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Day: September 26, 2014

Gridders prep for redemption with McKay

Devon Dunagan reaches back for a pass in the West Albany end zone under double coverage. (Photo courtesy of J&H Photo)
Devon Dunagan reaches back for a pass in the West Albany end zone under double coverage. (Photo courtesy of J&H Photo)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

If there’s one lesson Isaac Parker, head coach of the McNary High School varsity football team, wants the Celts to take away from a crushing 28-27 loss last week, it’s this: 20-0 is no time to get comfortable.

“We were in a position where we could have easily won that game by a large margin, but the loss will hopefully instill a sense of urgency to get better right now,” Parker said.

The varsity football team will attempt to get back on track after losing to West Albany High School last week, the second loss for the team in as many weeks. The Celtics (1-1 in conference, 1-2 overall) host McKay High School (0-3 in conference, overall) Friday, Sept. 26. Kickoff time is 7 p.m.

McKay dropped a game to North Salem High School last week 20-14. The Royal Scots’ quarterback Matthew Ritchie threw for one touchdown and ran another in from the one-yard line. It was the second week in a row Ritchie connected with Tristen Wilson for a touchdown.

On the ground, Scot Orlando Lupian is McKay’s biggest running threat. The senior has 189 yards and a touchdown on 47 carries this season.

“They’re probably going to be a bit slower than some of the other teams we’ve faced, and that means we’ll have to be careful not to overrun them, especially for the defense,” said McNary’s Kolby Barker.

While favored in the contest, the Celts biggest hurdle will be leaving the ghosts of last week’s game in the past. McNary held a 20-0 lead at one point in its game with the Bulldogs and watched it evaporate in the second half en route to a loss in overtime.

“We’ll definitely keep it with us and use it as motivation when we run more sprints,” said Barker.

The Celtics’ biggest offensive play of the night was a pick-six by senior Kyle Torres who ran the ball back from the McNary one-yard line. On offense, the team combined for less than 250 total yards. Seven penalties set the McNary back 67 yards.

McNary quarterback Drew McHugh completed 11 of 19 for 140 yards and a touchdown against the Bulldogs. McHugh’s back-up, Trent Van Cleave, completed a touchdown pass in overtime.

McNary’s ground game continued to struggle. Running back Brady Sparks eked out 24 yards on 13 carries. McHugh tucked the ball and ran for 33 yards against West Albany.

Torres led receivers with 72 yards on three catches. Senior Devon Dunagan had 49 yards on five catches with a touchdown.

Parker said a back-to-basics approach was planned for practices this week.

“This game is pretty simple. It boils down to blocking and tackling. We have to improve on those two basic fundamentals. Our schemes are fine. We have to become better blockers and tacklers,” Parker said.

KRP design charette Saturday

KEIZERTIMES/File photo
KEIZERTIMES/File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

John Morgan has a hunch he knows what the hot topic will be Saturday morning.

From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 27 at the Keizer Civic Center, Morgan will be leading a design charette to look at what amenities should be added to 28 extra acres at Keizer Rapids Park.

The charette is a continuation of the planning process for the Big Toy project, which originally was going to be built at KRP last week. Instead, the construction has been pushed back to June and a location hasn’t been finalized. The extra time is allowing for the KRP master plan to be updated as 28 additional acres are being annexed in as part of the Urban Growth Boundary.

A final list of additions to the master plan and a location for the Big Toy are expected to be decided by Keizer City Councilors at their Nov. 3 meeting.

Between 30 and 40 people are expected to be on hand Saturday morning, representing various groups and organizations such as neighborhood associations and youth sports leagues.

Morgan, who was Keizer’s first director of Community Development from 1990 to 1998, has been at Keizer Parks and Recreational Board meetings as well as neighborhood association meetings. As such, he has a prediction of what the hot-button topic will be.

“It’s really evident there is split opinion,” Morgan said. “Those in the neighborhood don’t want an indoor (sports) facility, but there are a lot of people who do want an indoor facility. I think that might be the big one.”

At last month’s Parks Board meeting, board members had Morgan write on a white board what amenities should be discussed. Those items were the indoor sports facility, the Big Toy, multi-use outdoor sports fields, picnic areas, an educational facility, toilets, a covered shelter, a drinking fountain and a hard surface sports court.

Morgan said on Monday he isn’t quite sure how he’ll run the charette.

“There are two ways: you can give everyone the floor for a few minutes, or you can walk through the Parks Board tentative list, point by point,” he said. “Probably the former is the better approach. I will probably ask people to respond to the tentative list, to see if it fits or what they would propose to change.”

