Millennials will change the future of the church

First let me tell you a story from almost 20 years ago. My buddy Dwight and I were arguing over what I was going to wear to a meeting.

“I’m not a catcher,” I told him. Catchers have to wear their baseball caps backwards because of the mask. But if you’re not a catcher and you’re not, say, riding a bike into a headwind, then it seemed to me that wearing a baseball cap backwards was unnecessary.

“Just turn it around,” he said. “They expect it.”

“And I don’t even own ripped jeans or a flannel shirt.”

“Get some. Play along, maybe they’ll listen.”

The meeting was with a bunch of older establishment types who previously wouldn’t have returned our phone calls. Dwight and I were putting out a magazine called “Prism,” dubbed “an alternative evangelical voice.” That “alternative” message focusing more on social justice was largely ignored. We were easy to ignore because we were unknown, unproven and underfunded, and mainly because we were too young. We were just in our 20s at that time, and to the old white guys who made up the evangelical establishment of “gatekeepers,” it was presumptuous for people our age to expect them to care what we had to say.

But then Douglas Coupland’s book came out and Kurt Cobain died and, briefly, talk of Generation X was all the rage. A steady stream of polls confirmed what those evangelical leaders would already have known if they had been paying any attention at all to younger people: Gen X-ers were leaving the church in droves and not coming back.

That got their attention. The future of attendance figures, tithes and offerings was at stake. Panic ensued. Seminars were organized. Conferences were convened. Books and articles were written.

And Dwight’s phone started ringing.

Many of the same old white guys who previously wouldn’t give us the time of day were now desperately turning to people our age for advice on “reaching Generation X.” (That was the name of many of those seminars, conferences, books and articles: “Reaching Generation X.”) We wound up having a string of meetings with panicky old white guys fearful that the mass exodus of Gen X-ers spelled doom for the future of the church.

So we went to those meetings, in costume, and we talked about our g-g-g-g-generation.

We explained that we hadn’t been elected the official spokespersons of our generation, but that we were happy to share whatever insights we had, for whatever that was worth. They took notes. We talked about participation and inclusiveness. We talked about music and worship styles. We used words like “authentic” and “wholistic.” We suggested, delicately but firmly, that the older generation’s preoccupation with a peculiar set of social issues seemed off-putting and weird to many people our age. (That’s usually about where they stopped taking notes.)

I don’t think that anything we said mattered much because I don’t think any of it was what they wanted to hear. What they wanted to hear was some secret trick that would enable them to bring Gen X-ers back to church as faithfully obedient spectators in the pews without the church having to make any changes to the way things have always been done. And emphatically without any change in who had always been in charge of doing it.

They didn’t really want to hear about how the way they had shaped the church might need to change in response to the new generation. Instead, they wanted to find some way of changing the new generation to make it conform to the way they had shaped the church.

And then, after about six months of that, the pollsters and the old white guys finally realized another essential truth about Generation X: It’s really small. Compared to either the Boomers who came before or the Millennials who came after, Generation X really didn’t amount to much.

Amanda Marcotte has some insightful thoughts about how this may have shaped X-ers’ tendency to “sit in the corner cracking jokes” instead of trying to change the world. It’s “a numbers game,” she writes. “There are simply far fewer of us than of them.”

So back in the 1990s, the old white guys in charge of evangelicalism eventually decided that they could write off the apostates of the baby bust. Maybe they’d allow some half-hearted “outreach” to X-ers by letting the praise band add drums, but they realized that the future of their church on their terms did not have to depend on passing the baton to Generation X. They decided, instead, to invest their hopes for the future in the much larger — and then still much younger and more impressionable — Millennial generation that followed.

Which brings us to today. Once again a steady stream of polls is telling evangelical leaders what they should already have realized had they been paying any attention: Millennials are leaving the church in droves and not coming back.

Once again panic is setting in as the now-even-older old white guys realize that the future of their church is at stake. Seminars are being organized. Conferences are being convened. Books and articles are being written.

The dynamic is the same. The old guard is still looking for some trick to change the new generation to make it conform to their church on their terms. They’re still looking for some way to make sure that the church of the next century doesn’t look any different from the church of the last century.

But this time around they’re a little more desperate. They’ve squandered nearly 20 years, so now everything depends on the Millennials. And this generation is huge. It’s way too big to be passed over.

I want to discuss several different aspects of this subject — Millennials and the church — so I’ll be returning to this subject in several more posts. Here, though, I just want to stress that one point: For the aging generation that has been running the show in American evangelicalism, everything now depends on the Millennials.

That means that Millennials don’t have to settle for sitting in the corner cracking jokes. They might actually have a shot at changing the world.

Stay in touch with the Slacktivist on Facebook:

Bowling with Jesus
The sins of the fathers
The Fall of the House of Graham (ongoing)
Clobber-texting isn't a principled hermeneutic: A horrifying case study
  • http://www.on-the-other-hand.com Lydia Schoch

    I’m really looking forward to this series.

  • Andrew Galley

    You sure know how to write a trailer, Fred.

  • We Must Dissent

    But why should they bother?

    Changing churches so that millennials are retained at a higher rate benefits those churches, but what benefit is there for the millennials themselves? And is there a better or more efficient use of millennials efforts to get that benefit than changing churches that want them to stay for financial reasons and bragging rights?

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Changing churches so that millennials are retained at a higher rate benefits those churches, but what benefit is there for the millennials themselves?

    Um… we’d get to change our churches to suit us better?

    Seriously – why is that not obvious?

  • ako

    I think that kind of thing can be confusing for people who don’t have strong religious attachments to begin with.  It isn’t obvious to me, for instance, why churches that suit the Millennial generation would be any better than a continuation of the current trend of Millennials simply not going to church. 

    However, I suspect that any attempt to explain would run into problems of differing worldviews, differing ideas on religion and theology, and possibly even differing ideas on human nature.  If two people aren’t starting from the same assumptions about the impact of religion on people’s lives, they’re likely to end up with seriously different conclusions.

  • Anonymous

    I am not a Christian, but I feel that people have the right to worship in a place that supports their ideology, if that is what they want to do.  It’s a big part of the reason why I hang out with CUUPS instead of going full-blown atheist.

    But more importantly, I don’t like what the Evangelical movement is doing to people.  I have a cousin who used to be helpful, courteous, and the best Christian I knew.  I barely recognize him anymore: he went from liking a lot of rap and pop music to only listening to things with “Christian” on the label.  I sent him a link to one of Fred’s articles once, and he sent a lengthy reply about how neither Fred nor I knew anything about the Bible, and we needed to let Jesus into our hearts.  He never would have said any such thing before.  They’re damaging and destroying real people and having seen this, I feel obligated to stop it in any way possible.  Changing the Evangelical movement’s focus seems like an easier and saner way of going about it than attempting to destroy Evangelism itself.

  • Anonymous

    In order to keep the millennials in the churches past age 18, churches need to change.  Millennials who leave the church generally cite one or more of the following reasons:
    – Uncharitable viewpoints toward QUILTBAG people.
    – An “all-or-nothing” viewpoint that claims you must be a YEC homophobic anti-environmental pro-lifer in order to be a Christian.
    – A disturbing fixation on fire and brimstone (see also Left Behind).
    – Pastors who don’t care about their congregations, as demonstrated by the various sex and money scandals in today’s churches, and by the very existence of multi-campus megachurches.

    These are the kinds of problems no amount of hair gel, “edgy” songs, or other window dressing will be able to fix.  Keeping millennials will require many churches to change their entire paradigm–and that benefits everybody.

  • Anonymous

    Milennials are my only hope for the future of America. A gigantic, proudly liberal generation that has felt crushed beneath those with power. They are the only thing that might keep this nation from descending further into third world status.

    The biggest problem is that they are really are feeling crushed underneath the Silent Generation, the Boomers and Generation X. Obama’s election was a pure victory for the Milennials, and Obama’s failures have significantly shown that “hope” and “a better tomorrow” are just lies and illusions.

    As far as the Evangelical movement, it’s effectively dead. They have nothing that Milennials want, and have positioned themselves as the enemy. Game over.

  • P J Evans

     A lot of boomers bought, to varying degrees, into the promises that O made to get elected. They’d probably be good allies for the Millennials: the boomers would like to retire, not work until they drop dead.

  • Anonymous

    I spend a lot of time with Millennials (I teach), and I’m not convinced they’re that liberal. They’re more libertarian than I generally expect. But overall, I’m seeing a surprising amount of conservatism. These are kids who grew up under George W. Bush, and many of them don’t think that was bad at all.

    (Caveat: I tend to be nervous about generalizing about
    any generation, given how little evidence there is,
    how arbitrary the generational cut-off points are, and how often those
    cut-offs are set to make a generalization work. Having said that, I
    expect I might end up making a lot of generalizations myself, depending
    on the directions this thread takes, and thereby earning my own censure
    upon myself. Feel free to jump in and remind me of this post.)

  • Anonymous

    Well, if you look at the polling numbers,

    53% say that the government should do more, the highest out of any generation, with 42% saying the government is doing too many things better left to individuals or businesses, the lowest. Milennials are the only age group where self-identified liberals outnumber self-identified conservatives (29-28). They are the least likely to believe that the government is inherently wasteful. And 43% have a positive view of socialism, despite spending their entire lives with not a single person of any kind of power use the term “socialism” other than to demonize it.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, well, if you’re going to drag facts into it….  :)

    Seriously, I posted way too fast and without adequate attention to the broader facts. I apologize, and thank you for those polling data.

    (I still seem, personally, to be running into a lot of Millennials with libertarian tendencies, whether they call themselves libertarians or not. Sample bias, most likely, or confirmation bias. Perhaps when I quit my job as governess for the Rand Paul family, that will change.)

  • Anonymous

    This is actually hopeful.  I hope these trends continue.  I was born in 1981, and the political world has basically been one long parade of conservative madness my whole life.  Maybe I’ll see some kind of change during my lifetime.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    This is actually hopeful.  I hope these trends continue.  I was born in 1981, and the political world has basically been one long parade of conservative madness my whole life.  Maybe I’ll see some kind of change during my lifetime.

    I too was born in 1981* and up until 2008, the only Democrat administration I had lived under was Bill Clinton’s.  However, that was also the period in my life in which the country’s economy was the strongest, and technology and markets were growing faster than people could keep up with.  

    Before that, the only experience I had was with half-hour long toy commercials about war.  Afterward, it was an actual war, one that was optional and wasted a lot of our nation’s resources.  Neither option painted a very good picture.  

    *Does that make us late Gen-X?  Early Gen-Y?  Pre-millenial?

  • Anonymous

    I have to agree here. Just look at how many Millennials support silly blowhards like Ron Paul.  It is a generation that grew up with a steady diet of conservative talking points.  “Government can never do anything right/efficiently”, “protesting is pointless”, “hippies are dirty; don’t listen to them”, “great wealth is a sign that you are a worthy person”, “regulation kills all innovation”.  A lot of them have internalized these messages.  A fair number of them are protesting now, but if the job situation picks up a little (or the protesting groups are successfully crushed by corporate-influenced law enforcement), then the Millennials will evolve into self-serving yuppies just as quickly as their Boomer forefathers.

  • http://maco.myopenid.com/ maco

    Wikipedia says Millenials were born between mid-70s and mid-90s. By the time GWB became president, most Millenials were in high school or college or already graduated. I wouldn’t call that “growing up under GWB”.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    mmm. I’m one of those transitional ones, since my birth year is not in the late 1970s.

  • Daughter

    Mid-70s to mid-90s couldn’t possibly be the dates for the millennials.  Otherwise no wonder Gen X is so small–it would be a mere decade-long generation that began in 1965.  The dates I’ve heard for Gen X are 1965 – 1981, and the millennials starting in 1982, so that the first of them turned 18 in the year 2000.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Who the hell are the Silent Generation? Cos if you mean the people older than the Baby Boomers, they’re pretty damn good at making their voices heard IME

  • Hth

    I (Gen X) was talking to my (Baby Boomer) father on the phone recently about the differences between OWS and the movements he was a part of lo these many years ago, before I was even born.  He said, “It was the right message, but we were the wrong people.  I think these kids are different – I think they could do it.” 

    I think a lot of us now feel like everything depends on the Millennials.

  • We Must Dissent

    Um… we’d get to change our churches to suit us better?

    Seriously – why is that not obvious?

    Assuming that having churches that suit you better is something worth investing effort in, the next question is a more specific instance of the second one in my original post. Is changing the structure and culture of a preexisting church, one that likely does not want to be changed (as Fred has pointed out), a better expenditure of effort than starting a new one?

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    For some of us, yes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-Hickey/30117548 Patrick Hickey

    Right, see, the fact that you call them “our” churches means that they’ve already GOT you.  You’re not a constituency anyone needs to court.

    Its all the young people who could be joining evangelical churches, but who aren’t, who are at issue.

