by Christopher Marlink
September 25, 2012
Last weekend I had the pleasure of playing something like the intellectual equivalent of John Stockton to a panel of young, evangelical Karl Malones. Our discussion on the millennial generation and the future of political engagement was wide ranging and included everything from the history of Church and state, to the offering mercy in the so called culture war.
Unfortunately, the audio recording of panel discussion isnt great, so in addition to the recording, youll find the panelists remarks transcribed below.
After reading or listening to the discussion, what question or topic would you like to see unpacked a bit more?
Where did you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with the panelists responses?
Chris Marlink: Glad youre all here. Hey everybody, my name is Chris Marlink, and I serve as the social media manager for the Family Research Council. Let me just welcome you on behalf of the panelists here and our organization. Its great to have you here for this discussion about millennials and the future of political engagement. If this is not the room or the lecture you were thinking you were going to attend, the door is now locked (laughter). Ok, like I said were here to discuss millennials wich is gen y, people approximately from the age of 18 to 30ish and the future of political engagement. Many of you are in that demographic, many more are not which is fantastic, I think its going to be a lively discussion. Were going to skip biographies for our speakers and our panelists as illustrious as they are were going to try to get right into some questions.
But on my extreme left theres Mr. Andrew Walker, Eric Teetsel, Dr. Owen Strachan, and Matt Anderson. Yes, I think thats fine. And then we got our student panelists, Anna Marie Hoffman, Gabby Hoffman, and Jase Sayre. Thank you all for being here.
Alright. So lets uh before we begin Im just going to provide a little bit of context for our discussion. As I see it millennials who are engaged or thinking about politics, um are caught in the middle of two disparate poles. On the one hand, you have what Ill call political triumphalism. So people who um, who think that politics is the answer. If only candidate X gets elected then were going to have a living wage, the oceans will stop rising, etc. On the other side you have candidate Y, and if only candidate Y gets elected, well have a conservative Supreme Court, and it will set the nation aright. So it cuts both ways, both liberal and conservative. On the other poll, you have what were gonna call the neo-pietists. These are the folks that you hear say well Dont politicize the faith this is not a partisan, you know, our faith is not partisan. Uh, they want to focus more on things like social justice, creation, care, uh, stewardship, those types of things. Now, uh, obviously, theres a lot of variance between these two polls. Thats why theyre poles, but most of us you know live kind of in the middle. To add one more kind of dynamic to this, I think that, theres a lot of increasingly prominent, and perhaps its a sort of collaboration effort, um, folks within the church, young people in particular, and media voices who are suggesting that millennials, young people, are leaving the church because the church is becoming too political or too partisan and only focusing on political hot button issues, abortion, homosexuality, marriage, etc. So thats the kind of the lay of the land and what were going to talk about in this panel discussion.
Jumping right in. Im gonna kick it over to Dr. Owen Strachan. Were going to talk a little bit about our mutual friend Jonathan Merritt and Rachel Held Evans, and those who are suggesting that this dynamic of the church being too political is a new phenomenon and thats why young people are leaving the church. So Owen why dont you provide, tell people in this room, you are a professor of church history, thats your background, talk a little bit about that dynamic of the church and state, and is it a new phenomenon or not?
