EVANGEXIT—IN THE ERA OF TRUMPIANITY / Part I -The Crisis Before Trumpianity

How Many Were Leaving in the Pre-Trump Era?

A Pew Research survey in 2015 showed that one-third of millennials were not associated with any church, which was up 10% since 2007. It also showed that 85% of people born before 1945 considered themselves Christians, while just 56% of those born between 1990-1996 do the same. The number one reason cited, in that survey, for leaving the church wasn’t some deep philosophical change but simply boredom with the Church. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/12/millennials-increasingly-are-driving-growth-of-nones/)

According to Rainer Research, 70% of youth, who were active in youth group, leave the church by the time they’re 22 years old (Christianity Today, November 2010, Vol. 54, No. 11, Pg 40). In a projection of previous research, Barna Group estimates that 80% of those raised in the church will be disengaged by the time they’re 29 years old. Several other studies and surveys confirm the trend: “Millennials (18-29-year-olds), who were raised in the church, are leaving the church in droves” (https://www.barna.com/research/six-reasons-young-christians-leave-church/). People

While official government statistics point to 70% of Americans being Christian, only 7-8% of Americans are Evangelical Christians, meaning that they believe in the authority of the Scriptures, they attend a church regularly, and they believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation (John S Dickerson, The Great Evangelical Recession, Baker Books; 37302nd ed. January 15, 2013). On the present trend, this number of “true believers” will drop to 4% in thirty years. We are indeed living in a post-Christian society, and that “post” is profound. While in previous generations youth, who left the church, would return after they married and “settled down,” the millennials are different. They are not getting married or settling down and most likely, will never come back to the Church.

All the above studies and book were written prior to Donald J. Trump announcing his bid to become president.

The General Reasons they were Leaving

According to the author David Kinnaman , “They sense that the established church has internalized many of ‘Babylon’s’ values of consumerism, hyperindividualism, and moral compromise instead of living in-but-not-of as kingdom exiles.” They feel “caught between the church as it is and what they believe it is called to be” (Kinnaman, You Lost Me, Baker Books; Reprint ed., June 21, 2016).

Christians have always had two choices in their view of how they relate to the greater society. It is as exiles (as the Jews in Babylon), where they comply with the amoral societal duties and resist against the immoral ones, as did Daniel’s three friends. But they never equate the general civil society as the same as the body of Christ, or its ambitions. What Kinnaman is alluding to, is the millennials see the church as not resisting the immoral positions of the greater society (such as social injustices, materialism, and greed). Instead, thchurchey are absorbing those traits into their own culture. Likewise, they start to blend the aspirations of the greater, secular culture (military or economic domination) with those of the Church. The statement that best illustrates the latter thought is “America is a Christian country and we must return its roots.” Nationalism, which is sweeping many areas of the west, including America, it an egocentric tenet. It can be thought of as the outward projection to the whole of personal self-centered aspirations.

The Millennials, with Christian upbringing, have been confused by this. The Christian ideals they learned in Sunday school, Awana and youth group were love, kindness, being a good Samaritan, giving to the poor, honesty, and not being hooked on material riches. One of the principal teachings of Jesus was that we, as individuals and a collective group, must be benevolent towards others. It should be the projection of the first shall be last and the last shall be first. But as they grow up, they see the Christian society, aligning with the very opposite. With an honorable aspiration for authenticity, they choose to leave rather than to pretend, like they see the older people doing.

An article from Patheos Insider (online) sates, “Many dechurched millennials—the “Nones”—were hungering for Jesus and didn’t find him in the church. They longed for rich, intense, honest community. They wanted to love their neighbor and enemy alike. They’d didn’t understand why 5% of church budgets (at best) went to help the poor when Jesus said to give it all away. And—contrary to what some of you are thinking—they actually wanted more Bible, more depth, more substance than what they were being fed. And here’s the real convicting thing: They hungered for more intergenerational relationships and didn’t experience these in the church.” (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theologyintheraw/2015/09/why-are-millennials-leaving-the-church-in-droves-part-1/)

What they are Looking for in a Church

• Authenticity. Some have called the present—Post-post-modern—period of western history as the “Age of Authenticity.” While true candor is often an illusion, at least the millennials have the aspiration of being more sincere, or authentic than previous generations.

