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Two Kingdoms: Millennials in the City of God and City of Man

Among the attendees at Values & Capitalism’s “Is the Good Book Good Enough?” event were about 20 college students, which invites the question: What place do Millennials have in a conversation about evangelical political engagement? As future leaders who are inheriting the less-than-ideal legacy of our parents’ generation, we ought to have a significant role as we share in God’s care for this world. Good Book Event During one Q&A period, a student from Hope College expressed concern about the grim circumstances that young adults face. She is not alone. According to a survey recently conducted by the American Psychological Association, Millennials are the most stressed generation—for good reason. The economic recovery has been lackluster at best, and the unemployment rate among 20-24 year olds is 13.7 percent. Many of my peers are beginning to wake up and smell the coffee: We realize our nation’s entitlement programs are unsustainable in their current form, as the U.S. federal debt is over $16 trillion. More and more children are growing up in broken families, and the institution of marriage is being questioned in ways our country has never seen before. As Jeff Polet stated, fertility is now commonly viewed as “a problem to be solved, rather than a gift to be cherished,” which has caused birth rates to fall dramatically. I could go on, but you get the point. Our generation has inherited a lot of problems. Times are tough. In light of these somber realities, I found Michael Cromartie’s comments especially inspiring. More than anyone, Christian Millennials need to have an “Augustinian sensibility,” as Cromartie put it. This means we must acknowledge our ultimate belonging to the City of God, while nonetheless seeking the welfare of the City of Man—realistically and not naively. As Luke Holladay describes, this “Now, but not yet” point of view helps us realize that the earthly battle will never be fully won until Christ returns. This understanding should keep us from trying to “immanentize the eschaton“—attempting to bring heaven to earth. Many Christian social activists fall victim to this mistake by pursuing utopian dreams which are inspiring, but ultimately foolish. Such a mindset does nothing but leave us disillusioned and hopeless—and any of us with an accurate biblical vision of reality should know better. Instead, our posture should be one of Christian realism, with a clear understanding that despite Christ’s final victory, the present world is in a great period of transition—an ongoing battle between good and evil. In addition, this point of view allows us realistic levels of hope. As the great theologian Ray Lewis proclaimed after winning the Super Bowl, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Though I doubt God cares who wins football games, he does care about the world and he calls us to do the same. His Holy Spirit empowers us—yes, even us Millennials!—to accomplish truly good works. That, rather than utopian visions of grandeur, gives hope. Since the final battle is won (even if “not yet” fully completed), it is our responsibility and honor to join in the good fight. So, sure Millennials, our times are tough. But then again, Jesus already warned us that this would be the case—”In this world you will have trouble.” As a generation we should take the heed of St. Augustine’s admonition, accepting our identity as citizens of God’s kingdom, living in exile on earth. Since the kingdom is not on our back, as the old phrase goes, we can be at peace, even as we work with all our might toward divine ends. As we do, our generation can accomplish great things, making our posterity’s world one that is—at the very least—a little less grim than our own.