How Can We Bridge the Culture Wars Divide?

A guest blogger at Feministe named Eve has written a wonderful post about the culture wars divide. She makes an argument for empathy, beginning by explaining how the bubble that is conservative evangelicalism can envelop a person’s life and frame how they see the world around them. She finishes by raising big questions, questions about how we should go about bridging this divide and about whether it’s even possible to do so.

“I lived in that bubble my entire childhood. It glittered with the poetry of Psalms, with prayer candles, sweet incense, with shiny shoes on Sundays. During the week, there was home-church with casserole buffets, and there were softball games against other churches on Saturdays, and in the summertime there were “house blessing barbecues” with holy water on the door frames. Christmas was the best because that’s when there were nativity displays with the little baby Jesuses, and an Epiphany play; one year my mother tied a fluffy lamb skin onto my back and I “baaaa’d” loudly when the Angel appeared to the shepherds.

On Halloween there was a big festival; the cake walk was my favorite event because you always won if you stayed in long enough. But we actually participated in Halloween without actually…participating. Most accepted facets of October 31st were seen as representations, if not literal manifestations, of The Devil. Ghosts, witches, those glittery red horns—anything which indicated a sin (including prostitutes, dead people, and aliens)—were forbidden. Instead, every member in my family chose a saint or Biblical character to emulate. One year I was Sarah, Abraham’s wife, based on my own illustrated Children’s Bible. I thought she was so beautiful. Another year I was Corrie ten Boom, a Christian who helped Jews hide and escape from Holland during WWII. She was captured by the Nazi’s in 1944 and sent to a concentration camp. I was 9 years old that time, dressed in black and white striped pajamas.

Inside the crystal bubble I listened to Amy Grant, and learned about a world created in 7 days. I believed that Noah’s Ark carried all the animals to safety, and imagined it would have been fun with the elephants, giraffes, anteaters, horses. I also believed in the Devil and I knew if I saw or felt the presence of him or his demons, I should say “In the name of Jesus Christ, be gone!” I knew– I knew– that if you didn’t invite Jesus into your heart, you would go to Hell, the burning fire place, for all eternity. In junior high I also believed in a physical, paradisiacal place called Heaven, and in the Garden of Eden, and in the huge importance of virginity. I loved summer camp in the Sierra Foothills, which included “Speaking in Tongues” as an activity (after archery, before rock climbing). Youth group was my favorite night of the week, where we played tag football and ate pizza with a hip pastor who taught us how to be good disciples of the Lord. I dreamed of becoming a missionary.”

Can I say right now how much I identify with this? It wasn’t all bad! In fact, lots of it was great! The bubble can be wonderful. The bubble can be beautiful. The bubble can be comforting. But it’s still a bubble. And outside of the bubble is real life.

“But before I could become a missionary, or a Republican, everything fell apart. There was trauma, and my sister could not recover. God did not save her, despite phone trees, holy water, hymns, and even sessions with a Christian therapist who suggested prayer circle exorcisms to eliminate the demons that were haunting her. Today, she still suffers from emotional, developmental, and psychological disabilities, some of which may have even been deepened by the methods intended to cure them. Soon after, my older sister became ill, and we were abandoned again; she died in 1997. The entire framework around which I had been raised dissolved away in a few short years. Reality flooded our existence. Betrayed and heartbroken, my mother walked away from the church, and she cannot sleep anymore. She struggles with guilt and confusion, especially about my surviving sister, and even a little about the way my own life has developed; as a good Christian woman, she loved her neighbors (John 4:7), but by doing so, inadvertently put her children in danger.

My adolescence was riddled with the chaos of grief, confusion and transition. I ran away into the arms of a 17-year-old boy who taught me about skateboarding, and Sublime, and keg parties, and how our parents just don’t understand. College offered further escape; I loved my classes at UC Santa Cruz and University of San Francisco, drinking up History of Consciousness, Psychology, Women’s Studies, Theater, Philosophy. Yes, I even turned my hair into dreadlocks, desperate for something– anything– that would differentiate me from who I had been for the first 16 years of my life. But it wasn’t enough; finally, cocaine and ecstasy and all-night dancing filled the confused space where I felt a different, more dynamic personality should have gone. I’d been cheated out of experience and information during my childhood, and I was determined to overindulge as recklessly as possible.

And then, right before the self-destruction overwhelmed me, I was pregnant.

