Why Are Young Americans Leaving the Church? Intolerance?
Part 1 of 4
One hears a lot of talk recently about young Americans deserting the church. Statistics, confessedly somewhat murky, seem to show that about 70% of them---even if â€œbrought up in the churchâ€---have absented themselves, and many of them, permanently, by their late twenties. (It is difficult to obtain current data on how many return to church later.)
The most common reasons given, interviews show, are (a) the church is intolerant, (b) the message of the church is irrelevant, and (c) parents (and other Christian adults) are hypocritical.
While one could easily demonstrate anecdotal evidence that such distasteful church experiences (and many others) are understandably disconcerting to youngsters, perhaps a bit of clarification is needed.
Two facts by way of introduction: (a) Join the club! Which Christian, in the last two thousand years, has not experienced all that and worse? (b) Although authentically Christian parents are surely an incentive for their children to become religious, it must be remembered that God has no grand-children, only children, and no guarantee exists that godly parents inevitably produce godly children. Check the Bible on that. Freckles are biologically transmissible; the Christian faith is not.
As to the subject of the â€œintoleranceâ€ of Christians, several facts must be considered.
At the head of the American religious pantheon is the god â€œTolerance.â€ He/she rules supreme. Live-and-let-live is the operative religious mantra of the culture, sometimes even inside the â€œchurch.â€ Period. Well, almost. By a strange lunacy the toleration-factor of moderns is boundless but they are frenetically intolerant of Bible-believing Christians. Ask Joni Earickson Tada. Ask Tim Tebow. Ask would-be-published Christian authors. Better still, ask Hollywood, Washington, or secular university elites---the holy trinity of modern moral police, the secular equivalent of the Vatican for Roman Catholics.
The problem is that, despite Marx and his friends, the Christian religion is not an opiate; it is an obstruction. It stands athwart our culture---and every culture---and shouts a clear-cut cosmic â€œnoâ€ to antics produced by the warped Adamic nature in all of us. Jesus said that He was, not a, but the way and the truth and the life and that nobody could possibly come to the Father except through Him.â€ Right off the bat, nobody kin to Adam likes that. If Jesus had said, â€œHey, Iâ€™m a good guy, but only one of several possible saviours. Yâ€™all choose. Iâ€™m just looking for market-share,â€ He would have died of old age or snake-bite.
In fact, Moses said it all more than a thousand years before Jesus did in his famous â€œTenâ€! The problem is simply this: God-speak is non-negotiable. And seven out of ten does not constitute a passing grade. When one wishes to take sides on moral issues today, let him understand this: he simply cannot merge the message of our current gods with that of the one true and living God, no matter what mental gymnastics he performs. Deal with it: choose one or the other or neither, but you cannot choose both.
If that is intolerant, so be it. Honestly, a state legislator, many years ago, in an American state which will remain anonymous, proffered a bill to his fellow legislators which would change the mathematical formula of pi, 3.1416, to an even 3.2 to make the math simpler. I gently suggest that we would all be in some sort of a mathematical hell if we could do that with numbers. Or any other truth/fact.
If â€œintolerantâ€ means we are narrow-minded bigots who are so egomaniacal that we demand that everybody on the planet must be our moral clones, may God in His infinite mercy deliver us from ourselves. If it means being loyal to provable truth at the risk of ignominy, then, may God in His infinite grace give us courage to be kindly and winsomely and joyously and eternally loyal.
G. K. Chesterton has a great line to the effect that one should open his mind for approximately the same reason he opens his mouth, i.e., to shut it on something solid once in a while. It is not a sin or a crime, at some point, to decide! He also said that one should be careful about opening his mind so wide that his brains fall out. More about all this later.