It’s been a rare occurrence for me to actually sit down and read through the entire newspaper each week when I receive the Sunday edition of the L.A. Times. When I started subscribing several months ago, my main prerogative was to get the grocery store ads and coupons–but Sunday was one of those “read through the whole paper” kind of days. For a $1 a week–it’s been well worth the expense.
Sunday’s Op-Ed highlighted the disturbingly growing number of Millennials who have rejected organized religion in America. The authors, Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell present evidence showing twentysomethings seeing organized religion as “too politically conservative.”
As I fall into several of the categories mentioned in the piece, I thought I’d reflect on the trends that I’ve seen and my thoughts as well. Absent any discussion of my personal political ideology–as first a Christian, and then a voting citizen, I have been concerned for quite some time and can resonate with much of this column. Putnam and Campbell don’t mention “the Religious Right” directly, but do speak to the growing popularity of figures like Falwell and Reed back in the 1980′s with the issues of abortion and homosexuality becoming the “prominent issues on the national political agenda.”
Since then, we’ve seen quite the narrow focus on the issues of “family values voters” such as the two mentioned previously; not to discount the importance of such issues–this is not my point. The point is that overtime these issues have become the issues of a large number of church going Americans. Divisive statements on such issues have been made by church leaders such as Falwell, Reed, Robertson and several others with the media oftentimes portraying these as the view of “the Evangelical church.”
Clearly, from this piece the stats are showing that a record number of twentysomethings see the Church as not just “too conservative” but too connected with politics. As a churchgoer myself, I would have to agree. In my case, I have grown increasingly frustrated with the narrow views of so many divisive figures being cast as the view for Christian voters like myself. I don’t want to argue that you can’t have your religious views dictate your politics; however I do think that it is quite dangerous to narrowly define one’s religious experience as just or right, solely based on the views on a couple of hot button topics.
In this case, my Christian faith has led be to believe that the God I serve calls me to feed the hungry and take care of His creation among countless other mandates. When I go to church each week, I don’t want to be told how to vote, but I want to learn and grow more in how God calls me to live. While I’ve been frustrated with the division and narrow focus cast by figures of the “Religious Right,” I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the good work of my own church. While no church is perfect, I am blessed to be a part of a faith community that is invested in needy lives across town and across the world. We have much work to do in being a church that is truly a “big tent” for folks to come to from all walks of life and socioeconomic backgrounds. All this being said, I write this as a twentysomething Millennial concerned about narrow and divisive worldviews who isn’t rejecting religion and all the while is staying right here.