Locally, there has been some argument over whether or not the Hamilton County Commission may begin meetings with a Christian prayer. Since I have been in the ministry for quite a while now, I am not surprised that the issue has been raised. What I find most interesting is the difference of the respective ages of the people involved. Most of those who demonstrate in favor of the policy of prayer before Commission meetings sport middle-age waistlines and graying hair. Those who support the plaintiffs in the lawsuit tend to be of the younger generation. It is this fact that should give the church pause.
The evangelical movement has lost the young people to skepticism. We’ve done this in many ways. The first is that the church took a broad range of right-wing political positions because of the earlier positions regarding reproductive rights and issues about same-sex relationships. Or in the jargon of the “christian right” – abortion and gay marriage. The issues that the right-wing held regarding taxation, warfare, debt-financing of tax breaks for people to buy stuff, and how a nation deals with enemy captives have all been agreed to by churches (disregarding the official positions of the respective denominations). A large area of the Holy Scriptures are ignored over two very minor discussions. And please do not argue about “the sanctity of marriage” while the divorce rate of evangelicals mirrors that of the general culture. No one will believe us about that one.
The second problem involved in losing the younger generation is that evangelical churches decided to go with entertainment, do-good sight-seeing, and a therapeutic put-on-a-happy-face approach to all of church life. The young people enjoyed what was given. But, these approaches had little to do with being a follower of Christ and more to do with the deistic culture we decided to no longer engage.
The third major issue that has caused the lack of faith in our young people is the attempt to correct a “values-free” educational approach by insisting on a values-based teaching that included misleading information in the areas of sociology and science. Some christian believers attempted and always failed in using the courts to push these misleading ideas into public education systems.
In other words, the present day church has done everything it can to shoot herself in the foot while inserting it into the mouth. The church is the christian religious institution. Yet, in the United States it has become a club dedicated to every secular edu-tainment purpose on earth. It loses its’ prophetic voice. Christianity is the majority religion in the United States; and christians call themselves persecuted when attempts to establish religious laws fail. We have lost the young people to the deistic secular life in this era because the religion of the church has no real depth. People who are willing to ask these hard questions are being ignored and shouted down by those who will not wrestle with the issue.
Let’s revive the whole practice of christian devotion and prayer. Let us call for the sanctity of marriage to be examined and re-examined by how we have acted and behaved. Let us reflect theologically and ethically on how our identity as christians is being presented. Let us find a way for the church to become an aspiration for the best, brightest, and most spiritual believers in Christ to serve for sake of the kingdom of God in this world. It is time to let go of the illusions of the past of the church and culture going together hand in hand into a peaceful world. We must be a church dealing prophetically with the world speaking the truth in love and building congregations into the body of Christ.