Suddenly the Internet woke up and realised that everyone under 30 had left the church. Fancy that.
Rachel Held Evans wrote an article which seems to have started off a series of other writers attempting to respond to the same question: Why ARE millennials leaving the church?
Like myself, Evans comes from a broadly Evangelical position on the Christian faith. This means for people with our general sensibility, church is the gathered body of people who are seeking to live in obedience to the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. Only, for many people, church is causing a stumbling block to that same Jesus. They are looking from Jesus, to the church, and back to Jesus and wondering why the two are so different.
Then they are walking away from the church they grew up in.
They are downloading sermon podcasts or picking up books on saints, prayer books or rosaries. They attend the Cathedral in the city, not the Megachurch in the suburbs. The people of my generation are finding a more consistent worldview outside the boundaries of the Christian community.
And I too sigh and roll my eyes ever time I hear the words “Creationism and Evolution”.
It wearies me when someone presumes to know me without having shared my experience.
I was afraid to tell a gay colleague that I was a Christian (even a lay-preacher) in case he assumed I would hate him.
I know how to buy Fairtrade coffee and T-Shirts despite this not being regularly taught in my church.
For many people Evans interviewed, these were hurdles too high to jump to remain part of a church.
So why am I still here, Evans would ask:
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.
My church doesn’t even do lattes. The worship leader sometimes wears ugly shoes and a t-shirt that doesn’t fit. The AV equipment usually doesn’t run smoothly. And some Sundays I wonder whether Jesus really cares for all this after all.
Evans has spoken to dozens of young people who have left churches, disappointed with the Jesus they did not find there. They did not find a reality which engaged in the common good of the context in which they lived. They found ridiculous, irrational superstitions and awkward fumblings toward people who were different from the norm.
So Jesus couldn’t be found there.
You see, I as a Millennial have been given greater spiritual clarity than any of the pastors, youth workers or lay-leaders in the church today. I am a wiser counsel than the Theologians and Bishops. I have more insight than the most prayerful of contemplatives. I am more holy than the Puritans and more engaged in the class-struggles than Dorothy Day.
So I look at this white, middle-aged, middle-class congregation with their petty struggles over issues I don’t care about and my eye begins to wander. I am looking for Jesus and I am not seeing him there.
Evans, and her followers, are finding Jesus outside of the gathered body of disciples. Therefore I must assume that Jesus has abandoned all his promises for the sake of one proud generation.
I’ll be handing in my membership this Sunday, then.
I look forward to meeting the Jesus of the Millennials in the pages of the New York Times at the local coffee shop instead.
Mine’s a latte.