Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) Liberty University speech gave great insight into what makes young evangelicals tick.
Some, including conservative religious leaders and leftist critics, have said that young evangelicals are not interested in the great issues that government deals with. In some respects that is true but to consign a partial reality as total gospel completely misses the point and is also inaccurate.
The Senator’s speech was well received by the students of Liberty University, with consistent cheering and several standing ovations throughout. Almost 11,000 people packed the Vines Center on the day of the Senator’s speech. The on campus population is almost 8,000 so close to 3,000 extra students showed up from off campus to witness that event. Many may have come out of curiosity to see the Senator but, as Liberty University President Jerry Falwell said, “standing ovations are not required.”
In the past 15 years it is true that there has been some younger evangelical rebound in regards to involvement in issues that are perceived to be political in nature. The late 1980’s scandals that involved some pastors were a likely, partial, root of that phenomenon. Current events are, in some younger churches, rarely discussed even if, as was seen after September 11, 2001, people flock to churches seeking answers to the personal and worldly worries at hand.
Some would even argue that a fundamentalism in reverse has been created by younger evangelicals, and certainly by emergents, resulting in churches where no one feels comfortable wearing their Sunday best or speaking of anything that remotely reeks of a political issue whether it be one of support for Israel, human life, or highlighting increasing government hostility towards Christian military chaplains or the Church as a whole.
One thing is for sure. In their churches, younger evangelicals want their leaders to talk the talk and walk the walk regardless of the issue. They don’t want hypocrisy from those in the pulpit, because they see it in politicians. As Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr. said to Bill Maher in 1998, “When God elevates a person….we are held to a higher level of responsibility. It doesn’t mean that you’re perfect. In the Bible sinless doesn’t apply to anyone but Jesus, but the word blameless should apply to everyone who is in leadership.” Bill Maher said, “Hallelujah” to Rev. Falwell’s statement.
Pastors have a lot to deal with these days and discussing anything that remotely reeks of politics could be considered distracting or worse, it may make them walk on eggshells when it comes to their congregation. Some may even leave the church if a pastor brings up the great issues of the day. Yet the Biblical importance of such issues cannot be ignored.
Ignoring such issues leaves an educational vacuum for churches that can only be filled in the seminaries and Christian colleges. Some institutions, such as Liberty University, show the connection between Biblical issues and what are perceived as political issues. After all, the word of God addresses the supremacy and goodness of God, the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the eternity of the soul in either heaven or hell. The Good Book also discusses creation of life, marriage, family, work, and money. Taxes, freedom, and military duty are also addressed in the Scriptures.
A few issues today have helped keep the fire burning as far as the involvement of young evangelicals in the public sphere, especially the issues surrounding the beginning of human life. The greatest efforts of the leftists, as well as emergent allies, to keep young evangelicals out of the public sphere will always fail because of this one issue. Indeed, this generation is the most unchurched in American history yet is also the most pro life. The miracles of modern technology through ultrasounds has certainly contributed to that. And the left has never, ever, been able to come up with a timeframe as to when life begins. Until such time, shouldn’t the leftist/liberal/compassionate course of action be to err on the side of caution until we see when life begins? Leftists have never been able to answer that even though that is what they advocate with the environment. They never will answer that question.
Saving unborn children has kept young evangelicals fire burning strong. Yet, there are other issues that not only are keeping the young evangelical fire alive but reigniting it. These issues are:
1. Attacks on Christianity by the government. A favorite ploy of leftists has been to use the idea that the government can help the poor better. This expansion of government power eventually leads to greater government control and intrusion over all aspects of life. Power corrupts, especially in the hands of government as our Founders knew and fought against. Sadly, military chaplains are being attacked while ministering to great issues of life and death. Little Sisters of the Poor are told by the government that it must submit to government mandates against their religious conscience, and the government was even brazen enough to audit the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the parent ministry of America’s most respected and beloved pastor.
Younger pastors with insight are seeing these issues for what they are. For other pastors, they will be forced to choose between their faith and government mandates as leftists seek to gain more power. The hero of the film Valkyrie said, “No one will be spared.” In the same fashion, when it comes to government mandates against the Church, no one in the pews or the pulpit will be able to hide. Everyone will have to make a choice. It is already happening and there are encouraging signs that younger evangelical pastors are rapidly awakening to this issue.
2. ISIS and Islamic Fascism-Fifteen years ago, the events of September 11, 2001 woke up a generation as to the existence of murderous evil in the world. Al Qaeda continues its reign of terror, fueled by diabolical and demonic hatred of Israel and America. Now some Christian leaders, such as Johnnie Moore, are at the forefront of exposing evils such as ISIS, long before the mainstream media picks up on its importance. ISIS once again, almost weekly, shows the world that unadulterated evil that cannot be negotiated with exists in the world. All need Christ’s saving grace, yet there is evil that needs to be stopped, even killed, in order to save lives so that people can make their own decisions, in freedom, about how to worship God.
3. Israel/Rising Anti-Semitism. As the Cruz speech showed, support for Israel remains strong, even enthusiastic, amongst young evangelicals. Young evangelicals see support for Israel not as a political issue but a Biblical mandate. Such views have also helped bring a Great Rapprochement between Jews and Christians that is merely in its infancy.
Directly related to that is the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe; a dying continent suffering from an atheistic moral relativist vacuum that sees Islamic fascism that is rapidly filling it while the memory of the Holocaust is alive and well.
The introspection of the Church in regards to its role during the Holocaust has made young evangelicals much more in tune with never again letting the Church be complicit, either through action or inaction, in any slaughter of the Jewish people. And now, Christians are being led to the same slaughter courtesy of ISIS and others.
Perhaps the loudest ovation Sen. Cruz received at Liberty University, other than reiterating his twitter announcement of his presidential candidacy, was reserved for Senator Cruz announcing that the United States must unapologetically stand with the State of Israel. This is no coincidence. Israel is almost a second home to young evangelicals.
So called political issues continue a long tradition of evangelical concern. Slavery, civil rights, and even American independence were cast in profoundly Biblical terms in the United States. President Kennedy said in his June 1963 Civil Rights Address that issues of the equality of man were “as old as the Scriptures, and as clear as the American Constitution.”
So it is today. Rendering unto Caesar’s government is profoundly Biblical in itself. But rendering unto Caesar should never against timeless Biblical truth whether it is issues of unborn life, the eternal covenant with Israel, or sitting idly by while lambs are led to the slaughter.
The young evangelical reawakening is innovative, but also a continuation of unbroken Biblical concern for issues that affect the lives of people. Younger evangelicals know they are “in the world” while their eyes are concurrently on the Kingdom.
The truth is younger evangelicals are more plugged in than ever. But they don’t want fakery. They are looking for bold truth, spoken by people of conviction and blamelessness whether it is in the pulpit or the political platform.
Finally, younger evangelicals want to be believed that they can do great things for the Kingdom and that their God-given talents matter.
This was a fundamental issue that Mitt Romney missed during his 2012 presidential campaign. Romney believed in America but he, seemingly, did not believe in the American people. His 47 percent comment frankly was telling as to this. And it cost him. Senator Cruz noticeably said in his speech, an almost 40 minute address with no notes and spoken on a circular platform, that he believed in the students of Liberty University. Further, Senator Cruz cast the specifics of his proposals in idealistic terms, frequently using the word “imagine.”
If the Senator and others like him keep this tone, young evangelicals and other young Americans will listen.