Friday, April 20, 2012

Jonathan Merritt, "Millennials Are More Independent, Divided on Culture Wars"

I like Merritt, even if I'm not convinced by some of his theological opinions. As I'm known, I love respectful perspective. 

new study produced by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) confirms what we already knew to be true. A majority of Millennials believe that abortion is “morally wrong,” are torn on same sex issues, and a plurality consider themselves independent.

The study reports that 51% of Millennials believe that having an abortion is “morally wrong.” This falls in line with other studies in years past, which assert that rising generations are as pro-life, or perhaps more so, than their parents’ generation. Most young people, it seems, will seek to protect of unborn life as did many of their parents. Only 37% said they considered abortion “morally acceptable.”

But young people differ substantially from their parents on same sex issues. According to the study, Millennials are divided on same sex issues, with 59% favoring gays and lesbians to legally marry. Christians of similar age are also moving this direction according to a study conducted by PRRI in 2007, which showed 52% of young evangelicals favor some form of same sex union. I've written on why I think this is happening in many outlets, including this article in The Huffington Post.

Perhaps the most interesting finding in this study, however, is Millennials affinity for “independent” affiliation. A plurality (45%) self-identify as such. Young Christians seem to align with this trend as well. A 2001 study of young evangelicals by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press uncovered 55% were self-described Republicans. When the study was repeated in 2007, only 40% remained in that category. Interestingly, the 15% didn’t migrate to the Democratic party; only 5% did. The remaining 10% now describe themselves as “independents” or “unaffiliated.”

Last week at the Q conference—a prestigious gathering of more than 750 young Christian leaders in Washington DC—a participant survey found that 61% of participants claim they don’t affiliate with either the right or left.

So PRRI has uncovered what we already knew to be true. Young people—including those who claim the Christian faith are eschewing the American culture wars in significant ways. They remain conservative on issues such as abortion, but are rethinking or altogether shifting on other issues previously considered progressive. It seems Millennials are indeed less concerned about involvement in the partisan culture wars than some of their parents were.

If you’re like me—tired of the culture wars with it’s sour tone, divisive tactics, and blind partisanship—you welcome such data. It’s time we move beyond the framework of the religious right (and the religious left, for that matter). This generation will not perfect a model for political engagement, but we can make strides toward more Christ-like engagement in the American public square.



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