Skip to comments.The Rise of the "Nones"
Posted on 08/09/2013 8:11:46 PM PDT by hiho hiho
American churches are losing their young people. This trend was evidenced most recently in a 2012 Pew Forum study titled Nones on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation. The summary of the 80-page report posits, The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. publicand a third of adults under 30are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.
Researchers use the label of nones, or religiously unaffiliated, to clarify that these young people are not falling into hardened agnosticism or atheism. Instead, they often describe themselves as spiritual, but not religious, perhaps echoing the common mantra that Christianity isnt a religion, its a relationship. As Ross Douthat argues in his latest book Bad Religion, America suffers not from a lack of spirituality but rather an influx of self-determined, self- actualizing heresies. Mainline Protestantism, once a bastion of orthodoxy and counterweight to spiritual outliers on the American religious landscape, has compromised on its Christian convictions and has suffered an exodus in membership. Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism likewise hemorrhages baptized members, even though the statistics are buoyed by the influx of Latin American immigrants. This is not simply a crisis in denominational loyalty. Non- denominational evangelicalism, once the refuge for dissident revivalist Protestant voices, is also starting to suffer membership loss. Youth raised in the mega- church culture seem almost as likely to leave the faith as any other kind of Christian. Even Americas largest religious group, the Southern Baptist Convention, is starting to see its membership numbers plateau.
The Pew Forum cites four hypotheses for the rise of the nones: political backlash (especially against the Religious Right), delayed marriage, broad social disengagement (or the bowling alone problem), and secularization. The National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) has engaged this question with more depth and promises fruitful answers to concerned church leaders. The NSYR, encapsulated in Christian Smiths 2005 tome Soul Searching and Kenda Creasy Deans 2010 book Almost Christian, offers helpful insights to the problematic world of youth ministry.
Smith et al. noticed that this faith crisis is not simply one of popularity, but of kind. High schoolers, while calling themselves Christians at graduation, drop the label during the rigors of college. But their earlier convictions were not those of Christianity, but of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Smith and his colleague Melinda Lundquist Denton identified the core tenets of MTD:
1. A single god exists who created and ordered the cosmos.
2. This god wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other. Thou shalt not be a jerk.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy, which means feeling good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in ones life except when God is needed to resolve a problem. In Smith and Dentons words, God is seen as something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: hes always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.
Even youth raised in church, Christian families, and Christian schools enunciated the precepts of MTD. Theirs was not a vocabulary (and thus not a consciousness) of the Incarnation, the Trinity, atonement, the resurrection of the dead, revelation, virtuous ethics, or the attributes of God.
How has this catechetical nightmare come about? Anyone in the church who works with the young can report that there is no dearth in strategies, funds, and gimmicks to attract and somehow retain the next generation of Christians. Youth ministersincluding Anglicansneed to find the root causes for this rise in apostasy: current approaches fail to produce a common pattern of faithful Christian formation and commitment.
Kenda Dean has argued for a multi-layered assessment. First of all, many evangelical churches tend to separate youth from the rest of the congregation. The youth pastoroften an immature, goofy ecclesiastical parasitemanages an intricate cornucopia of entertainment, replete with video games, exciting music, comedic sermons, and attention-grabbing stunts (such as eating live goldfish). To be sure, the latter represent excesses. Nevertheless, once youth graduate high school or college, they are suddenly expected to join in with the rest of the grown-ups for a completely different kind of worship. Perplexed by this foreign (and often boring) order of service, young adults leave the church. Of course, many adult ministries engage in juvenalization in order to keep the younger hip members while impoverishing content for adults. But the fact remains that the Millennials are the most media-saturated generation this world has ever seeneven the wealthiest mega- churches can barely provide sufficient entertainment for connoisseurs.
Commodified evangelicalism describes the Christian life as exciting, radical, fun, compatible with the American Dream, emotionally satisfying, and an all-around cure for personal ills. Expectations remain low. Radical individualism lies regnant throughout much of the theology taught to youth today, even by the would-be reformers. There is also the belief that the young lack the patience or interest for serious, intentional study of deep theological truths, much less the uncomfortable times of correction and exhortation. Perhaps. On the other hand, what else should people be doing in church?
According to the Pew Forum study, home life determines future faith commitments more than church structure and style. Even though children spend more and more time in the classroom, family remains the most powerful conduit for passing on religion. But what religion? There is the rub: parents who label themselves as Christians actually teach, believe, and practice MTD just like their children. At least the succeeding generation has the honesty to recognize inconsistency. As Dean said in a lecture at the 2012 C3 Conference, Kids dont practice because we misunderstood what weve taught them.