It is hard to articulate tragedy as awakenings, and difficult to re-examine a life within the framework of “what if,” but for the sake of argument, I’m proposing we do so (my pregnancy turned out not to be one of these tragedies… but at the time, it certainly felt like it might be). If those things had not happened in my family and in my life, would I still have Jesus in my heart, espouse Pro-Life rhetoric, and teach my daughter about Noah’s Ark and God’s rainbow promise? I think it’s fair and honest of me to admit that, although I am an intelligent woman, the answer could easily be “yes.””

The point Eve is making here is that while she was ripped from the bubble as a teen, others aren’t. Others continue to live in the bubble undisturbed, and start raising their children in that same bubble. Once again, I so identify. My journey out of the bubble was very different from hers, but it was similar in that everything from before was suddenly shattered.

And I agree wholeheartedly with Eve in her conclusion:

“So, for better or for worse, I feel like I can almost understand a person like Todd Akin, and my heart certainly lurches out to those children in Louisiana [who will be attending Christian schools that teach creationism on vouchers]. I can understand how much these beliefs mean to all of them, and I am so sad and frustrated when I see these no-doubt misguided, misinformed but nevertheless deeply entrenched beliefs manipulated by politicians for the benefit of the upper class. (Cool speech, Paul Ryan.) Contemplating my role, and my unique position as someone who straddles both worlds as part of her identity, I am left wondering how to bridge the gap between “us” and “them.”

So, a few big questions.

How do we talk to the people who were educated incorrectly– who have Religion or Religious-based textbooks to support the wrong facts, who vote and behave accordingly– without putting them on the immediate defense? How do we encourage curiosity and welcome questions that may hurt/annoy/enrage us? How much intolerance are we willing to tolerate while we attempt to progress the conversation? How do we differentiate between hateful intolerance and ignorant intolerance, or does that differentiation matter? Is the element of religion too large to combat with information, exposure and conversation? Will this gap in our society eventually close on its own, as we are on the “right side of history,” or is it up to us to actively bring the conversation to the rest of the world’s population?”

Eve’s questions are important, and I don’t think I can phrase them any better than she does in that last paragraph, so I won’t bother repeating them. While I plan to think about this more and maybe write a series in response, for the moment let me just leave you with two thoughts I left in my comment on Eve’s article:

First, you have to remember that all this is linked into community. For people in the bubble, questioning some aspect of the bubble means getting kicked out of it. If you become, say, pro-choice, your salvation will be questioned, your friends may reject you, and your church – which may be your main source of community – will view you as a heretic and baby killer. The whole system is set up to keep you within a given system of beliefs and to resist questions or critical thinking. Asking questions can be dangerous to your well-being, and the consequences of asking questions are huge. I…have no idea how to fix this.

Second, what allowed me to first take a look outside the bubble was a friend who challenged my beliefs in a quiet, persistent, and non-judgmental way. He didn’t tell me I was crazy when I argued for something crazy, he just asked questions and pointed out contradictions. And he did it so nicely that it never felt like a threat. I was an introspective person willing to consider his questions and play around with ideas, and, well, the rest is history. But his demeanor and the way he went about this was crucial. Change isn’t impossible, but it does take time, openness to considering new ideas, and a huge amount of patience.

What are your thoughts? What would you add?

On Orgies, Bisexuality, James Dobson, and Evangelicals
A Matter of Patriarchy
A Letter from Jesus and Living in Fear
The Cold, Unforgiving World of Geoffrey Botkin
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Julian

    I have to say, my first thought upon reading her post was to wonder exactly what form of Christianity she was practicing. I have been an evangelical and a Catholic, in that order, and what she’s describing sounds like both and neither; the evangelical churches I knew during the 80s and 90s, which sounds like the era she’s referencing, would have been quite leery of things like holy water, Epiphany plays, or saints, and yet there are a lot of details there (like Corrie ten Boom; wow, haven’t heard that name in awhile) that sound familiar to me as well. A Protestant Charismatic church, maybe? I know it’s extraneous to the points she was making, which are good ones; but boy, am I curious now.

    • Steve

      Speaking in tongues, and mentioning of demons exorcisms points to the Pentecostals. Truly the craziest of all Protestants.

      • Eamon Knight

        …and holy water. Sounds Catholic, but Pentecostalism also gets into that kind of magic-item fetishism.

