Sunday, December 9, 2012
Anti-institutionalism and the Church
I was talking to my father the other day, who mentioned that one of the main reasons young people leave the church is because of evolution being taught in schools. This idea--the thought that the great forces of the American educational system are pulling people in droves from the pews--is one that's come to ring a bit misguided on my ears. I honestly don't believe most people think that deeply about their existence for evolution vs. creation to be the make or break decision that keeps people in bed on Sunday mornings.
I was talking to a friend at the gym yesterday--one who used to attend church but no longer does--about the concept. He said he didn't go because he never left with anything useful. I really had to think about that, since so many people I know who no longer attend church...well...they're not doing a lot of deep thinking about the origins of life. Most people are working their way through every day life the best they can and a result of that in the US has left a large number of people turned against institutions, all institutions.
It started back in the 60s and 70s. People stopped trusting business, government, the police, the church, marriage...the list goes on. I've been reading Chris Hayes' Twilight of the Elites, and well, I think he's hit on something. The the moral leaders, the sports heroes, politicians, doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, priests, police officers, ambassadors...they've all let us down. The bond has been broken and I doubt will be easily rebuilt, if it can be at all.
That lack of trust in the institution and the very concept of hierarchy is what I believe the church is seeing manifested in its dropping attendance numbers. These days I don't believe most people will even get close enough to the church to reject its teachings. They mistrust the structure itself--a structure I don't believe is even necessary to the faith (especially considering the structure of the early church).
The big problem there though, is what the alternative is. I've had this discussion with my best friend before--both of us being single, childless and unmarried. Society, religious or secular, has no connection points for us. No home base. We are not married, we are not mothers and therefore we are not. The church also reflects that. I don't know if any society has been able to promote connection based on anything deeper than demographic check boxes. I believe most societies actually discourage it for the sake of their own preservation.
So yeah...no one knows how to answer our question and our question is spreading into the world of the non-singles. How do people bond if marriage, procreation, family, home and career are no longer a trustworthy? Until that question is answered and the answer applied within church walls, those outside the church, those coming up as children in the church and those considering leaving will find little reason for connection beyond commandment.