Noelani Jai is an ordained evangelical minister in Orange County, California. She holds a graduate certificate in Bible from Multnomah Biblical Seminary, and is also a licensed attorney. She and her husband have raised two millennials, one studying Bible/Psychology, the other studying Law. During the recent election, she noticed a growing divide between younger and older evangelical Christians in their responses to candidates and issues, so she asked four representative millennials to help our movement understand how they were feeling immediately following the election. These are their anonymous, raw, unedited replies (ok, we have to edit for swearing, but other than that), and she submits them humbly to us with a prayer for unity in the body of Christ.
Interview by Noelani Jai
1. Briefly describe the following:
a. Age, ethnic background, immigrant/1st gen/2nd gen, etc
I am a 27 year old Asian American. A 2nd or 3rd gen immigrant (depending on who’s side of the family).
b. Your family (parents, sibs);
My parents are absolutely amazing. They are right-wing evangelicals with hearts of gold and an “actions speak louder than words” lifestyle. They actively love their community and open their door to anyone.
My sister is ambitiously pursuing her education/career. She is a source of strength and stability and has an attitude to match.
c. Your upbringing in terms of faith;
d. Your political party affiliation and reasons for it:
I am a far-left democrat that is passionate about:
1. Closing the ever-growing income gap between the rich and the poor
2. Ensuring we do everything we can to mitigate the effects of climate change, particularly for those in the Global South who are increasingly suffering from the problems that we are largely responsible for since the dawn of the industrial revolution and can attribute our economic growth to.
3. Fighting for equality for women, people of colour, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, and any other group that does not fit the cis-gender white male archetype
Based on historical domestic and international evidence, I do not believe that we can achieve these things through the modern Republican platform.
e. What are you doing now for work/school?
I work for an international development/humanitarian NGO. My undergraduate was in international business and my postgraduate was in international development.
2. Evangelicalism is defined as a worldwide, trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity maintaining that the essence of the gospel consists in the shared belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. Do you feel that any one of the current political parties in the United States particularly embodies this movement? If so, why? If not, why not? Specifically, which parts of that party’s platform do you feel embody the gospel (good news) of Jesus? Which parts do not look/feel/smell like the gospel to you?
I will admit that I hold a nuanced view of the gospel compared to many evangelicals. To me, it is a beautiful story that leads us to embody grace, forgiveness and love in everything we do. It is a call to action that we cannot deny. While it should be expressed creatively in our every-day lives through interactions with those around us, it should also be expressed in the policies and people we vote for.
While there are many issues that I could chat about, I think one of the easiest to point to is climate change. This is a real issue that is destroying livelihoods for the poor and will continue to devastate “the least of these” while the over-arching narrative on the right maintains that man-made climate change does not exist i.e. Trump’s tweet: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” There is an ever-shrinking window to mitigate some of the effects of climate change, and conservatives aren’t putting forward policies that will do this, in-fact, many of the policies from that platform would make the issue worse.
3. Have you felt you have been able to peacefully dialogue with older evangelicals on your feelings about either candidate during the most recent U.S. Presidential election? (i.e., have you felt heard and respected?) If so, give an example. If not, what made you feel unheard/disrespected? Can you give an example?
To be honest, I cannot think of a single political conversation I have had with an older evangelical that has been open, respectful and to most extents, ‘peaceful’. I have found this outside of evangelicalism. Part of the problem though, with the exception of my parents, is I have not had too many political conversations with older evangelicals.
4. How has the election of Donald Trump affected you emotionally, spiritually, physically? Why?
It has definitely pushed me further away from the American Evangelical brand of Christianity based on the overwhelming support of a candidate like Trump (someone so opposed to my interpretation of Christ’s example and views). It has also stood in stark opposition to my view that we had progressed much further than we actually have as Americans. It has also had a positive effect in that it has served as a catalyst for listening to my fellow Americans who hold different views to understand their reasoning i.e. the white non-college educated majority who voted for Trump and are largely responsible for his election.
5. What fears do you have arising from the election of Donald Trump?
I have a lot of fears around this, but mostly for PoCs, women, LGBTQ, Muslims and other minorities that have and will increasingly continue to experience the consequences of what support for a candidate like Trump represents. I worry for the 22 million low-income Americans who will lose access to healthcare if the ACA is gutted. I worry for communities in the Global South that will be affected by our in-action against climate change. I worry for the poor in America as Trump’s economic policies translate into the rich getting richer. I worry for the American political system moving forward as we see a fascist (who many thought was a populist) gain access to real power and not just a platform.
6. What hopes do you have arising from the election of Donald Trump?
I hope that it will cause the left to unify and ditch the neoliberal elitist [expletive] that has paved the way for a candidate like Trump. I also hope that the Body of Christ will come together and do everything we can to love those that his platform does not love. It should also produce some good art, so there’s that.
7. Do you feel the evangelical movement respects and seeks to include your generation of Jesus followers in the movement? If so, how? If not, please expound.
It is hard to say. This election has really caused me to re-examine my perspective on where I thought evangelicalism was headed. I think the Evangelical brand has taken a big hit with this. As progress is being made in values that are important to my generation like human rights, diversity/inclusion, understanding of and empathy for the other etc., it seems like American evangelicalism is staunchly holding on to the past.
8. What can older evangelicals do to re-engage your generation in the movement? What can your generation do to engage older evangelicals?
Genuine conversations where both groups listen for the purpose of truly hearing where the other is coming from.
9. If Jesus was living on earth today, what do you think he would be saying to your generation of His followers regarding the election? What would he be saying to older generations of His followers regarding the election?
I think he would be saying exactly what he was saying in the gospels: love God and love (all) people, and not just on Sunday morning, but in every interaction you have and every decision you make.
The metanarrative of the Bible seems to be God constantly moving and evolving humanity towards greater love (read empathy) for increasingly bigger groups of people i.e. Adam/Eve > Israelites > Israelites + Gentiles > All of humanity. Any reductionist political platform that excludes people groups from this love should be, highly scrutinized and questioned as a proper perspective to subscribe to in-light of the gospel.