Were the changes in church history merited in previous articles in this series? What I will do is ask you to use the stricter standard of law that asks, “Beyond a reasonable doubt?” Or at least appeal to the lesser standard of civil law, “More likely than not.” The standard of belief and conduct for Christianity is love.
Working with new generations (Gen Z) – Series
Religion is locally and culturally situated. In reaction to the rapid technologically driven changes in population, jobs, science, economy, and culture that started around 1900, more fundamentalist practices evolved that held onto more literalist interpretations of the Bible.
The deeper the world got into this era, the more people have been motivated by these changes to cling to what appears to them to be more solid beliefs to hold firm to the ever-shifting ground.
While the early 20th Century ushered in technology that eventually brought better working conditions and better incomes to many, the 21st Century brought despair to many. In the first twenty years people saw major recessions: 2001, 2010 Great Recession, and the Covid Crisis. These soured investment clubs and demonstrated that the stock market could take your savings for retirement.
In search of stability, people sought “approved” more literal translations of the Bible, and in recent years a KJV version was declared accurate and final.
In the 1930s government, business, and religious leaders met to promote, even from the pulpit, ideas about Capitalism and hard work, and this melding continues to this day. (One Nation Under God by Kevin Kruse.)
Commensurate with this search for more concrete beliefs came a new interpretation of beliefs about the return of Christ and the End of the World. People began looking for Jesus to return and create a new world order. There are endless interpretations and predictions about both Jesus’ return and the end of the world. End Times Prophecy – False Religion
Current religious thrusts in this era, continuing to today, mix religion with politics and economics, causing clashes between city and country reminiscent of the age of the prophets in ancient Israel. Each side has their own perspective and can’t agree on anything.
Current era of Conscience and Reformation – purifying beliefs
Since 1900 Church attendance as a percentage of the population has been in decline at around 1% a year, and the decline accelerated after the year 2000. The reasons vary but I think it’s safe to say that people often don’t feel a need for the church and often feel put off by it. They also look at the way various churches have hurt people and rejected them.
The things the newer generations find offensive about churches are Bible thumping (criticizing how others live with Bible verses), the exclusiveness of beliefs that keep people out or believe others are bound for Hell, and the focus on certain types of sin. These “sins” are usually sexual, especially sex outside of marriage and certain types of sex within marriage – a reflection of Elizabethan puritanism. Freud, birth control, and the 1960s helped to change puritanism and its damaging repression.
But the “sins” and sinners scorned by the church has varied over the last 150 years to include alcohol use, gambling, abortion, not attending church every Sunday, working on Sunday, dance, modern music, divorce, associating with other ethnicities, LGBTQIA+ – the list is endless. If people didn’t like something, or if it represented change, it was and is denounced as sinful and the person is rejected or looked down on. The effect is to drive people away.
What is certain about this era is that the younger generations won’t accept the status quo. Church will stop rejecting people and become relevant, or it will be rejected by the people. Those who see church as a “top down” institution in which leaders decide what is best for the people is getting turned upside down. Church will respond to people’s spiritual needs or it will die.
Take Home Points
Religion changes over time. Attempts to lock it down to specific purposes fail. Religion naturally goes through periods of soul searching to determine what is true, and reform. Today is no different.
New Generations Walk with Jesus: The missions in a changing world (by author on Amazon). Young adults not only don’t find what they need in churches, they’re pushed away, and they have a no tolerance policy for the nonsense they see in churches. How do you minister to them? Answers.
Promiscuous America: Smart, Secular, and Somewhat Less Happy. Institute For Family Studies.
How Casual Sex Can Affect Our Mental Health. Psychology Today
Free Speech – Rabbi Berel Wein.
Some series references:
How to Keep Millennials Engaged in Church – on Patheos
What Is Meant by Truth? – on Patheos
Tabernacle of Hate – False Religion – on Patheos
10 Reforms Christianity Needs to Make Right Now – on Patheos
The standard of belief and conduct for Christianity is love. Legal standard.
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