Religion & Politics: Millennial Protestants expand traditional views

Looking at data of religious groups, it can be easy to box Protestant Christians onto the side of voting Republican. According to the Pew Research Center, almost all denominations of Christianity vote for Republican candidates the majority of the time.

However, millennial Protestants could be changing the way data reports religious groups’ voting habits.

Caroline Johnson, a non-denominational sophomore public relations major from Dunwoody, said though she was raised in a Republican household, she does not align completely with Republican ideals.

“I guess I’m an Independent right now,” she said. “I don’t vote based on party. I vote based on who aligns with my religious beliefs.”

Voting based on her beliefs, however, can often be difficult. She does not support abortion or gay marriage, but agrees on Democratic fiscal policies such as welfare.

“Unfortunately, because of the selfishness that comes with humanity, I have to agree more with the Democratic side when it comes to the economy,” Johnson said.

Darbi Steckman, a Methodist junior international affairs and political science major from McDonough, said wealth issues are especially important to her because of her travels through impoverish areas of South Africa and Guatemala.

Her views are slightly more conservative, however, on abortion and gay marriage. At the same time, she and many of her Christian friends do not judge people who are LGBT or who have abortions.

“A lot of people in my generation who are Christian, we realize that not everyone is a Christian and not everyone is going to follow those Christian ideals,” Steckman said. “You can disagree with them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t love and accept people for who they are.”

Steckman said she has a lesbian cousin, and does not treat her any differently than any other family member.

“I don’t shun her or hate her. I accept her for who she is,” Steckman said. “I don’t agree with what she does, but I still love her. So many times, the response to what people don’t like is hateful.”

Johnson said she has gay friends and knows people personally who have had abortions and has even been there for emotional support for those friends.

“I’ll never push my beliefs on any person,” Johnson said. “I’m just going to continue to live my life the way Jesus called me to.”

The issues are important to Johnson and Steckman because of their religious upbringing. However, the issues do not translate to a perfect candidate for millennial Christians.

“We have imperfect candidates running to represent imperfect people,” Steckman said. “While both candidates claim to have a religious background, neither of them align with the church and its values.”

This can be difficult, Steckman said, because Christian values represent a spectrum of liberal and conservative ideals.

Johnson has yet to decide who she will vote for on Election Day. Hillary Clinton supports abortion and gay marriage, whereas Donald Trump aims to cut taxes on the wealthy.

“This election in particular has been difficult to decide, because every single one of my political beliefs comes from my religious beliefs,” Johnson said.

Steckman’s views of the candidates are similar. However, she said she still plans to vote, emphasizing how important it is to do so in this election.

“You can’t just sit back and say you’re not going to vote,” she said. “When you don’t vote, you’re okay with the status quo.”