Friday, August 02, 2013

my reactions and advice to the millennials leaving the church

The religion section of the CNN website published an attention-grabbing article recently: "Why millennials are leaving the church". I'm compelled to respond to its theses. These statements are fairly admirable in intent, but call for some more prodding...
  • "I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity[...]" I understand firsthand how frustrating that can be. But my advice is to face this choice rather than ignore it. In particular, ask yourself how each of these domains reaches conclusions. How does each one resolve controversies definitively? Which one is less concerned about the distortion of personal bias? Which one is more prone to search for justifications of preexisting ideas? Which one is more prone to first gather information and then develop the ideas that best fit? What supports and defends the ideas in each domain? What is the history of how those ideas originated?
  • "[...]millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt." Your longing is valid! Whenever questions and doubts are muted, it's far too easy for inaccurate ideas to proliferate. Therefore, when a community follows such a policy, the ideas it spreads merit additional levels of scrutiny for that very reason.
  • "Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being 'cool,' and we find that refreshingly authentic." I know taste is subjective, but do you also realize that conservative and traditional styles almost by definition are symptomatic of faith communities that are customarily rigid and unwilling to accept dissent? Enforced doctrine is hardly compatible with the individualized thinking that you said you longed for.
  • "We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against." Peace and positive thinking are great. However, calling for an end to these ideological conflicts raises a root question: why exactly do these conflicts exist in the first place? Assuming the ideas of the faith community are right, then why would those ideas not already be identical to the highest moral impulses and to the most prevalent empirical discoveries? 
  • "We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers." That's understandable; those questions are certainly more interesting. Do you wish to try to find reliable answers to such questions? If so, how does your faith community recommend finding those answers? What is its process for obtaining and checking unanticipated truths? Who is permitted to participate in that process?
  • "We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there." This is an excellent insight. Now dig deeper. What specific indications show that Jesus is really somewhere? Are those expected indications in fact found? Also, how would someone surely distinguish between indications of the real presence of Jesus and the many people who only mistakenly think that Jesus is present? And what indications of the presence of Jesus cannot be explained in any other way whatsoever? Are those indications equally convincing to someone who isn't on the lookout for Jesus?

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