Morgan hopes to see things run smoothly.

“There will be a lot of people, each representing an interest,” he said. “That becomes part of the challenge as well part of an opportunity. Hopefully we can cross-pollinate. We’ll be using the Parks Board’s tentative list and work from that. That’s there to help move things along.”

One of Morgan’s goals will be to get participants to find shared likes.

“I’ll look for common interests, what will make the park great 10 years from now,” he said. “I’ll see if I can get people off some of the positions they walk in the door with, to what will make this community great in 10 years. There are certain things (in the park) that won’t happen. I’m hoping we find ways to acceptably prioritize what ought to come first. I don’t know yet what that would be. This will be an organic discussion that will evolve as we go along.”

Morgan is well aware there could be disagreements throughout the meeting.

“One important thing is we’re not going to look for a perfect consensus,” Morgan said. “We will try to reach an agreement, but if it ends up being there is a clear disagreement, we won’t end it there. It will be up to the Parks Board to make their recommendation, then it’ll be up to the council. I just hope that when it’s done (on Saturday), everyone is satisfied with the process.”

The timeline for the process, approved in the spring, calls for Parks Board members to hold a public hearing during their Oct. 14 meeting to review the designs coming out of the charette, then make a recommendation to the council. There will be another public hearing during the Nov. 3 council meeting, after which councilors will make a final decision.

Mayor Lore Christopher indicated last week she would like Parks Board members to make a recommendation after the charette, allowing councilors to make their decision in October. The reason for that is Christopher and others looking to raise funds for the Big Toy project would have more time to complete that task, which should be easier if a location is decided.

However, Christopher said this week the longer timeline will still work.

“The sooner we know where it’s going to be, the easier it will be to talk to people about the Big Toy,” Christopher said. “But if we don’t get it until November, that’s fine.”

KHT’s Carnage dares you to laugh despite touchy subject matter

Taylor Pawley and Hannah Patterson share a moment in Keizer Homegrown Theatre’s production of God of Carnage. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Taylor Pawley and Hannah Patterson share a moment in Keizer Homegrown Theatre’s production of God of Carnage. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Laughter is not often thought of as an act of courage, but a healthy dose of the latter is needed to enjoy Keizer Homegrown Theatre’s production of God of Carnage.

Courage is needed because there are some outright uncomfortable moments crying out to be laughed at in the story about two couples trying to figure out how to deal with a dust-up between their children, an altercation that left one of the boys missing two teeth. Social niceties are rapidly replaced by more primal and raw emotion as conflict escalates.

The play premiered Thursday, Sept. 25, and continues with shows Sept. 26 and 27 and Oct. 2, 3 and 4 at the Keizer Civic Center. Curtain time is 7 p.m. The play contains adult subject matter and language.Tickets are $12, or $10 for students and seniors.

Director Jesse Whitehead said laying bare the discomfort the couples have with each other is what makes the material such a joy to work from.

“I’ve seen some productions where the company took an almost cartoony take on the script, but it feels more wonderfully uncomfortable the closer it feels to real life. I like that as an audience member, and I hope others do, too,” Whitehead said.

Bringing to life the script, written by Yasmina Reza and translated by Christopher Hampton, are three former students of producer Linda Baker – John Shrout, Matt Lawyer and Hannah Patterson – and one newer addition to the troupe, Taylor Pawley.

For each of the principals, finding something to like about their characters was one of the first challenges.

Shrout, who plays Alan, a lawyer unable to disconnect from his cell phone, said the character is the complete opposite of himself.

Pawley, who plays Veronica, took it one step further.

“Veronica is the worst version of myself. Every trait I dislike about who I am is her entire character, and she goes from wanting complete control to absolutely losing it,” Pawley said.

Patterson, the youngest of the cast, said it’s a bit of a head-trip to have to play an older character who is acting like a child.

“But the comedy hits on all levels, so I think everyone will find someone or some piece of themselves to laugh at,” Patterson said.

If the play is starting to sound unlikeable, that isn’t the case. But, it is something of a departure from what KHT has become known for during the past three years.

“We’ve done a lot of KHT shows that are relatively safe and haven’t bridged the gap into serious plays. We’re not here to fake it until we make it. We want to do challenging material that challenges the views of audience members. To be able to bring that to life … it’s uncomfortable in a lot of ways, but we’re trying to do it artistically instead of derogatorily.,” Lawyer said.