Owen Strachan: Well thats a huge question, and a very good one. Basically, if youre looking at Christian history, I think you have abundant examples of Christians who have contributed to the faith, contributed to the culture in very meaningful ways, so the term political is obviously one that you have to define. What do you mean by political? Do you mean holding an office, advocating for change in that way, do you mean working as a citizen in some way and therefore seeing the passage of a law, you know, the term has to be defined. But none the less we have abundant examples of Christians in history who have achieved significant political victories. So things like in the 18th century, William Wilberforce, who works for 20 years, 20 plus years to see the first bill that would outlaw the slave trade in 1807. It is passed, right, in Great Britain. And then, in 1833, the final abolition of all slavery in the British Empire. So thats a major example of a Christian who accomplishes something huge. In the same century you have whats called the benevolent empire in America right, so Christians were not sitting on their hands simply thinking they were faithful if they never did anything except go to church or something like this. Christians were very much going to church, basically everybody was going to church, of one kind or another, but they were working for all kinds of causes, myriad causes: temperance, abolition, the spread of the gospels, hospitals, all kinds of things. So theres this rich abundant American tradition of being involved in the polis— in the American state in all kinds of ways. I think the crucial thing that we should keep in mind is that many of these Christians knew they were first citizens of the kingdom of God, playing off of Augustines language from the fourth and fifth centuries. They knew they were first citizens of the city of god, the Kingdom of God, but they knew that that didnt mean that they were to exempt themselves from any involvement in the city of man. So I think theres some really good illustrations of that. In the 20th century, how could we forget a figure like Martin Luther King, Jr. whose protestant convictions deeply inform everything he does. I was talking with the atheists presenting outside, uh protesting this very gathering outside, right, and I was running early today, and I thought Ill just talk to them and see what they say. They had the signs that said, Atheism is good, religion is bad, I said What do you think of Christopher Hitchins saying religion poisons everything? And the guy said, and I had a good conversation with him, and he seemed likeable enough, but he said, I agree completely. So he took the bait. (Laughter) So I said, What aboutMLK, Jr. like I just said, you know, ending, or working significantly to end racial injustice in America, And he said, and at that point things got a little trickier, and uh these two people basically tried to say thatMLK, Jr was a humanist who used Christian language, an atheist who used Christian language to accomplish his purpose. So in other words, you have to fundamentally heres my closing statement you have to fundamentally redefine American history—and so many of the gains we have made, gains that not just Christians would agree with, all of us would say are good gains, us if you want to take Christianity out of politics.
Chris: Excellent. Following up on that, down to the far left politically the far right. (Laughter) Andrew. You wrote a little while ago, for better or worse, our faith has political fallout. Pastor Doug Wilson recently wrote that our faith is inextricably political but explicitly non-partisan. So how do you think that Christians should respond to this charge of partisanship? How can young people in particular maintain their integrity in the political arena, as Owen said, as citizens of heaven but also citizens of the United States?
Andrew: Yea, theres several layers and dimensions to that. But first off, when I said that our Christian faith has political fallout, that stems from this idea that when you, when you see this in Acts, when the first Apostles were confessing Christ as lord, that confession disrupted and reordered their political allegiances, and so you have them saying we must obey God rather than man. And so to kind of bring that into the present it means that, you know, our faith, our politics should be shaped by our faith and not vice versa. And so again, if were professing Christ, if were holding the full counsel of Scripture, there are ethics that are externally imposed upon us as Christians that were required to hold. Im very scared, Im concerned about this moral equivalency with younger evangelicals that building a well and eradicating or ending abortion are on the same moral plane. And um, I want to build wells, absolutely, thats hugely important. But our faith requires us to hold certain things that god values, in the way that God holds them. And so um you know, if youre not entering the ballot box Christian-ly, what that means is youve compartmentalized a portion of your life thats not separate from your faith. Thats not, I think thats patently un-Biblical. Now in terms of partisanship, its interesting, Im probably the most partisan of the four up here in terms of snarkiness once in a while. And thats a, thats a problem sometimes we have to address. But on a whole nother level, partisanship is inevitable. Partisanship is having your Christian ethics confront the public square. And um, how do I say this. its inevitable. If you hold a position of such importance that you think marriage is a man and