Hello and welcome to the new year! I’ve got a treat for y’all today. Our lovely commentariat has found two completely different posts by two completely different Christians about one problem facing them both. And these writers know exactly what that problem is: KIDS TODAY. Yessiree! Moreover, they both know exactly how to solve that problem. Let’s see what they have to say.
Everyone, Meet Brendan Pringle.
Our first writer, Brendan Pringle, boasts in his byline that he literally helped to create platoons of Reagan Youth at one point. I don’t mean the punk band. I mean the meaning of the name the punk band used. Nowadays, a tie to Saint Ronald Reagan boosts a toxic Christian’s street cred like almost nothing else can. Pringle uses this tie to reassure readers: he’s one of them. They can trust him to be a pure, unalloyed culture warrior just like them.
He doesn’t mention his other credentials, strangely enough. He frequently contributes to guns.com as well as to other ultraconservative fundie-leaning rag sites. One of his posts admires the hateful, transphobic antics of Derick Dillard, the husband of Jill Duggar (and quite the serial grifter). In it, he called Dillard’s childish false dilemma “brilliant.”
So Pringle is quite the mental giant in fundagelicalism. I’m sure he has some great insights to share regarding why KIDS TODAY ain’t feeling his religion.
Brendan Pringle Blames Relativism.
He titles his December 31 post “Christianity isn’t catching on with Generation Z.”
Generation Z is, loosely, people born around 1999 or 2000 or later. Now, we haven’t seen a whole lot of solid research yet about Gen Z’s opinions about religion. But the preliminary observations indicate a wholesale rejection of Christianity. Pringle relies on something from Barna Group to make his points.
Now, Barna Group might be one of the few survey houses out there focusing on religion. But their findings must be taken with a whole shaker’s worth of salt. They make their living by selling their research to panicky evangelical leaders. Therefore, their research will always be tilted toward what they think panicky evangelical leaders will purchase. The questions they ask–and how they interpret their answers–will always aim for “this is fixable; this isn’t a total disaster–and absolutely nothing we’re doing is at fault or really needs to change.” Any time I mention Barna Group, I have the fact of their clear bias in the back of my mind.
I don’t think Brendan Pringle understands that reality, though. He begins his tirade by citing Barna Group’s finding that “the most common barrier to faith among non-Christian Gen-Zers is the belief that Christians are hypocrites.” And to him, they only think that because today’s “modern-day Christianity” is “wishy-washy” and focuses on social justice, which he despises because it’s not TRUE CHRISTIAN™ enough for him.
The Big Problem Here is Progressive Christians, Clearly.
It’s not uncommon at all to find TRUE CHRISTIANS™ railing about progressive Christians. They despise the existence of Christians who reject their culture-war model of Christianity. They’ve created for themselves a great many enemies, but I suspect they hate these other Christians the most.
Pringle tells us that “progressive Christians would likely argue that youth are turned off by the ‘judgmental’ nature of some Christian churches.” (He means the churches he himself favors.) BUT! He points to Barna’s finding that Gen Z teens were less likely than overall Americans to consider Christians judgmental.
So that obviously means that all these hatemongering, fearmongering TRUE CHRISTIAN™ churches aren’t to blame! Right? Right? Can I hear an amen?
So what could the problem be, he muses aloud…?
Obviously it is relativism.
I’m Dizzy Just Watching This Guy Leap from Non Sequitur to Non Sequitur.
He decides, in his wisdom, that obviously The Big Problem Here is that KIDS TODAY “lack moral guidance.” He points to more Barna Group tosh about how KIDS TODAY even consider lying acceptable under some circumstances. Why, nobody, literally nobody, thought lying was okay back when fundagelicals ruled the Earth. That means nobody lied. Or at least, that they felt really bad when they did, which is the same thing.
