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As Social Issues Drive Young From Church, Leaders Try To Keep Them

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As Social Issues Drive Young From Church, Leaders Try To Keep Them

On Friday, Morning Edition wraps up its weeklong look at the growing number of people who say they do not identify with a religion. The final conversation in the Losing Our Religion series picks up on a theme made clear throughout the week: Young adults are drifting away from organized religion in unprecedented numbers. In Friday's story, NPR's David Greene talks to two religious leaders about the trend and wonders what they tell young people who are disillusioned with the church.

According to the Pew Research Center, one-third of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation. As Harvard professor Robert Putnam told Greene in the piece that kicked off the series, this trend among young people is tied to religion's association with socially conservative politics.

"I think the single most important reason for the rise of the unknowns is that combination of the younger people moving to the left on social issues and the most visible religious leaders moving to the right on that same issue."

Take Melissa Adelman, 30, a participant in a roundtable about religion that Greene had with six young adults. Adelman was raised Catholic but does not call herself one today because she cannot embrace the church's core beliefs on social issues.

"To me a church that would be welcoming would be one where there wasn't a male-only hierarchy that made all the rules, and there weren't these rules about who's excluded and who's included and what behavior is acceptable and what's not acceptable," she tells Greene.

In Friday's story, the Rev. Mike Baughman, a United Methodist minister who runs a Christian coffee shop in Dallas, tells Greene that the church is indeed sending the wrong message.

"If the church was known more for our efforts to welcome the stranger than keep them out, I think the church would have greater credibility with rising generations," says Baughman. "For example, on immigration policies, we've taken the wrong stance on that, and they know. The thing is they're smart enough. A lot of them have grown up in the church and then rejected it. They've read the scriptures that talk about the importance of welcoming the stranger, they've read the scriptures about the importance of caring for the poor, and when they see that no longer on the lips of those who are in religious authority, they see that the God we present is bankrupt, and that we're theologically thin in our ability to even speak our own story."

For Father Mike Surufka, a Catholic priest in the Franciscan order in Chicago, there are indeed issues that are fundamental to the church, but what seems to really matter is more granular: that the parishioner's spiritual needs are being met. For example, he says, he has counseled women in his congregation who have had abortions.

"I knew their pain, and I was not going to bring that to the pulpit," he says. His approach, he says, is to listen to them. "That has more transformative power than just about anything."

Despite the trend among young adults to reject organized religion, both Surufka and Baughman tell Greene that they are hopeful about the future of religions in America.

"I'm full of hope indeed," says Surufka. "There was a theologian from the mid-1900s who kind of described hope as an attitude toward the future that we cannot see, but we trust that somehow it's held by God and that there are possibilities beyond what we can even imagine."

Indeed, some of these so-called nones — dubbed this because they answer "none" when asked for their religious affiliation — have embarked on a quest to see if there's a place for some sort of organized religion in their lives. Writer and lifelong none Corinna Nicolaou, for example, admits she knows little about organized religions and wants to know more, so she has begun chronicling her visits to local places of worship. And in a recent Boston Magazine piece, Katherine Ozment describes her effort to find an organized secular and nonsecular community that makes sense now that she had kids.

Although the series winds down Friday, Morning Edition is likely to revisit the topic. Chuck Holmes, the show's supervising editor, says that as his team was planning the series, there were a lot of conversations about other aspects of religion that didn't end up getting airtime.

"So naturally that leads to more coverage," he says.

The Losing Our Religion series is here.

Naughty Wittle Puppy

by on Jan. 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM
Replies (21-30):
GoddessNDaRuff
by Silver Member on Jan. 18, 2013 at 4:33 PM
3 moms liked this

All churches need to work on updating their values. They are not in line with the younger generation. My generation is much more friendly and accepting of others. Churches are for lack of a better term right now xenophobic. It's hard to love a church and love helping out and love the people but hate the message that it is sending out into the world.

Like someone else mentioned, I've struggled with it as a child and by the time I was a teen and really asking questions and had read the bible a few times I was totally disconnected. I loved the choir and video/audio ministry. I loved helping with the praise dancers. But one series of sermons were just the straw that broke the camel's back. Many young people in the church were struggling with their sexuality or had come out and were the biggest contributors to anything the pastor asked. The first to volunteer yet were being told they were going to hell because they don't follow heterosexuality. Then you have to look at the church hierarchy itself. They were not mirroring the values they were teaching and I'm sure that's across all denominations. Gossiping about what is confided in them, having affairs and with other members of the church, drugs, pedophilia, domestic violence, misuse of church funds. I'm sure that this sort of thing is found across many churches and my generation and even some older than me are now not open to the idea of organized religion (attending churches). Why send our children to learn "morals" and "values" from such places that don't reflect what were are being taught at home. You can't say "love thy neighbor as thy self" and then tell your congregation to vote against others lifestyles because we disagree.