Anglicanism has all the tools and aims necessary to meet these challenges. The Anglican way is supposed to be completely intergenerationalall ages participate in the sacramental life of the Church, local and universal. Common Prayer and Holy Communion do not mesh well with age-segregated services for good reason. The elderly, middle-aged, and young are all invited to come to the feast. Ancient liturgy forms the young persons conception of worship on a noncognitive level. Why tailor worship to the desires of an irreverent culture and age?
The Book of Common Prayer assumes that catechesis is both a churchly and parental responsibility. The shorter daily offices for families in the Prayer Book demand that entire households are engaged in intercession, thanksgiving, Scripture reading, confession, and praise on a regular basis. Happily, families can engage in celebration or contrition during various church seasons, redeeming the time. The Anglican catechism in historic prayer books is short, and easy to master with regular instruction.
Parents must lead in the discipleship of their children. Traditionally, family life sees the highs and lows of human character. Thus, it presents the best opportunities to graciously apply Law and Gospel in appropriate ways for young Christians. Priests may only see the best behavior on Sundays; it can be the rest of the week that truly forms a childs dispositions and character. As such, parents need to be growing in the wisdom, knowledge, and admonition of the Lord themselves if they are to teach their children the truths of the catholic faith. Families also need to be spending time together so that children can mimic the goals, behaviors, habits, and embodied beliefs of their forbears (a daunting thought, but this is what the family does!). The frenzied life of the contemporary age is a dangerous Siren song. Parents would rather renege on their duties, all with societys encouragement: make sure children are influenced most by their peers, tightly schedule organized activities, and plop the troublesome offspring in front of various screens.
The assumption behind rejecting this individualism and entertainment is the orthodox catholic sacramental vision, especially regarding baptism. For Anglicanslike the rest of Christianity for 1500 yearsbaptism marks entrance into church membership. This directly counters the individualism of credobaptism, which conflates originality and uniqueness with authenticity. The idea of taking on a heritage received from your forbearsand entering into that regardless of cognition and volitionis foreign if not abhorrent to most of nondenominational evangelicalism. Thus, catechism too often pivots on enticing offspring into making a decision for Christ. Children raised in stable Christian homes may even envy the radical, attention-grabbing testimonies of repentant sinners and their former libertine lifestyles.
For the Anglican, however, regeneration (the new birth granted in baptism) should not be confused with conversion, which in turn may happen gradually or rapidly in life. If a child is baptized and therefore a Christian, parents must expect him to act like a Christian. Of course, the parent needs to embody sanctification as well if he wants to avoid being a hypocrite. And it is in corporate liturgy and common churchly life in which everyone learns to live in a truly Christ-like manner. There are no guaranteed techniques for keeping people in the fold. On the other hand, it is quite apparent that current popular attitudes remain deeply flawed.
The youth pastoroften an immature, goofy ecclesiastical parasitemanages an intricate cornucopia of entertainment, replete with video games, exciting music, comedic sermons, and attention-grabbing stunts (such as eating live goldfish).
A real youth pastor teaches the Bible and has a quiet time of meditation in the church too.
There's a lot of truth in that. When Jesus was criticized for hanging with sinners and lowlifes, He said, "It is the sick who need a doctor, not the well."
Sure, God wants us to commune with Him every day, but His presence is really there for us in the tough times. That's nothing to be ashamed of.
Introduce some major trauma into their lives an we’ll see how many remain”nones”.
Children and young adults are attracted to entertainment, for its entertainment value.
But they also crave deep spirituality to give them direction, purpose, and depth. And in this they can be extremely serious, with little tolerance for the glib and entertaining. The young are also prone to religious extremism, unless they are wisely guided to moderation.
If they are not given what they want and crave, they will look elsewhere. Liberal churches try to patronize them, and when they see it as such, they want nothing to do with it.
So if you examine these statistics in depth, I think you would find that the more liberal the church, the greater the number of the young who have departed it.
Some of that is mere lack of courage.
For many years, and perhaps still, people at cocktail parties could be rattled if Christianity came up, or was insulted, very few could be in a sophisticated dinner with business associates and respected talents or the big boss, and have the courage and commitment to openly speak up as an admitted Christian, using the language and speaking plainly.
I once was helping this disabled friend and I offered to take him to his church. Well, since I’d brought him in from out of state (for a course of health treatment), it was his denomination but not his congregation. At any event, they had a special guest pastor visiting to tell of his African missionary work. Also, this denomination includes a “children participation lesson” in its services.
Well, they assembled the kids up in front and the guest pastor explained to them all about Africa and how important it was to spread the word about Christianity everywhere, and to do it in terms audiences can connect with and readily understand. Ok, so far so good. And he was good with the kids, too. Then he said that the manager story was a good thing to share with people, because it involved the human interest element of a family with a new baby, etc.
Ok. Then he went into the manger story. Ok. Then, to show us how he communicated effectively with pagan audiences, utilizing all the senses.... he passed out a nice big Mason jar of sh*t to the kids (aroma spread throughout the nice chapel)...because, after all, the holy family was in a place that smelled like that (presumably from the animals, of course).