He thinks that this “sad spiritual state” can be cured with good ol’ fashioned peer pressure. Or it could, if there just were enough churchgoing TRUE CHRISTIAN™ teens to “support” their poor widdle unchurched heathen friends. Because if there’s one thing we can all say about “engaged Christian teens,” which he defines as “not just attending services but truly practicing,” it’s that they are powerhouses of law-abiding, socially-constructive behavior.
Yep. I sure remember that, back when I was myself an “engaged Christian teen” who didn’t just attend services but truly practiced. The adults had no idea who was or wasn’t “just attending services but truly practicing.” They were incredibly easy to fool. When I got married, my then-husband Biff had them–and me–completely snowed. I think about that whole situation every time one of these culture warriors brays about how Donald Trump is truly a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ leader for our times.
Armoring KIDS TODAY Against Relativism.
Pringle declares that “hipster churches” and social-justice-oriented churches will only continue to destroy his religion from the inside out. What KIDS TODAY need, he insists, is consistent church attendance. But that “is a start,” and nothing more. They also need constant armoring against “relativism.” And that’s going to require the constant diligence of their parents, who may be assumed to be TRUE CHRISTIANS™, as well as “other potential mentors” that he doesn’t name or describe.
KIDS TODAY think the “truth” is “subjective.” And that’s totally not okay with Brendan Pringle. Once they learn that it’s totally not subjective, then they will begin flocking again to TRUE CHRISTIAN™ churches like his.
The last thing I’d ever say about Christianity is that it offers anybody objective morality. I’ve railed about it many times in the past. This one topic represents one of the central themes of this blog. Indeed, Christians’ completely-subjective morality stands out as one of the worst things their religion has ever brought to the world.
The literal only reason Christians think their notion of morality is in any way “objective” is that their leaders constantly tell them that it is. If a space alien watched them from upper orbit, that alien would never in a million years guess that anything they do is either moral or objective.
We’ll talk later on about Divine Command Theory, which is what Pringle’s alluding to in his post. Suffice to say most Christians don’t understand (or care to understand) this mainstay of toxic Christianity. What they really like about “objective morality” is that their misunderstanding of it gives them permission to seek control over other people’s lives.
Singing to the Choir.Parents who already see no point in forcing church attendance on their kids already know that churches are irrelevant–where they’re not actively harmful. They won’t see Pringle’s rant and decide to force their teens to go to church. They know quite well that the easiest way to get kids to deconvert is to force religion on them.
Many of today’s disengaged or deconverted parents already know that truth–because their parents tried this same tactic on them! For every TRUE CHRISTIAN™ adult professing thanks to parents for forcing them to church in their youth, at least a dozen more still rejoice over the memory of the moment they could stop attending.
But Brendan Pringle isn’t talking to them. He’s talking to people who already believe exactly as he does.
He offers this audience the reassurance they ache to hear.
It’s not them. It’s everyone else.
They’re not in the wrong. Everyone else is.
And they don’t need to question or change anything they’re doing.
In fact, they need to do more of it and harder.
Now Then: Everyone, Meet Brandon Vogt.
On the other end of the horseshoe of wingnuttery, we find Brandon Vogt. He’s a hardcore Catholic as well as that weirdest of all ducks in his end of the religion, a Catholic evangelist. Like most of the most fervent and demonstrative Catholics we’ve encountered, he’s a convert who came to the religion fairly late.
(I can’t help but think that my grandmother would have assessed him as “not like us.”)
A few months ago, he offered up what he thinks is The Big Problem Here With KIDS TODAY. In “What Young People REALLY Think About God and the Church,” he asked a bunch of young adults in Rome about religion. (He was already there for a conference organized to figure out how to bamboozle more people into ministry positions.)
He conducted a few interviews with these random people in Rome–tourists, it sounds like. The results, he tells us, “were both discouraging and illuminating.”
And unsurprisingly, those results lead him in exactly the same directions as Pringle’s investigations did.
What He Has Here Is a Failure to Communicate.
To Brandon Vogt, The Big Problem Here is that somehow, against all odds, Catholic leaders and parents have failed to adequately teach KIDS TODAY about Catholicism when they were young.