      • Steve

        Catholics don’t speak in tongues. And while the Vatican still has an official exorcist, the practice is not widespread among the general population. For Pentecostals, however, belief in demons (and blaming them for everything) is a central tenant of the faith.

      • Christine

        There is a charismatic Catholic movement, but this doesn’t really sound like it to me.

      • Julian

        Yeah, my experience with Pentecostalism is more of the AOG/People’s Church variety, which is a little different, but I imagine some non-denom churches might be more in line with this. I just encountered such ubiquitous, rampant anti-Catholicism in conservative Protestant circles that it was a bit shocking to see the two conflated here.

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

    I didn’t read the entire post, a bit too long for me at this particular time, but I wanted to share something that I think relates to what I have read and what I posted on my own blog.

    I found an interview that spoke to the reality of the communications problem there is between the major 2 parties/mindsets and why it exists. I found it fascinating and decided to post it to my blog. I want to share it here as well.

    As for myself, I have been listening to the NPR format, which includes liberal commentators, for the past 3 years simply to gain a different understanding away from my own personal views when it comes to the cultural divide. I have used it to do more critical thinking for my own self to find out if maybe I am wrong somewhere along the lines or if there is just a flat difference of opinion. I also listen to NPR because I find the format very educational and for some reason am just into the whole thing. I am burned out on music but that doesn’t mean I can’t listen to music.

    One thing I can appreciate from the liberal mindset is the ability to flush out the coach roaches of political and religious systems to expose corruption no matter how small it may seem. Something similar to the Wiki leaks deal. I have been exposed to a number of things that I don’t even hear conversatives talk about at all or much. ( I don’t listen to conservative radio much at all)

    Finally, for me, I notice when I post on this blog of Libby’s, I get criticized alot and people get offended by my words. I think it is a cause of language. I don’t use language of the liberal mindset and it is my opinion that as a result it offends the liberal mindset. I think this becomes another communication problem. Although I try to do my best to communicate my words and my thoughts without an in your face attitude I still find people getting offended. I think the reason behind that offense is that many liberal minded folks stereotype moderate to conservative thinkers as a certain brand and allow their emotions to take them on a verbal roller coaster which I think is unfair.
    I don’t intentionally verbal assault anyone yet but I think the liberal mentality is very sensitive and as a result is very prone to being offended. Ironically, I often wonder if it is this mentality that has fostered the ‘sue anyone for anything because I am offended’ attitude.

    Just some thoughts I wanted to share

    • wendy

      What a great idea to expose yourself to liberal media! I’ve been reading a few conservative political bloggers lately, but specifically one’s that express themselves in a familiar way. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might need to familiarize myself with conservative dialect, as well.

    • Anonymouse

      JW, when I have been offended by your words, it is because they are offensive. You may not recognize it (most conservatives are very black-white thinkers and don’t get nuance well), but when you deride a woman’s difficult decision to abort and pretend it’s mere whim or “convenience”, that is offensive.

      I also suspect you have it exactly backward as to being thin-skinned and quick to sue. For example, the African-American woman whose job was to film the GOP convention, who instead suffered having peanuts thrown at her and jeers of “this is how we feed the animals” wasn’t all over the Fox airwaves crying and moaning about it (perhaps because this is the behavior and attitudes one has come to expect of conservatives?). On the other hand, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, John Boener, Ann Romney, and all the others are always crying (often literally) about something. Sarah Palin is always threatening to sue when her idiocies are repeated verbatim.

      Just something to think about.

      Congratulations for listening to NPR! Conservative blather can’t be escaped from, but it takes energy and intent to catch a balanced viewpoint. NPR has both conservative and liberal views.

    • Christine

      One thing that might help to bridge the communication divide (and help you avoid inadvertently attacking people) is to make sure that you direct your statements towards ideas rather than people (please note that I’m not always good at this myself.)

      As an example from this post: “he liberal mentality is very sensitive and as a result is very prone to being offended”. Whether or not it is your intent, that can very easily be taken as “you’re being offended too easily, and it’s a flaw because you’re a liberal”. While anything can be read differently than you intended, it’s a lot easier to avoid problems if you’re careful to not make statements (if at all possible to avoid them) about the other person.

      I don’t know if you’re married, or have done couples counselling other than as pre-marital, but have you learned of I-statements? The same principle applies here.