a woman, joined together, for the entirety of their lives, thats a position that youre willing to go to bat for. I had a job opportunity a while back, and I realized, that it was an issue, there was a job focused on, with a conservative emphasis, but I recognized as important as this one particular emphasis was, which was economics, for me, I had to view kind of what my calling is, and my calling is marriage religious liberty, and life. Because I think those are, those are the issues that Christians ought to be willing to express in the public square. Now, at the same time I dont think partisanship, automatically has to mean incivility. So you know, think of partisanship as the most basic level. Its just holding opinions about how you think the world ought to be governed. Thats really what partisanship is. This idea that, especially prevalent with young evangelicals, that you know were cultivating this ideal of bi-partisanship, and non-partisanship. I dont really think thats what democracy is built upon. Democracy is built upon… consensus. And consensus means theres persuasion, and to persuade someone you have to have an opinion that youre trying to move forward in the public square. And so, you know, I think, uh, Im probably, you know were all young members of the religious right up here, no doubt about it, thats how the media would definitely phrase us. And we can look back in the past and recognize that the old guard of the religious right said some things that were maybe perhaps uncivil, that hurt our cause, or hurt our image. But that doesnt mean that we should kind of reflexively step back and hold those positions, you know, lighter. You know, I think theres a phrase the Greg Forster used. Hes a political philosopher, good Christian man. He says, we need to begin kind of deinstitutionalizing enmity, and I think thats a tremendous step forward as Christians kind of engage the public square and the culture thats increasingly more post-Christian. I think we need to begin using, words less like culture war and adopting a paradigm or language like Witness. You know, if were trying to win something, you know, what were, its already been won, so to speak. The story has been written. Its our job as Christians in the public square to really testify and give witness to what has already, decisively been accomplished. So, I want to end by saying this, Rick Warren gave a sermon last Sunday that I, I think we would do well to take to heart.. He was encouraging his flock to vote their values, which is a very controversial idea especially in southern California. And he said, vote your values and be courageous about it. You know why? Because everyone else votes their values. We just need to remember that, that the public square is not neutral, everyone brings something to it, and you know, Paul says in Colossians 4 to let your speech be seasoned with salt and with grace, and that should be said of us as Christians in the public square, but at the same time, we have to recognize that were going to hold positions that if we say them kindly, with a smile, and gently to Pierce Morgan, it doesnt matter. Theyre not gonna be accepted or well received. And thats where the opportunity for witness really enjoins itself, and where we can have a conversation.
Chris: Ok Eric over to you. Executive director at the Manhattan Declaration. How many signatories do you have now?
Eric: Its 534, 000.
Chris: Ok so, 530, - has everyone here signed that by the way? Good, excellent. Yea little plugyou can pay me later. Talk a little bit—focus on something thats happening right now, the HHS mandate. Andrew talked a little of how he has a life calling intersected with the defense of religious liberty. When you think about the HHS mandate, the lawsuits that have come now against HHS and the administration over that by Catholic institutions, Christian colleges, etc. Two part question, is that antagonism that were seeing between church and state here in America today, is that a flash in the pan, or is that something here to stay in your view? And also, do you think that what the overreach by the government in this regard, is going to galvanize younger believers, or is it going to turn them off even more?
Eric: Thanks Chris, those are really good questions. Uh tough ones, um its very interesting to think about something like the HHS mandate in the context of the conversation about young evangelical political engagement, because my sense is that, with the exception of a lot the fine young voters you see running around the Values Voter Summit, there is almost no engagement on the part of young evangelicals—young people in general on this issue. Its seems like something thats happening in Washington. Theres a lot of phraseology thats hard to understand, very legislative sounding, wonky and boring. And people like me have not done a good job of communicating to um Americans in general and especially young people the significance of what has happened in the last couple of years, and the ramifications from what has happened for years to come. I guess its your first question of whether its a flash in the pan. Its absolutely not a flash in the pan, its only the beginning its probably not the beginning, but it is taking things to the next level when it comes to a certain understanding of how religion is going to be allowed to exist in American society. You dont need to look any further than the governments definition of a religious organization as it relates to the contraception mandate to see where the Obama administration is when it comes to that critical question.
