I read an article at Religion Dispatches with interest. It’s about why the Roman Catholic church is having a hard time keeping Millennials in their churches while mentioning several Millennial groups within Catholicism which are intentionally bucking that same dwindling trend.
Among the comments in the piece is the difference between doctrinal teaching in the RC church and the implicit theological agreements–often the result of a public and cultural version of theological formation–of those the church wishes to attract.
I wonder how Protestants come at this material. There are doctrines, i.e., church teachings, that most Protestants disagree with, and the impact of that disagreement isn’t as noticeable as it would be in the catholic setting but it’s there. People come and go, join and lose commitment. Perhaps we don’t count the way the RC church does, but are we attending to our own losses and, as importantly, the reasons behind them?
I thought of this article as I was talking with my small group Wednesday. We’re reading short stories for the summer. Every week one of us offers a piece of fiction for the group and we discuss it. The other night we read my story which was ZZ Packer’s “Speaking in Tongues” from her memorable Drinking Coffee Elsewhere.
Among the comments that emerged was the tight and unrealistic ways churches offer curricula to youth and young adults, particularly around topics like sexuality and bodies and creativity; we talked about the ways we are parented and how communication or the lack thereof shapes us even when we don’t notice it.
A couple people affirmed the church’s established place to offer doctrines (i.e., teachings) but doctrines-in-relation-to the lives that we live. We spoke about our continued longing for churches to live into that offered place and to actually engage in hard subjects.
I’d add now that the church’s inevitable place is as a shaper of morality in most people’s lives. It offers–or can offer–uniquely an environment where we learn to integrate our theology (thinking and speaking about God), our ethics (thinking and speaking about ourselves in relation to others), our practice (doing and being and living), and our hopes (aspirations and envisioned futures).
If our teachings, if whatever way explicate, doesn’t reach into and come out of an appreciation of real life, we’ll lose the people around the table. We’ll never continue to capture the imaginations of those who are yet to come. We’ll never engage the critical questions which make passing on our/any faith possible. That didn’t all come from the RD article, but the elements and residuals are there.
Read the article here.