    And its not clear why they should bother joining up and bringing about change from the inside, when they could just go off and do their own thing from the very start.  Churches aren’t like political parties.  If the current ones don’t satisfy you, there’s no reason you can’t just go make a new one.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Its all the young people who could be joining evangelical churches, but who aren’t, who are at issue
     
    I thought it was more about people “leaving the church in droves and not coming back”. Which implies that they were there to begin with.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, but that also implies that they didn’t identify as members of the church, so much as they went because Mommy and Daddy wanted them to go.

    They’re not sticking around, because the church repels them.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Yes, but that also implies that they didn’t identify as members of the
    church, so much as they went because Mommy and Daddy wanted them to go.

    They’re not sticking around, because the church repels them.

    *raises hand*

    I identified as a member of my first church.
    I didn’t stick around, because my church repelled me.
    I almost didn’t come back to a church at all.

    …how am I not part of this demographic?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NR2MMC4EJXJWJMLH6IF457XL64 Alex B

    Pews? Really? Only for a couple of already well established denominations.  It’s possible that the new church would prefer them, but for most “new” denominations, foldable/stackable chairs will do just fine.

  • Pmpope68

    Just a word to the wise as churches consider seating choices.  For some elderly, they find getting up out of folding chairs difficult as they need something to hold onto as they sit down and stand up.  This isn’t to say that we should not do chairs, but it would be nice to consider those who may find it difficult from a physical perspective.  There are older folks who would worship at certain churches but find much about the physical location that is just challenging for them.  Plus, no church will remain forever young, so it’s wise to consider more than just one demographic.  Otherwise, we slip into what the establishment is already doing–ministering just to their special group.  

  • Lori

    My elderly parents have as much trouble with the fixed space between pews as they do getting up without something to grab, so pews aren’t exactly a perfect solution to the problems of mobility for the aging.

  • Pmpope68

    Actually, it does help some people.  I have an aunt that would like to visit a particular church that has folding chairs, but only goes when her daughter is in town so that she has someone to help her up as she hip problems.  She finds pews easier for that very reason.  My bigger point is that we need to remember the elderly as we configure our buildings.  To your point, there’s no one size fits all, but to forget them altogether is not good either.  

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Also –
     
    Right, see, the fact that you call them “our” churches means that they’ve already GOT you.  You’re not a constituency anyone needs to court.
     
    I’m calling it “my” church because I grew up there. That doesn’t mean they can claim my undying allegiance even if they continue to piss me off.
     
    I’m a Christian – that’s pretty undisputable. Being a churchgoing Christian is a lot more uncertain.

  • Anonymous

    Political parties should be easier to start up than churches.  The problem is we’ve got first-past-the-post instead of the alternative voting system, and that tends to prune away any third parties rather quickly.

  • We Must Dissent

    I suppose I should explain my background concerning Evangelical churches.

    I was raised in an conservative, Baptist, culturally predominantly German church. When I was in junior high, my family switched to another Evangelical church that does its best to be a megachurch, though local demographics constrain it. I attended that church into my mid twenties before I could no longer make the effort to attend services somewhere where I was clearly not wanted, at least not as I was and am.

    The list of things that would have to change for me to feel comfortable there include:
    – sexism
    – homophobia
    – racism
    – classism
    – anti-intellectualism
    – the assumption of political conservatism
    – the assumption that everyone wants to get married in their early twenties
    – the assumption that after getting married in their early twenties, everyone wants to breed
    – that to be involved in the leadership of the church, you must be married and breeding, or have already done so
    – sex-negativism
    – pretending that no good churchgoer drinks
    – or smokes
    – or dances
    – or sees R-rated movies
    – or likes popular music
    – or anything about popular culture at all

    That’s just what I came up with off the top of my head. Changing even half of that is way more trouble than would be worth it, in my opinion.

    If your list of things is much shorter and the benefits you derive from attending much greater than what I got, I can intellectually imagine it might be worth the fight. However, I cannot understand it emotionally, it is so far beyond my experience.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    See, the portion of that list that I’ve experienced would be:
    – homophobia
    – anti-intellectualism
    – the assumption of political conservatism
    – the assumption that everyone wants to get married in their early twenties
    – the assumption that after getting married in their early twenties, everyone wants to breed
    – or sees R-rated movies
    So, yeah, my churchgoing experiences have probably been less problematic than yours.
     
    If your list of things is much shorter and the benefits you derive from attending much greater than what I got, I can intellectually imagine it might be worth the fight. However, I cannot understand it emotionally, it is so far beyond my experience.
     
    *nods* I get that.

  • vsm

    Looking at it from a strictly political POV, changing some of the more right-wing churches from the inside could make life a lot easier for millions of people, and not just in the US.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I’m not a part of any church.  The abstractions of that nature that I’m most familiar with are things like my state (Maine) and my country (The USA.)

    Given the option to start a new state or country or reform the existing one, I’d rather reform.  It’s not because the new one would have fewer resources at it’s disposal or anything like that.  Even if we could split off without the loss of any privilege I’d still prefer reform of the whole to splintering.

    Part of this is just identity, I am a Mainer, enough so that the “er” in word that is replaced with a sort of “ah” sound when I say it.  I am a US citizen.  Why the hell should I change that -why should I change part of my identity- because someone else is wrong?  If they’re wrong, they should be the ones to change.

    But part of it is also the question of what happens if the people I agree with leave.  Chellie Pingree is, unfortunately, not a major force in the House of Representatives but without her the House is that much further to the right.  That hurts everyone.  That hurts people I have never met and will never meet. It hurts everyone who remains because without her voice there there’s less good.

    It also hurts the other Representatives.  Perhaps the other congresscritters, after being exposed to her views, might change their own.  They might be convinced, they might become better.

    Take her away and that can’t happen because she’s no longer involved in the US House, she’s involved in the post-Schismatic Liberal States of the North East part of what was once the US.

    To bring this back to a church, I can totally understand why people wouldn’t want to abandon their church but instead improve it simply on, “It’s my Church,” grounds.

    I can also see it on greatest good grounds.

    If you leave the problematic church then the problematic church is still there being problematic. You’ve managed to remove the dissenting voices so it might even be even more problematic than it was before.  Anyone loyal to that Church is now only hearing the problematic bits, and none of the push back, anyone coming to the established church is coming to a problematic church.  The church leaders in said problematic church are no longer being told that they’re doing it wrong, they’re no longer being exposed to members demanding that they reconsider their views.  They’re significantly less likely to improve than they were before.

    If you convert the Church then that means that it isn’t still there being problematic, it means that those who refuse to leave are no longer being exposed to problematic teachings, it means that the established Church is the non-problematic one, and the problematic one (if it exists) is the newly founded splinter group that’s currently trying to get on its feet.  It means that you’ve not just made a good church, you’ve ended a problematic one.  Two victories, one act.

    If you can make something that is bad into something that is good, that’s better than just making something good while leaving the bad around to hurt people.

    Of course, there comes a point where changing for the better is going to be impossible and the only moral thing to do is going to be to oppose, but while obvious examples come to mind (Godwinning ones even, for example: no, you’re not going to reform the Nazi party) I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules for exactly where that point is.  Some people will think it’s time to leave when others think it’s time to reform.

  • Anonymous

    You honestly expect teens and 20-somethings with no money, large-scale money-management skills, or seminarial training to start a church?

    That requires building or renting a building, finding someone who is qualified and supports your position to be your pastor, and doing about 100 other jobs.  You have to clean or hire a janitor.  You have to maintain pews (and possibly kneelers).  You have to come up with a suitably sturdy altar and lectern.  You have to find money for speakers and microphones if there are more than about 50 people in your congregation, to say nothing of all those hymnals and/or missals.  And you have to choose people among yourselves to do the day-to-day running of the church–thus preventing them from having day jobs, because running a church is a full-time duty.

    You can’t start a new denomination without TONS of money and excellent managerial skills.  A lot of millennials have neither.

  • Anonymous

    To be fair, some of those requirements go away if the new church rents space from another organization. The local Unitarian Universalists time-share the local synagogue.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, but renting ain’t cheap.  And if the building you’re renting from isn’t already a place of worship (I’ve seen this before), then you also have to rent a lot of long benches to use as pews, and the storage space to keep those pews in after services are over.

    Millennials are the no-money generation.  I’m the most successful millennial I know, and I earn about 32k/year.

  • Cathy W

    You’ve mentioned pews twice as an obstacle to starting your own congregation. Out of curiosity, is there a reason pews have to be long benches instead of, say, folding chairs (available for rental by the day, if they’re not already in your space)?

    I can see that being an issue in a more liturgical denomination – but in a more liturgical denomination, there are already organizational obstacles to starting your own congregation (e.g. “Is the bishop okay with this?”) that need to be dealt with before you start worrying about where people will sit.

  • Anonymous

    I am an ex-Catholic.  The only churches in which I have actually set foot, other than Catholic churches, were a Church of God, two Baptist churches, and a Methodist church, and all of them had pews.  (The Protestants’ pews even had holders in the back for those little cups.)

    It’s personal confirmation bias, and you’re not the first to call me out on it. :)

  • Lori

    Yes, but renting ain’t cheap.  And if the building you’re renting from isn’t already a place of worship (I’ve seen this before), then you also
    have to rent a lot of long benches to use as pews, and the storage space to keep those pews in after services are over. 

    You do realize that pews are not an actual requirement for a church service, right? It’s perfectly possible to worship God sitting on folding chairs*. If your group is small enough to fit in someone’s living room it’s perfectly possible to worship God sitting on a sofa. Even if your group is kneeling-oriented (my religious group of origin is not), you don’t actually have to have kneelers. Everyone just needs a pillow so they don’t wreck their knees.

    As I’ve mentioned before, my father is a retired minister. He sort of specialized in helping small or new congregations. The last congregation he worked for before I left home had fewer than 30 people and met in a rental space that had no pews. They did just fine and within 5 years grew to the point that they were able to build their own building. I think they have about 300 people attending there these days.  

    *I’ve also been to churches where they have chairs instead of pews as a permanent choice. To the best of my knowledge no one considers pews part of the plan of salvation.

  • Anonymous

    Mea culpa.  I’m an ex-Catholic, who remembers when a new parish rented the gym at the local elementary school, and yes, they used benches instead of the ubiquitous folding chairs.  I’ve also never been to an actual church building that didn’t have pews.

    But either way, you still have to buy or rent something for everyone to sit on during at least part of the service.  I can’t think of a single Christian denomination in which everyone stands up the whole time*.  If your congregants don’t have folding chairs, you still have to come up with some.

    * I’ve been to several Circles in which everyone was standing, but that’s more because you can’t dance around a bonfire with folding chairs in the way.

  • Lori

    But either way, you still have to buy or rent something for everyone to sit on during at least part of the service.  I can’t think of a single Christian denomination in which everyone stands up the whole time*.  If your congregants don’t have folding chairs, you still have to come up
    with some.

    Many places you can rent have chairs as part of the rental.

  • Anonymous


    Yes, but renting ain’t cheap.  And if the building you’re renting from isn’t already a place of worship (I’ve seen this before), then you also have to rent a lot of long benches to use as pews, and the storage space to keep those pews in after services are over.

    Renting is cheaper than owning, and why benches? The local UUs use folding chairs. I think the Jews we’re renting from also use folding chairs.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, come to think of it, the UU’s I meet with probably use folding chairs too.  I’m so used to EVERY church I go to having permanently-installed pews, that the realization that the local UU’s are actually repurposing their sanctuary for other, Parish/Fellowship Hall-type things has been remarkably slow in coming.

    That’s right, I’ve been attending CUUPS meetings at this church for 6 months and I just now realized that the big room we’re holding book sales and Sabbat meals in is, in fact, the sanctuary.  Confirmation bias is a weird and scary thing.

  • P J Evans

    A lot of the churches in my area have buildings housing two or three (or even more, sometimes) different congregations. (Some of the buildings are barely larger than an average house.) It can’t be more expensive to share an existing church than it would be to rent a space in a commercial building (which a number of congregations also do).

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Not that I’m planning to start a church, but if I was, I’d expect to find
    1) somewhere large enough to meet – probably a scout hall, or someone’s living room
    2) someone to run our meetings
    … anything else is fairly optional.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    (More in response to the comments than the original post.)

    So now that I’ve been, apparently, tasked with saving the world I have something I’d like to say.  Things would be a lot easier if you guys had a least provided some decent healthcare.
    It’s not the need to fix the infrastructure, and the tax code, and the schools, and the banks (good God, the banks), and campaign finance, and politics as a whole, and poverty, and hunger (which will probably be tied up with fixing poverty at least somewhat), and the environment, and various forms of bigotry (good work on several of those by the way), or the fact that child labor is now seriously back on the table, or … you know: the entire economic system in which we live, or any of a thousand other things in need of fixing that gets to me.

    It’s that I’m here reading that my generation will need to fix all this while I have untreated depression.