      • Christine

        JW – Does speaking in the way I have described make more liberal individuals less effective at communicating to conservative ones?

    • Froborr

      “I don’t intentionally verbal assault anyone”

      As we say in liberal circles, Intent Isn’t Magic.

      There are no mind-readers, and as such, it is impossible to ever know what another person intends. Therefore, intent is irrelevant; all that matters is what you do or so. Thus, if someone says, “That’s offensive,” it’s because they see it as offensive; they are not saying you intended to offend because they do not and cannot have any information on what you intended. Therefore, saying “I didn’t intend to offend anybody,” does not address the problem; a better response is to:

      1. Make sure you understand what you said that was offensive (ask if needed).
      2. Apologize for offending the person (not “I apologize if you were offended,” which makes it their problem, say “I apologize for my offensive comment.”)
      3. Avoid the offensive language in future.

      Note that some opinions are inherently offensive no matter how you word them (indeed, every opinion is probably offensive to *someone*), so if you find that people in a particular community are offended by a particular opinion, you may want to consider keeping that opinion to yourself in that community, or else accept that people will be offended and respond appropriately. (For example, there are (thankfully) very, very few communities in which it is possible to express the opinion “Genocide is awesome” without offending people.)

    • Pat Griffin

      Interesting that you would say “I don’t intentionally verbal assault anyone yet but I think the liberal mentality is very sensitive and as a result is very prone to being offended.” I find conservatives to be very sensitive and easily to take offense, even when faced with what looks to me like quite polite disagreement, as well as to charge liberals with being “offended” when a liberal merely disagrees with them. Perhaps many people on both “sides” are sensitive but they only see (or perceive) sensitivity on the other side because they tend not to “offend” those on their own side.

  • ScottInOH

    I think it’s important to remember that there is no one way to approach this subject. Some people are in a position to be the quiet, persistent, respectful voice in the ear of a friend. Others are in a position to be the loud, exaggerated voice that gets lots of attention. Some are in a position to speak insistently and uncompromisingly about the truth as they see it. And there are many others.

  • Rosa

    Here’s the problem I have with the whole “communication divide” discussion: reality is outside the bubble. This isn’t just about ideology, it’s about simple observable facts. Facts like: submitting to an abuser does not stop abuse. Some professing Christians are scammers who prey on whole congregations. Sexual predators who are protected by congregations go on to damage more people. Relinquishing a baby for adoption can be very truamatic.

    ANYONE in the bubble who is paying attention knows someone or of someone who the system totally failed. Someone who was destroyed by “keeping sweet” to an abusive spouse or parent. Someone who was not protected from sexual or physical abuse. Someone who was damaged by faith healing principles applied to trauma, mental illness, or physical illness. Someone who was bullied into keeping an unwanted pregnancy and then shunned for being a single mother. Someone who was sent away to Teen Boot Camp or one of those abusive “schools” for rebellious teens, and came back broken.

    I have a friend who went to a small Christian elementary school, only a few hundred kids, and through her I’ve met several people who were directly, demonstrably, seriously harmed by some of the institutional structures I mentioned above. And yet some of the people she knew growing up still assert that there’s no harm in the belief system or subculture. They’re lying, to themselves and to the rest of us, and they are doing so willfully.

    It’s possible there are a few homeschooled, home-churched, internet-sheltered folks out there with absolutely no access to even the rumor mill. But anyone who has the internet or even just goes to church, but still lives in the bubble, is CHOOSING that. Eventually, as it happens over and over and over, no amount of innocent miseducation should be an alibi for just choosing to ignore others’ suffering.

    • Libby Anne

      Yes, and that’s one thing the author of that article does talk about – where does simple miseducation end and responsibility start? It’s easy for her or I to say “we were just miseducated, we were kids, we were only given one side and we believed what we were taught, we were honest but simply misinformed,” but then when you have adults, and especially adults in positions of power who DO see the world outside the bubble and can’t help but sometimes come across things that contradict the bubble, well, the “miseducation” excuse only goes so far.

      Then too, though, you have the confirmation bias – they’re more likely to assume their side is telling the truth and the other side is lying, thus coloring how they approach things that contradict the bubble. You have the desire to stay in the bubble, the desire to believe it, the desire for it all to be true and your life not to be wasted. It’s like my taxonomy of creationists – you have the ignorant, but you also have the dogmatists who just hold on no matter what because they believe that’s their only option.