Taylor Snodgrass of Church of the 20 somethings describes it this way: “Our generation has been advertised at our whole life, and even now on social media,” he says. “Consequently, when a company isn’t being authentic with their story we can easily see through this. If the church isn’t giving you the whole story, if it’s sugarcoated and they’re trying to put on an act on stage, people in their 20s will see through this. This causes us to leave. We’re good at seeing when people are lying to us. (https://exponential.org/5-things-millennials-wish-the-church-would-be/)

• Another want, sounding over simplified, is clarity in the church structure and order. Because many of the millennials have not been church, some feel intimidated when they enter a church building, not knowing the cultural cues or orders. They must have simple and clear guidance, like anyone one entering a new subculture. Signs are helpful, or people to point you where to go. You can’t assume anything. The Barna study found that two-thirds of millennials saw their ideal church as focused on “community” (78%) over “privacy” (22%); and “casual” (64%) over “dignified” (36%).

• The church has become a place of doing and action, rather than a place of rest. The millennials often want a place that is peaceful and restful, not a place that wants to consume their lives with busyness. Many avoid the Church because they know that the church will entangle them in many programs that eat up their time. The church often uses the pressure of guilt such as, “you need to do your share,” to coerce people into joining committees, work groups and other associations. Younger people don’t want those intrusions into their private lives.

• The millennials, while wanting a place of peace, don’t want a complacent place. They want to encounter the difficult questions. These include topics such as why should they abstain from having sex if they are not married? What about social justice issues?

• The millennials want older (baby boomer) mentors. These are not just spiritual advisers but guides in financial issues, professional choices and even relationships. They see value in the older people, but the Church has a tendency to group people and separate them by age groups.

The Deal-breakers, the Last-straw for Leaving

• Churches seem overprotective. One example is home-schooling or the Christian school. While there can be many merits to those choices of education, if it is to protect their children from challenging ideas, such indoctrination may accomplish the opposite.

• Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow. Many do not believe the faith they were being taught is relevant to practical parts of life, such as career.

• Churches come across as antagonistic to science and reason. Church teaches that you must adhere to certain doctrines, even if the science doesn’t support it.

• Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.

• They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
“Younger Americans have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance. Today’s youth and young adults also are the most eclectic generation in American history in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, technological tools and sources of authority.”

• The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
“Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts.”

The Typo-King and I

Like everyone, I am a busy person. I get up early to go to work, work long, hard days and come home to more responsibilities. I would love to write here more often and more deeply, but often cannot. When I do write, most often it is while I am ordering coffee (or sitting and drinking it quickly).  As I am typing, friends are often walking up to talk to me. I almost never have time to proof-read what I write. I am on call for patients 24-7 and am almost always interrupted before I have that luxury of reviewing. I do dream of having the time to write carefully. I do visit other blogs and so many are done very professionally.

Why am I telling you this? On more than one occasion, I have written things here and finally get a chance to read it a week later, only to be horrified by typos. Sometimes . . . okay, twice, I have had people send me e-mails to scold me for my typos. They said things like, “Hey Mike, if you are aspiring to be a writer, the it reflects poorly on you to write poorly on your blog. Go back and fix your typos!”

I feel embarrassed about that. However, I do have another problem and that is I have dyslexia. I didn’t know this until I was almost forty. But then things seemed to start making sense.

When I was attending my small elementary school in Tennessee, I greatly excelled in most school topics. It was especially true in science. I was seen by teachers and fellow students as a child prodigy in science. I won the district science fair in physics (first place) and was second in over-all scores. When I was in the seventh grade, I was invited to come up to the high school and do a class lecture to them on earth sciences (and demonstrating my home-made seismograph). But that suddenly changed when spelling tests were introduced. I failed miserably and after thinking I was bright . . . suddenly I knew I was stupid. I failed miserably in spelling bees too. Of course, in those days neither teachers nor myself knew of dyslexia.

As a Navigator, I did horribly at memorizing scripture. I bet I spent three times as much time on it as my roommates, but did worse than the others when our leader asked us to quote the verses we had memorized that week.  I remember our staff leader calling me out, in front of the whole group, of not taking scripture memory seriously.

I tried to avoid writing classes in high school (while writing a lot on my own) because of public ridicule. When I started college, I had no choice but to take creative writing. I remember a profession calling me aside as he was assigning grades. He told me, that he had never had a situation where the best writer in his class was also the worst. I was confused. He said the content and creativity was superb, some of the best he had ever seen among his years of teaching. However, I was seriously hamstrung by misspellings and strange subsections such as “two” for “to.” So. he gave me an A and a D for his class, but averaged them as a B (hoping that I would work on the mechanics of typing).

