Millennial Evangelicals Need More Orthodoxy, Less 'Oprah-doxy,' Speakers Argue

Today's young evangelical Christians, or "millennial" evangelicals, are too influenced by the culture and do not practice deep thinking, or a "life of the mind," several young evangelical leaders argued at a Monday panel hosted by The Institute on Religion & Democracy.

Millennial evangelicals are too influenced by "Oprah-doxy" rather than orthodoxy, Eric Teetsel, director of The Manhattan Declaration, complained.

"Orthodoxy," Teetsel said, "requires the cultivation of what my professors at Wheaton called the 'life of the mind.' When considering an issue, orthodoxy lays out first principles and are non-negotiable truths, with the Bible as a touchstone, creating a framework through which the merits of ideas can be considered and their consequences evaluated.

"Oprah-doxy, on the other hand, allows us to respond to issues without the hard, time-consuming work of thoughtful consideration. There are no immutable principles. Instead, we start with a base set of emotions, positive and negative. Love, justice, inclusion, authenticity and equality – these are good. Judgment, rigidity, stratification – these are bad. People and ideas are judged accordingly."

Millennial evangelicals display an "unbridled embrace" of Oprah-doxy, Teetsel argued, as they "are feeling their way through life, not thinking" and they "want desperately to interface seamlessly in American culture."

These characteristics are demonstrated, Teetsel believes, in the way that millennial evangelicals embrace faddish causes. Toms shoes, for instance, are popular among this group because the company gives some of its profits to help children in developing countries. By wearing Toms shoes, he said, these millennial evangelicals "see an opportunity to help the poor while satiating their desire to consume." But "when passion is manifest by cute shoes sold at Urban Outfitters, isn't it just a fad? Indeed, ... passion looks and sounds a lot like fashion."

Teetsel was joined on the panel – called "Engaging Young Evangelicals: Have We Lost the 'Culture Wars?'" – by Jessica Prol, managing editor for policy publications at the Family Research Council, Kristin Rudolph, Evangelical Program coordinator at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and Andrew Walker, policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

Several of the speakers complained that evangelical left leaders are leading millennial evangelicals astray by, among other things, minimizing the importance of abortion and marriage in their public policy and voting considerations.

Rudolph noted that at The Justice Conference last month, which featured many evangelical left speakers, there were no national pro-life organizations in the exhibitor hall and only one speaker mentioned abortion, and only in reference to China. Indeed, Rudolph recalled, Sheryl WuDunn, who is not a Christian but has written about the struggles of women in the developing world, spoke about the fact that there are more young men than young women in China and India without ever mentioning the cause – sex-selective abortions. (For Christian Post coverage of The Justice Conference, see here, here, here, here and here.)

Rudolph also said that many millennial evangelicals believe that homosexuality is a sin but also support redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. The reason, Rudolph believes, is that they have not received a strong understanding of what marriage is and why it is important in their churches.

Churches do not "always have solid teachings on marriage" so there "is not a strong foundation to resist those trends," she said.

In answering a question from the audience, Teetsel noted that the difference between orthodoxy and Oprah-doxy was on display during a debate about same-sex marriage between The Heritage Foundation's Ryan Anderson and celebrity financial adviser Suze Orman, a lesbian, on CNN's "Piers Morgan Live."

Anderson, demonstrating orthodoxy, put forth a case for not redefining marriage while Orman, demonstrating Oprah-doxy, relied upon emotional appeals while not engaging with Anderson's arguments. At one point, Orman simply accused Anderson of being "uneducated," without explaining what he was uneducated about, then later said, "You have your facts, you're a recorder."

"Ryan weaves together a ... sound argument that is utterly meaningless when you have a sitcom based on sound bites and emotivism," Teetsel said.

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