Focus On The Family: Not Down With The Kids. Yo.


Conservative Christians are trying to woo the crucial under-30s. With all the panache of Grandma in a cage heel:

A piece in Mother Jones profiles 27-year-old Esther Fleece, who evangelical mainstay Focus on the Family has hired to run youth outreach. Fleece runs the “Daily Devotional” Twitter feed (which seems to boast a single tweet, from April) and generally is supposed to clue the far-right into how the young’uns think. While there are plenty of youthful, hip Evangelicals (see Lauren Sandler’s fascinating Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement for a portrait of its emergence), they aren’t, as a rule, politically engaged or necessarily conservative. And while there’s even, in some youthful circles, a certain cachet to an irreverent Alex P. Keaton bent, or vague libertarianism, this more often than not bears allegiance to secularism, Ayn Rand or even the neo-conservative movement than to Focus on the Family. The population who staged a right-wing coup more than a decade ago is aging, and as shown by the youthful support for Obama, something needs to change.

Enter Fleece, who’s almost as cuddly as her name makes her sound — certainly by hard-right standards. She understands the main problem: that even young Christians aren’t just embryo versions of older Focus on the Family mainstays.

When Daly asked how many of her young Christian friends voted for Barack Obama, Fleece offered sheepishly, “About 60 percent.” The audience gasped. “They thought he would bring diversity,” she explained, surveying the virtually all-white crowd. “[Millennials] are a very diverse group.” And what about gay marriage, Daly asked? Fleece conceded that banning it didn’t resonate with many of her friends-some of whom, she let slip, are gay…Fleece tried her best to soften her message with soothing biblical references and optimism for the future. But the takeaway was obvious: She was there because most of her contemporaries were not.

Plenty of this core group might attend church, even be drawn to elements of economic policy. But, as one Conservative Christian writer notes, they largely “remain unconvinced that the homosexual lifestyle is a problem for society…and they are embarrassed by the church’s treatment of gays and lesbians.” Wrote Zack Exley, whose blog is devoted to charting the changing Christian landscape, “Apparently, all the anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives and other anti-gay campaigning have really been ravaging the perception of Christianity among the general public, and even among young Christians.” And as Jennifer Venasco blogged last year on the HuffPo,

Younger evangelicals are, like the rest of the country, more likely to approve of — or just not care about — equal marriage. Last summer, a Faith in Public Life poll found that 24 percent of evangelicals 18-34 support gay marriage, up from 17 percent just three years ago. That’s a seven-point difference and that’s huge.

This is a pickle for FotF, who, says one big-wig, are unlikely to change positions that “are things that are rooted in our understanding of the Scripture.” And yes, that includes the sanctity of hetero marriage. As the article puts it, Fleece “has her work cut out for her.”

GOP Hipster Makeover?
[Mother Jones]
Some Churches Support Gay Rights [Huffington Post]

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