If youre not a church, if your primary job is not to communicate religious values and you have building called a church and you only hire people that are part of your religious organization, you dont qualify. The principle here is that only churches qualify for religious exemptions. Faith can only exist in those buildings on the corners. And anything that happens outside of those buildings, any aspect of personal religious expression that occurs in the workplace, a place where you might volunteer your time, or a place that you might go just for fun doesnt count. Your religion doesnt play in that sphere. Thats where were headed. You can also look to Europe and see lots of examples of this. Theyre further along than we are. Theres all kinds of examples you could find. Places like the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Beckett Fund, that catalogues whats going on in Europe as it relates to these things. Children being taken from their parents because their parents desired them to be homeschooled and the state decides that the education he parents provide is not up to the standards that are required because it includes religious indoctrination and thats a violations of that childs basic human right. Its actually pretty scary where were headed. When I came on board the Manhattan Declaration, four or five months ago, I was struck by the reality that people in this room may very well end up in prison um within my lifetime, maybe even sooner than that. I mean that thats kind of an unfathomable point to make and yet the more that I read about his and look at it and read the text of the Manhattan Declaration that lays out in 4700 finely crafted words the moral imperative to draw a line in the sand saying we are not going to render unto Caesar what belongs to God. And ours is a government that is heading in the direction of saying, Oh yes you will. And if you dont there are gonna be ramifications for doing that.
Eric: Will this galvanize young voters? I think, I think right now they dont know anything about it. I think when we start to see more its actually going to galvanize. I think of Dr. King, and the movement that he started and the way young people were galvanized by that movement. There is born into young people a sense of activism and thats a really good thing, maybe a dangerous thing. But in general, I think its a good thing if pointed in the right direction and once young people start to see what are very basic clear violations of First amendment freedoms and the rights of conscience, theyre going to be galvanized. Chick-fil-a was a great example of that. I was encouraged not that people at the Values Voter Summit were standing up for chick-fil-a, but the people who wouldnt come here, people who arent necessarily believers, by a wide margin I think looked at that situation and said, Whats happening? Of course this chicken joint should be allowed to do what theyre doing. Thats ludicrous. I dont even agree with theyre position but they should be doing what theyre doing. So theres moral clarity here, because the issues are just so clearly a violation of a basic freedom that Im actually encouraged, once we get to the point where were able to communicate the direness of these things well see some activism on the part of young people. Unfortunately, that probably means that more bad things need happen.
Chris: Gets worse before it gets better. Ok. So this is going to be a little fish in the barrel here, but how many of you have heard somebody tell you Dont force your beliefs on me? Yeah everybody, ok. Or how about, Why do Christians only care about abortion? Why do Christians only care about homosexuality? These types of things. Right. So to answer the question of why they do, were going to turn to Matt, and Matt, maybe not just why they do or why they dont, but explain to us, how do we begin to break that stereotype? How can young people, how should they think and answer when posed with those questions?
Matt: Yea this is a very challenging question. I would say a few things about it. First, I think the perception that Christians only care about abortion and marriage, well pick those two, is simple. Those are the foundations of our political engagement in the world. Those stem from a particular understanding of humanity. We value life and we value, we have a certain anthropology, an understanding of what it means to be human that causes us to be committed to those conditions over and above other issues. Weve all heard about creation care, the care for the environment. Im all for creation care. In fact, Im so for creation care that I like the words of Jesus on creation care and what Jesus says about creation is that he loves every sparrow that falls, and he takes notice of it. And what he says is he loves every hair on the head of humans more. And its that position that commits us to as matters of fundamental importance the defense of human life and its the affirmation of Jesus words about marriage that commit us to as a matter of fundamental importance the position of traditional marriage. So theres a substantive reason why we prioritize those issues that the Manhattan Declaration clearly and ably lays out.
