Getting back to the culture of Liberty, I thought Russell Moore's latest newsletter
had some great nuggets in it about the generation we're trying to reach.
We now see young evangelicals walking away from evangelicalism not because they do not believe what the church teaches, but because they believe the church itself does not believe what the church teaches. The presenting issue in this secularization is not scientism and hedonism but disillusionment and cynicism.
The politicization of American religion is a key driver of people away from religious affiliation. Some would point to the fact that most of those leaving would identify politically as somewhere from moderate to progressive, to suggest that such people are better off outside the church in the first place. Let’s just assume for the sake of argument that such is true, which comes first here—the demand to line up politically in order to follow Jesus or the decision to reject the politics of those making such demands? Moreover, it seems to me that the controversy is not actually even over the specific political planks or ideas or personalities as the fact that many have come to believe that the religion itself is a vehicle for the politics and the cultural grievances—and not the other way around.
If evangelicalism is politics, people can get their politics somewhere else—and fight and fornicate and get drunk too, if they want. A religion that calls people away from Western modernity will have to say, with credibility, “Take up your cross and follow me,” not “Come with us, and we’ll own the libs.” One can do the latter on YouTube and one needn’t even give up a Sunday morning.
Almost every survey of disaffiliating people has also emphasized the scandals within the church—most notably the sexual abuse cover-ups and predatory behavior.
When it comes to the culture of Liberty, two things jump out to me:
1) If we want to reach the next generation, we cannot be Republican U or Turning Point Light. We have to actually focus on the Gospel first and foremost. The current Board of Trustees has no desire to do that at all.
2) If we want to reach the next generation, we have to be transparent and above reproach when it comes to scandals. We cannot have an ounce of a coverup in the Jerry/Becki sexual abuse allegations nor the predatory/culture of fear within the administration. Again, the current Board of Trustees is content playing the Fundamentalist Scandal Playbook and staying quiet to cover everything up.
These things are not seen by students who are more focused on living their life or alumni who aren't paying attention past a sports score. However, as people who legitimately care about the school, these are the things that matter if we want to have true influence in the lives of the next generation.