Generational change

February 23, 2012

About 15 years
ago I was a guest at the annual meeting of the Association of Christians Teaching Sociology. In one session a professor reported on a
student's project. Taking the Century as a barometer of mainline Protestantism and Christianity Today as a barometer of evangelicalism, his student
compared the respective responses to the civil rights movement. The student
found that the Century was very hospitable toward the movement and that CT was critical of
it. (Full disclosure: At the time of this ACTS meeting, I was working for
CT.)

Since ACTS is comprised
largely of evangelical scholars, there was some hanging of heads in the room.
Evangelicals, they agreed, had been on the wrong side of history, not to speak
of the wrong side of justice.

I thought of this after
reading about another meeting, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities' annual meeting of presidents. Not surprisingly, evangelical colleges
are increasingly being pressured by students and alumni to take another look at
the issue of homosexuality. A seminar on how CCCU members are handling--or
should handle--this pressure was closed to reporters. But it appears that the
dominant messages in this meeting were these: hold true to the traditional
biblical interpretation on this issue, and demonstrate patience with students
and others who challenge this.

If there were some in
the room with contrary opinions, they apparently didn't have the courage to
speak up.

Time will tell whether
these evangelical colleges are on the right side of history. But I can't help
thinking that 50 years from now they will look back and wonder what the fuss
was about (although there may still be a few outliers). All change, it's been
said, is generational. My bet is that a new generation of evangelical college
leaders will open up on the issue of same-sex orientation and say, at the
least: "We can't be absolutely certain we're right on this subject. When in
doubt, let grace be the default." That's progress.