“We put on all these airs about who we’re expected to be, but in this play it all just melts away from the characters until they are a pure throbbing wound of anger and sadness,” added Whitehead.

In other words, don’t be afraid to let your guard down and laugh. Loudly. Even if no one else is doing it.

That’s kind of the point of the whole thing.

Killer gets 30 years

Jean Ausborn (left) puts a hand on her sister Carolyn Peters' shoulder after the two spoke during the Sept. 18 sentencing of Victor David Smith. Smith was sentenced to 30 years for the 2004 killing of Phillip Johnson, Ausborn's son and Peters' nephew. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Jean Ausborn (left) puts a hand on her sister Carolyn Peters’ shoulder after the two spoke during the Sept. 18 sentencing of Victor David Smith. Smith was sentenced to 30 years for the 2004 killing of Phillip Johnson, Ausborn’s son and Peters’ nephew. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

SALEM – With her son’s killer found guilty, Jean Ausborn had a few things to say.

Two days after Victor David Smith was found guilty by a Marion County Circuit Court jury in the July 2004 murder of Keizer’s Phillip Lynn Johnson, judge Tom Hart sentenced Smith, 38, to a minimum of 30 years in prison on Sept. 18.

While Smith declined to speak, Ausborn, surrounded nearby by family members who sat through the whole trial this month as well as the first one in June, spoke.

“Victor David Smith brutally murdered Phillip Lynn Johnson and took him away from his mother, sister, brother, aunts, uncles and cousins,” Ausborn said after initially thanking those who brought Smith to justice. “He will never meet his grandchildren because of a horrible act of violence committed by Victor David Smith.”

Ausborn then turned to face Smith.

“What a coward you are to shoot Phillip in the back after you stalked him under the cover of darkness,” she said. “And for that despicable act, the worst thing that can happen to you will happen. Victor, you’ve given our family a life sentence of grief and heartache so it is fitting that you get the same life sentence in prison and suffer the same fate of never being free again.

“On the night of July 1, 2004, you showed your total disregard for human life when you murdered Philip in cold blood and left him to die in the arms of his then-pregnant girlfriend and unborn child,” Ausborn added. “Phillip’s beautiful daughter will never be held by her father because you, Victor, decided to end his life. You took him from our family who loved him more than you can imagine.”

Victor David Smith enters the Marion County Circuit Court on Sept. 18 to be sentenced for the 2004 murder of Keizer’s Phillip Johnson. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Victor David Smith enters the Marion County Circuit Court on Sept. 18 to be sentenced for the 2004 murder of Keizer’s Phillip Johnson. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Despite the passage of 10 years, Ausborn noted her son’s memory is still very much alive.

“His memory will live on through his children and grandchildren, which is what he would have wanted,” Ausborn said. “They will be reminded of his love for family and friends, his infectious smile, his great sense of humor and his willingness to help anyone who needed him. We will remind Phillip’s children and grandchildren that a coward named Victor David Smith took their father and grandfather from them, but now he’s in prison for a very long time.”

Ausborn also referenced the possibility of Smith seeking parole down the road.

“Victor David Smith, should you ever be considered for parole, we want you to know that someone from our family will attend every one of your parole hearings to request that you be kept incarcerated and never allowed to walk the streets again,” Ausborn said.

Ausborn ended her address to Smith by reading a verse from the bible.

“Matthew 5:21 says, ‘You shall not murder and whoever commits murder will be in danger of the judgement,’” Ausborn said. “Victor, today is the judgement day.”

Ausborn’s sister, Carolyn Peters, also spoke.

“Victor, when you killed Phillip, I died inside,” Peters said. “For these past 10 years, I’ve suffered with depression. I couldn’t laugh anymore because that was all taken away from me. Today, I can finally laugh again. And when this is over, I’m going to Phillip’s grave. I’m going to tell him, ‘Phillip, they got him. He was brought to justice. Everyone knows who did it now. And he won’t do this to anybody else again.’”

Deputy District Attorney Paige Clarkson, who prosecuted the case along with David Wilson, noted how long Johnson’s family had been waiting for the day.

“He has a daughter he will never meet,” Clarkson said. “Her mom has never been able to tell her the story, because it didn’t have a proper ending. Today she can tell her daughter the man who murdered her father will be put away for a long time. It’s quite fitting, quite frankly, that he will spend most of his life behind bars. When he wasn’t incarcerated, he was out killing Phillip Johnson.”

Hart addressed Smith before announcing the sentence.

