Losing A Generation: are we?

I came across a blog earlier today that had a couple posts explaining that the younger generations of Americans have become less and less interested in Christianity. The two posts he wrote on this topic each dealt with one of the reasons that he suspects for this shift. The two reasons he gave were parents having interfaith marriages and not going to church regularly.

While it is clear that there are not as many young people professing to be Christians as there were in the past, I wonder what this actually means. Does it mean that there are less Christians, or less professing Christians? If there are less Christians then we can start asking why that is, but I think that it may be inaccurate to make the leap from less professing Christians to less actual Christians.

For quite awhile Christianity held a strong hand on culture. People went to church, they said grace, they tried not to swear around the pastor. Was that good? I don’t know. It was what it was, but it certainly did not mean that those people had surrendered their lives to Christ. It may have meant that a lot more people had a false sense of security in their religious observations that made them confident that they were going to Heaven because mom and dad went to church and they were members of “First Baptist.”

It’s not that way anymore. Maybe this means that less people are Christians, maybe it just means that the traditions of earlier generations’ Christianity are no longer relevant. I can’t say what it means, but to think that there was a “good ol’ days” of Christianity seems a bit inaccurate. It is important to separate the actual beliefs from the cultural traditions.

To deal with the second part of this: why do young people not seem interested in Christianity, I can’t give some definitive answer, but I think it is a little more complex than interfaith parents and non-churchgoing parents. I had both. I believe. Christianity is about God touching your heart with the truth of the Gospel and you surrendering your life to that truth. It is not inherited from parents and if it is forced on kids by their parents it isn’t real. So maybe it has to do with the fact that the church is more tied up with the gospel of traditions than it is with reaching people with the gospel of Christ. Maybe it has something to do with fundamentalism, and the church running away and hiding in caves while the world moved on. Maybe it is because certain people believe and certain people don’t. It’s all speculation. All we can do is share the gospel of Christ with the people around us, young or old, and live out the love and truth of that Gospel in our relationships with those people. They may have interfaith parents, they may have never gone to church. I don’t see how that matters in the least.

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About Dan Allen

Just some guy trying to figure stuff out... View all posts by Dan Allen

5 responses to “Losing A Generation: are we?

  • Daniel

    I very much agree with your post… The reality is that the only things you can statistically track are things like church attendance, or how people characterize themselves in polls, or whatever… There really is no way that someone can officially declare one generation to actually have less authentic faith than another!

    It is weird how many people (particularly in the older generations) often lament the passing of the generically “christianized” culture, where people were more or less pressured into at least acting like good, clean-cut “Christian folks”…

    Really? You think that means anything in the end? You think it was better back then because more people would sit in a church on a Sunday morning, even if they didn’t really believe in Jesus? You really miss widespread superficial Christianity? You think people were really less sinful back then because everyone played along with America’s self-portrayal of being wholesome and good? (these are the kinds of things I say to my parents sometimes…)

    It’s a strange delusion…

  • esztertun

    I’d say the “good ol’ days” of superficial Christianity and pressure to perform well had it’s benefits in this life: better safer society, somewhat cleaner culture. But the percentage of people belonging to God’s kingdom were probably about the same. As we say, God only knows; and I like how you put it, “It’s all speculation.”

    This much is fact, the answer is still the same! It’s focusing on the Lord Jesus.

    “Christianity is about God touching your heart with the truth of the Gospel and you surrendering your life to that truth.” Amen to that!

    • Daniel

      I think you just put your finger on the real crux of the matter there… I hear that sort of argument a lot, that even though it was maybe superficial, at least we “benefited” from a “safer society, a somewhat cleaner culture”…

      Honestly, I think I’ve now come to the place where I don’t regard it as being as much of a benefit as that might seem… Do I necessarily like the fact that we now live in a world that is filled with stuff like pornography, drugs and violence? Well, no, of course not…

      But at the same time, I can’t really escape the suspicion that what those “golden years” ultimately achieved was the perpetuation of this myth that as Christians we are called to “redeem the culture”. The bible actually doesn’t ever speak about such an idea, the Word of God only ever talks about redeeming individual people… But if enough individuals are genuinely transformed by the love of Christ, might we sometimes see a broader cultural shift as a result? Sure… But unfortunately I really do think that much of the true motivation for longing for the “good ol’ days” really has more to do with how people had really grown comfortable with the idea that the entire country and culture they lived in was an overall “wholesome” place, and the sense of security that came with that… I mean, it’s really not surprising that people would prefer to think they live in a world that resembles Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, where we can feel safe and so put faith in our temporal citizenship here, rather than taking what the Word says to heart:

      You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Galatians 4:4

      • esztertun

        Very good point: redeeming the culture is a myth. And any security that can come from a good safe culture is often spiritually numbing. It all boils down to accepting our redemption from Him and then helping others to walk in His redemption as well. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we are not called to bear any other identity than who Christ says that we are. I’m an American because I was born that way, but I am a child of God in the bigger picture–from His perspective.

  • These posts have been encouraging and challenging for me. | The Assembling of the Church

    […] Here are some of them: Dan at “The Ekklesia in Southern Maine” with “Losing A Generation: are we?” […]

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