I think though at the same time thats the substantive word, the perception is there because on those issues we havent always been on our A game when it comes to messaging. So the task of Christians in the public square is to speak about controversial issues without changing the tone of our voice away from the Good news. And our message on marriage, on homosexuality, on gay rights, on abortion has not always sounded like good news. It hasnt sounded like good news for gay people, it hasnt sounded like good news for single mothers all the time, and I think we need to do a better job of making our presentation have a tone that is not just tolerable because there are certain positions we have that wont be palatable, but that we have a tone that makes it as winsome, as cheerful, and is presented with a smile on our face. Now on the ground weve done a great job of this. So groups like Stand to Reason who have done all sorts of pro-life training, the first thing they teach people is that regardless of what you do, you do it with a smile on your face, and you never come across as angry. Were doing a great job. The problem is we exist in an unfair media environment that is hostile to our positions. Now all that means is that if we make one error, its magnified exponentially, and the things we do that are perfect are ignored. But all that means is that we have no room for mistakes, and thats an unfair position, but its absolutely the way it is, and until we realize that and play within a world where we have to be perfect, then were going to continue to be caricatured in the media, and this perception that we are both bigoted and that we dont like women will continue to be the case regardless of how good our arguments are. So I think fixing the messaging problem is something that we could do.
I also think that expanding the context in which we talk about abortion and marriage, so the Heritage Foundation has done a great job of this theyve been over the last year, Im sure even before that, have been talking about traditional marriage in the context of poverty reduction. You know whats good for people, for their pocket books? Staying married. Not getting divorced, but its a poverty issue. Thats one of the reasons why we care about traditional marriage, why we care about healthy, stable homes. Well that changes the context in which we present those issues. So what I did earlier with respect to creation care. Hey lets talk a lot about creation care, lets own that language. Lets present our position on abortion within the context of creation care. Because youre not doing creation care unless youre prioritizing human life, and unless you care about what happens in the womb. So Im more creation care than those who have the label who want to minimize abortion and prioritize environmental issues. But by changing the context, and expanding the context in which we talk about some of these things will help shift the messaging, and help it seem sort of more interesting and we can come in through the back door.
How many of you have seen the movie about Wilberforce Amazing Grace, right? When youre faced with a hostile social situation, and you want to create change, what you do, you look for back doors and traps so that you can sneak around people and you can do things when they arent looking in ways that theyre not realizing. So a little bit more craftiness in terms of our presentation and a little more willingness to expand our context I think would be really good for us.
Deinstitutionalizing enmity is a great phrase. I totally agree with it. I think the question that we have to face is within a context where politics is dominated by a culture war, whether there can be mercy from one side to the other. And I think thats a question that both sides need to wrestle with. Its not a good social order for conservatives and liberals to be at war. Thats just not going to be healthy. Im not sure its avoidable right now, unless both sides are willing to reconsider whether or not they would extend mercy to each other for sins and for injustices that have been done in the past towards the other side. No one wants to do that. Because the stakes right now are so high. But I think its a question that we should ask and if we start asking some of those harder questions, we might be able to get to a point where were actually able to consider deinstitutionalizing the hostilities that we currently have. So those would be the few things I would say in terms of maybe, maybe how we can escape this. But theres a question as to whether any of that will actually work.
Chris: Ok. Um weve got some time for questions. So were going to start with our student leadership panel over here. Each gonna ask a question if they desire. And then if we have some time left, were gonna kick it over to you folks. Alright. So prepare your heat seekers. Alright. Go ahead guys.
Anna Maria Hoffman:: Alright, this is actually for the entire panel or whoever would like to answer the question. Ive noticed that people who are not religious, they, like a few friends of mine I guess, they, you know, they dont hold the same views as us. I think it would be, you know, we need to communicate to those people and convince them that these ideas that we have are our nations values, and are easy to comprehend and people do relate to them eventually. Whats, what some strategies that we can connect to these folks, especially at secular universities, and get them on board with our values and our ideas?
