Evangelical Loss, Teenage Gain

The New York Times has an article headlined “Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers”

Despite their packed megachurches, their political clout and their increasing visibility on the national stage, evangelical Christian leaders are warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves.

At an unusual series of leadership meetings in 44 cities this fall, more than 6,000 pastors are hearing dire forecasts from some of the biggest names in the conservative evangelical movement.

Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation.

While some critics say the statistics are greatly exaggerated (one evangelical magazine for youth ministers dubbed it “the 4 percent panic attack”), there is widespread consensus among evangelical leaders that they risk losing their teenagers.

I’ll leave the snarky comment that perhaps they never had the hearts and minds of even four percent of the teenagers stand and look at the article slightly differently.

First, I can’t remember a time when evangelical Christians didn’t feel that they were under attack. It is part of their us-against-them culture. This is mixed with an unhealthy portion of pity for the unsaved. But it is this kind of language that is also used to keep people in the fanatical churches. Using the last-bastion-of-goodness-and-morality argument allows evangelical preachers to install a feeling of fear into the congregation, especially in the hearts and minds of the teenage youth. Creating a feeling of separation is a standard technique for brainwashing, even if effects aren’t as dramatic and the comment not politically correct.

On the other hand, the increasing political clout of the religious viewpoint, both in America and abroad,  makes the position that the churches are losing fairly unsupportable. Perhaps at issue isn’t the number of  ‘God-fearing’ teens, but that the evangelical movement has gone even farther down a fanatical path than most people, adult or teen, can follow. By denying everything modern, they deny themselves even those mores accepted forty years ago.

It is this extremism that worries me. I wonder if the liberal, democratic idea of always trying to find common ground, a compromise even with the most extreme positions, isn’t inexorably pulling the modern world more in the direction of the religious right, Christian or Islamic. Slowly but surely changing not only the views but the very language. The idea of government pushing ‘Faith Based’ charities is an example. When did the term arise? Why is it even excepted as an alternative. Would an agnostic or an atheist charity be any less moral? The Christian apologists would have you believe that. Indeed according to Christian apologists, without religion, the world would be full of rapists and criminals – death and mayhem.

One of the worse episodes in German history was the Thirty Years War fought between the Protestant north and the Catholic south. No war caused more destruction and misery until the technological advances of the Twentieth Century allowed mass destruction at the pull of a trigger. The religious fanatics, convinced that only true believers are human, raped, pillaged and destroyed most of central Germany. It was only after both parties were spent and only after the real fanatics had died in combat, that the war finally came to an end.

It might be true that the evangelical claim that less and less teenagers are willing to accept their brand of religion. It might even be true that this is truly an end-of-days scenario. I however choose to believe that more and more teenagers are trying to find a moral midpoint and despite apologist worries are moving towards religion. And of course, I believe that the each teenager’s soul lost to an evangelical church, is a teenager saved from an evangelical church. A loss for a gain if you will.

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3 comments so far

  1. Teresa on

    “The religious fanatics, convinced that only true believers are human, raped, pillaged and destroyed most of central Germany. It was only after both parties were spent and only after the real fanatics had died in combat, that the war finally came to an end.”

    They learned their lesson,though. This time, all the wacky religious nut-jobs are staying home to pray and stick yellow ribbon bumper stickers on their SUV’s…but they’ll send their children to Jesus Camp and tell them THEY have to be warriors.

    I guess when your primary recruiting tactics are fear and paranoia, you can’t expect better than people who hide behind their children.

  2. blc303 on

    I guess when your primary recruiting tactics are fear and paranoia, you can’t expect better than people who hide behind their children.

    No, it’s even sadder. You use other peoples children as shields.

    But seriously, the really wacky ones want the power to send the unbelieving riff-raff of into combat somewhere. Send them off to their Designer. *sigh*

  3. Anomalous Data on

    Push the buttons. Push the buttons. Push the buttons.

    Wait. How come the buttons don’t work anymore! It’s the devil’s fault!


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