“I read your letters about how you want to change,” Hart said. “It seems like a bunch of smoke, considering the amount of time you’ve spent in prison. What were you doing with your life? You’re like a dog running around marking bushes his whole life.”

Hart wasn’t quite done yet.

“You’ve been in criminal activity the vast majority of your life,” Hart told Smith. “It’s not much different than someone giving a one-finger salute to everyone else.”

Afterwards, Clarkson noted the long road it took to reach justice in this case.

“Some cases take longer than others,” she said. “This one required a lot of diligence and hard work. The right result was reached. Some cases are just difficult. This was a difficult case.”

Clarkson said testimony from prisoner Roy Sjolander – who testified Smith had told him earlier this year he’d committed the murder – was a big break in the second trial. The biggest break came in April 2009 when two key witnesses, Sara Fandrei and Steven Chrisco, changed their stories and said they gave Smith a ride to Johnson’s apartment minutes before the shooting.

“That was the break in this case that investigators needed,” Clarkson said. “From there, it was putting the pieces together. That fit with the story. From there, it was just trying to collaborate everything. The investigators were really methodical.”

Clarkson noted Smith was already behind bars for other crimes, meaning things didn’t have to be rushed. He was indicted and arrested in connection for this case in June 2013.

According to Clarkson, the outcome is bittersweet.

“There’s no winners in a murder case,” she said. “You can never bring back loved ones. You try to help the families go forward and give them a sense of relief that this is now behind them. Helping them heal is our goal as prosecutors.”

Mural, mural on the wall

Keizer’s first public mural on the western wall of Keizer Florist will be dedicated on Wednesday, Oct. 1. This will be what is promised to be the first of a number of murals that someday will decorate our community.

The Keizer Art Association was instrumental in bringing the mural about. They cited the famed murals in downtown Silverton as the inspiration for Colleen Goodwin Chronister’s Valley Treasures, which highlights the area’s agricultural heritage—irises, hops and grapes.

The art association should retake the lead on Keizer’s public art. It was the engine that helped established the program which resulted in whimsical sculptures being placed along River Road, as well as the first few Mayor’s Art Invitationals.

There is excitment in some quarters about the mural, believing they can do for Keizer what they have done for Silverton—though that’s highly unlikely. Some envision murals from one end of Keizer to the other. Murals will add color to our community, but we don’t want to over do it.

Public art should be a combination of sculptures, murals and paintings lining the walls of Keizer Civic Center. The Keizer Chamber Foundation took on a role of fundraising for public art, it’s a role they should maintain and expand. But no organization can do a public art program alone—the art association, the foundation and the city should work together to bring art to the masses.

The first Mayor’s Art Invitational event was a glittering evening held at Emerald Pointe Retirement Center. That event’s committee members organized a beautiful evening that matched the lofty goals of the public art program.

The art association was instrumental in successive arts galas and took the reins of the mural project and saw it to its conclusion. They can pat themselves on the back for accomplishing the mural with limited assets, but association members needn’t stop there.

With their connections throughout the region the Keizer Art Association is the main conduit to get information to artists who want to be considered for sculptures, murals and paintings.

Now that Valley Treasures is about to be dedicated the association and the commission should consider topics of future murals. Keizer has the opportunity to not only make the community look better but to tell our story. We envision murals with historic motifs—such as what life was like for the Calapooia people that made the mid-Willamette Valley their home. Such murals would certainly be educational, especially if they was large and detailed enough.

Keizer is known for irises, agriculture, youth sports and the Calapooia people. That’s a cornucopia of subjects for murals (and sculptures).

  —LAZ

Columnist is wrong on search

To the Editor: 

I would like to offer my thoughts on Mr. Gene McIntyre’s opinion of the Chemeketa Community College selection process concerning choosing a president (Chemeketa search should irk taypayers, Keizertimes, Sept. 19).

I served for 18 years on the Chemeketa Board and as chair of the board. I was greatly involved in the last two presidential searches for the selection of Presidents Gretchen Schuette and Cheryl Roberts.

The board chooses not to pay head hunters or outside consultants for its presidential search.  Head hunters can cost tens of thousands of dollars over what we paid Vicky Willis.  When I was on the board we preferred to keep our process in house because of cost.  The present board will draw great experience from contracting with Ms. Willis again because of her experience in handling this important job.

It is my opinion that perhaps Gene McIntyre’s fight should be with the PERS system, a system that is governed by the state and its own board of directors.

The Chemeketa board has always been responsible with the taxpayer’s money and this current process they have chosen is a good example of this.  The board is getting an experienced consultant, who just happened to work for Chemeketa and knows the institution very well.

