Young Christians can see the real Jesus despite many evangelicals’ blind support of Trump

With the rise of a new generation, the post-Trump American church has a shot at redemption.

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Courtesy of Clay Banks on Unsplash

Young people protest with sign that says “Jesus would be an ally.”

Evana Upshaw, Opinions Editor

Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”

And “stand by,” they did. On Jan. 6, a violent insurrection stopped our nation in its tracks. With a noose, Trump-emblazoned flags and tear-gas decorating the scene, America witnessed the fruit of its current political climate. Never before had the Confederate flag been carried through the United States Capitol. But on that day, it was lifted as a symbol of white supremacy—while the Christian flag waved and rioters prayed nearby. The name of Jesus was invoked by the same people who were calling down violence.  

Many of the thousands that stormed the Capitol were fully convinced that God was on their side. Empowered by ideas of “policy over personality” touted by evangelical leaders and charismatic prophets who declared Trump’s re-election, the mob ransacked the Capitol and five people died as a result.

Donald Trump’s presidency shook the American church to its core. And, to the shock of many, white evangelicals overwhelmingly and unabashedly supported him. Young Millennials and Generation Z, however, have not been convinced to jump on the Trump train. Which means—like the younger generation of Israelites who were able to enter the promised land—young people empowered by the Holy Spirit can guide the Church toward hope and healing.

INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL DAMAGE

The post-Trump American church is broken and bleeding, as so many have ascribed to a faith that justifies white nationalism. Simple “division” in the Church is an understatement, and ingenuously telling young Christians to “just love each other” is not a comprehensive solution. This deterioration is not something that can be smoothed over with hopeful calls for unity. 

Donald Trump is no longer our president, but his Christian supporters who ascribe to white nationalism—whether they be conscious of it or not—are still among us. Over the last several years, relationships across racial, political, economic and generational lines among Christians have been severed. 

In one sense, it can be said that Trump’s presidency was a blessing for the American church, but not because of policy. It was a blessing because his presidency held up a mirror for us—we could finally see what we really were. We have been able to witness just how much spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, racism, greed, homophobia and xenophobia were hiding in our churches, from the darkest corners to the biggest pulpits. 

Now, our witness is painfully tainted. Young adults have been leaving the church at large rates often due to politics. Our faith, now synonymous with unwavering support for Donald Trump, is causing many to question how Christians could sell out women, immigrants, Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community and the poor for the sake of political power. Never mind principles like truth, kindness and respect. 

YOUNG CHRISTIANS ARE EQUIPPED

Generally speaking, Gen Z values truth and authenticity. They are resourceful, creative and the most diverse yet. Gen Z has grown up in a post-9/11 America and now comes of age in the midst of a global pandemic. Ingenuity and passion are hallmarks of youth, and Gen Z is no exception. This generation was on the frontlines of protests for racial justice in 2020 and has been desperately calling for gun control to help keep them safe at school. The fire is there. All that’s needed is refining by the Holy Spirit and discipleship from wise leaders.

PICKING UP THE PIECES 

In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the new generation of Israelites about the sins of their ancestors in order that those sins would not be repeated, and so that God’s blessing would fall on them collectively as they entered the Promised Land. Now as we settle into this new season as a nation, young Christians have a vital role to play. Gen Z sees the hypocrisy of Christians today, and these are the ones who will call us higher as a Church. 

It’s time to pass the torch.

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