Young Adults Leaving the Church

Christian Piatt, author of such books as Banned Questions About the Bible, has two posts up at Red Letter Christianity about why young adults are leaving the church: Seven Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church and Four More (Big) Reasons.

My first thought after glancing at these is: hasn’t it always been this way? I used to hear a bit of common wisdom in the Episcopal Church: young adults quit going to church only to come back once they become parents. Now that we’re keeping closer watch on the numbers of the “unchurched,” maybe we’re just noticing it more.

Piatt suggests that “Young adults today are the most un-churched generation in a long time.” That’s probably true, but only because we’re still feeling the effects of the Second Great Awakening and the rise of Evangelical Christianity. Before this period, the majority of Americans were probably unchurched, particularly in the south.

Be that as it may, Hemant points out that many of Piatt’s reasons are self-serving. He never even hints that some might leave the church because they are told they must give intellectual assent to certain historical and scientific propositions that are simply not true.

Hemant comments:

My guess is that most of you are thinking Piatt forgot the most obvious reason people leave church: They figured out God doesn’t exist. [...]

As fun as it would be to pat ourselves on the back and give ourselves credit for Christians leaving the church, we don’t deserve it. Turns out the Church just keeps shooting itself in the foot.

It seems that Christianity cannot fail, it can only be failed.

I’ve noticed this pattern with any number of groups. Once a member has left, or has become unpopular, they are quickly branded as “not a real” member of whatever. For example, as George W. Bush’s poll numbers plummeted, it was very amusing to hear certain conservatives explain why he was “not a real conservative,” despite having previously argued that his election was a victory for conservatism.

Any failures on the part of a conservative can never be the fault of the ideals of the conservative movement. There’s always some way to shift the blame, and avoid facing the idea that maybe movement conservatism just doesn’t work as a political philosophy.

At least Piatt isn’t pretending that all those that have left the church were never really Christian, although there is a bit of condescension towards those who think Christianity is not relevant. But he’s still shifting the blame towards everything but the doctrines and traditions of Christianity.

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