What The Kids Want and Need
As it always does, the latest issue of First Things really caught my attention and set me to thinking. As I watch and observe many of the younger generation of Lutheran folks as they talk theology on Facebook or as they blog or post messages here and there, I am increasingly impressed by how much they want substance, not fluff. Often they are not settling for Lutheranism served up soft and soupy, sappy and empty, light and airy.
Case in point. A couple summer agos a group of Lutheran teenagers
gathered at Lutheran university for a music camp. At the same time
there was a baby-boomer aged group devoted to promoting so-called
contemporary worship having one of their conference on the campus. The
teenagers were forced to attend one of this group’s "worship events"
and, to a young person, came away both offended and more than a little
amused by the forty and fifty-something olds emoting and doing their
hand-waving thing, whooping it up like some Pentecostal bunch.
Generally speaking, study after study shows that younger people
want the sturdy stuff of their grandfathers. They are interested in
doctrine and a worship life that flows from the depth and riches of the
Church’s historic worship life. Sadly, it is usually their baby-boomer
elders who keep trying to force-feed them the silliness of the
camp-fire emotionalism of their own youth. I recall sitting at a
Lutheran national youth gathering in a vast colliseum some years ago
surrounded by kids from all over the nation while their was some huge
spectacle of a worship service going on down on the stage below with
somebody twanging away on the guitar crooning into the microphone with
words none of could understand. General boredom ensued. The kids were
entirely lost by a lot of what was happening, not following along,
could not join in the performances by bands on the stage, but…the
time came for the Divine Service liturgy and every time there was the
historic liturgy used, they became more quiet, paid closer attention
and joined in reverently. Interesting.
I watched with great sadness recently a video-cast of a sermon
delivered by a seminary classmate of mine. Why sadness? The poor man
was trying his best to imitate the evangelicals using their plexiglas
pulpits strutting about on their stages and delivering motivational
speeches. This classmate of mine was delivering a sermon on "laughter"
and after repeating his text ad naseum had a very hard time finally
preaching anything meaningful about Christ and doctrine, but in
rambling remarks waffled on and on interjecting random stories. Editor
Father Richard John Neuhaus has a real knack for finding the right
quotes. Here is one for your consideration. From eulogic remarks at the
funeral of Pelikan:
Lionel Trilling wrote that
when the dogmatic principle in religion is slighted, religion goes
along for a while on generalized emotion and ethical intention…and
then loses the force of its impulse, even the essence of its being.