Sunday, October 08, 2006

Evangelicals fear teens may abandon the faith

A New York Times article states that Evangelicals fear losing their teenagers. A report, which has drawn some criticism as to its statistics, projects that only 4 percent of today's teenagers will be "Bible-believing Christians" as adults.

One of the suggested factors that might result in that dire future, the article says, is a "pervasive culture of cynicism about religion." Perhaps that's a logical result of some events over the past several years that relate to religion and our society's ethics:

  • Clergy molesting children.
  • Clergy found stealing from their congregation.
  • Clergy being prosecuted for multiple affairs with church members.
  • Clergy seeming to spew hateful, hurtful language from the pulpit and for broadcast by the media.
  • Clergy causing strife within a church
  • Corporate leaders thinking nothing of harming their employees' pension funds.
  • Political leaders and candidates claiming compassion but encouraging hate.
  • Church leadership "looking the other way" and violating copyright law.
  • Churches with a General Fund in the negative by over $10,000 and with leadership refusing to even acknowledge a problem.
Each of these hopefully represents a minority of the total churches, clergy, and members. But the cumulative effect of these as either news stories or information passed by word of mouth certainly colors teens' and unchurched people's perception of Christianity and organized religion.

American business ethics used to be respected and thought of as a model for European businesses. That's pretty much an "old story" now. European business was guided by the general sense of ethics within the culture, not that of religion. In the past, America was guided by the ethics of religion; we didn't have the same cultural sense of ethics that was not attached to religion. So as the number of people "strong in the faith" declines in America, we can expect more severe ethical problems in our society.

When churches, clergy, and church members are seen to act more like any other unethical institution in the land, it's no wonder that teenagers see hypocrisy and fail to identify with the church. Yes, nobody is perfect, but perhaps we Christians should try a bit harder to "clean up our act" before we blame someone else for declines in church membership.

If the projected trend turns out to be accurate, might our future culture values look more like those of ancient Corinth? Perhaps we need another Paul to help energize us, pull us together, and turn us around (that's what repenting is all about, after all).

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