I know that dyslexia is far more common that we thought and some reading this may have it. But when I see words, I see them (in my mind at least) like the scrambled letters that you must type on webpages to prove that you are not a robot.

My book, Butterflies in the Belfry, does not have this problem because I hired three different editors to help me clean it up.

I want to come back to the comment that I am an embarrassment to myself, as a writer, when I write here so poorly. But what they really should mean is that I am a poor typer. I type fast and as I try to read what I type, I don’t see blatant errors. So, to help with this, I may do an experiment where I do video blog posts.

I do have to run or hike almost daily (or at least 5 times a week) or I would need a forklift to get my (would be) fat ass out of the house. I want to try and figure out a way to do a video while I hike. The logistics will be a little hard as I don’t want to create a shaky video that will leave any viewer puking on the floor from motion sickness.

Stay tuned.

Mike

 

The Legitimate Swamp-Drainer

I have heard the comment from many Donald Trump supporters, that the reason they voted for the man, was because he was going to reform Washington. The need to reform Washington is legitimate. It really is astounding, that for the past five years, the disapproval rating for Congress is around 70% (see ). So, looking at our dissatisfaction with the way our government works, wanting a “swamp drainer” is a reasonable and noble cause and I respect them, at least for their motive.swamp

We constantly hear (even before this year) of how partisan the Congress and Senate have become. Where their perspective party’s winning is all that matters anymore. Where each side will distort the other. We have also been exposed to story after story of elected officials being involved with bribes and other acts of financial mischief (see this partial list).

I don’t want to turn my blog into a weekly political cometary—and God knows how disappointment I was in the election this year—but I do think it is relative to culture, and how Christians encounter culture. So, I am writing one more—but not necessarily the last—political post from the angle of what a good “swamp-drainer” would look like.

Let’s imagine that the swamp drainer was President Mary Jones (to borrow the names of two of my—now deceased—aunts). At the center of Mary’s desire for public service was to really help America to be a great country, for all its people. She would want to end partisanship and corruption and create an environment where ONLY what is best for the people of this great country is served.

1) Mary would either run as an independent, or as soon as she is elected (as a Republican or Democrat), declare her political independence and having no party association.

2) She would be extremely transparent and honest. She would put any financial interest of her own, or her family, in a blind trust. She would make all her tax returns public.

3) She would have a review of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to make sure there were no negative political or financial influences. She may even have a group of political ethics experts to do an audit to make sure the OCE was acting independently and above reproach. Then, when we have been assured that they doing good and unbiased work, their budget would be increased and they would be given more legal power to do their work.

4) She would work to pass laws to create greater scrutiny of the role of lobbyists and their access to elected officials. She would work to overturn the court decision on Citizens United ( see )

5) She would work to create a law where there were tight limits on contributions and spending at the primary election level. Once parties had chosen their candidate and the national, presidential election was underway, those campaigns would be tax-payer funded (and much less money than spent now). There would be no outside money spent on the general election. Each party would be given the same amount of money to spend and the emphasis would be placed on the substantive exchange of ideas, such as debates and detailed platform articles rather than TV sound-bite ads. She would also work to make it easier for all legitimate parties to get on the ballots. Legal reforms would be sought to make it much easier to sue opposing parties for libel, for giving out any false information about the other candidates, and to” sue them well.”

7) Efforts would be made, (bills passed), that would make it easier for people to vote. At the same time, safeguards would be kept in place to prevent non-citizens from voting or opportunities for voting fraud.

8) An independent team of legal experts would study the voting districts to make sure they were not created for political purposes.

9)If a candidate suggested there was voter fraud, without supporting grounds, he or she would have committed a federal law against acts of treason and face incrimination and possible incarceration.

9) She would increase the executive press corps and give them greater access to her and her executive branch’s work. She would welcome press scrutiny for all branches of government, knowing that a good press shines the light on mischief. She would hold executive press conferences weekly, if possible.

10) She would work to pass laws that prevent all financial influence of lobbyists (see the campaign rules I’ve mentioned above).

I could go on and on. My point is, with a great desire of truth a good president would seem very different than the one we are getting. I suspect the “drain the swamp” mantra is another part of the conning of the American voter.

creature

A good reporter is doing God’s work. They are the secular prophets of today, shining the light on truth and lies. If they are demonized as liberal or “fake,” then their credibility is shaken and the swamp grows.

press

Once again, I only had a brief moment to write and without the opportunity to proofread.

Mike