JoAnne Beilke
Keizer

Keizer’s future

To the Editor:

In a past issue of the Keizertimes we learned our city is forever stuck with a $2.08 maximum property tax. With the proceeds generated from that tax, our city council has to split tax money to provide a city administration, public buildings, public works, public parks and an adequate police force. Our water system is paid for by a user fee.

Another major source of revenue for the city is fees it imposes on utilities. Although the city council does a pretty good job because of our city manager, Keizer will never have anything but a bare bone existence unless something is done. That means we will never have a full service, up-to-date, library or two fire districts. Without dedicated volunteers we would not have any kind of a library nor fire districts.

So what is the future plan for making Keizer better and where does this planning take place? What Keizer needs is a robust economic development team to seduce business, in my opinion. This means expanding our urban growth boundary with or without Salem’s approval. It is time for Keizer to play hard ball with Salem or seek another remedy.

Of course it is acceptable to remain only a bedroom city if this is what we want to do.  We can have more tiny lots with smaller houses and more apartment dwellings like the one proposed on the farm land on Verda Lane. We can do this until all vacant land is occupied and no more parks. If this is the long range plan and everyone knows it, then it is also okay. What Keizer needs is a vision laid out again so we can evaluate it and either agree or disagree with the direction we are going.

Bill Quinn
Keizer

One bill? So what?

To the Editor:

So Senator Jeff Merkley has written only one bill—now why is that a bad thing?  And it seems a bit surprising that this is perceived negatively by those who who oppose government intrusion into their lives.

Art Burr
Keizer

Pope Francis’ American messenger

By E.J. DIONNE JR.

Leaders can make decisions that signal big changes in the political, religious and ethical landscape. In naming Bishop Blase Cupich as the new archbishop of Chicago, Pope Francis did just that.

Cupich, now the bishop of Spokane, has been described in media accounts as a “moderate” within the Catholic Church. Temperamentally, this is exactly what he is, an advocate of dialogue and civility. He’s also wise about rejecting labels. Parrying at his first news conference after his appointment was announced on Saturday, he offered this response when asked if the moderate tag fit him: “I am going to try to be attentive to what the Lord wants. Maybe if there is moderation in that, then maybe I’m a moderate.”

Those nicely reticent double “maybes” shouldn’t fool you into believing that Cupich avoids speaking his mind. He has been a courageous voice inside the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops against a culture-war approach to evangelization and politics that pushes so many away from the Gospel.

He has also been as tough as any prelate in his candor about the church’s profound failures during the sex abuse crisis. “Catholics have been hurt by the moral failings of some priests,” Cupich wrote in 2010, “but they have been hurt and angered even more by bishops who failed to put children first.” He knows the church will never get beyond this scandal until it’s obvious to the faithful that the hierarchy understands how deeply Catholicism was marred by institutional sin and not only by individual crimes.

His appointment will have an impact beyond the Catholic Church because it tells us a great deal about the role Pope Francis wants the church to play in American life. Cupich played this down, too. “I think he sent a pastor, not a message,” he told reporters.

But in his case, the pastor (BEG ITAL)is(END ITAL) the message. Because of appointments made by Pope John Paul II and, to a lesser degree, Benedict XVI, the bishops’ conference has moved to the right over the last quarter-century. Many conservative bishops have expressed uneasiness or even skepticism about Francis’ leadership — notably his rejection of the idea that issues such as abortion and homosexuality take precedence over economic justice and care for the marginalized. Francis has also caused discomfort by insisting on a church that accompanies people on their journeys rather than expending most of its energy condemning and judging them.

Of the four most politically potent posts in the American hierarchy — the archbishops of Boston, New York, Chicago and Washington — Chicago was the first to come open since Francis’ election. In naming Cupich, the pope sent the strongest possible hint that he wants the American church to move in his direction.

Cupich is a Francis Catholic through and through. He was one of the first church leaders I know who immediately and fully understood the meaning of this pope’s election — Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, was the other — and in an email Wednesday, Cupich embraced the pope’s commission in explaining his priorities.

“I keep going back to the Holy Father’s call for the kind of serious ongoing conversion that all of us are called to,” he wrote, “on the issues of accompaniment, non-judgmentalism and the throwaway culture of exclusion.”

Asked which aspects of the American church needed to be preserved and safeguarded, he offered a list that made his priorities clear. Note what he put first: “our outreach to the poor, the participation of laity in the liturgical life of the church, the vitality of the new immigrant groups, the heroism of parents who sacrifice for their children because of their faith, and the continuing witness of priests and religious women.”

