NBC Claims, Hopefully, That Young Evangelicals Are Turning Away from Politics

Is the emerging generation of evangelicals rejecting political involvement, or is that just what NBC would like to believe?  

Tom Brokaw, former anchor of NBC's Nightly News, suggested during the Nov. 30 broadcast that the longtime leaders of the evangelical movement are out of touch with today's younger generation. 

Brokaw juxtaposed clips of a twenty-something pastor, high-tech microphone dangling from his ear,  delivering a sermon in jeans and sneakers, with a graying Southern Baptist theologian in suit and tie, poring over an open Bible with an old-fashioned fountain pen.

The driving force behind this report was a recent Pew poll that found 40 percent of evangelicals under the age of 30 identified themselves as Republicans, compared to 55 percent in 2005.

Brokaw failed to mention that fewer Americans of all persuasions have been identifying themselves with the GOP during the past couple of years, and that young evangelicals are still twice as likely to label themselves Republican as young people overall. 

Brokaw said the younger evangelicals are “determined to stay away from politics,”  and played a clip of Tadd Grandstaff, a 27-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina, saying “The moment I say well, God only loves Republicans, than what I just told our entire county and our entire region is that Democrats have no place in our church.  So we're not going to use our podium time for that motive.” 

Brokaw portrayed Grandstaff as a driven, passionate preacher.  NBC showed his informal, high-energy worship service complete with a Christian rock band, and emphasized his use of podcasts, myspace and blogs.


In contrast, NBC depicted Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as a stodgy leftover from a vanishing era.  NBC showed Mohler at his desk in an office full of heavy mahogany furniture and elegantly framed paintings on crisp white wainscoted walls.  A close-up focused on Mohler poring over Scripture with an old-fashioned fountain pen.  Brokaw neglected to mention that Mohler is a widely read blogger.

After playing a statement by a young evangelical woman in Grandstaff's church that homosexuality is a “personal issue”, not a church issue, Brokaw played Mohler's response: “The Christian church throughout all the centuries has recognized that there are certain boundaries to the definition of Christianity and certain boundaries to Christian behavior.”

Brokaw moved seamlessly into an exchange with Grandstaff:

BROKAW: Some of the elders in the evangelical movement have a pretty strict idea of how life should be lived.  Too strict?

GRANDSTAFF: For our generation, you know, they've seen the rules and the regulations and the stipulations that went behind it.  Let's stop focusing on what we're not about and let's focus on what we are about, and that's loving people.

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center