Tuesday, February 11, 2014
From Precious Moments Christianity to High Church Religion. . .
In the American Conservative, author Gracy Olmstead argues that Millenials are fed up with the Christianity Lite or "Precious Moments" Christianity of sentiment over truth and feeling over liturgy. That is true enough, to a point. It is not simply liturgy that wins them over but doctrinal truth, unchanged and unchanging, which is expressed on Sunday morning in the ancient and catholic liturgy of the Church that is making Millenials take notice. Whether the Western Catholic form and content or the Eastern Orthodox faith and liturgy, Millenials are searching for truth that is true for all and forever and for worship which not only mentions this truth but conveys its grace in the reality of sacramental forms (water, bread, and wine).
“If you ask me why kids are going high church, I’d say it’s because the single greatest threat to our generation and to young people nowadays is the deprivation of meaning in our lives,” Cone says. “In the liturgical space, everything becomes meaningful. In the offering up of the bread and wine, we see the offering up of the wheat and grain and fruits of the earth, and God gives them back in a sanctified form. … We’re so thirsty for meaning that goes deeper, that can speak to our entire lives, hearts, and wallets, that we’re really thirsty to be attached to the earth and to each other and to God. The liturgy is a historical way in which that happens.”
The sad truth ix that folks from my generation have let our preoccupation with self and feelings turn faith and worship into the certainty you cannot know for certain except in how you feel and what you want. Our truth is only one person wide and one person deep. Our worship services are shaped by the extensions of our preferences and desires with the assumption that if we like them, God will, too. Our children and grandchildren cannot abide the kind of "Precious Moments" Christianity long on sentiment and entertainment and short on objective truth and reality.
The desire from the Millenials is not for form without substance but for substance which has a form and churches dare not confuse this as one more program or methodology to fill the pews. Lutherans should be well poised to capitalize upon the changing landscape but we are not. The folks my age are still trying to turn our garage rock groups into praise bands and afraid of ceremony and ritual as if these were the undoing of religion. We long for a simple religion which is casual and flexible instead of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the Incarnation. Where Lutherans are healthiest, Lutherans are really Lutherans and not Protestants with a twist. Where Lutherans are Lutheran, young people are attracted. Where Lutherans are Lutheran in faith and worship, there is a vibrant church with something to offer a people no longer content with casual, come as you are Christianity Lite.
The millennial generation is seeking a holistic, honest, yet mysterious truth that their current churches cannot provide. Where they search will have large implications for the future of Christianity. Protestant churches that want to preserve their youth membership may have to develop a greater openness toward the treasures of the past. One thing seems certain: this “sacramental yearning” will not go away.