Hi and welcome back! The decline of Christian dominance has been one of my interests for many years. Accordingly, I’ve always kept an eye on the way that Christians engage with that decline. And today’s story might well represent one of their newest attempts to stem the tide of customer churn. It’s callous, cruel, and completely cynical, sure, and I expect nothing better from today’s TRUE CHRISTIANS™. Today, let me show you how Christian leaders are pulling out the stops to guilt Christian parents into stepping up their devotions for the sake of their children.
The Various Ways to End a Decline.
When a business goes into decline, its owners have a few options they can pursue to end or at least alleviate that decline.
First, they can retool the business’ products to be more in line with what customers wish to buy. To do this, they’ll need to find a way to lower their products’ price or raise their quality to fit customers’ expectations better. Perhaps they might even find new products to add to their lineup that’ll perform better.
Second, they can find oodles of new customers willing to purchase their products as-is. This strategy might look like advertising the products more effectively or finding new markets that haven’t previously gotten much attention from them.
Third, they can find ways to prevent current customers from leaving the fold (“reducing churn“). This strategy likely requires market research, because a business largely doesn’t have a real relationship with customers once the product is purchased. A huge number of customers purchasing the product once, but then stopping altogether speaks to widespread customer dissatisfaction with the product itself or the company.
The option that doesn’t really work too well is the one that looks like hunkering down and just hoping the market magically picks up a renewed affection for those products again as well as a willingness to buy them at the offered price point.
But that’s the one that Christian leaders have gone with for the most part.
Their product has always been active membership in their particular groups. For many centuries, that product has enjoyed artificial props to its success. Now that those props have largely been removed, Christian groups find themselves in free-fall without a parachute.
Solving Christian Decline Through Parents!
The worst sorts of Christians — the hard-right authoritarian sorts — refuse to retool their product in any way. So that first option’s right out.
They also largely seem to have entirely given up on finding new customers or markets for their product. None of their recruitment tactics work well enough to justify the resources they fling at them. I’ve yet to see any authoritarian Christian group even bother examining their recruitment strategies for efficacy, much less changing them for weak efficacy.
That leaves them focusing on slowing their churn rate.
“Churn rate” refers to the number of regular customers who stop buying a business’ product and start buying a competitor’s product instead. Those customers have churned out of that business. Any business will have at least a little churn, but a sensible one will want to keep that rate as low as possible while balancing customer needs/desires with the company’s own profits.
For a while now, it seems like Christian leaders have been focusing on this part of the decline-recovery equation. Their efforts to shame Christians into sticking around haven’t worked too well. But threatening their kids? That probably looks like a sure thing.
Indirect Threats to Parents to Reduce Churn.
Authoritarian leaders have always indirectly threatened Christians’ children. Authoritarians tend to be extremely risk-averse anyway, and to be extraordinarily sensitive to potential threats. Add parental love to that equation, and you get a potent way to gain the flock’s compliance.
I noticed them doing exactly this years ago. That strategy seems to be intensifying lately, especially as these Christians realize just how important it is to indoctrinate people before they get old enough to recognize that Christianity is absolutely ridiculous on its face — and incidentally gain enough autonomy to reject the demands of its hucksters without too much fear of “Christian love” in retaliation.
However, they’re having more and more trouble indoctrinating children outside the tribe, so they’re drilling down on the importance of indoctrinating those within it.
Unfortunately for them, to obtain those kids they need the cooperation of parents.
So here’s the threat they unleash to get that parental cooperation:
If Christian parents don’t park their butts in pews and act like super-observant Christians for their children’s sake, and indoctrinate their kids as completely as their Dear Leaders suggest…
… then their precious children will grow up to leave Christianity AND GO TO HELL.
Yes, Christians. The shameless hucksters whose livelihoods are directly tied to your contributions would really like you to step up your Jesus-ing. They’ve decided to threaten your kids with eternal physical torture in an imaginary realm if you don’t comply with their demands.
It’s just so sickeningly cruel and callous, not to mention a completely cynical control-grab. But we’re talking about some supremely desperate authoritarians here.
Hitting Parents Hard.
Last week, Baptist News Global ran a story about a recent Pew Research study. The study asked if American teens share the religious affiliation of their parents. And largely, they do. Just as Muslim parents in majority-Muslim countries tend to have teens who buy into Islam, Christian parents in this majority-Christian country tend to have teens who buy into whatever variant of Christianity their parents believe.
Interestingly, mainline Christian parents’ teens only identify as the same flavor of religion 55% of the time. As well, Christian parents tended to vastly overestimate the importance of religion in their teens’ lives — when in reality, most teens didn’t think religion was all that important.
