Echo Boomers Not Pious

Reading this, it seems as though a “Millennial” is likely to start their day by lighting an incense stick, then eating a kosher breakfast before heading off to yoga class.  Seems that generic spirituality is replacing rigid Christian fundamentalism in the 18-29 age group.  No surprise whatsoever.  Some of the churches are apparently content to wait them out, on the belief that a tour of earthly temptations will eventually result in them returning to the fold, born again hard.  That belief is grounded, I believe, in the notion that once a person has had enough negative experiences with drugs and sexual promiscuity, they will be more likely to embrace a philosophy that promises to not only cleanse their spiritual palate, but also provide a path to salvation.  For some, that will indeed be the case.  I’ve seen it happen with life-long friends.  But I don’t think it is likely to occur in large numbers.

A larger group is likely to be turned off by the polarization that occurs when fearful people cling together for support…the us vs them mentality appeals to only a fraction of people over the long term.  The internet will certainly affect the status quo, as instant communication isn’t something the church, at least in its current form, is ready to handle.  Hypocrisy is a serious offense in this age-group.  If you lie to young people, you lose their confidence forever.  Knowledge is feared by the church, yet the web is fast-tracking the process of cataloging all human knowledge in digital format.  A sermon can be fact-checked, in real time,  from the front pew.

There is some mention that the young take a “buffet” approach to spirituality, that is, sampling from an assortment of beliefs and/or practices.  I’ve heard many Christians complain about this tack, while they take that same buffet style approach to Christianity itself.   That won’t sit well with youngsters, especially those participating in most forms of social media, where there are people of all beliefs integrated everywhere.  I’m thinking that the churches may try and co-op the social media movement, perhaps by offering a Christian based social application, called, possibly, Gracebook?  (I’m hereby staking claim to that)

I’m not particularly interested in figuring out ways for the church to keep young people engaged.  From where I sit, the church seeks to control by containment, rather than act as a guide or support group for one’s growth in a particular religion.  If the numbers in that poll hold true…the next wave of 18-29 yr olds will be even less tied to specific religious dogma.  So, I’m hopeful.

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4 responses to “Echo Boomers Not Pious

  1. John Lamb

    I didn’t even know there was a LifeWay Research Group. I thought the Baptist research arm was Barna (Mack, you could probably riff on a lot of the research they do).

    Poking around the Barna site, I found founder George Barna’s blog, and this post in particular: Championing the Christ-without-church movement, in which Barna says something relevant to what you’re saying:

    [T]he meaning of church is not a building with programs and events but a gathering of people who love Christ and want to honor Him through their lives. Attending a service at a conventional church may accomplish that – and, according to our research, often does not.

  2. democommie

    Mack:

    This caught my eye:

    “The future of American religion looks like the Pacific Northwest,” he said, “where you have these strong, robust pockets of devout believers surrounded by this widespread notion of spirituality.”

    There’s also a lot of WS Dominionist whackaloons up there in the NW–I’m sure there’s some overlap.

  3. a “Millennial” is likely to start their day by lighting an incense stick, then eating a kosher breakfast before heading off to yoga class.

    Wow. Sounds like MY typical day, and I’m supposedly a Boomer!

    Okay, I’m going to go back and finish reading the post now…

  4. Okay, I read this as a church elder and former youth group advisor thinking “big fat duh, everyone knows the church loses people around age 16 and doesn’t get them back until they are old enough to have their own families.” I mean, this is not news.

    I’ve been to a lot of church conferences and symposiums where we’ve spent days talking about what it means to live in a “post-Christian” era. I think that’s where research pieces such as this one come from: church folk freaking out over their ever more apparent irrelevance.

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