The Christian Coalition on Geritol?

by Dan Quinn

Young people have been turning away in larger numbers from the extremism, hate and intolerance of the religious right in recent years. In 2008, for example, polling showed that Barack Obama doubled his support among young evangelicals compared to John Kerry’s performance with the same group in the 2004 presidential election. From a New York Times article shortly after the 2008 election:

“There is definitely a generational division,” said David P. Gushee, professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University and author of “The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center.”

“Young evangelicals,” Dr. Gushee said, are “attracted to a broader agenda” beyond abortion and homosexuality, that includes the environment, poverty, human rights and torture.

Now religious-right pooh-bah Ralph Reed, former head of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, says young people will become conservatives as they get older. The chairman of the newish Faith & Freedom Coalition, which seeks to unite tea party and religious-right activists, says time is on the religious right’s side:

“There are three things that will happen that will make them far more receptive to the conservative values of faith,” Reed said. “No. 1, they’re going to get a job — we hope,” he said. “They’re going to start paying taxes and they’re going to be supporting public services. Secondly they’re going to get married, and thirdly, they’re going to have children.”

Reed said it was “empirical fact” and “not a value judgement or a moral judgement” that the squarification of the millenials will boost the ranks of evangelical conservatives.

“If people are employed and they’re married and they have children, it’s game, set, match,” he said. “They’re going to be more conservative.”

Time will tell, but it seems unlikely that young people alienated by an obsession with promoting discrimination and hatred against gay people, turning back the clock on women’s access to contraception and other reproductive health care, and rejecting established science on everything from evolution to climate change will find their way into Reed’s camp.

Talking Points Memo describes what Faith and Freedom Coalition events, like the conference that began Thursday in Washington, D.C., often look like:

FFC meetings are held all over the country and share something in common with tea party rallies and evangelical gatherings: They’re typically devoid of young people. The crowd at Thursday’s kickoff event skewed middle-aged.

Reed calls FFC “the Christian Coalition on steroids.” But perhaps a better description might be “the Christian Coalition on Geritol.”

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