    My sister is with the local Occupy at the moment, she’s actually been meeting with the Mayor (so if things go badly blame her), before that she touched base with Boston, New York, and DC.  (If you look at the Barn-thing DC put up you’ll see an IWW cat painted on the side, she painted it.)  She’s currently very active in trying to change things.

    She would have been trying to make things better long before, but she was busy holding down a soul crushing job at an anti-union company.  She didn’t have a choice, she needed the healthcare.  (Right now I’m pretty sure she’s doing without at the moment and hoping for the best, that’s not a sustainable plan.)

    We aren’t exactly isolated cases.  Healthcare is a pretty major concern for a lot of us millennials.  What pisses me off isn’t so much the fact that previous generations seemed to want to party at the expense of the welfare of the country and let us clean up the mess (I say starting disdainfully at the ghost of Ronald Wilson Reagan) it’s that we were expected to clean it up while sick.

  • Anonymous

    the entire economic system in which we live, or any of a thousand other things in need of fixing that gets to me.

    That’s pinned source about why Milennials have such a positive view of socialism. They’ve been told all their lives that socialism is EVIL and capitalism is great. But they do know a great deal about capitalism, and if “socialism” means anything to them, it means “something, pretty much anything, other than that!”

  • vsm

    But they do know a great deal about capitalism, and if “socialism” means
    anything to them, it means “something, pretty much anything, other than
    that

    What a good excuse to quote some Brecht paraphrasing the Buddha:
    “Lately I saw a house. It was burning. The flame

    Licked at its roof. I went up close and observed

    That there were people still inside. I entered the doorway and called

    Out to them that the roof was ablaze, so exhorting them

    To leave at once. But those people

    Seemed in no hurry. One of them,

    While the heat was already scorching his eyebrows,

    Asked me what it was like outside, whether there was

    Another house for them, and more of this kind. Without answering

    I went out again. These people here, I thought,

    Must burn to death before they stop asking questions.

    And truly friends,

    Whoever does not yet feel such heat in the floor that he’ll gladly

    Exchange it for any other, rather than stay, to that man

    I have nothing to say.” So Gautama the Buddha.
    (full: http://whatdoesdemocracylooklike.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/bertolt-brechts-interpretation-of-the-buddhas-parable-of-the-burning-house/ )

    As a Millenial budding socialist, I can sympathize. I wouldn’t want to live in the kind of society the late Vaclav Havel spent his life fighting, but neither can I accept the increasingly right-wing and undemocratic direction all of Europe seems to be heading. Unfortunately, the continent-wide desire for any kind of change has led to right-wing populists doing really well for themselves.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    It may help too that, for the politically aware, one of the most brilliant and consistently GOOD congresscritters out there is… wait for it… a socialist.

    I mean I know for most people that’s not even a thing, but if you do pay attention to politics it’s kind of hard to ignore Bernie Sanders; and when he’s one of the few congressmen who actually seems to ‘get it’ as it were…

    I’m not saying that’s a large chunk of it or anything, but I’m sure it hasn’t hurt it any.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    That’s pinned source about why Milennials have such a positive view of socialism. They’ve been told all their lives that socialism is EVIL and capitalism is great. But they do know a great deal about capitalism, and if “socialism” means anything to them, it means “something, pretty much anything, other than that!” 

    I think it’s different here in Australia. (BTW, are Milennials different to Gen Y? Cos I thought Milennials were little kids at the moment, and the teenagers and young adults are Gen Y. But I digress)

    Here, people in their 20s grew up during almost 20 years of strong uninterrupted economic growth. They entered a workforce crying out for labour. I work in white-collar industry which is obviously much more privileged than manual labour, but in my area of work there was a solid decade of Gen Ys graduating from a basic undergrad degree and walking into a job that paid more than the average salary *for all jobs*, and getting big promotions every year. It just started to change 3 years ago, so the younger end are getting a rawer deal.

    Anyway, more generalisations but IME lots of Australian Gen Ys are much more into economic rationalism and the free market rules all those of us who entered adulthood during the ’91 recession.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I think it’s different here in Australia. (BTW, are Milennials different to Gen Y? Cos I thought Milennials were little kids at the moment, and the teenagers and young adults are Gen Y. But I digress)
    I had to look it up, apparently Millennial == Gen Y but there’s varying opinion about the boundaries.  Pew Research defines them as anyone born from 1981 to 2000, inclusive.  Multiple other sources use 1982 to 2001 inclusive.

    Some sources place a start date as early as 1976, and the end date ranges from 1995-2001.  So says very quick internet searching.

    Until I looked it up after this post I assumed I was too old to be in the millennial generation and always assumed those referring to it were talking about people younger than me.

  • Jam

    I do apologize that my boomer generation did not achieve universal healthcare.  Although, some of us have been strong advocates for it all of our lives.  I grew up hearing my father say that tying health insurance to employment was absolutely a terrible idea.  He said in the 50’s that it would keep employees from seeking better employment, run up the cost of care, and exclude too many from any sort of care at all.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Yeah, I know that people have been trying to do the right thing for ages*, though that makes the situation we’re in even more absurd:

    “How could you not see this coming?”
    “Actually we did.  60 years ago.”

    It’s not like present problems were unforeseeable, they were actually foreseen.

    * And they all deserve credit.  Not just the things that succeeded, of which there were many, but also those that failed.

    Seriously, I don’t want to underplay previous efforts especially since I know from personal experience how hard it is to be on the losing side.  It hurts, and sticking with it in spite of that is definitely something worthy of recognition.

    So have a cookie.  I believe fluffy iguana cookies are traditional.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, breaking out the fluffy iguana cookies!  I haven’t heard of them lately. Have all our new posters been told not to kill us with sheep?  If they haven’t … consider it done. You all don’t kill us with sheep now, OK?

  • c2t2

    I love you chris the cynic! WORD
     
    I want to be out at the protests, but I’ve got more medical problems and disabilities than you can shake a cane at. I can haz antidepressants and narcolepsy meds naow? Maybe some physical therapy for my back and glasses that work and A SPARKLY PURPLE PONY?

    Oh, and some kind of transportation too. To get to the protests, yes, but also to the store. I’m down to eating raw sugar and drinking soy sauce again.* 
     
    In fairness, the US does cool things every generation. The last bunch of significant things have been social-group-oriented (people of color, women, QUILTBAG folk). But they only got halfway done, and suddenly everything ELSE starts falling apart too. So instead of finishing “civil rights for all”, suddenly we’re serfs in a corporate-owned plutocracy and ALL the infrastructure is on the verge of collapse and the environment is probably irreversibly trashed.

    Bad luck, that. It’s not any one generation’s fault. We just had the rotten luck to come of age when the last few centuries’ worth of crap hit the fan. Better roll up our sleeves and do what has to be done with only a few dirty looks thrown to our elders for the amount of taxes and work they saved themselves by kicking it down the road until it fell on us.

    But wait… for some reason our steady diet of pollution and toxins is making us sick! And we can’t get healthcare without piles of money and we can’t get piles of money without jobs and we can’t get jobs because there ARE no jobs and it’s not like anyone’s going to hire a sick person.

    I wonder if we could somehow conjure up socialized healthcare in the next decade or so, and then the govt could hire us so we can get to work fixing ALL THE THINGS.

    HA! I have quite a rich fantasy life, yes?

    * Don’t worry, anyone, I always get there eventually. But untreated depression means you don’t WANT to walk 40 blocks round trip and carry groceries, especially if you’re a girl of wimpy build. At least this year doesn’t have much snow, since nobody in town ever freakin shovels their walks (grumble grumble) I hate small towns.

  • Anonymous

    She would have been trying to make things better long before, but she was busy holding down a soul crushing job at an anti-union company.  She didn’t have a choice, she needed the healthcare.

    That’s a good point.  If the 99% are fully dependent on a bad system for their very survival then they are far less likely to try and change it.  There’s just too much risk involved.  Thus, preventing things like universal healthcare benefits employers who want their empolyees to stay quiet.

    Of course, that all comes crashing down when things get so bad that anything has got to be better than what exists.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Thus, preventing things like universal healthcare benefits employers who want their empolyees to stay quiet.

    They could just as easily turn that around by saying that universal healthcare benefits businesses by allowing them to remove the expenses they spend on employee health plans from their books. They basically would get cheaper labor since they don’t have to worry about paying for all of those insurance premiums or medical expenses at any point.

    The only reason they don’t think that way is because it’s not the status quo.

  • Anonymous

    The only reason they don’t think that way is because it’s not the status quo.

    The money is going to come from somewhere.  Either businesses pay or we all do in taxes.  To my mind, it seems more likely that having control over people, which allows for the preservation of the status quo, means more to those in power than saving a few more dollars by shifting the cost of healthcare to taxpayers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    It’s that I’m here reading that my generation will need to fix all this while I have untreated depression.

    Word, Chris. Word.

    The only reason I’ve been able to get psychiatric treatment for my crippling depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia (and Asperger’s Syndrome, it turns out – wish that was being diagnosed when I was a child) is because of my kidney disease putting me on SSD, Medicare, and Medicaid.

    But since I received a kidney transplant, the SSA decided that meant I could work. I’m currently in the lengthy reconsideration process for psychiatric disability, because right now with medication and therapy I can almost function day to day, so long as I avoid panic attack triggers. I can’t work, and if I can’t get psychiatric disability and continue my treatment I won’t be able to function at all… or pay for the anti-rejection medications that help me Not Die.

    So I’m one of the lucky ones, thanks to Richard Nixon expanding socialized healthcare and so promoting the general welfare. (I think I read that phrase somewhere.) According to the modern Republican party, I would better die, and decrease government “waste.”

  • Anonymous

    Speaking for myself, I’m a millennial, and growing up Jehovah’s Witness burned any desire for organized religion out of me. However, I do understand the pull to want to believe something bigger, and more importantly the pull to *do* something bigger. That’s the key. 

    Modern evangelicalism isn’t about actually doing anything, it’s just about avoiding the right books, movies, and people. And maybe trudging down to the Christian Junk for Jesus store in the mall to get a new Teen Study Walk With Christ Bible Study Guide. 

    Kids want to be heroes, they want to make a difference, they want to know their lives matter. That’s what we’re seeing stirrings of in the Occupy movement. And that’s why kids aren’t staying in the church. They don’t want Jesus versions of their media like Lady Gaga and Skyrim. They want go plant a community garden, or volunteer to build a home for a homeless family, and then afterwards relax by listening to her or playing that game. 

    Going back to the numbers, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ numbers are dying, they’re pretty much dead in the water in America. There is no next generation, as for my congregation, a lot of kids like me just left or wandered away, but far too many got messed up in drugs, pregnant at 16, or both. Kids have to know they have a future, they can’t be told that church is just God’s waiting room, and the entire point of life is to wait for it’s end. 

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    “Kids have to know they have a future, they can’t be told that church is
    just God’s waiting room, and the entire point of life is to wait for
    it’s end.” -Jessica_R

    This.  Especially the bit about life being God’s waiting room – that phrase is something I have needed to crystallize the idea for a problem I have had for a long, long time.

    Supposedly the gospel is intended to be a message of hope – but the way it comes out so often it’s anti-hope.  I mean literally the very opposite of “you have a reason to believe life can improve”.

    Instead between all the evils of the world, real and imagined, and the fact that this new and fabulous life awaits you when you die, and how we’re supposed to basically just wait for the whole world to die… what better recipe is there to see absolute futility in life?

    I mean, I’ve mentioned before how I wish I could believe in a higher power – the prospect of life after death would be comforting to me by itself;  however the way I was raised with the view was that life was painful, crappy, and that there was no hope for anything, it’s all doomed and anyway it will all burn soon and we’ll go off to a magical world of not-suck.

    That is not a recipe for a life well lived – it’s a recipe for despair or sadism and self righteousness – depending on how you want to look at things.

    I’ll stop ranting before I really get going but, thank you Jessica_R.  You just gave me words for something I’ve not had them for – that’s important.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CE6FTHLHRMXUGOOGCMG3ROXBH4 David

    Modern evangelicalism isn’t about actually doing anything, it’s just about avoiding the right books, movies, and people. And maybe trudging down to the Christian Junk for Jesus store in the mall to get a new Teen Study Walk With Christ Bible Study Guide. 

    The most materialistic asceticism ever.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Just to give some background info on where I’m coming from…
     
    I’ve grown up in the church, and been part of two over the course of my life. I went to my first church for the first 25 years of my life. It was as much “mine” as something could be.
     
    And, for a lot of us, we’d be told over and over “Yes, you’re really part of this church! Just as much as us old fogies!”, but when we took this seriously and started trying to make tentative suggestions for things that could be done in the service, we’d
    a) be told to go to “our” services (the late evening, youthy ones) and do things there, rather than disrupting the others
    b) when we pointed out that we were actually attending the earlier, non-youthy services and wanted to be part of them, be told that we should be attending the later services instead
    c) when we tried offering suggestions for the later, youthy services, be dismissed as not being old enough to understand
    d) when we kept on suggesting things despite being fobbed off, be dismissed with a sneering “well, if you don’t like it, go start your own service”.
     
