Thursday, October 16, 2014

Leaving church

Several articles worth noting today about and around.

First, the Barna Group looks at the unchurched, and identifies many of them as "post-Christian".  THese aren't people who don't understand church, but those who have been there and find it wanting.  (This reminds me of an early conversation here, where one of our commenters earnestly tried to educate me on the tenets of Christianity, as though if I just learned about it, I could be saved. I had to tell her more than once that I had been there, done that, with a robust Catholic education.  It wasn't ignorance that made me an atheist.)

They identify 5 trends, including secularization and resistance to the idea of church. And, notably, skepticism about church generally:
When the unchurched were asked to describe what they believe are the positive and negative contributions of Christianity in America, almost half (49%) could not identify a single favorable impact of the Christian community....
When "Christian" becomes synonymous with "right wing politics", there's a problem.

We see the additional frustration with the identification of faith with sex  in another study, this one of young Catholics who leave. 
Only 7 percent of these young adults who might have turned out Catholic can be called “practicing” Catholics—if “practicing” is tightly defined as attending Mass weekly, saying that faith is extremely or very important, and praying at least a few times a week. About 27 percent are at the other end of the spectrum, classified as “disengaged,” meaning that they never attend Mass and feel religion is unimportant.....[T]he most obvious factor identified in both the interviews and the survey data in Young Catholic America seems to be disaffection from Catholic sexual teaching, dramatically so with respect to both premarital sex and birth control.
Pew Research tells us that those who identify are Catholic are overwhelmingly pro marriage-equality and LGBT rights.  Indeed, even a majority of Catholics in their 50s support the freedom to marry.  

Meanwhile, Millenials with faith are challenging it--outside the box, you might say.  Less driven by rigid identity, more flexible.
We are far more likely to admit publically when we doubt certain long-held Christian beliefs. We are more likely to crowd-source our faith. We are more likely to evaluate what in our doctrine reflects more privilege than faithfulness. 
This is not a sign that we have abandoned orthodoxy. It is a sign that we have abandoned certain presuppositions that limited the definition of Christian orthodoxy for too long. The demand for purity in faith looks more like a desire to conform to the image of Jesus — and not the image of a predominately white, male, middle-class denominational line. 


8thday said...

I am curious whether the comment "When "Christian" becomes synonymous with "right wing politics", there's a problem.

is your interpretation of people not being to identify a single favorable impact of the Christian community....

or was that in the article?

Because I frankly cannot identify a single favorable impact of the Christian community either but I have never identified Christianity with right wing politics. I think to assume that correlation is very misleading and probably erroneous.

IT said...

That was my interpretation, which draws on extensive reporting from a variety of sources suggesting that it's an issue, eg. the work by Putnam and Campbell .

The linkage of "Christian" has been hijacked by a particular TYPE of Christian who is strongly linked to the right wing. And frankly it's hard to see a positive impact of that kind of Christian community which is largely defined by exclusionary and discriminatory behavior.

JCF said...

"It wasn't ignorance that made me an atheist."

Cognitive vs affective intelligence?

Am only suggesting that intelligence, like "ignorance", is complicated.

8thday said...

I don’t think “that type” of Christian community (exclusionary and discriminatory behavior) is only synonymous with right wing politics. One only needs to look at what’s happening at the GTE to see that that behavior exists, and is apparently supported, even in the supposedly “welcoming” and progressive Episcopal Church. I think the general negativity about Christianity is in it’s hypocrisy - that it has become no different than any other big business or institution, more interested in institutional self preservation than in it’s gospel mission. People are tired of it.