The practice doesn't go with the words. But the bible does support the hate depending on how objectively you are willing to read it. Yes it has it's good parts but it has it's evil parts as well which are often denied. Just talk to some staunch believers and it becomes very apparent very fast. The cherry picking of what to follow and when is equally as troubling when dealing with it. It's a turn off.

12hellokitty
by Platinum Member on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:22 PM


Yes, but I also have an understanding of the core beliefs of the Church and Her fully developed teachings on human dignity.  I can see how people who go by a changing definition of human dignity based on culture or society, could be confused when faced with a Church that adheres to unchanging universal Truths.

Quoting NWP:

Do you believe that this truly includes ALL persons?

Quoting 12hellokitty:

I think many young people including the ones referenced are confusing social issues of the Church with liberal ideologies.  Example the core social issues of the Catholic Church are not about a male-only hierarchy. And perhaps the Methodist Rev. has presented the wrong image on immigration policies the Catholic Church is leading the way in securing the rights and dignity of all persons, it's one of the core values....




candlegal
by Judy on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:26 PM

I know the Church I go to is growing by leaps and bounds.   We aren't losing  members, we are gaining.

shannonnigans
by Platinum Member on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:35 PM
Are you refuting the crux of the article?


Quoting candlegal:

I know the Church I go to is growing by leaps and bounds.   We aren't losing  members, we are gaining.


Posted on CafeMom Mobile
candlegal
by Judy on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:43 PM

I thought it was perfectly clear I am talking about my Church.   That is the one I personally have experience with at this particular time.

I know World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011 was attended by over 2 million people.    Doesn't sound to me like they are falling off, at least not in the Catholic Church.

source

Quoting shannonnigans:

Are you refuting the crux of the article?


Quoting candlegal:

I know the Church I go to is growing by leaps and bounds.   We aren't losing  members, we are gaining.



TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on Jan. 18, 2013 at 7:27 PM
1 mom liked this

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.   2Tim4:3

krysstizzle
by on Jan. 18, 2013 at 7:34 PM

Amazing. This has been happening for at least 200,000 years, at least in the perception of whoever was in charge at any given time. 

Ah humans, that silly, fickle species. 

Quoting TranquilMind:

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.   2Tim4:3


Whaaaaaa....O.o
by on Jan. 18, 2013 at 7:37 PM
Very good article. Dh and I used to be Assembly of God. We are now non denominational. I got tired of hearing politics and even gossip from behind the pulpit. Every week I learned something "new" I was doing wrong, though I could find no real Biblical base for it. The non denominational churches I have been to tend to lean more toward we each have to work out our own salvation with God. And focus on bein a helping hand and a place of safety for people. Not a hand to slap you down and scare you into repentance. I know I wouldn't want my children's allegiance all because I scared them into it. I don't believe God wants us to be scared of him. He wants us to desire to follow him out of love, not fear.
NWP
by guerrilla girl on Jan. 18, 2013 at 9:34 PM

Can you give specific examples of this?

Quoting 12hellokitty:


Yes, but I also have an understanding of the core beliefs of the Church and Her fully developed teachings on human dignity.  I can see how people who go by a changing definition of human dignity based on culture or society, could be confused when faced with a Church that adheres to unchanging universal Truths.

Quoting NWP:

Do you believe that this truly includes ALL persons?

Quoting 12hellokitty:

I think many young people including the ones referenced are confusing social issues of the Church with liberal ideologies.  Example the core social issues of the Catholic Church are not about a male-only hierarchy. And perhaps the Methodist Rev. has presented the wrong image on immigration policies the Catholic Church is leading the way in securing the rights and dignity of all persons, it's one of the core values....





Naughty Wittle Puppy

NWP
by guerrilla girl on Jan. 18, 2013 at 9:40 PM
1 mom liked this

AoG is the same denomination I grew up in and the one my father and his wife still attend. It wasn't so terrible in the 1970s, but then slowly started to shift, or maybe I just became more aware of what you said as I grew and I do agree with everything you say. My dad and his wife believe that the POTUS was born in Africa and is a sleeper cell terroist, baby killer...This is something they discuss in church. The public faces of the AoG, such as Oral Roberts, Jim and Tammy Baker, and yes...even Sarah Palin, have failed to provide any positive support for them in my eyes.

After a long absence, we now attend a progressive Episcopal church. I absolutely love it.

Quoting Whaaaaaa....O.o:

Very good article. Dh and I used to be Assembly of God. We are now non denominational. I got tired of hearing politics and even gossip from behind the pulpit. Every week I learned something "new" I was doing wrong, though I could find no real Biblical base for it. The non denominational churches I have been to tend to lean more toward we each have to work out our own salvation with God. And focus on bein a helping hand and a place of safety for people. Not a hand to slap you down and scare you into repentance. I know I wouldn't want my children's allegiance all because I scared them into it. I don't believe God wants us to be scared of him. He wants us to desire to follow him out of love, not fear.


Naughty Wittle Puppy

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