    This is not just me; several of my friends at nearby churches had the same experience.
     
     
    Bottom line? I consider my church to be, in part, mine; I want to help shape it along with the older church members; I get really irritated at being told I should just start a new church instead.

  • ako

    This is very informative.  We’re coming from very different places with regards to religion and church, so it wasn’t obvious to me why you’d prefer reforming the church to going somewhere else, but now that you’ve explained, I can see where you’re coming from and why you feel the way you do.  Thank you.

  • P J Evans

     I’d have had a hard time not telling the old fogies who clearly were running that church that they wouldn’t have a problem with young people leaving if they didn’t treat them like ignorant children even while they (the old fogies) were asking for opinions on improving things.

    But I went to a church which, at the time I attended, didn’t treat those under 25 as people to exclude from everything. That was before everyone had a separate ‘ministry’ to belong to; that, to me, is one of the bad ideas, because it separates people from the church as a whole.

  • Elizabby

    d) when we kept on suggesting things despite being fobbed off, be dismissed with a sneering “well, if you don’t like it, go start your own service”.
     
    This is not just me; several of my friends at nearby churches had the same experience.
     

    Yup – I’m one of them, and we did. We got sick of the stubborn refusal to change – I was on the board of elders (the highest lay part of my church) and even then I couldn’t change anything. The vicar had the final say over everything.

    So we set off and started our own church. I think this worked well for everyone, to say the truth. It suited us that we could now do things our own way. It suited the church we left that we were no longer making waves and *they* could do things their own way.

    It was rough at first, and we were dirt poor of course and had to rent space from other institutions, but we’ve now been going 12 years and have the sort of diverse congregation I had always hoped for (including atheists, agnostics, cross dressers and a de facto gay couple – there are probably more that I’m not aware of) and we do the kinds of socially involved things I had always hoped we would do.

    I’m sorry to say it, but although 12 years is a long time to get established in our own style, it would have been longer and harder to do so within the framework of our old church (which is still exactly the same as when we left, as far as I know).

    We’re still part of our denomination – we aren’t total wild cards, just to make that clear!

  • Anonymous

    As frustrating as it may be, you might have to just wait the older generation out.  At some point, they will get too old and tired to be the main governing body of your church.  After your generation starts to actually make the changes you’ve longed for for decades (this is going to take a long time), a lot of the older members will bicker and resist you.  Many of them may actually leave.  However, perseverance is the only way that I imagine a change taking place.  Remember, you and your friends have time on your side.

  • Anonymous

    As health and lifespan improve, “wait until they grow old and retire” is less and less effective. A lot of the world’s most powerful people are in their 80s or 90s.

  • Shibui

    Interesting to know I (a member of the “older” generation) am being waited out!  In the waiting, note that you may well become the “older” generation to whatever nicknamed generation follows you, and they will be complaining about you.

    Is there not some way we can blend our generational “layers” better?  I am eager for that!

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    I guess this is the wrong place for me to add that I hope the Millennials DO change the world, but I hope they DO do it outside the church.  This is part of that old issue of Slacktivist joining Patheos, I guess, but I don’t have any vested stock in Millennials sticking with Christianity.  I think they won’t.  I think that is a good thing.  I’m not trying to be contrarian or anything– I see how there could be a benefit to a socially progressive faith-based community…I just think a socially progressive secular community is better.  & no, those don’t HAVE to be mutually exclusive, but I think it would be fine if they were.  Preferable, even.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    I’m rather hoping that Millennials will change the world from outside the church AND from inside the church…

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Which is fine– like I said, I understand that they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I just see it as an unnecessary step, but I’m not trying to step on anybodies toes. The Millennials are welcome to do what they want; I just take comfort in the fact that it seems that what they want is to…not bother with religion. If they do, though, they are welcome to it– a nuanced non-fundamentalist & socially progressive attitude is a good place to start.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I see how there could be a benefit to a socially progressive faith-based community…I just think a socially progressive secular community is better. & no, those don’t HAVE to be mutually exclusive, but I think it would be fine if they were. Preferable, even.

    Why is it preferable for us to be forced to choose between our faith and our progressive world view? I can’t begin to imagine how I’d make that choice – which part of my essential being should I discard?

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Oh, don’t stuff words in my mouth! We’re talking about Millenials who are already leaving the church, & how to draw them back/stoploss them from leaving. I say, bon voyage! Or really, I say welcome! I’m perfectly content with pluralism, but that being said, I’m rooting for people to– of their own free will– abandon their mythologies. & like I said, I’m not trying to be a jerk here. I just guess my point is that I don’t share the axioms of this conversation.

  • Shibui

    Consider that “abandoning mythologies” doesn’t reject untruths but discard the stories that carry truths too large to be expressed in anything else.  Problem comes when someone decides the myth is the truth!!  What a loss then.  The real truth is not explored.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    I agree with you here, for sure. If you want to read Genesis & Revelations along side Aesop, I’m fine with that. Encoding ethics lessons in literature is a time honored tradition.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    First a minor question for clarification

    We’re talking about Millenials who are already leaving the church

    This is true.  You seem to be conflating that with them leaving religion.  Would you agree that you are treating the two things as one?

    If you would, why are you doing that?  If you disagree that you are treating the two as a single thing, could you explain how you made the jump from people leaving the church to what you refer to as abandoning their mythologies?  Churches are not mythical, I think you would agree.

    Oh, don’t stuff words in my mouth!

    You said that it is preferable that two things be mutually exclusive.  Sgt. Pepper didn’t make that up.  There was no stuffing words in your mouth.  You said that you would prefer if the two things were mutually exclusive.  Mutually exclusive means that you are forced to choose.  You said that was preferable.  Your exact words were:

    no, those don’t HAVE to be mutually exclusive, but I think it would be fine if they were. Preferable, even.

    Asking, “Why is it preferable for us to be forced to choose…” isn’t stuffing words in your mouth.  You said you would you said it would be preferable if people were forced to make that choice.  You said it in a more spread out way, of course.  First you said that you know people don’t have to make that choice, then you said you thought it would be fine if they did, then, finally, you said it would be preferable if they did.

    If you meant what you said, that’s fine.  You’re entitled to your beliefs.  What’s not fine is claiming you didn’t say it in the first place when you did.

    If you did mean to say it, don’t claim that someone is stuffing words into your mouth by responding as if you meant what you wrote.  If you didn’t mean to say it, then say so.  Say, “Sorry, I didn’t meant to say that.”  People write things they didn’t mean to write all the time, it’s not a problem so long as they correct themselves when they are called on it.

    What you’re doing now, claiming that someone else stuffing words into your mouth in an attempt to deny you said what you said, is not cool.  It’s not civil.  It’s not nice.  It’s rude, it’s disingenuous, and it stinks of bad faith.  If you’re not trying to act in bad faith, you might want to do something about the odor.

    Extremely short version:

    You said it would be preferable if two things were mutually exclusive.  When things are mutually exclusive it forces anyone who wants both to choose between them.  When someone asked why it would be preferable if such people were forced to make that choice, you accused that person of stuffing words in your mouth.

    That makes it look like you are acting in bad faith.  If you’re not, perhaps some explanation beyond, “Oh, don’t stuff words in my mouth!” is in order.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Oh man, I exactly didn’t want this to become some huge debate– it was more a comment on Slacktivist on Patheos than it was a comment about religion. I guess that is what I get for opening my big mouth. Okay then! Lets play the defensive game! What I meant by my statement– that I realize the two things aren’t mutually exclusive but that I would like them to be– wasn’t that I wished people were forced to join or die, forced to pick one or the other. As I stated, I realized that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. That being said, I think that religion & churches are less-than-optimal social institutions, even at their best. Which isn’t an argument I’m looking to get into, but is the crux of my statements about wishing the things to be exclusive. Not that I want to take away people’s right to choose, but rather than I hope they choose the way I think is more correct.

    On the subject of bad faith, I might argue that taking someones words & trying really hard to distort them, while peppering your own reply with perjorative terms & thinly veiled insults– if you count it as a veil– is much more in bad faith. I would argue that jumping down someone’s throat that you disagree with– & ignoring comments made in the interest of clarification– isn’t really participating in a conversation either. I’m not seeking a debate, I’m not looking to call someone stinky, I’m not looking to take a semantic stance. If you want to gloss over statements like “The Millennials are welcome to do what they want; I just take comfort in the fact that it seems that what they want is to…not bother with religion. If they do, though, they are welcome to it,” or “I’m perfectly content with pluralism, but that being said, I’m rooting for people to– of their own free will– abandon their mythologies,” then fine. I’m obviously not advocating for some fascist oppression.

    Sigh.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic


    What I meant by my statement– that I realize the two things aren’t mutually exclusive but that I would like them to be– wasn’t that I wished people were forced to join or die, forced to pick one or the other.

    There’s a problem right there.  If things are mutually exclusive then people are forced to pick.  They can have one, the other, possibly neither, but not both.

    If you mean what you are saying now, as opposed to what you were saying before, then you owe Sgt. Pepper an apology because the problem isn’t that Sgt. Pepper stuffed words into your mouth, the problem is that you said something you didn’t mean and Sgt. Pepper took you at your word.

    Sgt. Pepper responded to what you said, not what you meant in your heart of hearts.  Being hostile to people because they could not read your mind is not an acceptable way to behave.

    I might argue that taking someones words & trying really hard to distort them

    I didn’t have to try to distort anything.  You said that you’d prefer two things be mutually exclusive, that means that people who wanted both would be forced to choose between them.  That’s not a distortion, that’s what the words mean.

    When someone, not me, asked why people should be forced you didn’t respond by saying that you hadn’t meant to say that.  (Which is what you now appear to be saying if in a very circumlocutory manner.)  You responded with, “Oh, don’t stuff words in my mouth!”  So I looked at what that person said, I looked at what you said, and the obvious conclusion was that that person wasn’t stuffing words in your mouth.

    Your response to that person was hostile and uncalled for.  I have, in fact, looked through what you’ve said, and I don’t see any clarifications, as near as I can tell you stand by your exclamation of, “Oh, don’t stuff words in my mouth!”

    All evidence I can see says that you’re still saying Sgt. Pepper was doing something wrong for assuming you meant what you said.

    I’m obviously not advocating for some fascist oppression.

    I never said you were.  What I said is that pretending someone else is in the wrong for assuming that you actually meant what you said seems* like bad faith.

    It’s not as if I didn’t notice that your words were contradictory, that was the point of the majority of my post.  When you acted as though Sgt. Pepper had stuffed words into your mouth instead of admitting to what you had actually said it was dishonest.

    That said, I think it is worth noting that people who say something would be preferable are not always advocating for what would be necessary to achieve that in the real world, so even if you had meant what you said it would not indicate you were advocating for oppression.

    For example, I think it would be preferable if people in the US stopped supporting the Republican Party right now.  I’m not advocating for mass mind control, even though that is what it would take to achieve that end on that timescale. (Or, I guess, mass murder, which I also do not support.)  To say that a thing would be preferable is not the same as supporting the means that would be necessary to cause that thing to happen.

    If you had really meant what you originally said, I wouldn’t assume that you were supporting the idea of jackbooted thugs forcing it to become a reality.

    That’s also another reason why I didn’t touch on things you said after the “Oh, don’t stuff words in my mouth!” comment.  The main reason was that I was responding to the comment itself, and the only thing after it that would have mattered in that context was something referring back to it.  A secondary reason is that it’s not contradictory to say that you think it would be preferable if two things were mutually exclusive but to also be against the means of making it that way.

    To say that the millennials are free to do what they want, or that you’re for pluralism in the here and now, doesn’t necessarily contradict the idea that you think something else would be preferable.

    You imply that fascist oppression would be necessary to make those things mutually exclusive.  You’re probably right.  That doesn’t mean that someone who thinks things would be better if they were supports fascist oppression.  It is possible to think that something would be preferable to the way things actually are without being willing to support any of the means that would be necessary to get there.

    Finally, I’m not trying to veil anything.  I think your response to Sgt. Pepper was loathsome.  There is no pejorative I could use that would be worse than that except perhaps “rude” or “uncivil”, and I’ve already used those ones or near enough.

    * I used two different words of sensing referring to that seeming.  I’m curious why to decided to choose one and not the other.  If you’re so willing to jump from me saying that your actions smell like bad faith to the response, “I’m not looking to call someone stinky,” why did me saying that they look like bad faith not get the response, “I’m not looking to call someone ugly”?  How do you choose which words to take out of context?

  • Emcee, cubed

    A couple of quick comments, and any responses to which I won’t be able to respond back to for about 9 hours at minimum, as I have to run to work, and may go crashing into sleep after that.

