Most Millennials are falling away from religion. This isn’t news. We all know this both from the polls being released and, mostly, simple observation. The reasons for this situation aren’t news either. That’s why a recent editorial on Fox News isn’t groundbreaking.
The piece written by protestant Dr. Alex McFarland points out reasons why Millennials are indifferent, skeptical, or repulsed by Christianity. While most points are not new and some are more accurate than others, a few deserve commentary. The points worth expanding on are put in order of importance below.
4. Lack of spiritual authenticity among adults. Many youth have had no — or very limited — exposure to adult role models who know what they believe, why they believe it, and are committed to consistently living it out.
This is huge. As a Millennial (who even went to Catholic schools) I can absolutely vouch for this. After years of religious ed and Sunday Mass, most Americans Catholics are still left with little understanding of the importance of Jesus’ Sacrifice or the purpose of the Catholic Church. Few suburban parents during the 90’s-00’s transmitted faithful Catholicism to their children because they themselves had a poor understanding of it. Adults need to have a solid understanding of their own faith and live it out authentically rather than awkwardly fit Catholicism into their already existing lifestyle. Children need to see adults living the faith out even when no one is looking or when it is uncomfortable. Children need to witness their parents praying like adults, otherwise they just think it’s something adults make kids do like putting teeth under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy or cookies out for Santa.
Parents: read about your faith. The benefits to the mind and soul of reading Catholic literature cannot be underestimated. If you don’t know the answer to something, immediately seek the answer on your smartphone. There’re no excuses! Then live out the faith personally foremost and let these practices radiate to the rest of family life. This leads to the next point…
6. Pervasive cultural abandonment of morality. The idea of objective moral truth—ethical norms that really are binding on all people—is unknown to most and is rejected by the rest.
If one doesn’t understand the objective essence of God and His Church though the first point made above, why would they live a life of objective morality? If everyone can make up their own truth, anyone can rationalize behavior in seeking personal enjoyment. If moral truth isn’t objective, virtue/vice doesn’t exist, and the entire reason for Jesus dying on the Cross evaporates. This leads to the next point…
2. Breakdown of the family. It has long been recognized that experience with an earthly father deeply informs the perspective about the heavenly father. In “How the West Really Lost God,” sociologist Mary Eberstadt correctly asserts, “The fortunes of religion rise or fall with the state of the family.”
He’s quoting a sociologist but he could have just as easily quoted Pope Saint JPII: “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
5. The church’s cultural influence has diminished. The little neighborhood church is often assumed to be irrelevant, and there is no cultural guilt anymore for those who abandon involvement.
The author is looking at this in a short-sighted protestant way. This is true for the Church more than an individual neighborhood church (although still accurate). The Roman Catholic Church’s clout when it came to moral applications to new situations in the world has been destroyed, nearly entirely self-inflicted. The self-destruction following the unfaithful applications of the ambiguous Second Vatican Council documents and the horrendous sexual scandal which followed was unparalleled in Church history. This led to many priests and bishops to speak of the Church publicly in a self-loathing manner, further contributing to this issue. Due to the reduced worldwide influence of Rome, we have seen the rise of the next point…
3. Militant secularism: Embraced by media and enforced in schools, secular education approaches learning through the lens of “methodological naturalism.” It is presupposed that all faith claims are merely expressions of subjective preference. The only “true” truths are claims that are divorced from any supernatural context and impose no moral obligations on human behavior.
Catholics must stand up and fight for what is true, beautiful, and good. Adult Catholics must understand their faith better than any generation before and live it out in a way that permeates their entire life. There is no room for, as Bishop Barron calls it, “beige Catholicism” any longer.
It can be argued that this entire situation is a way of strengthening the Church. As the Catholic Church sheds millions of people who are, essentially, “Catholic in Name Only” or “cultural Catholics” due to the diminished shame associated with abandoning one’s baptismal rites, a more true, beautiful, and good form of Catholicism rises from the ashes…purified through the intense fires of the last five decades. The impurities will burn away and left standing will be, as always, the gold that is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. ☩