The people in my evangelical church are worried about young people leaving and for good reason. In the book "American Grace", Putnam found this:
Young Americans are dropping out of religion at an alarming rate of 5-6 times the historic rate (30-40% have no religion today versus 5-10% a generation ago). But youth’s religious disaffection is largely due to discomfort with religiosity having been tied to conservative politics.
A recent Pew Poll on budget priorities underscored the divide between the old and young in the church -- or more properly the young leaving the church. Note this isn't over the traditional social issues. This is over economic issues.
The following graphs illustrate the difference between evangelicals and non-evangelicals with respect to priorities for cutting the federal budget:
Christianity Today summarized the differences as follows:
The top choices among evangelicals for the chopping block are economic assistance to needy people around the world (56 percent), government assistance for the unemployed (40 percent), and environmental protection (38 percent). In each of these categories, evangelicals were more supportive of decreasing spending than are other Americans. In fact, evangelicals were more supportive of funding cuts in every area except military defense, terrorism defense, aid to veterans, and energy.
In general, Americans are more in favor of spending increases, not decreases. Evangelicals were more likely to favor an increase in defense spending (45 percent) compared to non-evangelicals (28 percent). The largest gap between the two groups, however, was in areas related to education, an area the House bill targets for some its largest cuts.
When asked about "public schools," evangelicals supported increasing funding (48 percent), but this was 10 points lower than others' support for schools (58 percent). When asked about education funding in general (just "education"), 68 percent of non-evangelicals support increased spending compared to only 35 percent of evangelicals. Gaps appeared in other education areas including college financial aid (47 percent to 15 percent) and scientific research (39 percent to 16 percent).
The priorities above are in total opposition of young evangelicals as I noted in my 2008 diary:
One thing of note is the high priority of poverty and environment for the Obama evangelicals. This is not surprising since this is the hallmark of young evangelicals.
Evangelical young people track young people as a whole except on the issue of abortion. (Their view here is complicated and defies easy categorization.) So, I'll use the break out of young people as a proxy for their position:
The gaps that Christianity Today found between evangelicals and non-evangelicals are even larger between evangelicals and the young. Education had a 37% gap between evangelicals and the young for INCREASING spending. College financial aid had a 42% gap. Scientific research had a 26% gap.
On the issues of poverty and the environment -- which are of particular interest to young evangelicals -- evangelicals were almost 20% more likely to want to cut such programs. I've heard the argument that by cutting government anti-poverty programs it will allow for private money to be available. Not so, says the largest evangelical anti-poverty charity, World Vision.
Washington D.C., February 15, 2011-- As the U.S. Congress votes this week on fiscal 2011 spending, the international Christian humanitarian organization World Vision calls on lawmakers to protect funding for life-saving and cost-effective development assistance programs. Disproportionately large cuts targeting America’s humanitarian assistance budget jeopardize the success of global development initiatives and undermine both U.S. global security and leadership.
Cuts proposed in the House of Representatives’ budget resolution include slashing U.S. food aid programs by 41 percent ($687 million), Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance funding by 67 percent ($875 million), development assistance by 30 percent ($747 million) and global health and childhood survival programs by 15 percent ($365 million), all from FY 2010 enacted levels, according to budget analyses.
“These cuts represent modest overall savings compared with other areas of the national budget and would cripple America’s ability to carry out its foreign policy objectives through humanitarian and development assistance,” said Adam Taylor, vice president of advocacy for World Vision in the U.S. “The U.S. has remained a clear global leader by maintaining a solid record of investment in efforts combating hunger, extreme poverty and illness.”
Responsible stewardship of America’s budget in the face of real fiscal challenges requires smart thinking and an honest assessment of the impact of global and domestic investments. Cost-effective programs that have demonstrated results and advance critical U.S. interests – such as the success of the PEPFAR program, which has significantly reduced AIDS-related deaths in hard-hit countries – should not be subject to some of the largest cuts.
“Gutting funding to programs that have enjoyed broad bi-partisan support and receive widespread constituent support would undercut America’s moral credibility and put lives at risk. Keeping commitments fosters global respect and goodwill,” said Taylor.
World Vision is a global organization with one million American donors, representing every state and congressional district. Our constituency demonstrates every year that a broad base of U.S. voters and taxpayers prioritize development, feeding the hungry and protecting vulnerable lives enough to provide support from their own pockets – which the U.S. government can leverage through its continued leadership.
“World Vision recognizes the need to make tough decisions addressing the present fiscal crisis, including budget cuts, but these should not fall disproportionately on the poorest of the poor,” said Robert Zachritz, government relations director for World Vision in the U.S. “Congress is considering an overall budget reduction of 8.8 percent from the FY 2011 presidential request, with cuts disproportionately made to the most cost-effective humanitarian programs saving children’s lives. One would think on the day after Valentine’s Day, Congress would have more of a heart.”
“World Vision is calling attention to this because 8 million children die needlessly every year before the age of five and can’t speak up for themselves. These children could be saved with low-cost interventions like malaria bed nets or child immunizations,” said Zachritz. “As World Vision works on the frontlines of human needs in nearly 100 countries, we witness the positive impact these accounts make on the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.”
What does this mean in terms of lives? According to ONE.org:
House cuts could mean:
3.7 million people won’t get tested for HIV this year
10.4 million bed nets won’t get to families to fight malaria
58,000 moms-to-be won’t receive the medicine to make sure their babies are born HIV-free
I suspect I will hear the argument that we should not run the church by public polling. I agree. So, what does Scripture say with respect to our priorities?
Ezekiel 16:49-50 Sodom's sins were pride, laziness, and gluttony, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and did loathsome things, so I wiped her out, as you have seen. (NLT)
Evangelicals have a choice. We can choose to listen to our young people who are voting with their feet in disgust with us or listen to the filthy lucre of the Koch brothers (cf. 1 Timothy 3:3, KJV). When the Apostle Peter was faced with a similar choice when Simon Magus wanted to buy influence with the church he said:
Acts 8:20-23 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (NIV)