    To all those people saying “start your own church.” Have you ever actually started a church? My mother has. She began a UU church in rural western Pennsylvania. It has been around now for over a decade. They are still in a temporary building, and attendance runs to about 15-20 every week. Mom still does about 15-20 services a year herself. Things are tough, they don’t have nearly the money to do the things they want to, and the rest of the local religious community barely acknowledges that they exist. And this is with having the full support of the national organization. So it isn’t as easy as just “start your own”. Since I doubt the larger organization would support some of these people in breaking off on their own, it would be even harder.

    Also, Fred is saying that Millennials are leaving the church in droves, not religion. I know it is easy to think of the two as being the same, but they aren’t. Many people consider themselves Christians, but don’t belong to a church. Maybe if the church reflected how they think of their religion, they wouldn’t be leaving.

  • http://maco.myopenid.com/ maco

    I was told by my old babysitter that she’s become a UU and was surprised to learn *just how many* UU churches there are in Western PA. She said they’re all over, all the way from Pittsburgh to Erie, and you wouldn’t expect it with Pittsburgh’s very heavy Catholic presence. I suppose a lot of the UUs in the area are recovered Catholics though. Hmm I should suggest UUs to my brother. Lack of singing was his only issue with Quakers (my chosen faith group).

  • Anonymous

    Speaking of churches … gotta like this Catholic Church’s sense of humor.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think those are real. The pictures all look exactly the same except for the text.

  • Anonymous

    OK … well, I like whoever came up with that exchange’s sense of humor!

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    You were Prism? Really? Thanks for being a bit of a rock at that time.

  • Anonymous

    We Millenials should save the world!  Great, how?

    No, seriously, how? 

    I can’t convince my in-laws that universal healthcare would be awesome.  Statistics, figures, facts, emotional appeals, anecdotes, and comparisons have been among the things I’ve tried.  Guess what?  They still don’t care because THEIR healthcare is great, and I work in a private hospital as an X-ray tech and it works just fine.  And what about all those people coming down from Canada, huh?That’s just one issue.Millenials have the numbers the Gen-Xers never did.  What we don’t have is power, money, health, and a meat-space community.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking as part of the vanguard of the Millennial Generation, a better question would be: why?

    Judging from the cyclical nature of generational cohorts outlined in Generations, even if we did somehow fix everything with apparently no help whatsoever, I don’t trust the next two generations not to run everything we will have worked, fought and bled for into the ground, burn the remains and piss on the ashes the way the Silent and Boomer Generations did with the GI Generation’s legacy.  So if we’re going to even go through the trouble, I for one would want some assurances that those who follow will show enough gratitude to not cock everything up.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t trust the next two generations not to run everything we will
    have worked, fought and bled for into the ground, burn the remains and
    piss on the ashes the way the Silent and Boomer Generations did with the
    GI Generation’s legacy.

    It’s time for another edition of “It’s more complicated than that.” Some of what the Silents (among them Dr. King, a bunch of freedom riders, Gloria Steinem, etc.) and Boomers were pissing on was that portion of the GI legacy that involved keeping African Americans “in their place,” defending the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, and pushing women back out of the workforce so that the returning GI males could have jobs without competition from Rosie the Riveter.

    Very simply, no generation has been, as far as I know, unremittingly good or unremittingly evil. Every generation has tried to solve the problems it has been faced with, and, in the course of doing that, has created new ones, often ones that the previous generation didn’t foresee or perhaps couldn’t foresee (“car in every garage” sounded pretty good, back in the day).

  • Anonymous

    Those reformers were simply trying to open up the “GI legacy” to everybody and not just white Protestant males.  What I’m talking about is (mostly) Republicans of those two generations abusing and subsequently dismantling the New Deal, with the former acting out of me-tooism and the latter due to a lack of experience with economic disaster and not understanding or appreciating that safeguards are there for a reason.

  • Anonymous

    Those reformers were simply trying to open up the “GI legacy” to everybody and not just white Protestant males.

    If, by the “GI legacy,” you mean the special government help that returning GIs got and the programs that were put in place to open up opportunities for education and employment for the GI generation, those were actually put in place by an earlier generation, the one that was in power during WWII and somewhat thereafter. The GIs who came home didn’t have the power (yet) to enact the GI bill. I forget whether Strauss and Howe consider that was done by the generation they call the Progressives or the one they call the Missionaries.

    Nothing against the GI generation–they did the “job of their youth,” which was winning a war. But one of the results of being formed to a great degree by the experience of war and the concomitant militarization is that people get used to taking a more authoritarian perspective. “The guys at the top are obviously pretty competent, or they wouldn’t be there. We should recognize that they know better than we do.” It sometimes takes a generation that has the breathing space and is perhaps a bit spoiled (Boomers and late silents, forgive me) in relative terms, to step back and say, “Hey, y’know all this stuff you’re saying about how great we are and how awful our current enemy is? It isn’t true. How about living up to your promises?”

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    I don’t understand why we assume that the next generation is gonna do a better job than the last one. Those baby boomers that lost their way? The ones bragging about their old hippy days? Tell them they need to get off their asses…

  • FangsFirst

    I didn’t even know my generation had that as a name. In fact I thought that was a generation later than me somehow…

    I don’t know what will come of us, but it sure won’t come from me. I don’t even understand how to maneouvre through this ridiculous ‘ladder’ of employment, so I continue to perpetually work retail despite constantly being told how smart and capable and occupationally-attractive I am. If I would just go and waste a bunch of money and time on school that I can’t deal with for shuttling me into unrelated fields and nonsensical elements.

    Also, ring up #3 for depression amongst the ‘millennials’ responding. Getting into a mindless job with more strict rules and somewhat more open management has oddly brought me back from the “cannot go out” sort of crippling kind, so I at least have that to be thankful for.

    Then again, being paid less than $9 an hour to do computer repair/network setup was kind of insane, in addition to stressful. I still can’t fathom why any of us lack enough self-respect to accept that. Me included. Just kinda destroyed any sense of hope or sense of, well, sense in the way the world is currently working. How can that job be offered–at a nationwide company, no less–and be accepted by anyone competent enough to do it at that pay rate? Unless that skill set is that devalued, of course.

    I don’t get this at all. I’m going to have to file for the failure side of this generation. Sorry, folks.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Millennials, etc.

    Frankly, it does come down to them – partly (see below). I’m past the age where you have fire in your guts and the burning drive to do something about the world. I was born in the 1970s and I’m now approaching middle age. It doesn’t help that physically, as you get older, you lose some of your energy as well. I can’t stay up for 20+ hours at a stretch any more without it causing problems for me.

    There are too many other Gen Y-ers like me who’ve devoured all the 1990s-era writings by the likes of James Galbraith, Murray Dobbin, Paul Krugman, Molly Ivins and David Korten, and we long ago spent all that fire trying vainly to push against the triumphalist tide of the immediate post-Cold War all-glory-to-capitalism consensus. I didn’t do much, myself, but I talked of my thoughts on the world to those around me. Some of them agreed; others said I was being ridiculous. Too many others.

    The one thing my generation can provide is money. We’re slowly cracking the decent-paying jobs and we’re willing to toss a few bucks in the can if we’re asked. Keep that in mind – militancy doesn’t put coffee in your hand or a donut for lunch. But money alone doesn’t move change in the world.

    The two need to work together. Get the older generations behind the Millennials and the world will change. :)

  • Clif Hiker

    sounds a lot like what we’re doing in schools too… “Professional Learning Communities” is the big new thing that is supposed to transform the culture of a school, and make us all better teachers, and the kids better learners (and behavers)… and yet when reading your descriptions above I was reminded exactly of the meetings I’ve attended… “lets effect change without actually changing anything…”

  • Anonymous

    I think I need to throw in my past church experience, here.  Warning:  really long comment ahead!

    I was raised Catholic in Alabama. I also went to a tiny (largest enrollment number for K-12 was 205 students) private school run out of the local Church of God, because the local public schools were just that horrible.

    Before age 8 or so, I honestly believed that everyone in the world was Christian, because I’d never encountered anything else.  I knew more hymns than anyone else my age, because I had both the Catholic hymnals and the songs at school to draw from.  (I don’t know of too many people who know “Behold the Lamb,” “Only a Shadow,” “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” AND “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling.”)  I loved CCD (Catholic Sunday School), because it was full of stories from the Bible and talks about how to be a good Christian.  I hated Mass because it bored me to death and didn’t seem to bear any relation to what I’d experienced in CCD or school Bible class.

    At 7, I got a copy of Bulfinch’s Mythology from a second cousin of mine.  I got to see how other people had different wonderful stories, and rapidly developed an appreciation for all myths, and an all-consuming need to read and hear more.  But I still considered myself a Christian, because after all, nobody worshiped those other gods anymore because Jesus was so obviously better.

    Then things changed.  I started noticing that students got in trouble at school for singing songs at recess that they’d heard on the radio.  Some of the songs we sang in Bible class started talking about converting other people.  Some of these songs implied that people who worshiped other gods had demons in them.  There were presentations involving videos by Mike Warnke and the Answers in Genesis crew.  I first learned that gay people existed, and that they got AIDS. I learned about these things in the same sentence when I was 9.  Gay people were never mentioned again in any other context until I was about 14.

    I’d picked up a lot of stuff about recycling and helping the environment from watching Captain Planet, and I felt that helping the Earth was important.  But none of that was mentioned at church or school.  Because I didn’t think there were any other options besides Catholic (which didn’t fit me very well and still bored me to tears), Protestant (which was already squicking me out A LOT thanks to that private school), and atheist (which I knew I wasn’t), I got confirmed.

    By this time, the private school had lost its accreditation, and my CCD/PSR classes REALLY started to go downhill.

    You see, they figured that since we were confirmed, they had us for life no matter what.  So they spent the entire hour of PSR, every week for 4 years, telling us about how evil abortion and birth control were, and that every sex act that does not put a man’s semen into his wife’s vagina is a direct affront to God.  This sudden emphasis on sex to the exclusion of all else made me very uncomfortable, and I started seeing just how toxic and anti-Jesus my upbringing had actually been.

    Living with an extremely authoritarian father had made me uncomfortable with speaking out and trying to change things from the inside.  So I left.  I left the Catholic Church, I left Christianity, and I found a religion that fits my beliefs and desired practices better.  I am a proud Wiccan.

    But just because I’m no longer Christian doesn’t mean I don’t want Christian churches to be better.  I don’t want kids to grow up with the toxic viewpoints I was exposed to–viewpoints that have nothing to do with any basic tenet of Christianity and only serve as tools for Othering people.  Reforming churches means improving the lives of every Christian I know, and preventing non-Christians from feeling shut out.  That can only be a good thing. :)

  • Dave Lartigue

    “Millennials are leaving the church in droves and not coming back.”

    “They might actually have a shot at changing the world.”

    Maybe that’s what they’re doing.

  • Anonymous

    (BTW, are Milennials different to Gen Y? Cos I thought Milennials were little kids at the moment, and the teenagers and young adults are Gen Y. But I digress)

    I’d also consider myself and my siblings to be Gen Y (born 1985-91, for reference) rather than Millenial.  For comparison purposes: I just scraped across the edge of the recession as I shuffled from university into my current job three and a bit years ago, with options definitely limited by the economic situation.

    Either way or anyway, we’re all completely stuffed if the situation doesn’t improve.  This is one of those all-hands-on-deck times.  Does it really matter which generation does what?  If we don’t all pitch in as hard as we can things might not get better.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    So, I note a number of UUs and UU affiliates here – Unitarian Universalism is one of the few denominations/religions actually growing (or so I’ve been told), because one of the places Gen Xers and Millenials (those need pinning down and defining – am I a Gen X, or a Gen Y? 1976) end up, because they are leaving churches, not religion. But, watching my own congregation, I see that we are also having a hard time keeping our own youth. The thing that Deird said resonates – the youth ran a service last year (or the year before?) that I found profoundly moving and pertinent to where I was at the moment – but some of the people in the service complained that the service was unpleasant (I think the objection was to the use of a song referencing suicide). Later youth services were very sparsely attended. The youth have their own space in the church building, and are rarely seen outside of it; partly by choice, but partly because when they leave the youth room they get squashed for being youth – exuberant and messy and such.

    On the other hand, this is currently floating around the facebooks of our congregants:

    Look at my minister. Now look at yours. Now look back at mine. Now look back at yours. Sadly, this is not your minister. But if he started being a UU minister instead of standing with boring poise behind the pulpit, he might be as cool as mine. Look down, back up, where are you? You are in a Sunday service celebrating Christmas, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa all in a single hour. What’s in your hand, back at my minister. He has it, it’s a microphone, and he’s laughing into it while sprawled all over a chair while imitating a child who’s bored by how uninteresting a normal service is. Look again, the microphone is now a Menorah made out of silver spoons, a 24 karat gold chalice, and a cross of DIAMONDS. Anything is possible when you have an awesome minister. I’m on a horse.

  • Shibui

    In re talking about “unpleasant” things in our church life, I strongly recommend the book Insurrection: To Believe Is Human, To Doubt Is Divine by Peter Rollins.  One of his arguments is that church as it has become is like a comforting blankie against the uncomfortable truths about life, and life as God created it.  He argues for focusing more on the crucifixion than a resurrection as a way of seeing life and the Kingdom of God as Jesus did.  It has been a powerful voice speaking to me in recent weeks.