      It gets so freaking complicated and how do you even start to untangle all that? You can say till you’re blue in the face that they’re ignoring the facts, that they’re ignoring anything that contradicts their bubble, but how do we actually get people to step out and grapple with the complicated nature of the world? They have to want to, yes. But sometimes what we do and say can feed into preconceived stereotypes and fail or make things worse for that reason. How do we avoid doing that? Or should we just not worry about that, and assume that it’s all a sort of chosen ignorance?

      • Eamon Knight

        I kept reading “bubble” as “Bible” there — something to do internally pronouncing the words as I read, and the fact that “contradict the Bible” is also a common phrase, in some contexts. The word-play leads me to observe: evangelicals will frequently talk about rejecting things that “contradict the Bible” (ie. the alleged source-book for their lives) when their real problem is contradicting the “bubble”, ie. the social framework in which they are embedded, and can repudiate only at great personal cost.

      • Libby Anne

        Mmm, good point Eamon. It’s important to remember that the Bible is a diverse book and is interpreted very differently by different Christians. Evangelicals and fundamentalists claim that they’re just “taking the Bible at its word,” but the reality is that what they have is an interpretation too. I mean, the Bible isn’t all that clear on a lot of issues. During the short time I was Catholic, I really liked that the catechism laid out each issue. I mean, the Bible doesn’t even lay out the Trinity except in vague hints, and the early Christians argued about the divinity of Jesus for the first several hundred years. If it were so clear about things like that, this wouldn’t have happened. Modern evangelicalism is not simply taking the Bible at its word, it is a culture with its own ways for understanding and interpreting the Bible, and you can’t transgress that culture without having your faith called into question.

      • Rosa

        There has to be some compassion in there, and somehow it doesn’t hit until it’s that person or their immediate family who’s being failed or shunned.

        I don’t know how to reach people who have someone in their school class disappeared to Teen Boot Camp and never think “what the hell happened to that person?” or worse, “Well they probably deserved it.”

  • Jaimie

    This is a really good post and I can completely relate to the conclusions.
    It’s important to accept the fact that completely bridging the culture gap may not be possible. There are some who defy wisdom, logic, and just plain humanity. Never ever underestimate the bullying tactics employed to keep questioning Christians in line.
    Case in point, I was just on the phone with my dad yesterday who told me that my Rush Limbaugh/Paul Ryan clone of a brother had viciously verbally attacked my mother (a genuine Christian) on her eightieth birthday. He told her that her ministry (a non-profit organization to help women dealing with traumatic sexual abuse that went worldwide) was not only useless but sinful because she is a woman and dared to take on leadership roles. He also played the hell card since she is a democrat and cares zip about pro-life issues.
    It is important to remember that not everyone swallows the whole line. Most Christians that are not into power and control have inner conflicts about a few doctrines. A good tip is that they seem uncomfortable talking about them or avoid it. So you really need to know someone to start bridging that gap.
    Knowledge of the Bible is crucial to start a dialogue. You need to know their language. That’s why former Christians have an easier time communicating with them than cradle atheists.
    Sorry to run on. I think this is an important discussion that deserves some thought.

  • AndreaM

    In reading the OP, I think of extended family members that put themselves into this bubble as young adults. Or, I should say, stepped out of one bubble into another that was even smaller. They are at 6 kids and counting. I find myself thinking of the 17 year old girl, the oldest, quite a bit these days and wondering if there will ever be a way to “bridge the gap” with her. One of the things that I have decided is that the best I can do is drop the hint that, should she ever be curious about what is outside of that bubble, or need help because of difficulties within that bubble, that she could reach out to me. I worry about trying to do anything more than that because of the inherent, “risk of being kicked out of the bubble,” that Libby points out. I hadn’t really been able to put it into words until reading that post above but now I realize that I actually feel like it would be unethical to challenge the bubble because I think that the other person has to want that challenge, at some primordial level. The consequences for her is too life altering for me to “lure” her out of it. Does that make sense? I’m very interested to hear others perspectives about that.

    • Jaimie

      I agree. Being shunned is not only a very real possibility, but in some cases, a forgone conclusion. Leaving my faith meant leaving a culture and there is no turning back. It is not a decision a person should take lightly.
      Be careful with the hinting is my advice. I don’t know your situation but I have heard many stories of family members, even very close family members dropped and no longer allowed to speak or see children or grandchildren. In other words, you could be kicked out of that bubble.

