangelicals who showed up on primary day voted Democratic. The sample sizes were small. Yet John Green, a senior fellow with the Pew Forum, finds the results interesting. “These results are higher than usual. Typically these numbers would be about a quarter.”