As the pastor of a church populated mostly by progressive millennial Christians, I can say with confidence that this election is galvanizing their hatred for all things Evangelical. My church functions as an A.A. for recovering fundamentalists. The people I get are refugees from conservative Christian culture. Most of them grew up in the church and Central is a place where they can heal from the bigotry, hypocrisy, and anti-intellectual nonsense of their Evangelical upbringing. My community is evidence of a growing trend that I expect to increase under the Trump administration.
According to exit polls, 80% of white Evangelicals that voted last Tuesday, did so for Trump. This is the highest Evangelical turnout since 2004. More Christians were willing to vote for a vulgar bully like Trump than for the squeaky clean Mitt Romney. Fascinating, I know. The fact is, Trump would not be president without the support of millions of Christians and he knows it. He knows millions voted for him on the hopes he will appoint Supreme Court justices that will overturn Roe vs. Wade and same-sex marriage. He knows the church was willing to do a deal with the devil to “get their country back.” Trump’s ability to play on the church’s fears and sell himself as a “nuclear option” in the war against progressivism worked, but at what cost to the church?
For many both inside and outside the church, this election is just further evidence that the church is anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-science. Whether you think that perception is true or not is irrelevant. That’s the perception and it really matters. The Pew Research Center is telling us that more and more people are leaving the church today and not coming back for these reasons.
If Trump and Pence make good on their campaign promises to register Muslims, mass deport Latinos, and support legislation against the LGBT community, the exodus from conservative churches, especially among millennials, will increase dramatically. Some of course will always remain, but the exodus we’ve seen taking place for years, will become noticeably larger. The social pressures millennials face from peers, professors, and media is too great. Couple that with this generation’s unique focus on social justice issues and you have the perfect conditions for a mass exodus/revolt. I don’t think even the neo-fundamentalist hipster churches will remain impervious.
Over the last 15 years or so, Los Angeles has seen an explosion in hip, neo fundamentalist, millennial mega churches like: Mosaic, Reality, Fearless, Dream Center, Hillsong, and Oasis. These communities are attractive because they have a veneer of progressivism seen in their embrace of tattoos, drinking, swearing, slick marketing, and all things pop culture. However, the core message is still classically conservative on what’s called the three H’s: hell, homosexuality, and hermeneutics. To affirm same-sex relationships, or deny hell and biblical inerrancy is still prohibited. The consequences can range from simply being looked down upon, to not being allowed to serve in leadership and/or being asked to leave.
Again, if the Trump/Pence administration fulfill their campaign promises, they will make it impossible for many to ignore what’s wrong with the church. We’ve seen this begin to happen already on social media as people are calling out their family and friends for being complicit to bigotry by supporting Trump. Certain events in U.S. history have had this effect like the televising of police beating blacks on Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. This event catapulted the Civil Rights movement onto the national stage because it made it impossible for white Americans to go on ignoring what was taking place in their society. Prior to this event, it was possible for many to at least pretend there wasn’t grave injustices occurring. The Trump administration may have a similar effect on the church and cause a mass exodus, especially among millennials who are already increasingly unable to stomach the church’s bigotry and silence on such matters. Time will tell.