Skeptical of politicians and parties, Generation Z is not enthusiastic… | news report


Generation Z Christians are creating their own playbook when it comes to the intersection of faith and politics.

Whether they are becoming more cynical about partisan politics or finding hope in the power of political change, this generation sees themselves moving beyond the issues that have long driven the Christian right.

Younger believers are quicker to name creation care, prison reform and immigration as the political causes most influenced by their faith, rather than abortion or sexuality. But even those looking to get involved in politics don’t align as closely with America’s two major parties and aren’t excited about the prospects for 2024.

At Calvin University, Micah J. Watson has noticed a change among college students.

“I think there’s been a weariness among Generation Z about some of the ways their parents and grandparents did politics in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s,” said Watson, associate professor and chair of Politics, Philosophy and Economics. program. “Some of the culture war practices have been considered problematic.”

For young Christians who have the opportunity to vote in their first presidential elections next year, the milestone comes with trepidation, knowing the political polarization that surrounded the races in 2016 and 2020.

“Having been through the COVID election and Trump and Biden, students have seen relationships with parents go down the tubes,” Watson said, “and there is a fear of expressing their views and being canceled.”

As a child, Rachel Smith remembers her mother adorning the family car with political bumper stickers to reflect both her party affiliation and her Christian values. But Smith, now a sophomore at Wheaton College, isn’t eager to cover her car with candidate names and slogans.

He has not voted before, but looking at the current political landscape, he does not believe that a single party or person represents the tenets of his faith.

“Although I always saw that Democrats were wrong (and I still think they are wrong about many things), as I have gotten older and researched more, I have seen how Republicans have also done a lot of damage,” said Smith, a psychology student and member of the cabinet of the university chapter of International Justice Mission. “I have felt closer to God because my views are not indicated by what is important to a party, but by what is important to God.”

Smith is among about half of Gen Z adults who do not identify with either party in a new American Enterprise Institute (AEI) survey.

Generation Z and millennials grew up with the greatest skepticism toward politicians; more than six in ten said they did not consider political leaders to be trustworthy during their formative years, while the vast majority of Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation expected politicians to do the right thing.

Daniel Cox, director of the AEI Survey Center on American Life, says members of Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) have been surrounded by high levels of cynicism and low levels of trust in U.S. political leaders. Joined.

“People got to the age where they didn’t believe there were adults in the room handling these big issues and considerable threats effectively,” he said.

For many members of Generation Z, their adolescence was filled with high school active shooter drills and seismic political events like the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements. They watched the former president go through two impeachment investigations in office, one of them accused of inciting an insurrection.

The political landscape during the youth of Generation Z has led many to question whether politics is a significant arena for change or a “necessary evil.”

Looking ahead to the 2024 race, Jasmine Chan, a political science student at Pepperdine University, has already realized that her first vote for president won’t be for a candidate she’s excited about or who meets her expectations for high office. .

“I think Generation Z does a good job of pointing out that we shouldn’t just focus on two political parties, but… that’s the reality that we live in,” he said. “It’s hard to be hopeful in times like these, but there’s not much we can do about it right now.”

According to AEI, even as pessimism in politics has become omnipresent, young people remain optimistic about their own lives: 70 percent of Gen Z adults say their best days are ahead.

While constant exposure to political content on social media and increasing polarization has been overwhelming for some Gen Z Christians, others have been ignited by a passion for politics.

“Governments are arguably the most powerful institutions we have, and being a good steward of them is important,” said Rosalind Niemeier, a senior at Calvin. “We can help people through politics and international relations. “We can leave net positives in people’s lives.”

Niemeier majored in international relations and Spanish, and is the president of the school’s Political Dialogue and Action Club. She sees an “aversion to politics” on campus and wants people to get involved with the club to promote civil dialogue and ethics.

But even she has to fight her own cynicism or frustration with the state of politics.

“We’re always waiting for the other shoe to come along,” Niemeier said, as he followed the recent fights in Congress to avoid another government shutdown. “Particularly people in political science classes believe that the way things are stated is never the way they are.”

Karie Riddle, assistant professor of political science at Pepperdine, notes that while many of her students fear for the future, the political science major at Pepperdine University’s Seaver College has been growing.

“There is a huge loss of confidence in democratic institutions,” Riddle said. “But I think the fear and uncertainty has made students excited to participate.”

Chan sees the layered influences that led her to adopt her own political stances and inspired her interest in studying politics. After an internship in Washington, DC, last summer, she plans to apply to law school and work as an advocate for women experiencing domestic violence, a calling inspired in part by the Christian call to love and protect the vulnerable.

“I find myself torn or I don’t fully understand how I can represent the relationship between my religious and political values ​​in one sentence, because it’s more complicated,” Chan said. “You have to consider the intersectionality of everyone and their experiences, and it’s not a question of cookie-cutter.”

She was raised in California by a Mexican Catholic mother and a Burmese Buddhist father, then came to faith as a Protestant Christian in high school. She believes that the opportunity her parents gave her to choose what she believes instilled in her an open-mindedness that permeates her politics.

Chan remembers sitting on the couch with her parents when she was 16 and watching footage of protests in Los Angeles after the death of George Floyd in 2020. “There were people fighting for their lives and their rights, and they looked like us.” ”Chan said. . “Even thinking about it now, it’s still shocking because not only did I experience that, but many young Americans, or Generation Z in general, had to explain [to their parents] what that meant.”

Members of Generation Z are More racial and ethnic diversity. than any previous generation, which also complicates their place in a two-party political system. AEI found that younger generational cohorts have more varied identities and experiences than previous generations.

Generation Z is also unique when it comes to how women and men engage in politics. According to the AEI, when it comes to opinions on gender-related issues, there is a clear gender gap among Generation Z adults that is more pronounced than among older generational cohorts.

Political touchstones such as the #MeToo movement, Trump’s election, and the repeal of Roe v. Wade They were especially influential for young women, but not for young men.

“We did in-depth interviews with several young men and women,” AEI’s Cox said. “For young men, when you ask them about the #MeToo movement, it wasn’t as resonant.”

“There’s a lot more apathy among young men,” Cox said. “There is no particular issue that young people care about. If anything, it is loneliness and depression.”

However, Wheaton sophomore Bram Rawlings said his male friends seem just as politically aware and interested as his female friends. He admitted that he has not yet voted in an American election, but that he still follows international politics.

“Maybe that reveals some apathy on my part, or some apathy toward American politics,” Rawlings said.

While Rawlings has more hope for politics at the local level, he has become increasingly cynical about the ability of any human-designed system to work for the most vulnerable. Instead, he will ask, “How can the church address the problem or address the fact that there are people who are economically and financially vulnerable?”

Campus ministries like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship see potential in their discipleship programs to help support and sustain the next generation of Christian activists, advocates, and voters.

“Yeah [we] “I don’t want to, other people will do it,” said Jonathan Walton, senior resource specialist in InterVarsity’s multiethnic initiatives department and author of Twelve lies that hold America captive: and the truth that sets us free.

Walton believes Christian institutions need to stop focusing on protecting their own longevity and become assets that “people really need.” “That’s a fundamental problem in how we approach Generation Z,” Walton said. “They’re looking for relationships, not membership.”

Walton believes campus ministries can help students passionate about activism “slow down and follow Jesus.”

“Communities are falling apart,” Walton said. “People are falling apart, and instead of falling apart together, we should fall apart together. And land together. “We need community while we do that.”


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