  • http://episcotheque.wordpress.com/ Alissa @ Episcotheque

    Wowza, comments. A couple of my own thoughts as a Christ-following, churched Millennial: I think the most important thing we can do is listen to each other––and I’m seeing some of that listening happening in this comment thread. I’m an intellectually engaged and well educated person. Some of my best
    friends are gay. Some of my favorite people are atheists. None of my
    favorite films and few of my favorite musicians are explicitly
    Christian. I’m a fan of red wine. And I’m a deeply committed Christian.

    I’m sort of an oddball in the world of Millennial stereotypes. I’m a (new) member of a mainline denom (TEC). The services at my parish aren’t “young” or “contemporary.” We have an excellent organist/music director, so we have a lot of beautiful traditional music. Our service comes straight out of the Book of Common Prayer, the current incarnation of which has been in use since 1979. I like “high church.” I don’t like the assumption that all Millennials want is happy-clappy church with hipster-cool pastors. I want a deeply engaged church with messed up people and holy, broken leaders. For me, it’s TEC.

    I think the Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde, newly installed bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, articulates my thoughts in her Washington Post interview. When asked why TEC matters, she replied, “The complete answer…is I don’t know if it matters. Does
    God really care? But then I realize that I really care. And I think of
    all the people in my world who also really care. I wouldn’t be a
    Christian without them”

  • Anonymous

    “It’s that I’m here reading that my generation will need to fix all this while I have untreated depression.”

    ” What pisses me off isn’t so much the fact that previous generations
    seemed to want to party at the expense of the welfare of the country and
    let us clean up the mess (I say staring disdainfully at the ghost of
    Ronald Wilson Reagan) it’s that we were expected to clean it up while sick.”

    Which is exactly why so many despair of the Millennials changing the world – your priority isn’t changing the world, it’s getting something for yourself.  Somehow, the world has changed radically without the preconditions you insist one… So the problems aren’t in your stars Horatio, it’s in yourself.  Grow up and get over yourself.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic


    Which is exactly why so many despair of the Millennials changing the world – your priority isn’t changing the world, it’s getting something for yourself.  Somehow, the world has changed radically without the preconditions you insist one… So the problems aren’t in your stars Horatio, it’s in yourself.  Grow up and get over yourself. 

    Ok, first off, fuck you.

    Second, that line isn’t from Hamlet, it’s from Julius Caesar.  “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…” the speaker is Cassius.  Think about that for a moment, do you really want to be comparing yourself to that?

    Are you seriously asking that the millennials get together and decide that the fault “is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings”?  Because if you’re asking us to change our status as underlings by means of brutal murder, maybe you’re not the best person to be giving advice.

    Also I note that things didn’t work out to well for Brutus or Cassius.  Octavian took the empire, they were killed as traitors.  The republic was destroyed.

    When I say that they were killed as traitors I oversimplify somewhat.  Cassius, the person you cast yourself as, ordered his slave to kill him after losing a battle.  Brutus, in whose role you have cast me, killed himself later on also after losing a battle.  Both died in disgrace.

    So why, in hell, would I want to take that advice?

    If you’re going to glibly quote a literary reference then do it right.  Because right now, you kind of suck at it.

    Third, if you honestly think that depression is something you can grow up and get over then you know even less about that than you do about Shakespeare.  If you’re not a medical professional, perhaps you shouldn’t be giving treatment advice.  If you are a medical professional, quit now.  You took an oath to do no harm and you are failing, quite badly.

    For anyone else who might be interested, I’m somehow guessing Derek_L isn’t, I did my best to do a write up on my experience a while back, and other resources can be found around the internet, one example of a different, more hopeful, experience with depression I have encountered is at hyperbole and a half.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Second, that line isn’t from Hamlet, it’s from Julius Caesar.

    AHAHAHA. I love when someone tries to be haughty and gets the reference wrong.

    Learned Pepe, it’s pronounced learned.

  • Anonymous

    That’s a detestable myth spread by the greedy to justify their own largess.  Clearly they need not think of future generations if those generations are undeserving.  Grab what you can and leave an economically ruined, environmentally trashed world without a civil safety net.  Why should they have to sacrifice for the ungrateful bastards who just keep wanting more?  More fairness, more justice, more value as a human being?  And what’s worse, they want it to apply to everyone!  They won’t be satisfied until everyone is treated as a human being worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!  Have you ever heard of such nerve?

    The pejorative “Generation Me” has haunted us for years, but the selfishness of this generation is vastly outdone time and again by our predecessors.  It makes me sick.

    Note: That’s not to say that any generation is uniformly good or evil, benevolent or miserly.  Groups and individuals have made great strides in the past and continue the fight now.  It’s just tiresome to have the powerful pass judgment on those just now coming into their own for objecting to the powerful’s damaging mistakes.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Grow up and get over yourself.

    Yeah – how dare you wish for healthcare! When I was young, we had to manage social reforms with two broken legs, depression, measles, AND paralysis! Uphill! In the snow!

  • Anonymous

    And then you had to chop up two tons of firewood!  By yourself!  With a butter knife!! :D

  • ako

    Do you have the slightest fucking clue how horrible you sound?

    If someone was going “I’d like to help, but seeing as how I have no legs, I really need someone to get me a prosthetic or a wheelchair or something before I can go out and save the world”, would you give them a lecture about how that proved they were only interested in “getting something for yourself”?  Because it’s not any better to do that to people with mental illness. 

    What you said was utterly vile, and if you can’t see why that is, please do us all a favor and fuck right off.

  • Lori

    Which is exactly why so many despair of the Millennials changing the
    world – your priority isn’t changing the world, it’s getting something
    for yourself.  Somehow, the world has changed radically without the
    preconditions you insist one… So the problems aren’t in your stars
    Horatio, it’s in yourself.  Grow up and get over yourself. 

    Just checking—are you trying to make a point by aping an assholish stance, or are you actually this big of a jerk?

    If the former, please clarify your point. If the latter you can stuff it. (And I’m old enough to be the parent of a millennial, so no, I’m not being defensive.)

  • Caravelle

    In general, while agree statistical statements can be said about different generations, 99.9% of all I’ve ever read about what characteristic this or that generation has have been pure unsubstantiated bullshit with as much apparent thought behind them as stuff like national stereotypes do.

  • Anonymous

    Your reading comprehension needs some work there, buddy.  Why are Millennials selfish but the previous generations not?  Lets face it, the Millenials did not get us into the mess we’re currently in unless time travel is involved.

    And the mess we’re in, it makes it bloody hard for anyone to get much of anything done.  One of the big factors in that is something he mentioned in his post but which you didn’t quote – we don’t have fucking universal health care.  If we did, he might be able to get his depression treated.  If we did, I wouldn’t be trying to figure out how the flying fuck I’m supposed to deal with a nearly $9000 medical debt that I incurred while unemployed and which I can’t exactly afford to pay off at $19000 a year.  And if you tell me to get a better job, I will know you are arguing in bad faith.  Because, really.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Lets face it, the Millenials did not get us into the mess we’re currently in unless time travel is involved.

    Crap!  We’ve been discovered.  Ok, everyone we need to move fast here.

    Here’s the plan:
    Step one: Fix the time machine
    Step two: [redacted]
    Step three: Profit.

    Everyone got that?

    A side note to little Timmy: step three is not Prophet.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. I needed the laugh. :)

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    *dons jetpack*

    Ready when you are, Captain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Which is exactly why so many despair of the Millennials changing the
    world – your priority isn’t changing the world, it’s getting something
    for yourself.  Somehow, the world has changed radically without the
    preconditions you insist one… So the problems aren’t in your stars
    Horatio, it’s in yourself.  Grow up and get over yourself.

    Dear Sir,

    Kindly fuck off and learn something about mental illness, chronic physical illness, and neurodiversity. If we did not have the what little socialized health care we have, I would not be in a position to “grow up and get over [myself]” because I would be DEAD. My sister and her younger child would be DEAD.

    Thanks to what little socialized health care we have, I am alive and able to receive treatment for my mental illness, just as I do for my lifelong physical illness (end-stage renal disease).

    But apparently people being sick is no excuse for not “growing up and getting over [ourselves.” The two and a half years that I spent performing dialysis procedures on myself four times a day while struggling with mental illness, and so did not meaningfully contribute to changing the world, was clearly due to my own immaturity and lack of willingness to stick with something for as long as it took.

    Thank you so much for your wisdom. Had I simply known that all I needed to do to become an independent agent capable of affecting social change was to just grow up a little and get over my neurological disorder, end-stage renal disease, serotonin imbalance, and other ailments.

    TL;DR version: Shut the fuck up, Donny.

  • Anonymous

    Part of the difficulty with changing a conservative church comes from the conflation (which Fred has admirably expounded upon) of the social conservative talking points and The Historical Essence Of Christianity. There is an automatic and justified defensive reaction on the part of church leadership whenever you start talking about the latter, so if you are trying to convince someone about what that group should contain, it’s more difficult to get heard than the guys who want to add a drum kit and call it a “contemporary service”.

    On the organizational difficulties: Yes, this stuff costs a lot of money. My church (which rents event space instead of using a church building) spent maybe $60,000 on folding chairs, curtains, wheeled storage cabinets, sound equipment, etc. before even starting on hymnals and pulpits and whatnot, plus 15 man-hours per week of volunteer time to set up and take down.

  • Anonymous

    That’s even more money than I was thinking, but it reinforces my point: Where would people expect underpaid, underworked Millennials to come up with $60,000?  Maybe if you get several thousand of them together, but the Internet has made finding that many people in one area both easier and harder.

  • Pmpope68


    The future of attendance figures, tithes and offerings was at stake. Panic ensued.”  Bingo!
    Money talks–even in the Church.

    For what it’s worth, I’m one Baby Boomer who was in an evangelical church pushing for change including the inclusion of our younger folks as well as those not part of the ruling clique, but to little avail.  You hit this topic dead on and what I’m finding is that churches that resist are not only losing their young but Boomers also who are tired of the status quo.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    Really good conversation you have going here. I am an old guy born in 1945. I was raised as a conservative evangelical and republican in Massachusetts. I am now at the opposite end of the spectrum both theologically and politically. I spent 40 years in the ministry as youth leader then pastor of United Church of Christ churches. It took me almost all that time to figure out what I should have done with my life. No regrets, I needed every step in order to get where I am now. It is just that if I knew then what I know now I would do the following.

    1) Get a Phd in History and teach on the college level rather than become the pastor of an institutional church.

    2) See the “church” as a movement that attempts to follow Jesus rather than as an institution with pew or chairs.

    3) Be part of a small group that. like Chellis in Maine, is in recovery from Western Civilization and also from an ego-centric life.

    4) Be part of a group that meets to sing and celebrate communion/agape feast once per month.

    5) Be part of movements like OWS, MovetoAmend.org, Civil Liberties Union, Move.org , etc. to change society for the sake of the next generations.

    6)Take a processional crucifix with me into protests to signify that Jesus was crucified in public between 2 thieves and not in a sanctuary on a gilded altar between 2 candlesticks.

    7)Take communion into the streets with free bread and wine to feed the homeless and all those who hunger and thirst for justice.

    I have been retired from the professional ministry for 3 years now. I have attended churches off and on in that time and found myself unengaged by what is going on. I have given up on #1 since I no longer need to make a living with pension and SS. I have been doing #5. I am looking for folk in the West SFV part of LA county to do #2,3,6 and 7 with.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    Please bear with me as I move on from my last post that tells a bit about me, to a short take on what I discovered in 40 years of ministry. 

    1) The older folk did not sign up for church to find the things which younger generations are seeking. Therefore they see any significant change as a voiding of the covenant (spoken or not) that they made with the church. “I will give my money and time as long as I get what I joined for.”

    2) As long as we are struggling over control of an institution, we will be wasting time during which we could have been living out what we believe and want.

    3) When you try to reform and institution from the inside, you get co-opted to the status quo. You end up having to support what is along with trying to get something new. The hope is that if you give them what they want, then they will give you what you want. It is not going to happen (see #1 above)

    4) Sign up for what seems like fun to you and forego the drama. You will make more of a difference by living and celebrating what you believe rather than trying to convince others to believe something else. Those who are ready will be drawn to what you are doing that is so enjoyable to you.

    5) Do not covet the pews, organs, staff etc of institutional churches. All those things cost $$ and require investment of time in inconsequentials like 2 hour board meetings on what color to paint the restrooms.

    6) Pay attention to what Jesus did and not do about organization. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    1) The older folk did not sign up for church to find the things which younger generations are seeking. Therefore they see any significant change as a voiding of the covenant (spoken or not) that they made with the church. “I will give my money and time as long as I get what I joined for.”