Matt Anderson: Thats a very good question. Its a very hard problem. As society fragments, and as we have people speaking different languages, translation gets harder and what we have to do is translate the things that we think into the language that people can understand. So one way to do that is to ask this question: are the things that we believe about the Bible true because they are in the Bible, or are they in the Bible because they are true? If they are in the Bible because they are true, then we can find links to those truths through other directions. So in one sense, we all affirm traditional marriage because its in the Bible, but we also affirm traditional marriage because human love is the sort of thing that, in order to be fulfilled, wants to be procreative. There is a generative element to human love. If you really love something, you either sort of want to make something in response to it, or you want to sort of extend that thing longer. So human lovea love between two peopleis necessarily generative. Its creative. Thats one reason why we care about traditional marriage. Because, fundamentally, human love makes babies. And babies need healthy homes and vibrant social institutions so that they can be protected. Thats one way that we can sort of start to approach these things. But even there, were reaching a point where the intuitions about our positions have been so forgotten and they are so deeply buried that you have to do a lot of work to dig up common ground and to get people to see the logic of our positions without scripture. Its just a lot of work.
Owen Strachan 2: Yeah, I would say something, a kind of device like-I didnt think of things like this- like a Hitchens kind of point of view. Where you take a widely respected atheist and quote them, Religion is poisoning everything, for example, I dont know, Nietzsche or something, and you play that out with someone. I went to a very secular college, in Maine, Bowdoin College, we had a gay/lesbian studies department, and I had these kinds of conversations all the time with students. You know, ask students where the resources for ethically ending lynching of African Americans came from. From whence did those come? Where did abolition originate as a movement? Those kinds of things are not going to win the whole argument, but they are going to show people that there is a huge place at the table for Christian thought. And then I think there is also this matter of bearing witness to the gospel. Youre sharing the gospel, the gospel is that which creates life in Jesus Christ. So we have good arguments, we make our arguments, we use historical and logical points and evidence, and then we trust that God will change hearts ultimately.
Eric Teetsel: Real quick, just to say, if youd like an example of how to make an argument without appeal to specifically theological reasoning: the article that Robbie George and Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis did on marriage is masterful. Its 40 pages, itll take you some time to work through it, but those arguments are the basis for what marriage programs are doing in the public square and its well worth your time to look at that. And its available for free online just Google their names. I think theres a book coming out soon that is a longer version of those same ones.
Andrew Walker: I was actually going to say the exact same thing here. (Laughter)
Chris: Ok. Next
Jase Sayre: Ok, I got a question, yall touched on it a little bit earlier, but how do we get churches more involved, youth groups, like simply like, on campus you form Christian clubs and stuff. What Ive found is meeting between the Christian groups and churches here, they do not want to be involved in anything political. Yall addressed that earlier, but what are some strategies or some things that yall have faced that maybe can inform others how to overcome that if they experience it?
Andrew Walker: Lets admit sometimes there have been some unhealthy alliances between Republican politics and evangelical Christianity. Thats just a fact. Now, at the same time, the media would say that the GOP is taking advantage of Evangelicals. In my opinion, Evangelicals are taking advantage of the GOP because thats the one political venue where we can have our voices heard. Now at the same time, on my current job, Im speaking in churches all the time and I have to go to great extent to kind of deflate any idea of there being a Republican or Democrat connotation to my message. And so this to me comes back down to a type of paradigm we enter the public square with, you know, less about war, less about political victory, and more to me, you know, I like the idea of Witness, I like the idea of James Davison Hunters faithful presence, even though I dont really conceptually like how he uses that phrase. I also use a lot of language, Jeremiah 29, about seeking the welfare of the city. Seeking the welfare of the city, is serving your community and we need to begin kind of inculcating this vision to our students that were not trying to take back America for God necessarily, but were trying to create environments where justice is understood, where the most basic institutions that cause human flourishing are prioritized and given priority in society.
Owen Strachan: And were at a zero hour moment with something like gay marriage. So Christians who dont like to be political, whether young or otherwise, the young often dont, have to realize that were at a point where not standing up on this issue for traditional marriage is effectively being already politically involved. Its just un-involvement. So if youre un-involved, you may not be a candidate, you may not be stumping, you may not be doing these kinds of things, but if youre not involved in some way, you are helping America choose gay marriage as a viable option. And you need to vote your convictions, you need to make sure that you do everything you can and we may not ultimately succeed, we may not, we may fail in this, America is not the new Israel. But you need to do everything you can to stand up for traditional marriage. And that means voting. And so having those kinds of conversations, talking to people at church along those lines, Sunday school classes, with the right perspective, keeping in mind that the Kingdom of God is foremost for us.
