the people along the sand all turn and look one way;
they turn their back on the land, they look at the sea all day.

as long as it takes to pass a ship keeps raising its hull;
the wetter ground like glass reflects a standing gull.

the land may vary more, but wherever the truth may be -
the water comes ashore and people look at the sea.

they cannot look out far, they cannot see in deep -
but when was that ever a bar for any watch they keep.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Millenials And Church (A Response to Rachel Held Evans and The Virus!) Rachel is 32.  I think she has some good insights about why millenials are leaving church.  I am 56.  I am NOT a millenial...but I have three!  Kids, that is, who are millenials.  And ALL OF THEM have left church...even though they were raised in church and - along with their mom - had the misfortune of being family members of the SENIOR PASTOR (me!) of every church they ever attended.

I know millenials.  All of my kids friends are millenials.  And most of them have left the church.  But let's not freak out.  Millenials have always left the church.  Yes, there have been "millenials" before this current crop of "millenials" - that is, there have always been people who are in their late teens to late twenties (which is what the current crop of millenials is) and they have always left church.

And more than just millenials are leaving church.  When I was a pastor (from 1978-2004 - 26 years!!! longer than most millenials are old) I saw people leaving the church in busloads.  And not just my church!  :)
People have been leaving church for years.

Rachel got one thing very right...the BS factor is strong among the millenials.  In fact, I might say that the BS factor is the Number One reason millenials are leaving the church - along with all the others who have left.  But I am referring to BS that is not about style over substance...I am talking about the BS of Christian religion.

Today, there is a resurgence of intellectual skepticism that is sweeping the planet.  Fundamentalism of any and every stripe is falling apart under the steamroller of skepticism, fueled by greater access (through the internet) than ever before to academic and scholarly and just plain OTHER resources that challenge the traditional narrative of Christian religion.

For centuries, the church has prospered by controlling thought and limiting access to resources that challenge the traditional, orthodox doctrines of Christianity.  As in all propaganda-driven systems, this is crumbling in the face of internet access to thoughts, ideas, research and scholarship that is outside the norm and the narrative.  It is creating cultural and social upheaval (witness the Arab Spring of 2012), and it is empowering people to think differently about the Old Gospel Story.

Sound scholarship is instantly available and interpreted for the interested reader, just by clicking on a link.  Church-goers (especially millenials, who are adept at living in the new paradigm created by the internet) can discover that the majority of biblical and historical scholars do not endorse the inerrancy of Scripture, or even the historicity of Jesus (at most - and at least question the meaning of his life).  They are discovering that other religions and thought streams possess insights to the nature of spiritual truth and community that are just as valid, and ultimately healthy, as Christianity, perhaps even more so.  They understand through their own social media experience that atheists have values (gasp!), community can happen better around a beer in a pub than in a church pew staring at the back of a stranger's head and listening to a man who has been shouting for the past twenty minutes, and that you don't have to be religious to help the homeless.

On top of all of this is the fact that millenials GET science...they recognize how science and technology have brought incredible expansion, well-being and growth to our planet.  Unfortunately, Christianity and the church have been slow to recognize the value of science...and some religious groups just flat-out call science the tool of the Devil, mainly because it promotes evolution rather than creationism.

And to millenials, who know better...this is embarrassing at best and absolutely repulsive at worst.  To call science the work of the Devil when everyone you know is benefiting from it and using it without question is hypocritical and least that is what the millenials are saying.

Rachel notes that sex is an issue.  OK...maybe.  Though my kids are far less concerned about what the church says about sex (if it says anything at all, except that maybe it is bad outside of marriage) and far more ANGERED that the mainline/conservative/evangelical church (which seems to get an inordinate amount of attention) is so dead-set in making GAY people live as second-class citizens with limited rights.  Millenials know all too well how the Christian church did NOT support equal rights for women, and was uncomfortable with granting equal rights for blacks.  And they correctly conclude that the church is more about SAYING NO to people than it is about understanding how the old gospel story may actually be relevant today.

I could go on...but I can summarize everything by saying...Millenials (and others) have left the church because they see better options out here in the unchurched world.  Even faith in Jesus does not necessitate involvement with the Church of the Religious System.  Why waste that time on Sunday morning...and any other day of the week...when so many incredible options exist, most of which make better sense and bear better fruit in enriching life and transforming society?

How do I know these things?  Because this is what my millenial kids and their friends have told me.  I did something Rachel suggested any one in the church should do...I asked, then I listened.  Amazing.


  1. As I add up my daughters, nieces, nephews and their spouses (all millennials), I only find 2 of the 10 that are religious (attend church on a regular basis). 5 of 10 claim atheism/agnosticism . The two sets who have young children (you know, the time when most USED to come back to church, like my wife and I)and are atheists. Sorry, Rachel. Sorry progressive church.

  2. Hi, I am from Melbourne.
    Please find a radical critique of what is usually promoted as religion in this time and place. A critique that applies equally to liberal/progressives and conservative traditionalists/orthodox.
    Also, with some overlap

    A reference which describes the materialist doubt-mind that now mis-informs every fraction of our common culture including all of those who presume to be religious.

    On Art and Sacred culture