A religious studies professor sees the loss of the millennial generation from religion as part of a conflict over sex and authority:
It seems that there is a generation gap between the younger generation, the 18-22 year-olds that I'm teaching on a semester by semester basis, and they seem to be moving toward the direction of looking at the Christian tradition through the lens of love and compassion. And that any expression of love, of real love and compassion is consistent with the Gospel. Whether that's heterosexual love, whether that's homosexual love and even whether that's what is understood as asexual...or platonic love, that all of those are acceptable expressions and consistent with the Gospel message. They are less inclined — and maybe this is just students I'm teaching at this particular college, which is predominantly Roman Catholic, although that has shifted. But even among those Roman Catholics, there is a real disagreement around some of the questions of sexuality. So they're definitely moving in a direction that is away from the traditional or orthodox interpretation of the biblical text under the church's teachings.They look at the BIble differently too:
I think that they're looking at the Gospel in the way many biblical scholars look at the biblical text, which is that this is understood as a Word of God with infinite and eternal truth but filtered through the finite and limited experience of human beings. So they are making that distinction between God's Word as truth and God's Word as literal truth. And leaning more in the direction as God's Word as speaking some kind of truth, that has to then connect with their own experience. So experience is an important source for Christian ethics in general and it seems to be more of a predominant source in young people's understanding of their Christian ethics. So they're looking at the biblical text, they're looking at tradition, but they're also then kind of testing that out with experience.And then:
I ask the question to young people of how do they reconcile, or where are the places where there's been conflict between their inherited or lived out faith tradition and their sexuality.
And what I've heard over and over, overwhelmingly is they want to reconcile the two and they can't seem to. In the absence of that reconciliation there are no resources for them to be able to think about and live out an ethical sexual life and still be considered part of a faith tradition.
Meanwhile, the Southern Baptists are recommending that their young people marry earlier, to avoid the temptation of sex. One comment remarks,
Religion constructs an “impractical” ideal for human sexuality and burdens people with ideas of sin if they fail to live up to its mandates on the topic… and instead of reexamining the impractical rules, their solution is to add new ones.Is it really just about sex?
Of course, it would also benefit churches if young people spent their early adulthood locking themselves into religious marriages, communities, and possibly new families, just as they were reaching a level of maturity and curiosity that might lead to questions that would prove uncomfortable to religion… particularly when such questions might imperil those new relationships.
When it comes right down to it, though, rushing into a lifelong commitment in order to avoid premarital sex seems like a terrible solution to a non-problem.