Eirc Teetsel: I question the premise that young people dont want to be political. I think thats not true. Um 2008 lots of young people were being political (laughs). The Kony campaign that happened earlier this year was specifically political. They identified certain policy makers, and they said were going to go after these guys and there were millions and millions of young evangelicals who were excited about that before that movement crashed and burned for other reasons (Laughs). So yea, they actually do want to be political. They just dont want to be political about the things that are going to cost them cultural cache. Thats the point. So I dont know how effective that is to point that out, to say let me take a look at your motives here. You say you dont want to be political, how do you feel about the work of the International Justice Commission? Because thats extremely political. Its using politics to end sex trafficking. Im gonna bet that theyre in favor of that. So theres inconsistency in the logic thats going on there, and like I said, I dont know how effective it is to point out those inconsistencies, and say why are you willing to be political when it comes to issues that dont cost you cultural cache, but are not willing to be political on issues that might make you less popular with some of your friends. I feel the need to point that out sometimes, like I said I dont how effective it actually is.
Andrew Walker: If I could add one last thing, we need to reclaim the term partisan and we need to reclaim the term being political. Weve kind of collapsed every cultural issue into politics which is a problem. And we have an impoverished view what being political means. We think its strictly being involved in a governmental process. Aristotle said that politics is about the ordering of our common l lives together. And so again, this comes back to the idea that, I would tell your youth group, you have a fundamental vision on how you think the world ought to be ordered. And if you do, if you think life ought to be protected, in the womb, then you automatically, by virtue of having an opinion, are being political, because youre saying that you want the world ordered and governed in a particular pattern. And that doesnt necessarily mean first through the government process. It means that youre sharing and inculcating this vision and youre using persuasion to gain consensus.
Matt Anderson: Thats all very well said.
Gabby Hoffman: So my question is, as we become more technologically savvy and inclined to social media, Im a big social media person, and I helped co-found a youth movement, called Resistance 44, you may have seen it, its on Twitter. But what weve done is use hashtag games and other things of that sort to kind of shape the debate and turn the debate. Would you think that kind of tailoring the message to the evangelical base by I guess easier means would kind of make them more motivated to be politically active, because you kind of, you dont have to take away from the message, its important to keep the substance in parts to any argument, whether its for marriage, or life, or any other cultural matter. But do you see a deficit in the way things are, in the way a message is tailored, and do you think social media can fill that void?
Matt Anderson: Yea, thats a great question, the case for life is hard to make in 140 characters. (Laughter) No I mean let a thousand flowers bloom right. Of course we should be very active in social media, Im active there myself, you know, all the kids are on Facebook these days, Twitters the new thing, I hear Foursquare is around or something. Im all for that and I do think that, the great thing about social media, what I love about it is it gets us as close to genuine relationships over distance as you can get these days. Because people have a certain sort of willingness to dialogue. And what I love to see is when social media is actually social, when people start talking in meaningful ways. And Ive made good friends, conservative and not conservative through Twitter and Facebook. And we have lengthy dialogues; Im that guy. (Laughs) So I do think that being really active there will help with the messaging, I think that where we really need to get a lot better at, our um, doing sort of broader narrative in terms of video and graphics and, um, the sort of branding work. A lot of our aesthetics are not really to the point where theyre going to resonate widely. I think a lot of the conservative movements aesthetics are just very limiting, the worry that we have is because conservatives have had critiques, strong critiques of Hollywood for a long time we dont get many young conservative film-makers who are coming out of Hollywood and going into Hollywood who are making just really really aesthetically beautiful films. And so I think we really need invest a lot more capital on our film-making than I think we have. That would be where Id want to see a lot more work done.
