That is the big question du jour it seems. An answer in a piece written by Rachel Held Evans at the CNN Belief Blog sort of went viral last week. Soon after, Hemant Mehta (a blogger on the Patheos Atheist channel) also had a piece up over there, basically telling folks that atheists are HUGE on the internet, and the Jesus story is a myth so, why not throw in the towel?
Interestingly, all of the hubbub seems to be following in the wake of the Barque of Peter’s 28th edition of World Youth Day, which wrapped up celebrations in Rio de Janeiro this past Sunday.
I am not a millennial, but I’m parenting a number of them so the subject is of some interest to me. I’m not sure about whether I’m a Gen-X’er, but I’m not a Boomer either. I might be a tweener, if you get my drift.
Anyway, for Catholic answers for what Millennials really want from the Church, you’d probably do well to read the opinions of those younger than me. A few days ago, Brett McCracken had a piece up in the Washington Post’s On Faith blog that resonates with me in a number of ways. He probably didn’t write the title, but it sets the tone pretty well nonetheless.
How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool.
I like it already, don’t you? FYI, McCraken isn’t a Catholic, but his piece has a Catholic sensibility, whether he realizes it or not. Here is a snippet to get you started.
Last week a column on CNN’s Belief Blog titled “Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church” went viral, partially because any time the words “Millennials,” “leaving,” and “church” are combined in a headline, people pay attention.
But why? Why do we care so much about the reasons Millennials are reportedly leaving churches?
I’m a Millennial, but I am weary of everyone caring so much about why Millennials do this or don’t do that. I’m sorry Millennials, but I’m going to have to throw us under the bus here: we do not have everything figured out. And if we expect older generations and well-established institutions to morph to fit our every fickle desire, we do so at our peril.
I’m not saying that the church should never listen to the audience or pay attention to data and trends. It’s just that more often than not, the “just tell us what you want us to be!” approach does more harm than good, turning the church into a shape-shifting chameleon with ever-diminishing ecclesiological confidence and cultural legitimacy. It smacks of desperation and weakness.
As a Millennial, if I’m truly honest with myself, what I really need from the church is not another yes-man entity enabling my hubris and giving me what I want. Rather, what I need is something bigger than me, older than me, bound by a truth that transcends me and a story that will outlast me; basically, something that doesn’t change to fit me and my whims, but changes me to be the Christ-like person I was created to be.
A journalist once asked Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: “What has to change in the Church?”
Her answer: “You and I.”
And another from a saint whose feast we just celebrated,
“It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but to actually be one. Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name.”
–St Ignatius of Antioch