A Hunger for Substance
Thanks to a new colleague here at Concordia Publishing House, Josh, for sharing with me his copy of an utterly fascinating book titled, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. Here is but one small "clip" from the book, which is filled with tremendously useful and important information. By the way, according to Wikipedia, I’m both a "Boomer" and a "Gen-X-er" depending on how you define either category. Actually, a trailer Boomer and a leading-edge Xer. I can see this reality from both angles. Consider this important statement in the book, which every survey done of people who are in their twenties and thirties reveals to be true, a fact that, tragically, far too many "boomers" in their fifties and sixties, frankly those in key leadership roles in many churches, simply either do not understand, or do not want to understand. To the extent that we either do not know this, or refuse to believe it, we condemn our Lutheran church to a slow, painful and lingering decline.
Despite their generation’s famous distrust of institutions and their parents’ conspicuous quest for feel-good theology, many young adults are flocking to churches that preach conventional morality and employ traditional worship. Young adults who are disenchanted with the moral relativism and materialism that saturate popular culture–and many American churches–may find viscerally attracted to the very aspects of Christianity that their parents’ generation rejected. Churches that demand sacrifice and celebrate tradition often appeal to world-weary young adults.
"Generations X and Y have watched the parental seeking [of baby boomers] and don’t have the same set of questions," said Phyllis Tickle, a contributing editor at Publishers’ Weekly and national commentator on religion and spirituality. "They want to go to a spirituality that’s rooted in tradition."
Tickle, who left Presbyterianism in college to be come an Episcopalian, has edited and written dozens of books, including a trilogy of best-selling prayer manuals based On the he sixth-century Benedictine Rule of fixed-hour prayer. Though she sees a split in the the American consciousness between religion, spirituality, and morality–with many Americans now identifying themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious,’ for instance–she predicts that tide may turn with the next generation. For the past four or five years, Tickle said, she and her peers in the book business have been expecting to see a shift from generic and New Age spirituality to tradition. [McCain: And that shift has happened!]. A 2000 Gallup youth survey confirmed that change, Tickle said, when it found that teenagers identified most strongly as "religious" (55%), instead of "spiritual but not religious" (39%) or "religious and spiritual" (2%).
"That’s a major shift," said Tickle, who expects to see morality eventually reunited with spirituality and religion. "It had to come." . . . .
For nearly all of these young orthodox believers, a good church gives them the fullness of the gospel and worship experience that connects them to the mystery of God’s presence.
The primary cravings of young orthodox Christians in America–for tough time-tested teachings and worship imbued with mystery and a sense of the transcendent–are often the result of deficiencies in their childhood spiritual diet. Those raised in mainline Protestant and Catholic churches typically complain that their faith formation consisted of vague platitudes abut tolerance and love, not the "hard Gospel" of sin and salvation. They recall church leaders so absorbed with chic social causes that they filed to lay the faith foundations for their service work. In evangelical circles, young adults often recall many sermons on personal salvation but few discussions of how Christians should treat the poor, engage the culture, or learn from Christian history and tradition. They complain of pastors focused more on winning converts than helping converts live out their Christian faith and of worship more interested in entertaining the congregation than encouraging reverence for God.
Many evangelicals — including many children of former Catholics and mainline Protestants — are drifting back toward those liturgical churches in a quest for historical Christianity. Others remain committed to evangelical Christianity but devoted to engaging — not ignoring or retreating from — popular culture and church tradition. . . . .
The trend toward tradition and mystery in worship transcends denominational lines. Magazines such as Christianity Today and FaithWorks have run major features on the attraction of evangelical and Low-Church Protestants to traditional devotions and liturgical worship.
The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy
(Loyola Press, 2002), pg. 60-64).