In this week’s Good Faith podcast, host Curtis Chang and regular guest David French discuss what young Christians need to be thrive.
In this far-ranging conversation, they explore negative partisanship, the fruits of the spirit, the revival at Asbury, and how Christians should best interact with the world through politics.
Also, Curtis describes how anxiety is a surprising underlying cause of the political acrimony and divisiveness that plagues our culture today. This special Good Faith podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, a higher education association of more than 185 Christian institutions around the world.
CURTIS CHANG: What does the next generation of Christians need? This is a topic that is very close to both of our hearts, David, because you have a long history with Christian colleges.
DAVID FRENCH: I’m a CCCU graduate. I graduated from Lipscomb University. I’ve spoken at three dozen (maybe) CCCU schools over the course of my career.I’ve debated, I’ve spoken, I’ve podcasted, I’ve done chapel talks. The CCCU school has been a big part of my life, really, my whole adult life.
CURTIS CHANG: I did not go to a CCCU school, but my first job out of college was in campus ministry with InterVarsity. So the formation of the next generation of students has been long dear to my heart.
And I really want to just underline for our listeners how critical the work of everybody in this room is in terms of the formation of the next generation.
Christianity is not inherited. There’s no genetic sort of marker for Christianity, right?
Even in cultures which have relied on cultural transmission for Christianity, Christianity quickly dies out. Christianity is following Jesus. And that requires formation.That formation work requires work.
It is labor.
Paul in Galatians 4:19, when he talks about the work of formation as labor, a different kind of labor, writes “I am in birth pains until Christ is formed in you.” And so these are the laborers that are doing the work of formation.
We’re going to talk about several things that we believe the next generation of Christians need, but we’re going to do it in a format that is familiar to David and me.
Dave and I have been friends for about 30 years, because we are part of the same fantasy baseball league. So for those of you who don’t know what this is, fantasy league sports leagues are basically where you draft players that are playing in the real world, and you construct a team made of those players, and your team does as well or as poorly as the players you drafted.
Dave and I have been part of the same fantasy baseball league for years. We gathered together as a group of 20 friends from your law school and my undergraduate sphere in Boston.
Every year, we’ve gathered together in person to have fun and reunite, but also to do the draft. But the beauty of the fantasy draft is basically it forces you to ask, what will you need in the future?
Because you’re projecting into the upcoming season, and you’re basically drafting for traits.
You’re drafting for power, offense, defense. That’s what dictates your draft order.
And so we thought it would be fun to do a fantasy draft for “Team Next Generation Christian.”
What traits would we draft if we thought we’re trying to prepare for the next generation of Christians to thrive?
And David, because you are now a regular guest podcast, no longer a full-time co host, I felt I should honor you by giving you the first-round draft pick.
DAVID FRENCH: This has been a fun exercise for me. My first pick, and this is going to be pretty obvious, is the fruit of the spirit.
Why would I pick the fruit of the spirit over correct theology?
Because we have, as a Christian culture, participated fully in the animosity of the age. If you’re going to look at what is one of the single most salient characteristics of American life right now, it’s called negative partisanship. What is negative partisanship? Negative partisanship is an affiliation with your partisan political tribe, not because you necessarily love it or the ideas that it espouses, but because you hate or fear the other side.
So it’s rooted in a deeply negative emotion. And this is an extraordinarily powerful influence right now in the United States of America. How powerful is it? If you go and look at some of the research done by a group called More in Common, which has looked at what is called the hidden tribes of American life, it looks at the people who are most animated by the strongest partisan motivations. They have incredibly, profoundly negative views of the other side. Very negative views: 89%, for example, of devoted conservatives who are disproportionately Christian viewed every Democrat as brainwashed. That’s just one statistic of many.
You can go through negative characteristics: brainwashed, bigoted, racist, you name it.
And overwhelming majorities of American partisans are fully bought in on this. So there’s even something now called lethal mass partisanship, which is the belief that the world would be better off if a significant percentage of your political opponents just died.
And about 20% of American adults believe that, including many Christians.
At this moment, when American life is so dominated by animosity, this is exactly the moment when a spirit-filled, fruit of the spirit-animated Christian community should be blazing forth counter-culturally, okay?
And not just counter-culturally in the workplace, not just counter-culturally as a student in a Christian school or a secular school, but counter-culturally in American politics.
We’re not just one partisan tribe to be mobilized. We are the servants of Jesus Christ. We follow Jesus Christ.
The thing that is supposed to characterize us is the fruit of the spirit.
How are you supposed to know that you’ve interacted with a Christian? It’s not necessarily that they’re going to be able to tell you all of the proper theology, okay? Even demons have good theology.
What’s the marker? The marker is the fruit of the Spirit.
And so this is a moment in a time of animosity when the love of Jesus Christ should be exploding forth from the Christian community.I think it’s pretty fair to say that it’s not. It’s just not, especially not in politics.
HOST: Curtis Chang
PRODUCER: Victoria Holmes
The Good Faith podcast comes out every Saturday. Listen and subscribe here or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Subscribers to Redeeming Babel will receive a discount on all Redeeming Babel courses, a monthly newsletter, and exclusive access to member only forums.