(Also interestingly, 12% of evangelical parents’ teens identify as unaffiliated, while only 2% of unaffiliated parents’ teens identify as evangelical. Teens tend to be less religiously observant in general and even evangelical teens don’t usually share all their parents’ beliefs.)
What the Baptist News Global writer picked up on most was the bit Pew found about Christian observances. All in all, Pew says:
80% of parents who say that religion is either “not too important” or “not at all important” in their life have a teen who feels the same way, while 45% of parents who say religion is “very important” have a teen who takes the same view.
Of course, the survey also found that 2/3 of teens say they engage in religious observances at least partly because their parents demand it of them.
Thanks to this survey, this Christian writer, Jeff Brumley, has totally found the Holy Grail of ending young-adult churn in evangelical churches!
Attend, O Ye Parents, Or ELSE.
Brumley offers up two youth ministers’ observations to translate the Pew study for his readers.
The first, John Uldrick, declares that a youth minister must also “connect” with students’ parents. He blames young-adult churn on parents, completely:
“It makes sense. Scripture teaches that primary responsibility for religious education falls to the family. This data doesn’t surprise me, especially as it relates to teens taking after their parents and what their parents believe.”
The bigger question is about retention and whether youth are internalizing the Christianity they are accepting from their parents, he said. “The pivot point is this: have those teens been given the ability to make a shift and contextualize the faith for themselves?”
Evangelicals have been talking like this for years. They take for granted that any Christian teen who “internalizes” their indoctrination talking-points will stick with the religion for life. (The actual lived experience of ex-Christians would argue otherwise. But forget it. He’s on a roll.) In this post, Uldrick similarly insists that Christian parents must not only be very observant religiously, but also “consistently and intentionally discuss” indoctrination points with their kids.
The second youth minister in Brumley’s post, Sharon Felton, laments that sooooo many Christian parents “have decided it’s not their job to parent their children about church.” As parents’ own observance levels taper off, she says, “the teens see their parents’ priorities and make the same decisions.”
The takeaway seems quite clear, and I’m sure Christian parents won’t miss the implications these two youth ministers convey here. Parents must seriously raise their observances’ intensity and frequency, or else their kids will leave the faith.
And there’s only one penalty in their end of Christianity for that offense!
Parents: The Iron Chariots That Jesus Can’t Defeat.
If a Christian parent can only ensure their child remains Christian by pretending to be fervent Christians their whole lives and following a rigorous program of indoctrination, then it seems to me that their child has remained Christian for the wrong reasons. And if that child later realizes that the religion’s claims simply aren’t true, as I did, you may count on this: the tribe will slam that child and that child’s parents accordingly for not having Jesus-ed correctly.
The fact that Christian parents often blame themselves for their children’s deconversions only reveals the effectiveness of that strategy.
You really can’t win, with authoritarians. And they design their game very deliberately that way.
Luckily, it seems like fewer and fewer people care what authoritarian Christian leaders think of their parenting. Christian parents largely don’t seem to be interested in pretending to be fervent for any reason, and if they’re not going to church then they won’t push their kids into attending.
And that means their kids won’t be indoctrinated to believe false and inhumane ideas, and will be able to accept or reject the religion as they wish.
Another Bit of Good News We Needed Today.
This new Pew study implies that almost no teens join TRUE CHRISTIAN™ churches if their parents are religiously unaffiliated.
In other words, without extensive conditioning and manipulation, teens don’t see much about Christianity worth picking up. And in adulthood, they probably won’t join then, either. Children must be pushed to buy into a bunch of underpinning beliefs about the world and themselves to find Christianity appealing and worthwhile, and our society increasingly doesn’t push such inhumane beliefs on children.
Now, please remember (as Pew indeed reminds us) that teens can shift rapidly on matters like faith and adherence. The teens shrieking at Christian concerts have an excellent chance of leaving the religion entirely in adulthood. All this study offers is a snapshot of current teens in the families of people holding various beliefs. That said, though, it’s quite an interesting snapshot!
Ultimately, this survey may represent more good news for humanity — but more really bad news for TRUE CHRISTIANS™. I’m glad for both today.
NEXT UP: Why authoritarians’ Happy Pretendy Fun Time Games need everybody to play along.
Please Support What I Do!
Also please check out our Graceful Atheist podcast interview!
If you like what you see, I gratefully welcome your support. Please consider becoming one of my monthly patrons via Patreon with Roll to Disbelieve for as little as $1/month! My PayPal is firstname.lastname@example.org (that’s an underscore in there) for one-time tips.
You can also support this blog at no extra cost to yourself by beginning your Amazon shopping trips with my affiliate link — and, of course, by liking and sharing my posts on social media!build-a-bear Christianity
This blog exists because of readers’ support, and I appreciate every single bit of it. Thank you.