Rachel Held Evans, whom I read like it’s my job, wrote a piece for CNN that now has everyone discussing Millennials and The Church in even more ponderous tones than is normal for this discussion.
If you haven’t read it yet, you should. It’s great, and points out some important dynamics at play right now (I.e. authenticity and depth are important, put not your faith in praise bands or skinny jeans, etc.)
Basically, she says clearly, concisely, and calmly, what any college chaplain or young adult in the Episcopal Church has been saying for YEARS. (With loud voices and emphatic hand gestures, but that may have just been me.)
And now, us here in the Interwebz must add on to the conversation, for that is what we here in the Interwebz do.
So then, a few things I feel should be said:
1. No, this isn’t just Millennials.
Lots of people are leaving the church, and have been leaving the church.
Silent generation folks, GenXers, GenZers (because that’s a thing now, too), even Baby Boomers are leaving.
And all for different stated reasons, and all for different personal triggers, but I think it’s safe to say that a trend is emerging right now that unites a lot of people. The status-quo church is not embodying the spirit of Christ as effectively as it should. So it’s experienced as hypocritical, and, accordingly, people are leaving. That’s not new.
What’s new is two things: now the slow drip of loss is enough to affect our status as “established and privileged” and, by dint of being the largest generation since the Baby Boomers, Millennials just leave a bigger footprint than GenX did when they did they exact same thing.
2. And also, we talk about it.
Arguably, one of the markers of the Millennial generation is a major shift in the divide between what is seen as public and what is seen as private.
A silly example would be Facebook statuses; a more serious one would be the current push towards transparency in government and the Arab Spring.
I’m not kidding. At the national training for IAF, it was this public/personal discussion that split my small group along generational lines, with the younger organizers arguing vehemently that it was dishonest and disingenuous to work with people and claim to represent them if you couldn’t be at least somewhat honest about who you were and what you believed. This was authenticity, we maintained. There was some buy-in, but for the most part, the older folks in the room thought we had lost our minds, and were overexposed, trying to live in our own TV show. Too much Internet, the trainer diagnosed.
My point is this– the gift of the Millennial generation may well be that we are, as a classmate ahead of me in seminary put it, “whiny and confrontational” but in the best way. We name things!
If we feel unfulfilled in church, if we feel like there is something missing, we won’t just let it lie. We won’t just continue to attend in silence. Or church-shop continuously, in a slow round of disappointment. We will take to the blogs, the Internet, Twitter, etc. Because this is a generation raised to talk it out (ad nauseum, occasionally.) What everyone else has been feeling for a while, we will actually name. We shall talk until we reach some conclusion.
And we don’t consider it a taboo subject any longer.
I have more to say about this, but I’m in the middle of moving right now. So come back tomorrow, and behold!
There shall yet be more on this topic.