t the moment the Relevant Magazine website is featuring an article titled “Why Our Generation Doesn’t Care About Prop 8.” It purports to explain why young people who self-identify as Christians “aren’t fighting against gay marriage.”
The article is irritating on several levels. In the first place, while listing “tired rhetoric” as one of the reasons “the younger faithful have left the conversation altogether,” the article reads like a syllabus of shopworn shibboleths gleaned from a table of remaindered Zondervan/Youth Specialties books from 2004. You know: kids today are much more thoughtful and more charitable than evangelicals have ever been. “Young people confront this issue with respectful dialogue rather than angry argument.” Tired rhetoric, indeed.
In the second place, the article totally misses the most obvious reason for the Relevant constituency’s apathy about moral issues. Evangelical young people have been systematically indoctrinated with the notion that being cool is infinitely more important than being doctrinally sound or morally upright. Relevant Magazine is one of the chief culprits in that campaign.
To be clear, what frustrates me most about the Relevant article has nothing to do with gay marriage in California (or anywhere else). I don’t think I have ever blogged or Twittered on that subject myself. In fact, if I were assigning the articles at Relevant, I would have asked instead for an article titled “Why Our Readers Don’t Seem to Care About Justification by Faith,” or “Why we seldom deal with serious biblical issues.”
But just look at relevantmagazine.com’s front page and you’ll have the real answer to the question of why the Relevant generation doesn’t care about gay marriage, sound doctrine, or any other biblical or moral issue (unless it’s something that is already being promoted by the hip and famous under the rubric of “social justice”).
Here’s a sampling of what Relevant Magazine actually does care about: Michael Cera’s new movie; Will Ferrell’s new movie; dumpster diving for spiritual relevance in Mad Men; the Jet Blue flight attendant who took “that big inflatable slide to freedom” (he “was a hero to all of us”); Wyclef Jean’s bid for the presidency of Haiti; and so on.
In short, regular readers of Relevant are relentlessly force-fed topics, values, and perspectives borrowed from sources like People and Us. They aren’t being taught the importance of having a biblical position, even on something as central to our faith as the gospel—much less on a moral issue like gay marriage.
That’s the inevitable trajectory of radical contextualization. It’s been a dangerous drift for three decades or longer. Now it’s a deadly rip tide. And yet the Internet and the airwaves are filled with more voices than ever demanding more radical contextualization and an even more reckless and worldly quest for “relevance.”