More About The Younger Generation And Church.

In graduate school, one of my “outside” fields was economic anthropology.  I came to think you could understand a lot about any society by how people spent their average day.

In today’s world, I don’t think there is enough study of how people’s everyday life is changing and how the changes affect other things, such a religion.  Today there was a nice article that at least touched the surface of this.

The article made an assumption church affiliation helped people assimilate into a new community when they moved.  Since moving from one  place to another was the upward mobile path for many decades following WWII, churches were important to people.

The new circumstances are that young people are not moving as much.  Therefore, they don’t see the need for churches like their parents did.

I’d suggest there are other overlooked variables, too.  One is people are working  more hours and more often take work home.  Fewer leisure hours make each hour more valuable.  Something has to get crowded out.  Surely for some, it’s church.

It seems like later marriage might be bad for church life.  If as young single people church is not a “habit”, when marriage comes along the pattern of no church is several years old.

These variables of not moving, more hours of work and later marriage seem like long term structural changes in daily life.  If they are permanent, that is, last several decades, their affect on society’s institutions, like the church, will last just as long.

7 Responses

  1. Doubtful

    The article you site is a lot like your’s Jon. It states things with no supporting evidence and few specifics. The mention of economic anthropology is a nice touch to try to make this speculation seem scientific but there is no science involved here. There is only speculation that the causes sited exist and more speculation that they had the effect mentioned.

    1. Doubtful 2:04 “There is only speculation…”

      Mostly, I agree with you. There are many variables, including the one I’ve discussed before but not in this post, the computer.

      The thing is, something is happening among today’s youth. They are not following their parents into the church the way their parents followed the previous ones. I think it is interesting to look at the social science variables, even if they are difficult to measure.

      I’m curious as to what you think is the cause.

      1. Doubtful

        Must I think that I know what the cause is? Hard as it seems to be for much of our society to grasp, it is not necessary, or even wise, to think you know something you do not. I would point out that this generation is not the first one to “not follow their parents to church”. What is new today is the number of young people who aware that institutional church is not the last word on religion. Harvey Cox most recent book, the future of faith has some very interesting things to say about this.

        1. Doubtful 3:17 “Harvey Cox” Thanks for that reference. I read through everything available on line. Especially, I spent time combing over the index to see if he covered religion from a social science point of view. He did not, which would be typical of an “insider”, a member of a traditional Department of Religion or Seminary.

          Cox would consider, I’m sure, the effect of social and economic conditions not relevant to what happens inside the religious community. He might go so far as to say the cause and effect worked backwards, religion changing society.

          I was supprised to see he claim the influence of religion is growing all over the world. Like your criticism of my post, that it contained arbitrary views, would be the same criticism I would make about much of what he seems to writie. In Europe, Christianity polls less than the majority. Politicans do not discuss their religous views regularly like here in the U. S. Maybe he has some other definition of the growing influence–I don’t know what it could be.

          1. Doubtful 12:35 It seems to be a book about topics we’ve discussed here several times, the decline of denominations and the growth of “spiritualism”, pentacostalism, and the progressive church. I like that trend and he is a prominent fellow in that genre.

            Looking at this and his other books I don’t see much influence from the social sciences, my particular interest.

          2. I would add further that if you looked at the vast number of professors in departments of religion and seminaries, they are quite similar. They dispise literalists and atheists. They love liberal branches of both Catholicism and Protestantism. They, themselves, are members of such churches. Their graduate school professors were the same.

            When I find stuff written by professors who are different than those above, I’m attracted to what they have to say.

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