Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Great Disconnect

One of the popular panic buttons for the big stadium revival movements is to proclaim that we're losing a generation of young people. Kids spend more time watching television than listening to their pastor! Of course, they probably spend more time showering than listening to their pastor, too...but that's neither here nor there. There's never a whit of evidence given for's just one of those things that make the grownups in the gathered flock nod their heads and cluck knowingly, while simultaneously writing out a large check for your youth ministry.

But now there's evidence. A study released last week by the Pew Research Center shows that younger Americans are much less likely to be religious than older ones. 19% of folks born after 1977 are likely to call themselves atheists or agnostics, as opposed to 14% of my fellow Gen Xers, 11% of baby boomers, and 4% of the "greatest generation." Secular forces are certainly at play, but another significant factor that must be noted in the Pew study (which compiles 20 years of survey data) is that there's an increasing acceptance of progressive values in America. People are less and less concerned about homosexuality. A significant and sustained majority care about the environment.

Why are young people increasingly disconnected? I think it's as much the fault of the public face of Christianity as it is our secular culture.

Let's look to the latest issue of the National Liberty Journal, which arrived in my mailbox at the church yesterday. On the inside front cover are excerpts from a recent sermon preached by Rev. Falwell, lambasting evangelicals for being suckered into environmentalism. He describes environmentalism as a tool that Satan is using to distract the church from telling the world about Jesus, and mocks the "so-called biblical mandate to maintain a prudent dominion over the earth."

Perhaps he hasn't preached out of Genesis recently. Or perhaps he interprets that passage to mean that we should be profligate in our use of the creation God has given us. Given this sort of blather, we're lucky we've only turned off one-fifth of this generation.