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.
1. Briefly describe the following:
a. Age, ethnic background, immigrant/1st gen/2nd gen, etc.
27, white/Caucasian (European), non-immigrant (do not know ancestral heritage)
b. Your family (parents, siblings):
Youngest of 8. 4 Boys, 4 Girls. Youngest four adopted. Parents married to each other for 50+ years
c. Your upbringing in terms of faith:
Christian, Evangelical/Pentecostal, Foursquare
d. Your political party affiliation and reasons for them:
Republican: Party more closely matches my faith values in my own opinion (although is currently re-assessing)
e. What are you doing now for work/school?
Fulltime Doctoral graduate psych student
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?
Maybe I misunderstand the question. I feel both political parties may carry aspects consistent with Christian tenants (I.E. Democrats caring for the poor and needy, Republicans valuing life [at least in regards to abortion] and faith.). But neither political party necessarily does anything specifically to support the mission of the Gospel in my perspective. This is where faith and politics are separate. Both parties have many aspects that are separate from Judeo-Christian values. Our savior should be looked for in political parties.
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?
Yes and no. There have been many opportunities for me to dialogue with people peacefully who have different political perspectives than myself. At the same there have been others who have been incredibly rude. Sadly, the ones who have been the most rude actually come from my own political party. It is astonishing that even being a part of the same party I could get into such heated disagreement and personal attacks.
4. How has the election of Donald Trump affected you emotionally, spiritually, physically? Why?
The election of Donald Trump is unfortunate but it happened and while I think we need to be prepared to protect the rights of those that may be marginalized we also need to accept the results and be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. He has already begun to show a softer side to many of his tougher advertised policies. I would like to believe that as the reality of the presidency settles on him he will realize that having run against another candidate with an almost equally poor approval rating as his he will consider come 2020 he may not be so lucky and will need to start being a president to all Americans and not just hyper-conservatives. I think unity is important and until he starts actually enacting harmful policies in his presidency we need to remember to submit to our authorities and be cautiously hopeful.
5. What fears do you have arising from the election of Donald Trump?
I fear Donald Trump infringing and removing the rights of minorities and passing damaging policies. I fear that he may deport millions of individuals which will separate families.
6. What hopes do you have arising from the election of Donald Trump?
I have hope that he will install Supreme Court justices that will uphold good moral boundaries. Beyond that, it becomes more of an “I hope” situation than “I have hope.” For example, I hope he defends religious liberties, I hope he can equally help minorities (cultural, ethnic, religious, etc) feel safe in our great nation, I hope he can really create jobs, I hope he can balance the national budget, I hope he can make Obama-care/health insurance more feasible to millions. These are all things I “hope for” but not that I necessarily “have hope” will happen. Trump has a lot to prove in his first few days, weeks, and months in office.
7. Do you feel respected in your feelings about the candidacy and election of Donald Trump by evangelical Christians of an older generation?
In all honesty I am an individual that likes to dialogue on social media platforms. This may not be perceived by all to be the healthiest decision and even from my own perspective I can see where it can get unhealthy and lead someone to get sucked in. With that said, for the most part I have tried to make my comments worthy of healthy dialogue but unfortunately many respond with harsh and demeaning words. Sadly, I would surmise that 90 percent of the rude push back I have gotten in dialoguing about Trump has been by those claiming to be evangelical Christians of an older generation. They can be quick to become hostile and are often closed to accepting any viewpoint not their own. It is sad because throughout this political season I have seen the absolute worst in many people I once held a lot of respect for. While I don’t lose respect for the person who votes for Trump I do lose respect for the one who does so but has to tear down anybody that may not agree.
8. 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.
Yes and no. I believe the evangelical movement consists of many that would be concerned with things very surface level, “what service should I go to? Where am I going to after church? How much is ten percent this week? Who is the Christian candidate?” I’m not saying these things don’t have value, but that there are deeper things to worry about. A different segment of the evangelical movement, one that I try to identify with is, “how can I help my church? Who can I minister to? What social justice movement can I support? How can I show Christ’s love to this community the church would not normally reach out to? How can I make a positive difference in other’s lives?” Ultimately, it comes down to people, not even age, as there are many young people who are also content to live the Sunday morning Christian life and many older individuals who are passionate for change and growth and the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
9. What can older evangelicals do to re-engage your generation in the movement? What can your generation do to engage older evangelicals?
Be willing to dialogue, have a spirit of humility, be approachable. I think it is important for both sides to be open to change but know their values and where Christ would want them to be a rock. I also think a huge thing both sides need to do is to be empathetic. Sympathy is the feeling of sorrow towards someone’s plight or situation while Empathy is imagining yourself in their shoes, trying to see things from their perspective. I believe so much change and compromise and healing can happen if people would just allow themselves to try to imagine why someone believes the way they do, why someone votes the way they do, why someone is afraid of the things they are. If we can be empathetic and willing to even be wrong then we can stimulate the healthiest kind of change and the healthiest kind of growth. That’s why it’s sad not to see the church leading in this mindset either.
10. 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 believe Jesus would be telling my generation to stop being so pretentious. Stop having to be right all of the time, stop carrying your education around like a badge of honor to lord over others, stop being so arrogant in your ability to engage in social justice because it begs the question, are you doing this to legitimately help someone or so you can feel better about yourself? I think he would tell the younger generation to be more empathetic to the older generation, to be more respectful of their experiences (many in the younger generation have it incredibly easy compared to the hardships of the older generations), I think He would encourage us to continue being agents of change but making sure we are agents of good change, we cannot slap the sticker of social justice on whatever we want and suddenly decide it is fundamentally right-we have the scripture and Holy Spirit to help us discern.
To the older generation I believe Christ would urge them to stop writing off the younger generation, stop throwing their youth back in their face (many of them are educated, and/or wise beyond their years), I believe He would tell them that “this is how it has always been done” is no longer a viable answer, that if they want to lead to the younger generations, they must be worthy of leadership (I will not fundamentally follow anyone I do not respect regardless of age). I believe He would encourage them to be open and empathetic to the experiences and healthy desire of the younger generation, for example if they want to help refugees in Syria, don’t just decide that national security is a good enough reason to block them, find a safe compromise. Ultimately, I believe Christ would tell both age groups the same thing, “don’t write the other off”
11. Is there anything else you would like to share?
I think with everything going I believe both sides need to be careful not to make the rift any larger. My university (a private Christian school) recently made therapy and safe processing places available to students who want process and grieve the results of the election. After telling my roommate about this he expressed an interesting sentiment, “but what about the other 50% that did vote for Trump?” we are making all of these resources available as if a national tragedy has happened to the entire nation but half of voters put this individual in office. Is it okay that we completely shame and ostracize those that did vote for him? I do not believe this is conducive to building partisanship, it only creates an air of pretentiousness and enables our younger generation that when something does not go their way, they can cry about it and get out of classes. What about the older generations who had to live through multiple presidents they didn’t like?
On the flip side we have to be empathetic towards those who are scared that their liberties may be affected by the results of this election. This candidate has made a lot of harsh statements about the type of issues he is going to address, the type of issues that have the potential to hurt many. The only individual not targeted by anything this candidate has said or promised is the White, Christian, Male. That should be concerning, and we should be ready to stand up in resistance, but we also need to wait for something to stand up against. Trump has made no policy yet, and almost every day since the election new information is coming out about him softening his stance on many of those hostile platforms he once campaigned on. I think, the best thing we can do is be ready to resist harmful policy that will harm but allow this individual who was elected by the democratic process, whether you agree with the electoral college or not) to lead.