Nov

12

2010

Justin Taylor|9:07 am CT

Why Are Younger Evangelicals Attracted to Libertarianism or Liberalism?

Update: Matt Anderson provides a clarification and follow-up.

Matt Anderson offers a hypothesis:

Here’s my hypothesis as to why young evangelicals tend to be drawn toward Randian libertarianism or Obama-style pragmatic liberalism: we think of ourselves as elites, even though most of us aren’t. This is particularly true of white, college-educated younger evangelicals who went off to Wheaton and Biola, and who are the only young evangelicals the media ever seems to talk about.

Our dissatisfaction with the mainstream evangelical populism we grew up in makes us particularly susceptible to either top-down statism or ubermensch libertarianism. Obama or Ron Paul, Jim Wallis or Ayn Rand. Both appeal to our elite aspirations, as in the former we can politically engineer society to bring about the Kingdom and in the latter we get to be captains of industry.

Joe Carter chimes in:

The fact that they aren’t qualified for such roles doesn’t seem to daunt them in the least. They have energy and ambition and opinions of their own. What else could they possibly need?

The problem is not just that such an attitude is off-putting (though it definitely is obnoxious) but rather that it prevents young talented evangelicals from adequately preparing to live up to their elite aspirations. They need to spend many years (ideally between ten to fifteen) in preparation and service to others before they can fully grasp how the world works, much less how they can fix it.

Of course, being told they need to gain wisdom and experience before they can be truly effective is the last thing any young person wants to hear. But young evangelicals should humbly consider the example of our Lord: If the savior of the world saw fit to toil in working-class obscurity for thirty years before embarking on his cosmos-changing mission, it probably won’t hurt you to spend a bit more time forming your intellect and character before you’re ready to make your mark on the culture.

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