“Why are millennials leaving the church?”
They asked, and they pondered and prayed
But the problem, it seems, that they had with their search
Is, they asked a millennial… who stayed.
Over at CNN, there’s a piece by Rachel Held Evans, “Why millennials are leaving the church“. Young people are leaving the church in droves, and the church wants to know why. In this story, the author (who has not left the church) points to the the slick packaging of today’s religion, the selling of sizzle rather than steak, and opines:
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.
And a bit later:
You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. 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.
Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.
But there’s a problem with her analysis, and much of it I suspect comes from her own personal experience. After all, she did not choose to leave. She chose to stay. Having made a decision, we (at least we WEIRD subjects of the psych experiments examining the process) tend to justify our decision–we focus on the elements that support our decision, and minimize the elements that would have favored the path we did not take. What the church needs to do is ask the people who left… and then they need to actually listen. (I had two links for that sentence, illustrating what I mean, and for the life of me I can’t find them. If I do, I’ll update, and it will be worth it.)
But I suspect the CNN piece actually has the answer, hidden in plain sight:
At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial.
I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb.
I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.
I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.
The thing is, it’s easier to find answers than ever before. The church no longer controls the information about the church, and has long ago lost the ability to control the information about the rest of the world. The plain truth is, there’s nothing the church can provide that clubs, schools, stores, and the internet cannot provide–except god… and there is less and less use for a god with every passing day.
If the restaurant you are sitting in turns out to have absolutely nothing on the menu… it’s not really surprising if you leave.