Jonathon Van Maren thinks so. His recent blog post is entitled “Grim poll: Conservatives are losing catastrophically on every single issue…except this one”
If certain enthusiastic public figures are to be believed, there is a wave of iconoclastic and libertarian youth who are fed up with political correctness and ready to turn the Left on its head. When I attended a campus event featuring the recently disgraced and even more recently resurgent Milo Yiannopoulos last fall, he made the claim loudly and boldly: “I might be the only one who has noticed this trend, but young people hate the Left. I have thirteen-year-olds emailing me. I even have children attending my campus events.”
Ignoring for a moment the obvious problem with a child attending an event put on by the self-described “Dangerous Faggot,” this sort of optimism is entirely unwarranted—unless, as is obviously the case with Milo, you do not see moral issues as indicative of national health overall. On that front, Americans continue to shift to the left, and continue to abandon Judeo-Christian values—if they even know what those are anymore. Gallup recently released new polling data for their annual Values and Beliefs poll, and the results were very sobering.
He goes on to talk about all the “sobering” data points covering views on marriage, sexuality, the family, etc. — all with predictable and completely unsurprising revelations. None of this is news. How did Van Maren miss that we were no longer living in a Christian society, that we had long since passed into a pagan one? That traditional Christian morality is not the standard by which most people live shouldn’t be surprising or discouraging.
He notes that the polls didn’t show a large increase in support of abortion, which he believes is due to massive efforts of pro-lifers to educate people:
On every moral issue, social conservatives are losing ground—except for abortion.
Looking at the raw data, it’s hard to see where someone like Milo Yiannopoulos gets his optimism from. He may not care about most moral issues—his relaunch party, after all, featured male and female strippers—but even on free speech and free markets, the numbers look grim. Millennials are embracing socialism, rejecting the fundamental idea that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are bedrock values in a democracy, and turning university campuses into totalitarian safe spaces that exclude any idea they find threatening to their fragile progressive worldviews.
The truth is that an entire generation has grown up more or less disconnected from the Christian past of the West, and that activists must fight tooth and nail to educate the public on each and every issue. We see what happens when massive educational efforts are undertaken: On abortion, we are not losing ground—and even under the most pro-abortion president in American history, over 300 laws were passed on the state level. Pornography, while still prevalent, is now attracting the ire of government bodies across the West who are recognizing it for the public health crisis it is. Social conservatism as a worldview may be on the fringe, but there are many, many opportunities to change that.
Here Van Maren recognizes that kids have grown up in a non-Christian world; so why the surprise at the poll results? His faith in the “raw data” of the poll is misplaced. Polling isn’t exactly a hard or perfect science (anyone remember 2016?). Who’s to say we really should trust a poll’s conclusions over our own observations or the anecdotal evidence presented by someone else? Then he talks about millennials, but Milo isn’t talking about millennials; he’s talking about the next, even younger generation. It can also be noted that Milo specially said he didn’t have any proof, any hard data for his hopeful statement, but that it came from his experience of meeting and talking to, and receiving messages from young people. Milo isn’t the only person who has noted this trend of the younger generation leaning more conservative.
Even the one place where Van Maren strikes a hopeful, positive tone, he’s probably at least partly wrong. You can understand why, being part of the pro-life movement, he would be quick to attribute the lessening support for abortion to the efforts of the prolifers. I hope he’s right that all those efforts have helped, that education does help. But there’s something else powerful that is influencing young people to turn conservative: they have seen and felt the consequences of their parents and others leading a life without conservative morals or standards. They may be the unwanted children of selfish parents, the products of divorce or homes where they never had two parents to begin with. They may have seen older siblings or relatives or friends make terrible choices and suffer for them. Those with eyes to see can see the wreckage caused by abandoning traditional morals. And the liberals, feeling assured of victory, have turned up the heat too fast; things they are pushing for are so obviously against nature that people with will to think for themselves can see we are headed in the wrong direction. But cultural trends do not reverse directions overnight. The problems we are seeing today began long before Van Maren was born. Some would argue they began even before his parents were born.
Van Maren himself is a contradiction to this poll. He’s young, conservative, Catholic, pro-life and fighting for it. And surely he works alongside other young people.
Other than being overly pessimistic and incorrect in his interpretation how we are losing the culture war — rather we have already lost, but perhaps have hope of rebuilding from the ashes — he is wrong about Milo. Previously, I had noticed that he was particularly critical of Milo (and the Alt-Right) as unacceptable for Christians to follow. He objects to Milo’s lifestyle, vulgar humor, and that he isn’t very nice to people. Van Maren also tends to exaggerate Milo’s behavior (can you believe that’s possible?!): Milo’s re-launch party, as aired on youtube (surely Van Maren didn’t have an invitation?), did not have “male and female strippers.” Milo calls them “models” for his photo shoot, and they are scantily, and one might say tastelessly, clad (and waving prop guns around), but they do not strip any clothes off which I think would be the definition of “stripper.” They might be strippers elsewhere, I don’t know, but at Milo’s party they were just eye candy — which is problematic in its own way, but let’s not over-exaggerate things.
I was surprised to see Van Maren had actually attended a Milo speech so I read what he had to say about it. It was the same old attitude so many on the Right have towards those they deem impure. They are like Pharisees who don’t want to associate with sinners for fear of contaminating themselves. Milo is definitely a sinner, but Jesus frequently ate with and talked to sinners. Jesus did not worry about being made unclean. God often uses sinners and unlikely people to carry out His work, sometimes even people who do not know Him.
It doesn’t matter to Milo’s critics on the Right if he is effective or that we really need to reach people where they are — and where they are isn’t necessarily ready to listen to Christian moralizing or preaching. Milo has a point about reaching people with humor and fun (even if he does take it a bit too far at times); humor and fun are attractive, especially to young people. Free speech, for which Milo has made himself a standard bearer, is an important battle. If Christians are silenced completely, there will be no chance of educating people or changing hearts and minds through dialogue. Milo is an ally in that battle, even if he is a public sinner.