    • KarenH.

      I agree with you about challenging someone’s bubble–I think endangering someone else’s place in the bubble is basically the bubble version of outing someone’s sexuality. That’s an emotional confrontation that is best steered by the driver–who may not ever wish to actually drive.

      and I think I have sufficiently killed that metaphor :)

  • Christine

    The problem with reaching someone in the bubble goes beyond “I don’t want to get kicked out of the bubble”. By being outside the bubble, you are automatically less trustworthy. That sounds too obvious, so I’m going to explain by example.

    A woman inside the bubble “knows” as a fact that complementarian marriages are happier. She might know a couple of exceptions to this, so she knows that “everyone is happier in a complementarian marriage” is a bit of an exaggeration. So even if she believes you when you say “actually, egalitarian marriages tend to be happier”, she’ll assume that means “they can be just as good”. Or she’s used to all data being seriously distorted (e.g. the recent study saying that gay parents were worse than straight ones), so she assumes that any data which contradicts her worldview has been distorted at least as much. But, to make it worse, you’re not living the lifestyle that a “good” person does. Therefore you’re probably going to twist the data just a little bit more…

    What seems to me to be a good way to reach people is actually pretty much the same way as spreading Christianity: live a good life, be consistent in what you believe, show that you’re a trustworthy person and not evil. But don’t hide what you think just to fit into someone’s bubble worldview. Force them to see that you can be a good friend, AND believe that women are people too.

    • Rosie

      I think you hit the nail on the head there, Christine. I was going to recommend: in so far as it’s possible, compassionately befriend those in the bubble. Don’t argue with them. You can say what you think, but maybe in a sort of “agree to disagree and we won’t bring it up” kind of way. Be there when they need something. Keep your word. Then if they ever start to question the bubble…and most will, sooner or later…they’ll probably talk to you about it. That’s how my friends deconverted me, anyhow. It did take several years, and there was a time in there when I was afraid to communicate with them for fear they’d “lead me astray”. But despite all that, they were there for me no matter what I believed, even when I’d treated them like shit for a little while.

      I think it’s important to remember that *people change*. Even those in the evangelical/fundamentalist bubble. If you don’t know many of them personally, it’s easy to think the only change is that the voices are getting more shrill and extreme, but in fact the faces change over the years also. Those who are the most extreme are probably trying to convince themselves; in a few short years they may well be on the outside. Of course, the more prominent they were as defenders of the faith/culture/lifestyle, the more likely they are to completely fall off the radar for a couple years if that happens. If you happen to know one of these people personally, make the effort to keep in touch.

      • machintelligence


        It did take several years, and there was a time in there when I was afraid to communicate with them for fear they’d “lead me astray”. But despite all that, they were there for me no matter what I believed, even when I’d treated them like shit for a little while.

        Ah, yes, the old “don’t argue with the devil” wild card. If you are talking with someone and they start to make sense, just plug your ears and run away. Almost all groups that depend on enforced ignorance use this one, some even enacting it into law in the form of “Blasphemy” statutes. In Pakistan they have gone so far as to murder legislators who favor repealing these laws.

  • A Reader

    “For people in the bubble, questioning some aspect of the bubble means getting kicked out of it. If you become, say, pro-choice, your salvation will be questioned, your friends may reject you, and your church – which may be your main source of community – will view you as a heretic and baby killer. The whole system is set up to keep you within a given system of beliefs and to resist questions or critical thinking. Asking questions can be dangerous to your well-being, and the consequences of asking questions are huge.”
    Exactly this. When I announced to my youth group that I’m pro-choice, they looked at me like I had three heads. They didn’t become hateful or rude, but there was always a gap between me and them, even when I still believed.
    I have to basically agree with Libby Ann. I’d also add, make books and science super available, especially for teens. If possible, make it so people can access them without drawing the attention of fundamentalist family members. (A Kindle/Nook is a great way to facilitate this–dozens of books, and no one can see the cover!) Get those fundamentalist kids online, and they’ll be much more progressive, socially and scientifically, within a few years. Also, if you’re the “type of person” Christians typically rant against, don’t be afraid to talk to some of the younger ones. Just be nice & friendly–that changes peoples’ minds more than anything!