As for American politics, Cupich has emphasized dialogue rather than confrontation with the Obama administration over the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. While many bishops declined to help the uninsured sign up for coverage under the ACA, Cupich asked Catholic Charities in eastern Washington to join in the effort on the basis of a long-standing Catholic principle. “We consider health care a basic human right,” he said.

The refrain of a popular hymn goes: “They’ll know we are Christian by our love.” Not, it should be noted, by our politics or our dogmatism. That sounds a lot like something Cupich once wrote. “Ultimately,” he said, “it is only the witness who convinces people, not the teacher.” Chicago is the new testing ground for this proposition.

( Washington Post Writers Group)

Introspection time for evangelicals

By MICHAEL GERSON

WASHINGTON — Christian conservatives are often the subject of study by academics, who seem to find their culture as foreign as that of Borneo tribesmen. And this is a particularly interesting time for brave social scientists to put on their pith helmets and head to Wheaton, Ill., Colorado Springs or unexplored regions of the South. They will find a community under external and internal cultural stress.

It is fair to say that some cultural views traditionally held by evangelicals are in retreat. Whatever the (likely dim) future of political libertarianism, moral libertarianism has been on the rise. This is perhaps the natural outworking of an enlightenment political philosophy that puts individual rights at its center. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy described this view as the “right to define one’s own concept of existence.”

Whatever else traditional religious views may entail, they involve a belief that existence comes pre-defined. Purpose is discovered, not exerted. And scripture and institutions — a community of believers extended back in time — are essential to that discovery. This is not, to put it mildly, the spirit of the age.

It was not, as far as I can tell, really the spirit of any age. But many evangelicals believe it was, subscribing to the myth of a lost American Eden. There has certainly been a cultural shift in America on religion and public life. But it has largely been from congenial contradiction to less-sympathetic contradiction. There is more criticism of the (thin) veneer of Protestant spirituality in public places. There is also a growing belief that individual rights need to be protected, not only from the state but from religious institutions that don’t share public values. In the extreme case, this means that nuns who don’t want to participate in the provision of contraceptives are interfering with conceptual self-definition. †

The reaction of evangelicals to these trends can (and does) vary widely. They can accommodate to the prevailing culture, as many evangelicals have already done on issues such as contraception, divorce and the role of women (without talking much about it). Or they can try to fight for their political and cultural place at the table, as other interest groups do.
A recent study, “Sowing the Seeds of Discord,” by a group of scholars associated with the Public Religion Research Institute, describes a mix of reactions. There is some evidence that younger evangelicals are more socially accepting of social “outgroups,” including gays and lesbians. A higher proportion of evangelical millennials (more than 40 percent) support gay marriage than do evangelicals overall. But there is no evidence this shift is changing political allegiances. White evangelicals remain reliably and monolithically Republican.

My interpretation: Even as some evangelical cultural views change along with broader norms, the Democratic Party is still viewed as a hostile instrument of secularization — a perception reinforced by the health care mandates of the Obama era.
But the most interesting finding of the study concerns (BEG ITAL)where(END ITAL) disaffection with conservative politics is developing among evangelicals. On a number of questions — Should “under God” be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance? Does religion solve more social problems than it creates? — evangelical millennials expressed more negative views on the social role of religion according to an unexpected pattern. Those who lack friends and ties outside evangelicalism are (BEG ITAL)more(END ITAL) critical of traditional evangelical views. “Millennials,” according to the study, “react more negatively and see less value in religious socialization when they have (BEG ITAL)more homogeneous networks(END ITAL).” The authors believe this small but significant shift represents a rejection of “the embattled, political subculture of their parents.”

My interpretation: A desperate, angry, apocalyptic tone of social engagement alienates many people, including some of the children of those who practice it.

Conservative evangelicals, like other religious people before them, are responding to a culture that does not always share their values. But a purely reactive model of politics is not attractive, even internally. And the problem is not only strategic but theological. A Christian vision of social engagement that is defined by resentment for lost social position and a scramble for group advantage is not particularly Christian.

There is an alternative: A commitment to civility, rooted in respect for universal human dignity. A passion for the common good, defined by inclusion of the most vulnerable. A belief in institutional religious freedom and pluralism for the benefit of everyone, including non-Christian faiths.

This type of religious engagement will not always prevail, but it would, at least, be distinctly religious.

Michael Gerson’s email address is [email protected].

(c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group