    Out of curiosity, what are those older folk seeking by being members of the church?  As someone who had at best tangential exposure to such religious communities this is something I would rather ask about than make assumptions on.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    For mainline congregations and the GI generation, it was largely SS for the kids, Community for the adults and a way to be Christian without being too denominational (the ecumenical movement). For evangelicals it was SS for the kids, community of like-minded (evangelical) folk and “reaching the lost” (meaning getting folk to be “born again” and join the church)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    In addition to the things that I mentioned before that older folk signed up for when they joined the church is an unspoken but strong desire to not be made uncomfortable either physically or psychologically. This includes then a very strong preference for the familiar in music and form of worship. Since singing songs you do not like or struggling with an unfamiliar form is not exactly “suffering for Jesus” it might be wiser to let the old folks have their way in “their” church and go do something else. After wrestling with this for decades, I do not believe that the results justify the pain. There is just too little gained for so much trouble. If younger folk are just looking for a place to worship that feels comfortable to them, how are they any different than the older generation? It is just a matter of preference is it not?  If on the other hand, younger folk want to be more faithful to Jesus than they see the older folk being, they will get further by just doing it rather than trying to get permission or participation from the older folk.

  • Anonymous

    For my dad, it seems to be familiar ritual, as he’s old enough to remember the old Latin service quite well from his childhood.  I’m honestly not sure whether he believes in a historical Jesus or not, but he has said that he believes that the best moral system he’s seen is the one attributed to Jesus (granted, he stopped looking some time in his 20’s or early 30’s, before a lot of fast-growing religious movements of today really caught on) and he’s really gung-ho about going to Mass every week.

    He’s expressed dissatisfaction with various local Church authorities over the years, and he avoids “contemporary” services like the plague, so I honestly think he really does just like reciting the Nicene Creed and singing the same old hymns and listening to the same old Eucharistic Prayers that he’s heard thousands of times and knows like the back of his hand. Once he finds a parish he likes, he tends to go to the exact same Mass every week–if he chooses the 10:00 Mass, he’s not going to the 7:00 sunrise service or the 11:30 Mass, no matter what happens. Come hell or high water, he Is Going at 10:00. If he’s out of town, he’ll find the nearest Catholic church (a liberal one is tolerable, he guesses, if there simply isn’t a conservative one nearby) to make sure he attends Mass.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    Here’s a thought. How about young evangelicals or traditionals or whatever Occupy Church? It could be considered “bringing Jesus to Church” Carpenters, itinerant preachers, poor, sick, dying, outcasts (prostitutes, beggars, gays, transvestites) all those Jesus’ spent time with, ministered to and broke bread with.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

     I think it’s important to seperate out a few tangled elements in this thread.

    People are leaving their churches. That’s not exactly the same as leaving their religion, but in the long run, one does tend to lead to the other.

    Part of religion is the sense of community, of shared values and beliefs, of common rituals and language and songs. While most Western religions place an emphasis on connecting with the divine, they also value connecting with one’s own community and the people within it. It is this sense of community, this tribalism, that really helps define a religious identity. (if anyone reading this thread has moved away from their home church, to a new area where they couldn’t find a similar congregation, speak up!)

    I have given some thought to the business of starting and running a church. And by that, I literally mean the business elements involved. The costs of running a church are mostly fixed; you have a building that you either own or rent, you have chairs or pews, you have bibles and hymnals, pulpits and decorations. Those costs are the same if there are 10 people in a service, or 50. Until you hit the Feast of Maximum Occupancy, the costs are mostly fixed. Churches get income from donations, weekly tithing mostly but also larger gifts.

    Not every person in the seats will donate every week, and not every member of the church will be in the seats each week. There is a certain number of “butts in the seats” needed for each service in order to break even on costs, and even the best congregations still have people leaving. (folks do move, and some folks leave feet first) So there are basically three (non-exclusive) strategies for keeping a church running.

    The first strategy is to grow the congregation. The more people who are members of the church, the more people will show up each week. More people means more tithes, and that gets you to your break-even point.

    The second strategy is to increase membership attendence, so that more of your members show up each week. If you have no music and no childrens’ activities, you might see a 60% attendence. (60% of church members show up each week) Adding music, childrens’ activities, guest speakers, or other events all try to push up attendence.

    There’s another way to keep the church going, and it involves being more selective about your congregation. If you have 200 people that show up and tithe $10 a week, that’s one way to go, but what if you could get 50 people that would tithe $40 a week? This is the tension I think our host is seeing. Some churches will continue to shrink, seeking to attract the older, richer members who will be better able to support the church.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    The costs of running a church are mostly fixed; you have a building that you either own or rent, you have chairs or pews, you have bibles and hymnals, pulpits and decorations. Those costs are the same if there are 10 people in a service, or 50. Until you hit the Feast of Maximum Occupancy, the costs are mostly fixed.
     
    Again – for a 10-person church, I’d find the person with the largest house, and hold services in their living room.
    Most living rooms have chairs, so we wouldn’t need to buy those.
    Most Christians have their own Bibles – so they could bring them.
    For most group singalongs, you need about eight photocopies of the words – let’s call it 24 sheets of paper a week, mostly reusable the next week, unless you have a burning desire for new songs.
     
    A tiny church is difficult to start; it’s not terribly expensive – unless you’re the kind of people who see having a pulpit and “decorations” as an essential part of the whole thing.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    A tiny church is difficult to start; it’s not terribly expensive – unless you’re the kind of people who see having a pulpit and “decorations” as an essential part of the whole thing.

    I’m not a believer, but I always understood that churches were meant to be sacred spaces, places that were consecrated, an area dedicated to the spiritual versus the material. That’s the role of ‘decorations’, whether it’s a ten-foot crucifix or a mandala or censers and candelabras, to show that this space in this time is a place for the sacred, for the holy.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but what you’ve described (10 people in someone’s living room, sitting in living room chairs) doesn’t feel like a ‘church’ to me. A bible study group, or choir practice, maybe but not a church. Then again, as I said, I’m not a believer, so I’m not sure I’m the best person to speak on such matters.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    I always understood that churches were meant to be sacred spaces, places that were consecrated, an area dedicated to the spiritual versus the material.
     
    That really, REALLY depends on who you’re talking to.
     
    The idea you’re presenting would probably sound right to Anglicans and Catholics (I think – any Catholics want to chime in?), and Baptists would totally disagree, as would Quakers and Salvos.
     
    Personally, I believe in sacred spaces, but also believe that they are found where we create them – and that meeting as a church in a living room would make that living room, temporarily, a sacred space. (If you’d like a further explanation of my viewpoint, please go here.)

    But then, as an emergent liturgist, I can’t really pick a side of the Anglican/Baptist debate…

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    And also…

    That’s the role of ‘decorations’, whether it’s a ten-foot crucifix or a mandala or censers and candelabras, to show that this space in this time is a place for the sacred, for the holy.

    I have very rarely encountered a church with any of these.

    My two main churches have included
    a) a cross
    b) candles on a table
    c) banners made by members of the congregation

    That’s about as decorative as most churches around here tend to get.

  • P J Evans

     I grew up in a Methodist church that moved from a late-19th-century building to a mid-20th-century building, with a couple of years between in a ‘temporary’ building (which, at age 50, is finally being replaced). Ornament in both was pretty minimal – but that wasn’t as important as the people. We moved from there to another city, with a church that was more focused on things than people, and my entire family dropped out of it after a year: they weren’t interested in anything that was new or different from ‘how we’ve always done it’.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    I’ve experienced the sort of church that Deird is describing – it’s often called a “home church” or a “cell church” (as in cells in a conspiracy, or cells in a body), and it sometimes supports and reinforces a more traditional model – congregants meet in the cells during the week, and in the larger service on Sunday. Often, the organizers hearken back to the “upper room” of the Gospels. Now, I’ve only experienced it in the context of a fringe-y evangelical church (there was a big fad for cell churches in the late ’90s; the model was directly borrowed from  evangelical churches in Africa and Asia, and appealed to the idea of RTCs as a persecuted minority) and I know that Deird is not evangelical at all in that way. I’m just saying that it’s a totally viable model, regardless of ideological and theological trappings.

  • P J Evans

     That’s how churches were in the first few centuries, meetings in people’s houses. There’s no need for permanent ornaments: you can do fine with hangings that can be put up and taken down fairly easily.

  • Anonymous

    Well, technically, that’s what the first church services were: private Bible studies and dinners (Communion/Eucharist was originally part of a meal) in someone’s home.  Somewhere along the line, local groups of believers got too big for this model to be sustainable, so they defaulted to the traditional temple-based forms of worship that Jews and Pagans had employed for centuries.

    Neopaganism is an interesting analogue, because it’s in a state of tension between small-groups-of-a-dozen-meeting-in-members’-homes and big-group-temple-worship.  I’ve been wanting to contact (and maybe join) a local coven in my area, but they’re still notoriously hard to find even if you’re a member of local Pagan social groups.  Meanwhile, CUUPS chapters and large local Pagan gatherings are easy to find if you know what to look for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Maybe I’m wrong, but what you’ve described (10 people in someone’s
    living room, sitting in living room chairs) doesn’t feel like a ‘church’
    to me. A bible study group, or choir practice, maybe but not a church.
    Then again, as I said, I’m not a believer, so I’m not sure I’m the best
    person to speak on such matters.

    Sounds like a typical Friends Meeting to me. But I understand that most Christian sects do want such elements in order to set apart a worship space.

  • Anonymous

    I think part of the problem is if, like me, you grew up in a fairly established church, you tend to assume that those familiar trappings are just part and parcel of What A Church Is.  Of course you need microphones and speakers; of course there ought to be a choir loft and a nice baptistry; of course you need fancy leather-bound hymnals.  That’s all you know, so it must be just The Way Things Are Done.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    All this talk of church arrangements and young people leaving congregations reminds me of the last time my father’s mother (may she rest in peace) was visiting us.  She, being a devout woman, wanted to go to church on Sunday, and though we did not attend normally ourselves we were willing to accompany her.  So we went to the First Baptist Church of Seattle, which occupies a large lot on a hillside near downtown Seattle, including a large chapel as well as things like meeting rooms and daycare facilities.  

    I admit I had to struggle to stay awake during the sermon, but I was also struck by how less the half the pews were occupied.  Most of the congregation was seated up front, but most of the pews in the back were completely unused.  For such a large chapel, it seemed like a very underwhelming number of people.  For such a large church on land so close to downtown, I had to conclude that the place was much more heavily attended in its earlier days than it was now.  

  • Pmpope68

    I happen to attend a First Baptist church in Ohio and it’s a large, historical church that I’m sure had more members in its earlier days also (I’ve only been attending for about six months).  However, to their credit, they do a lot of outreach in the community, they have a contemporary service at 9:00 a.m. which attracts a lot of younger people as well as Boomers.  I recently went on a tour of the church and was very impressed with how they’ve made good use of their building.  So, older churches that are dying do have hope IF they make an effort.  One thing, this church has a pastor that’s close to 60 who came there about 6 years ago and I think he has a lot to do with where they’rte at right now, although I’m sure he would humbly give credit to what was already being done before he arrived.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    Yes, the mainline churches emptied out during the boomer years. Boomers either stayed home, converted to another religion, or joined a much more evangelical church. When I was an evangelical in New England, we were very unusual odd ducks. By the time the boomers made evangelicalism and the moral majority etc booming, I had moved on to preside over the emptying out of my denomination as well as most of the other mainline denominations.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve followed this blog for over four years, but I’ve never felt the need to write a comment on it until now, probably because the experience described is so intensely familiar.

    I’m a Millenial (born in 1982) and raised evangelical. Southern Baptist, to be precise. I grew up in Virginia Beach, and we went to a conservative, fairly large SBC church there. I am now- for lack of a better description- an atheist. I’m also queer, again for lack of a better description. My feelings on religion usually oscillate between respect and frustration, but it’s not my intent anyone for their beliefs.

    I know that the plural of anecdote is not data, but so much about this post felt correct. I cannot tell you how many friends of mine fell away from the church (not just the church we went to, but The Church) as we got older.

    Something happened, and it happened in the late 1990s. Yes, we were teenagers who was curious about the world, and I remember so many avenues like science and sex being implicitly closed to us because we were conservative evangelicals. That bristled. But we had the Internet and parents who didn’t know what a search history was. We could look up Buddhism, Carl Sagan quotes, and other *ahem* less salubrious sites in relative privacy and with an ease that was completely out of our parents’ and pastors’ experience.

    I remember something happened to me when I was 16 or 17, but my church suddenly became irrelevant. I didn’t give it up because I was attracted to guys; it just stopped having anything to say that resonated with me. Sure, there was the off-putting social conservatism (I remember that really bothering the kids in my Sunday School class in high school), but as the world opened up to us, church seemed small. We were expected to believe (not just in God or in Christianity, but in a whole bizarre set of beliefs that seemed completely out of place in the world we were living in).

    I left for good when I was 18. It was fairly anticlimactic- no sudden epiphanies or fireworks. It was dull and perfunctory- just like church had become.

