Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why churches lose the young, and Catholic-Lutheran ecumenism

  • From Rod Dreher: Why churches lose the young. Because people in almost all American churches are infected with what Harold Bloom called the American religion, or we're Protestantized and don't know it? Unless there is a specific adult in a teenager’s life who shows the teenager by example and in the context of a meaningful, long-term relationship how an adult incorporates Christian faith into daily life, no program, camp, mission trip, youth group, worship style, musical trend, Sunday school, church reform, updated pastoral style, modernization, or even catechetical class will make a statistically significant difference. ... Teenagers and emerging adults believe in and practice “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” not because their parents and their local church have failed to teach them otherwise, but precisely because that is what their parents and their local church are actually teaching them.
  • Joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the "Reformation" in 2017: too far? Maybe. I agree with the church and the mainstream Lutherans that justification was, after all, a non-issue. But Luther did become a heretic. That said, ironic considering his place in history, Lutherans, certainly the conservative ones I like, such as the Missouri Synod, who wouldn't be involved in this, are very close to us. Christ-centered, liturgical, etc. I feel for them in a way I don't for other Protestants; they're our cousins. (How many other Protestants have always defended using the crucifix? Luther kept it.) So talk, by all means. Teach so that like Fr. Richard John Neuhaus they may come in. But like I say, ecumenism's played out. We know what the other side teaches and we're not trying to kill each other anymore. That's as far as it'll go. Catholic teaching - Trent - of course can't change so the Lutherans would have to convert. Not the merger thinking of the mainline Protestants with their denominations. The one true church, our holy mother, the church, the infallible church, is foreign to them. In the end of course all this joint statement can say is pious rhetoric - again, our doctrine's not negotiable - but this sort of thing arguably sends the wrong message, like Vatican II did and as Pope Francis seems wont to do. In the Sixties, many people thought the church had really changed so a merger was about to happen. Nobody really believes that anymore and few care.

8 comments:

  1. The practical conclusion is rather straightforward: For most people, and when viewed as a sociological trend, unless there is a specific adult in a teenager’s life who shows the teenager by example and in the context of a meaningful, long-term relationship how an adult incorporates Christian faith into daily life, no program, camp, mission trip, youth group, worship style, musical trend, Sunday school, church reform, updated pastoral style, modernization, or even catechetical class will make a statistically significant difference. Further, to retain their faith into adulthood young people need to experience God’s grace for themselves, preferably before the latter part of high school.

    My impression from the commentary on the study is the data show bad retention numbers even with Church-going parents. And I'm not going to click thru all the articles, so it remains unclear to me what exactly they are measuring. Catholics becoming Baptists, or Christians becoming atheists? Or Jews becoming Buddhists?

    I think the next highest statistical correlation for religious adherence is whether the adherent fits in socially with the local worship group. In other words, if your faith-based institution provides people with peer-group friends and a patronage network, then they'll stick around.

    Nobody likes to think in such mundane terms, so we hear all this talk about being ever more pious and true. But there are plenty of pious and true experiences out there, from the humanist to the transcendent.

    On the micro level, what the authors of the study are describing is indoctrination by the largest and most immediate authority figure most children will ever have in their lives. At the macro level, that's the argument for a national Church. We don't have a national Church, so all the competing faith-based and humanist-based institutions can make their pitch for piety and truth. So it's understandable why young adults are exercising options.

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  2. I am puzzled by your comments. For Luther, justification was the central issue of the Reformation and the center of his theology ("the article by which the Church stands or falls"). If justification was, after all, a non-issue, then how did it happen that "Luther did become a heretic"? What was his heresy, if not his teaching on justification?

    Your kind words and warm feelings for Missouri are, as always, appreciated.

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    1. I agree with the boys at HQ it's a non-issue. We are saved by faith. Luther's heresy denies church infallibility, the apostolic ministry with the necessity of bishops (with its objective validity apart from the worthiness of the minister?), the complete transformation of the elements of the Eucharist, and more.

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    2. The Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church have signed a joint declaration on Justification.

      http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html

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  3. Protestantism and going mainstream (losing our ghettos) is the cause of our fall, this is thanks to our leadership, esp during 70s. the rot was there before though - this stuff didnt just materialize after V2 but rather V2 was used as their excuse chance to change the Church

    largely agree on ecumenism, in practice we kiss ass far too much towards other faith groups Christian and non-Christian (Jews comes to mind) - this is mostly thanks to liberal AmChurch and northwest euopean bishops

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  4. I do agree that we kiss ass way too much. But it's mostly banana oil, so not to worry. Especially these Vatican commissions -- no one really takes them seriously; I doubt the Vatican does. Not worth getting our knickers in a bunch over.

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    1. Pretty much what I was trying to say while giving the conservative Lutherans their due. Thank you.

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    2. You're welcome! And yes, I agree: We and the Lutherans agree on Sola Gratia. Everything is Grace, as Saint Teresa said. Even our merits are crowned by God's Grace, as Augustine said. We must cooperate with Grace, but even that comes from Grace. how does that all work? Who the heck knows? It's a mystery. :)

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