Campaign seasons can be exciting, especially for those like me who enjoy the game. I love watching the debates, seeing the ads, and listening to the spin. My fascination with it is part of why my undergraduate degree is in campaign politics.
The 2016 campaign was even more interesting for a couple of reason. First, the traditional campaign rule book was been tossed out the window. Anyone who insults an entire religious group, mocks people, curses, and has no real solid ground game doesn’t win elections, unless your name is Trump. Socialists do not win elections or even put up a fight, unless your name is Sanders. You don’t spend very little money, miss debates, and spew vitriol and see your poll numbers go up, unless you are Trump. Basically, in that election cycle, not much went the way it was supposed to go. The rules changed, maybe forever.
Not only did the 2016 campaign season see the rule book get tossed, it also revealed a trend regarding the younger generation. Unlike almost any generation before, today’s young people accept as normal—or even consistent—holding to beliefs that others see as contradictory. This trend was best illustrated when Fox News host Gretchen Carlson (@GretchenCarlson) interviewed two young New Hampshire voters: they said they were considering two candidates equally—Bernie Sanders and John Kasich—even though the two disagreed on almost everything, and this contradiction didn’t bother the two voters.
Did you catch that? If you don’t follow elections then, first, you need to, and second, you might have missed something critical. Both of the young men said they were considering voting for Bernie Sanders or John Kasich. What does that mean? Well, let me explain.
Bernie Sanders is an avowed democratic socialist. That means high taxes, wealth redistribution, massive government spending on social programs, and liberal social policies. John Kasich is an avowed conservative capitalist. That means lower taxes, smaller government, less spending on social programs, and conservative social policies.
Sanders and Kasich are on opposite ends of the political spectrum. They disagree on almost everything. It’s illogical to support both at the same time. Gretchen Carlson pointed out this evident contradiction, and the men reluctantly admitted to it. Nevertheless, they saw no conflict, no contradiction.
A New Worldview Emerges Among the Youth
How can a person hold this view? Honestly, I have no idea because this is completely illogical to me.
Some might say this is relativism. If you consider to the two men, though, and think about what they were saying and what they believed, this isn’t a relativistic worldview. They believed in absolutes, but willingly accepted multiple, contradictory truths into a larger absolute truth.
Let me pause here for a minute. What I just said seems nonsensical, I know: contradictory truths existing in a larger absolute truth. That’s right. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s how it is.
Some might say that they based their decisions and understanding of their world (i.e., constructing their paradigm) on their feelings. Again, though, if you pay attention, while there was an aspect of emotionalism, that was not the primary factor. Rather, there was an underlying worldview that guided and defined their feelings.
I know that this doesn’t make a lot of sense to many of you. In many ways I was baffled myself. Nevertheless, this was how many younger folks thought and continue to think. They accept a universal truth, not true relativism. They accept contradictory views or truths as peacefully and mutually coexisting.
This new worldview seems to be an offshoot of or a convergence of four other paradigms: relativism, progressivism, moralism, and libertarianism. What are those four views? In a nutshell:
- Relativism = all truths are equally valid
- Progressivism = the human race is improving and society is paramount (cf. my dissertation on Progressivism and evangelism)
- Moralism = society has a moral obligation to help the underclasses and oppressed
- Libertarianism = individual liberty and freedom must be protected
This is the generation that Christians, churches, and political campaigns want to reach. This is the worldview that we faced back then and that will impact society for generations. This is the paradigm that, short of a revival, will define the future. In short . . .
Welcome to the new world order.
The New Worldview’s Impact on Evangelism and Campaign Politics
First things first: why do I combine campaigns and evangelism here? Simple: both are about reaching out to and bringing in the younger generation. Campaigns are interested in generating voters; Christians are interested in generating converts. Both, though, are about doing outreach.
Trying to reach young folks who hold to this new paradigm poses many obvious challenges: they reject strict structures, but accept some absolutes. They reject formal organizations, but desire to be organized. They value care and compassion for others. They also long for individual freedom, but balanced with social obligation. They are open to ideas, but reject being forced to accept the views of others. Conversation matters, diatribes are rejected. Order is wanted, but legalism is disliked.
The question for campaigns, churches, and Christian leaders, then, is how to reach these individuals. We cannot say they must accept our worldview first, but rather, as Jesus taught, we must reach them where they live. We must enter their world—but not adopt their worldview—in order to have conversations with them.
While I don’t have all the answers, I do offer some tips:
- Love them. Don’t judge, condemn, or criticize. Speak the truth, but do so in love, compassion, and respect
- Have convictions. It’s acceptable, even desirable, to have things you believe.
- Be open but not inconsistent. Be willing to hear the person out. Inquire about what and why they believe what they do. However, don’t be one who accepts all beliefs just to fit in.
- Make a case for your own view. Reasons such as “Because I believe it,” “that’s just the truth,” or “Because the Bible says so” may be valid, young folks today may find this to be simplistic reasoning, or signs that you can’t (or won’t) make a case. Rather, know why you believe and be willing to make a case beyond the simplistic proverbial Sunday school answers.
- Emphasize conversation over debate. Talk to them, don’t talk at them. Share, don’t lecture. Don’t be out to simply win the argument, but to have a peaceful, open conversation.
- Share the gospel truth. Always share the gospel with them. The Holy Spirit works through that to reach others for Christ. So always find a way to share the gospel of Christ with them.
Do you have any thoughts or ideas on how to reach the younger generations who adhere to this new, rising worldview? Share this article on social media and join the conversation.