SO, WHO'S NEXT? With the passing of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whose funeral will take place today, the inevitable question has begun to be asked: who is likely to lead the next generation of right-wing evangelicals? Falwell's colleagues in religious-right leadership -- James Dobson, Pat Robertson and D. James Kennedy -- are all elderly, ailing, or both. What the evolution (if I may) of the religious right over the next decade will look like will depend on the attributes of the next generation of leaders, and the right's intelligent designer may have a few surprises in store.
As gay rights leaders Hans Johnson and Bill Eskridge noted in their recent Washington Post op-ed, one of the unintended effects of Falwell's demonization of gay people was to encourage many religious people to embrace the queer folks in their families and congregations -- to hold them close for the sake of safety and righteousness.
If there's a change a-comin' in evangelical leadership, it may well be one with a very different take on non-heterosexuality. In his very interesting piece in today's Post, Allan Cooperman cites a February Pew poll of self-described evangelicals that show marked differences between the views of those over and under 30: "Acceptance of homosexuality is also greater among young evangelicals. One in three under 30 favors same-sex marriage, compared with one in 10 of their elders."
--Adele M. Stan