Monday, October 9
The Youth Are Leaving the Church
No, not only our Church.
Despite their packed megachurches, their political clout and their increasing visibility on the national stage, evangelical Christian leaders are warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves.
I wouldn't be too quick to be triumphalistic, not the least because (on this issue) those who live in glass houses ought not throw stones. Even stained glass houses.
But more deeply, the issue significantly affects (1) salvation, on the individual, which Trent taught is possible in Christ's name to those outside of juridical communion with the Catholic Church, and (2) culture, on the aggregated level. The evangelicals are the Catholic Church's biggest, perhaps only, real allies in the clash of cultures, frustratingly inconsistent as they can be. More secularized youth mean a more secularized America.
Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation.
This is a stunning statistic, though Mark Sheadoubts its accuracy. Nonetheless, it does point in some respect to a strength of Catholicism: the Church does offer the faith within a culture of faith, not simply the faith within the passing fads of popular culture. This culture of faith incubates, strengthes, and supports faith in Christ--and it also beckons people to return to the practice of the Faith as they continue faith-inspired traditions.
It reminds me of a reports of heard of Evangelicals in Brazil, which have similarly dismal success in passing on even nominal faith to their children, who are just as likely to remain evangelical, become agnostic, or return to Catholicism.
Our real problem, of course, is that we don't pass on that culture of faith. When a child's mother is strong in her practice of the Catholic faith, a survey I heard a few years back claimed that the child had a 40% chance keeping the faith; if the father only, then 60%; if both, then 80%.
Our real problem, of course, is that we haven't been passing on the faith. With Evangelical evangelization and the stability of Catholic Culture, the attempt to re-Christianize the West might actually work. But, not without both, so it seems to me.