You can hear him clutching his pearls from here:
[The responses Vogt got in Rome] affirmed how profoundly we’ve failed at spreading the basic truths of Christianity. Most young people had, at best, a third-grade understanding of God and faith. Most of their answers were muddled and incoherent, and I say that with little judgement against them; the fault lies almost certainly with their parents, pastors, and teachers, who totally failed to pass on the faith.
If kids understood exactly what Catholicism was all about, Vogt thinks, they’d obviously choose to be Catholic as adults. But Catholics have fallen down on the job of indoctrinating–er, sorry, Vogt means catechizing children. He laments that the Roman interviews he conducted revealed people who:
couldn’t articulate what we mean by God, or anything the Church has done besides facilitate the abuse of young children.
Now, to me, facilitating the abuse of young children stands out in front as the best possible reason to reject Catholicism. But to Brandon Vogt, this monstrous and centuries-old evil is barely even a blip on his radar. What, that? Who even remembers that?
The Horsehoe’s Ends Meet.
Brandon Vogt and Brendan Pringle likely share very few doctrines in common. But like a lot of extremists, they meet at the tips of the horseshoe.
We already saw how Brendan Pringle would solve The Big Problem Here with Gen Z. He’d force them to attend endless church services and Bible studies. He’d inundate kids with “mentors” who’d make sure to indoctrinate the little ones beyond all hope of recovery.
And that’s pretty much what Brandon Vogt would do as well. He doesn’t flat-out say it, of course. He just ominously challenges his readers to “decide how you’re going to help reverse this terrible slide.”
But how else could children be “catechized” with Catholic doctrines? How else could his people fill children’s heads with information about Catholicism’s version of the Christian god?
Why, the same exact way that Brendan Pringle suggests.
There’s a reason why both of these guys think everything depends on them getting to as many children as possible.
Without Coercion, Christianity Dies. And These Two Wingnuts Know It.
Christians have always relied upon coercion to sell their religion to others.
Until they gained the legal power to destroy people’s lives in retaliation for refusing to buy their product, their religion faltered considerably. Once they gained that power, they grabbed onto it with both hands and never looked back.
Until now, anyway.
Everything was going fine till they encountered those meddling kids and their darned dog!
Now they stand at a crossroads. Much of their legal power (but not all, dammit) to coerce and retaliate has been eroded. They relied for a while on social coercion and retaliation, but that, too, has been eroded by increased mobility and a huge increase in the sheer number of targets of their wrath. That means that Christians can no longer adequately mount enough coercion and retaliation against each individual apostate and dissenter, and often their potential victims can simply move away to escape even what they can still muster.
And those victims they do attack come out of the experience way more willing to publicly expose the “Christian love” they endured.
So TRUE CHRISTIANS™ could, faced with these two epoch-making changes, alter their sales techniques. They could steer clear of coercion to sell their religion, and sell themselves instead as great groups to join. They could sell with love instead of threats.
But love is not why they’re in the religion. It’s not why they joined, and it’s not what they like to do.
Singing to the Choir, Redux.
Ultimately, Vogt and Pringle pretend to write in hopes of reaching a very rarified audience: adults who can legally indoctrinate children, don’t take that responsibility terribly seriously right now, and still read the sort of right-wing rags that these guys write for.
At least, that’s the pretend audience. Their real audience looks very different: TRUE CHRISTIANS™ who already do as these writers suggest. They will enjoy a giddy, soothing little rush of superiority and anger over the imaginary audience the writers pretend to be lecturing.
And gang, that real audience is getting exactly what it wants out of these two posts. They don’t–and wouldn’t–care that that exact giddy rush is one of the most visible signs imaginable of exactly why their religion is dying by inches.
Ensuring the survival of their religion is not why they’re in the religion. It’s not why they joined, and it’s not what they like to do.
And KIDS TODAY understand that reality more clearly than any other generation ever has.
NEXT UP: NDEs and the myth of the atheist who just needs a serious misfortune to convert. See you there!
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