  • Lori

      I have an aunt that would like to visit a particular church that has folding chairs, but only goes when her daughter is in town so that she has someone to help her up as she hip problems. 

    If the presence of her daughter is the only way that your aunt can get help to
    stand up at church that speaks poorly of the other members at her church. Also,
    how does she get out of chairs at home? If a cane or walker helps her elsewhere
    then it should also help her at church.

    My point is not to criticize your aunt or diminish her hip-related difficulties. I simply think there are solutions that can take care of such problems that don’t involve spending the kind of money needed to have pews. I have nothing against pews, I just don’t see them as necessary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    In addition, who says you have to get up during worship. Surely someone would help at the end of the service. But during service, remaining seated is always an option and if the congregation does not respect that they do not deserve your attendance.

  • Lori

    Yeah, I tend to think there are forms of respect for ones elders that may be more valuable than any given type of seating. I do allow for the possibility that some people don’t like to accept help from non-family members, but I’m just not sure pews are the real solution to that.

    If a group has the space and the money for pews I’m all for them, but as a PK* I’ve been through 3 or 4 church building programs so I know that in terms of space/design and the pews themselves the cost of having them can be surprisingly high.

    As an aethist I’m not a big fan of churches, but if people want to have them I don’t think that an attachment to traditional furniture and trappings should keep them from it.

    *Preacher’s Kid

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    As an aethist I’m not a big fan of churches, but if people want to have them I don’t think that an attachment to traditional furniture and trappings should keep them from it.

    Absolutely. I mean – I’m a liturgist! I like the trappings! But if you’re needing to start a new, rather small church, then “oh noes! we can’t afford proper incense holders!” shouldn’t be the thing that stops you.

  • FangsFirst

    Hell, I’m an atheist and I’m way more intrigued by trappings than anything else. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to a Catholic with no dearth of respect for her beliefs :P

    That said, way back when, I used to go to a church my mom was starting when she was still occupationally preaching.

    It was a circle of folding chairs in a friggin’ cement-floor warehouse type building. Well, much smaller.

    I think they eventually got larger after we left Missouri, but I’m not sure. In any case, it was there and it was getting started from next to nothing with no hymnals or anything as I recall. I think my mom may even have printed the week’s hymns herself, but I don’t recall accurately. I guess I could ask her, but that seems like a lot of effort for a post that’s already seeming a bit self-centered (maybe that’s my shtick though!)

  • Pmpope68

    I think my point is being missed, but that’s okay.  I’m probably not articulating it well.  I’m not talking about people being attached to trappings (although that is all too painfully real too).  Rather, I’m talking about churches consideration for all generations.  It goes beyond seating.  There’s a lot I think we just take for granted and of course, we can’t allow for every possible situation; it’s just not feasible.  But to the extent that we can, I think we should try.    

    For example, at the last church I served, one of our battles was with worship (surprise, surprise right?).  I remember one Sunday the slide that was used, the print was so small that beyond a certain point in the middle of the sanctuary, if even that far, it was difficult to read.  At other times the worship coordinator liked to lower the lights for worship, which didn’t bother me, but they would forget (or just not do it) to bring up the lights when it was time for the sermon, thus those who wanted to read the scripture had a difficult time seeing.  

  • Pmpope68

    Hi Lori.  I’m not saying that churches should stay with pews, but I’m just wondering if they couldn’t give more consideration to the needs of the elderly in their spaces.  Another example is the church my mother belongs to, it built an annex several years ago, but the classrooms are on a lower level which is not easily accessible for some seniors.  All I’m saying is that as we design spaces, there’s more to think about than just making sure our buildings are attractive to the young or the unchurched.  There are practical things to consider.  

  • Pmpope68

    Also, as to how my aunt gets around at home, she does have a cane, but she’s not sitting on folding chairs at home either.  There is a difference between a folding chair and a more sturdy wing chair or club chair with arms.    

  • Anonymous

    Not to mention that most folding chairs are hard metal with no seat cover or cushion, and I can’t see that being good for someone who already has hip problems.

  • Lori

    Not to mention that most folding chairs are hard metal with no seat
    cover or cushion, and I can’t see that being good for someone who
    already has hip problems.

    I’ve never known a group that was going to be using them for any length of time that didn’t get the nice cushy ones. Really, pews are nice and traditional and have advantages, but based on my experience there’s no situation in which they’re actually necessary.

  • Keromaru

    Just to show how different liturgical trappings can be: in Orthodox churches, they often don’t even have pews, or even seats, except a few for people who need them.  As a priest told me when I visited a church in Alaska, you -stand- in the presence of God.

    There’s also the icon screen, which hides the altar, in part to preserve an air of mystery.  And boy, are there a lot of icons. 

    There are some Episcopal churches that have removed the pews; sometimes I wish mine would.  I’ve never liked kneeling.

  • Anonymous

    Even more fun: kneeling in a church that either doesn’t have kneelers, or has really old worn-out ones.  Hell on your knees, unless you bring in one of those gardening cushions.

  • Joshua

    At one point, the local church in our village got rid of pews in favour of cafe-style round tables and chairs. I thought it was cool. It also made it easier to realise the during-the-week open church plan they had. People could drop in, sit down and talk, which needed round tables more than pews.

    I guess the priest figured that doing away with the pews altogether was better than storing them (where?) and bringing them out on a Sunday morning.

    And yes, if Acts and Paul’s letters are any indication, for anywhere without a synagogue that the local Christians were on friendly terms with, house churches were the norm. The early Church didn’t have the money or influence for big buildings, and there were persecutions every now and again.

    Sacred spaces are where you find them.

  • Dan Audy

    I was raised pretty evenly between the Catholic church and the Baha’i faith which gave me two very diametrically opposed approaches to worship.

    Catholic services are very organised and scripted events though things like response in unison, hymns, and the buildings themselves are incredibly moving and beautiful.  Baha’i feasts (a spiritual feast that occurs every 19 days and is roughly equivalent to a Christian sunday mass) in my area on the other hand were always hosted in someones home though it rotated to keep the burden down on any one individual.  The elderly received chairs and couches while the youth and younger adults would typically just sit on the floor.  Usually one person (not a priest but a rotated role) would organise a couple readings either on the subject of the name of that month (translated to english: Beauty, Questions, Loftiness etc) or another subject of their choosing after which anyone who wished to could read or recite a prayer.  In other areas Baha’i’s have purchased buildings with which to meet but it is not a requirement and the local Baha’i community felt that their donations were better devoted to other purposes so long as the community remained small enough to use people’s homes.

    My feeling was that Catholic services were attended and experienced as rote with very little community to it.  The Baha’i gatherings on the other hand were very intimate community events even if they lacked the majesty and beauty that Catholic rituals are full of.

  • Lori

    Small print and dim lights are an issue. Clearly the people who came up with that
    must either have very good eyesight or they’ve never sat very far back.

    Maybe it was a deliberate attempt to force the back benchers to move forward :)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Folding chairs.

    One thing I’ve noticed about the cheap ones is they shift around too much sometimes when you’re trying to get out of them. I can see an older person having a hard time pushing off a chair that wiggles when you so much as cough.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    Wow! The article was about a generational takeover of the evangelical church. How quickly the comments devolved into a discussion of the merits of pews vs chairs. It feels like a board meeting at a traditional church. What happened to the discussion about how a new generation would reinvent the American church?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    What happened to the discussion about how a new generation would reinvent the American church?

    Oh. I didn’t realise that this was yet another discussion that excluded the vast majority of the world (and a majority of the developed world, and even a huge chunk of the Anglophone world) by assuming the implicit adjective ‘American’ in front of the word ‘church’.

  • Nobody

    /delurk for purposes of snark/ 
    I mean we’re talking about evangelicalism. Yeah, there are communities around the world, but America is the Italy of that particular Roman Empire. (I’m not sure what the Rome is. Atlanta? Denver?)/endsnark/Generally I agree with you, Americans have some astounding America-shaped blinders on, but this conversation was clearly about the American Evangelical Church.
    /relurk/

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    this conversation was clearly about the American Evangelical Church

    That wasn’t clear to me (and other non-Americans who joined in). The issues affecting the American Evangelical Church are also affecting churches in other countries. I thought we were discussing clearly universal issues. But I guess this is the nth example of me seeing universal application where others default to exceptionalism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    For those of us who are American our responsibility would be to “fix” our own church. Certainly we should learn from the world church as to what furthers the Kingdom of God as opposed to the Kingdom of Men with outsized egos.

  • FangsFirst

    What happened to the discussion about how a new generation would reinvent the American church?

    Discussion still seems to be occurring as to whether that is achieved by reinventing outside the existing one and how/whether that is feasible.

    Alongside that, there’s a pretty decent non-Christian contingent here, and plenty who have worked to find a church which they are, themselves, okay with, some people who aren’t Millennials, and various other viewpoints, and the conversation won’t remain centered, because the common ground shifts with the group. If you have people who have no dog in the race of reinventing churches, people who are happy with their churches and people who have no interest in the churches most “in question,” and it’s only reasonable that it would fall to the wayside…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    Got it! Very reasonable perspective and rational response. I was just disappointed that the core questions were not addressed more directly by more participants. This mirrors my experience in the church. People who are participating are not always the one’s to ask about a new vision for the future. They are usually happy with what exists or only want some minor tweak to the existing paradigm. I guess my perspective is, if any particular generation wants to lay claim to the evangelical or mainline church, they are welcome to it. I personally have no longer any particular interest in changing any of the existing institutions. The fact that most of the evangelical and mainline churches have supported either the status quo or a vision of America that does not include everyone, makes them beyond the pale for me. The mainline churches saw themselves as God’s chosen American people and have passed that role on to the evangelical church. Even though we do not have state churches as they do in Europe, psychologically the US is the most vital vestige of “Christendom.” I was hoping that some here might take up the challenge put up by the blog poster who was basically calling out a whole generation of evangelicals to come up with a new vision of the evangelical church.

  • Anonymous

    I’m shocked it took two pages to derail, myself; this blog, and this group, are notorious for going off-topic quickly. If you don’t like it, feel free to offer some ideas on how YOU would reinvent the American church, or something.

    I actually think I’d prefer to stand rather than use either a pew or a folding chair – both options are painfully hard and neither allows for the sort of lower back support that it takes to be comfortable sitting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    I did make many suggestions in my other posts here. They were largely ignored. Not a new experience in 40 years of pastoral ministry. lol

  • Anonymous

    Church leaders, such as the ones described here, labor under a serious conflict of interest when they presume to rule on standards of religious observance and doctrine. I know, that’s the core of their jobs, but think about it: Who were the bitterest enemies of Christ? Caiaphas and Annas, the high priests. Their livelihoods, not to mention their social positions, depended on their keeping “the old-time religion” unchanged. Christ threatened that, and He had to be destroyed. The church leaders of today have that same conflict of interest. They are no more able to accommodate the changes demanded by millennials than the leaders Fred and Dwight spoke to could accommodate Gen-X.

    If Christ were to return in a form different from what the clergy depict today (think “Left Behind”), they not only would be unable to recognize Him, they would do their utmost to destroy Him.

    I believe that has happened, both the return and the denial.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Amsden/1255801224 Stephen Amsden

    “If Christ were to return in a form different from what the clergy depict today (think “Left Behind”), they not only would be unable to recognize Him, they would do their utmost to destroy Him.”
    We have proof that you are correct. Jesus is always with us in a form we have trouble recognizing (Mtt 25). Those who are hungry, sick, homeless, shabbily poor are so often ignored by those who are busy building edifices and streams of income. When the WWJD craze hit evangelicalism it was sad to see that the point of the author who coined the phrase in the early part of the last century was totally missed. I wish more had read “In His Steps” and taken it to heart as a way to reform the church. It never happened in our time, but it did happen if only briefly in Kansas City in Sheldon’s time.

  • pstrmike01

    Such great insight and ignorance all wrapped up in one nice article.   I fit into a very small demographic of too young to be boomer, too old for an xer.   And you think xers are small…….  we rarely have a seat at the table….if in fact, there really is a need for the table to begin with.   I hate conferences and I don’t buy books that will not be of any relevance 10 years from now.   I’ve lived through the Jesus Movement, Seeker Movement, the “oh no, where not cool any more with gen x movement” which has evolved into an outright panic of the church attempting to regain market shareby appealing to the millenials.  That’s why you have a multi site pastor in Seattle ( he’s gotta be at least 40) dressing like the typical sophmore in high school. 

     While I think being lumped into the old white guy catagory is a bit premature for me (even in a culture who’s god is youth)  I can say that I do not worry about things that are beyond my control.  What the church looks like when I am dead is not an issue with me.  There is much that concerns me about the church, but those concerns do not fall along generational lines. All I can do is minister to who God has placed in front of me, be faithful to my calling, and entrust it all to a God who is bigger than us all, and I’m  sure we all can agree, that we are thankful of that.   


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X