Millennials, Part 1: unChristian Theology

At Bellarmine, I work with Millennials, a new generation. Part of working with them is understanding their beliefs, which differ from mine. Each generation changes in many ways. I’ve been reading accounts to help me learn about their differences. The first of these reports is unChristian, discussing the changes in faith among those 16-29, who they call Mosaics (not Millennials, though I will use the Millennial label.) The authors, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, discuss the results of a major quantitative and qualitative study.This book gets a 3 out of 5. Let’s start with what’s wrong. The authors, like many evangelicals, are too heavily a part of Capitalism. Though the book is reasonably priced, the website relentlessly promotes the authors and book. The rotating advertisement suggests buying three books, not just one. The press section lists contact info for media inquiries, not a list of reviews; for the links of a typical press page, I must click on a sidebar. In one Borders I visited, the book was shrinkwrapped, making it impossible to browse. That may gather a few more sales, but does that get the message across? No. It just makes people a few more dollars. In the book, the authors assume all readers are like them; committed born-again Christians. The tone is similar to what I remember from InterVarsity; even as it talks about outsiders, it keeps an insular tone. Catholics barely exist; about the only mention is in Chuck Colson’s musing, “The defense of human life is a part of the gospel because it matters greatly to God. I think Catholics have a really good point in this.” The lack of reference to other good ideas, well, I’m used to that though I hope for more. These things hold the book back from being appropriate for a general audience, and from a higher rating.On the other hand, what good comes from the book? Data. Lots of numbers and interview quotes, even if the authors could use a refresher on the value of white space. The proportion of people who practice Christianity declines each generation; in the 16-29 group close to 40 percent are outsiders. The book then examines reasons for the decline. These are not sociological, which I hypothesized in A Nation of Kings; they focus on what people cite as reasons. They write about six major areas, which I’ll describe briefly.

  1. Hypocritical: The sinful actions of professed Christians are the strongest argument against Christianity. Millennials don’t consider the disconnect between statement and practice unusual, though; it’s typical in how they see all large organizations.
  2. Get Saved!: Focusing on making a profession of faith and being born again detract from having full relationships. The quote about Catholic expansion above comes from this chapter.
  3. Antihomosexual: For many in the evangelical movement, it’s a rallying cry. Millennials are much more accepting of homosexuality than my Generation X, let alone prior generations; this shows the influence of culture. Even those uncomfortable with the idea look for respect and compassion, due to the issue’s complexity.
  4. Sheltered: Many Christians have retreated into communities containing only similar Christians. They don’t know how to engage in a neutral fashion.
  5. Too Political: Evangelical leaders strongly support the Republican Party in America, but the Party has many planks. Not many are associated with the Christian message, and those that are, like homosexuality, are relentlessly pushed.
  6. Judgmental: Millennials are more uncomfortable with value judgments than prior generations. They see Christians as prideful and quick to find faults in others. This ties in somewhat with hypocritical.

I agree with all six flaws. Honestly, it’s amazing and a testament to the power of Jesus that given these shortcomings, anyone comes to Christianity. I could write entire posts on what to do about each problem, but there are many other tasks in my life. Therefore, I’ll keep this as just a review. Mr. Kinnaman and Mr. Lyons have set out the problems I and others have seen in a coherent format. For that I thank them, even if I believe they haven’t fully broken the Capitalist evangelical mold. Yet.

About Adam

My quest is a world where calling someone "virtuous like a fairy tale hero" is routine, not fantastic or ironic. My vocation is the teaching and learning of statistics. My dream is a long happy life with a wonderful wife and kids. Who knows if any will become true? More information is at my homepage on the twelvefruits network: http://adam.twelvefruits.com
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