Let me tell you, if a young priest whips out a folk guitar, DON’T COMPLAIN!
Is that your personal experience? Or a caricature you formed from TV watching?
Thomas E. Bergler addresses this issue in his book The Juvenilization of American Christianity (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2012). He argues that the "juvenilization" of Christianity has created a feel-good but shallow faith.
This was old news when I was a young man. Kids are always giving up on the church, yet God continues to shepherd his people into the future.
A darth of youth?
I don’t think so!
My son helps out at our church youth group, and they do goofy stuff to make it fun. (No goldfish, but he did eat a sleeve of Oreos in three bites).
They also have Bible studies and praise band worship together. They had to boot out one of the helpers when he didn’t promise not to have sex with his girlfriend.
My son has also attended adult Bible study with my wife and I since he was 15, and the kids attend modern worship with us. (Yes - the traditional service can get boring for them).
I think one needs a mix when it comes to getting, and keeping kids interested in the Gospel. It does seem odd that so many though aren’t getting the true meaning of it.
Is that your personal experience? Or a caricature you formed from TV watching?
Yes, I have met several exactly like this.
America demands Justice for the Fallen of Benghazi!
So, this begs one question: are you being a faithful witness to these who have no moral compass, or are you standing aside and watching them cast themselves into oblivion? — God has made plain that it is not his will that any should perish, and if that is the case then shouldn't witnessing to these hopeless ones be foremost on our minds?
Hm, I would posit that an in-depth study/goal-of-application of James would quickly correct that.
James is a very practical book, and even caused Martin Luther discomfort. (Probably because right out-of-the-gate it is focused on spiritual maturity.)
The entire church is lost and in apostasy...Jesus is God sort of thing...garbage. There is only one God..not three.
America demands Justice for the Fallen of Benghazi!
What I posted, I posted with great pessimism as to the future that awaits my children. I can assure you I do not rejoice in what I say - the question is whether my message and the message of others of like mind can prevail against the onslaught of leftist media and academia.
If it helps, and I'm not sure how much it might: I think the best way to witness in the dark times is to be a light.
Oh believe me, your message came in loud and clear. I am an always questioning agnostic, looking hopefully for answers. Too often, your message is what I see, and it is a big reason why I remain an agnostic. If that is a religious Christian heart, it is appalling.
Whew. I acknowledge that such foolish youth pastors certainly exist, but my experience — at my current church here in the western suburbs of Atlanta, and my former churches in Springfield and Colorado Springs — have been stellar and sober.
Well, since you believe “Jesus is God sort of thing” is garbage, what are you then? Jehovah Witness? A wretchedly liberal Unitarian? Muslim? Jewish? These all have in common your belief.
Or, perhaps one of the “nones” this thread is about? Having no religious affiliation. Which is it?
I am a follower of Jesus and he always claimed to pray to, and did the will of his Father. Period. In many ways that is also in your bible. You are brainwashed and go about trying to brainwash others. Making Jesus a God is pure apostasy.
Good question. Here's the answer according to God's word. When sin entered the world through the first man and woman, the world was cursed. Satan has been allowed to have his way on this earth. Every bad thing results from this including man-made and natural disasters, disease and death. God's perfect holiness cannot abide sin and the punishment is death.
But, because he loves us, he has provided a way for us to live forever through belief in Jesus. Jesus died in our place and suffered our punishment. So....for those who believe, this world is not our home and we are not surprised by the evil in people like Hitler.
Except for Muslims and Jews, those I mentioned, Jehovah Witnesses, socialist (Fabian and otherwise) and extremely liberal Unitarians, etc., would say as much. Does this mean you don't go to church anywhere?...if so, not surprising since most don't consider "Jesus is God" to be garbage.
Fabian, since you believe the Bible, good thing, here’s something you might consider.
The synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, are mostly about the birth, ministry of Jesus, his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. His mission was to go to the cross and die as a man among men, for our sins. He didn’t come to blow everybody away with his deity, that wasn’t his focus.
His identity as God come in the flesh, we see that taught in the gospel of John, and the epistles. Both being written much later in the first century. These have much to say about Christ’s deity.
His name in Hebrew, Yeshua, a transliterated form of Jah-shua, means God-savior. Though the synoptic gospels had little to say about the “God” part of God-savior, the gospel of John and the epistles certainly do! God became our savior: while not elaborated on in the synoptics, is central in the gospel of John and the epistles.
Yeah, and you believe you are the Christian group that are the true believers..not! The early Christians and many still today know that Jesus is our savior and God only son....daaaa! It is all over the bible.
Yes he did. God wants a relationship with us...not a robotic servitude. That is why he gave us choices.