Friday, March 14, 2014
Why Are the Millenials Leaving Church?
In an online article for Washington (CBS DC) Benjamin Fearnow reported on a new survey by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute showing that almost a third of Millenials (ages 18 to 33) who have abandoned their childhood religion said that the anti-gay teachings of their church played a significant role in their decision making. And 70 percent of Millenials believe that these teachings are driving away their generation.
Over the last decade, support for equal marriage has increased by more than 20 percent according to most polls. Some record total support across the nation at nearly 60 percent, others see support only slightly above 50 percent. Within those numbers, the support goes up as the age goes down. Among Millenials, almost 70 percent support equal marriage. Among those 68 and older, the support is only 37 percent.
Fearnow reports PRRI CEO Dr. Robert P. Jones’ statement that, “While many churches and people in the pews have been moving away from their opposition to LGBT rights over the last decade, this new research provides further evidence that negative teachings on this issue have hurt churches’ ability to attract and retain young people. And Jones went on to say that “Nearly one-third of Millennials who left their childhood religion say unfavorable church teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people played a significant role in their decision to head for the exit.”
In other words, the damage has been done.
Thank you to the Fundamentalists, the Literalists, and all the other judgmental so-called “Christians” who have worked so hard to convince the world that being a Christian means condemning gay people and rejecting scientific reason. Heaven only knows the hurt you have inflicted on generations of LBGTQ youth and adults. But beyond that, you have hurt the church you claim to love.
People ask why some of us in the church are so focused on this issue. They wonder why here at the United Methodist Church in East Greenwich we have spent the past two and a half months working out a statement of inclusion and becoming a Reconciling Congregation. There are, after all, lots of other things in the world that should demand our attention. Keith Sanzen, our Church Council Chair puts it simply and eloquently. “Yes,” he says, “there are lots of social justice issues out there and we are concerned about all of them, but this is one issue where the church has really hurt people.”
John Wesley’s first rule was, “Do no harm.” That seems like a good place to start.