Speaker 2: I had a friend of mine, RJ, who would say that you dont see many evangelicals living in southern California. (Laughs) And he said you know, I recognize that the cultural epicenter of America right now is southern California and I want to be salt and light. He happens to be very conservative as well, devout evangelical Christian, but hes in California as we speak.
Chris: yea, I have the words social media in my job title. So let me offer a thought here, thanks. I met all these guys via social media which is kind of incredible in and of itself. So I, my own real quick answer, can it serve as a vehicle for conversation and for connecting our message to younger believers and conservatives—people who are ideologically, spiritually maybe predisposed to agree with us, I think short answer is yes, absolutely. Paul went to, spoke that the areopagis, weve got to go to Facebook and Twitter, thats where the conversation is happening. So, short answer is yes, I think its that first conversation that you have with people via social media. It cant be the only thing you have. If all someone knows about you is your hashtag, you havent sufficiently made your case for your position and for your faith. But its sort of the first conversation I think in that regard we simply have to be there.
Owen Strachan: Ok, so it would be wonderful if we were known, this has been kind of touched on, but it would be wonderful if we were known for a positive message. We have the ultimate message, Im speaking as an evangelical, we have this life-changing, transforming reality, that has gripped us, and that is the Gospel. And so working from a foundation of the Gospel created ethics, the gospel creates a hunger to save lives, the gospel creates a love for beauty. These kinds of things I think would be wonderful to share with younger Christians, millennials who are not Christian, who are far from it, to show people that were not just in this defensive posture as conservatives. We actually are pro- this world transforming force. Id love to see that be more part of our engagement as well.
Chris: Thats great. Ok so, weve got just a couple minutes, if somebody wants to ask a question, raise your hand. Ok were gonna go first to Mr. Deo over here.
Len Deo: Mr. Deo is my father. Cause when I first got here, I was looking around thinking geez, Im one of the oldest ones here. (Laughs) But um, just two, um very good, I forget who said about can there be mercy for a culture war, who was that, that was Matthew. That was very wise, but I mean, my thought on that in order for mercy to come there needs to be a victory first. And that was uh, as a person thats involved in these battles, its what I do for a living. Um and when we call marriage traditional marriage, we put a classification on it. And so for the other side, then its ok to have untraditional marriage, and I think it was Romney who started using the terminology of natural marriage. Because the opposite of natural marriage is, unnatural. But I just want to thank you all because were seeking how. I know Ive been in touch with Chris, on how to reach out to the younger generations and get them involved and just coming here is very encouraging for me as a public policy leader in the state of New Jersey, uh which is very blue. (laughs)
Chris: You dont say.
Mr. Deo: But um, I dont know if you want to respond to the can there be mercy for our culture war?
Speaker 1: Yea. There certainly does have to be victory. Theres already been victory within the gospel. And one of my worries about the context of our culture is, Im not sure that this thing gets solved without Jesus. Genuinely. Because mercy requires forgiveness, and thats got to go all the way down. So I realize in asking it, that Im asking a hard question. Im asking for something that is probably legitimately impossible. But I think in asking the question, it shows the sort of hostility that currently exists and it shows where the hostilities are coming from. And there is a sense in which, theres something attractive about asking for mercy. Right. If we can say look, you know, the story behind the advance of gay rights in America, their story, whats animating it is their felt repression, the injustices that they feel they have experienced, and in some cases they have actually experienced injustices. And I think as we acknowledge that, and we can acknowledge that, because thats true, and the truth is always on our side. But as we acknowledge that, the next question is, and will you have mercy toward us for that? And you know, Ive got a story wherein mercy makes sense. I believe in Jesus and he has forgiven us for all of this. But will they? I dont know. But Id rather ask them that question because it puts them in a position of having to wrestle with whether or not they want to be merciful and people generally value being merciful.
Chris: alright. Thanks. That is actually our time.