May 8, 2006
Of cardigans and corruption
Looks like Britain’s God Squad has a little image problem with the young:
The Church of England has debunked the widely held view that young people are spiritual seekers on a journey to find transcendent truths to fill the “God-shaped hole” within them.
A report published by the Church today indicates that young people are quite happy with a life without God and prefer car boot sales to church. If they think about church at all, the images young people come up with are “cardigans”, “sandals and socks”, “corrupt”, “traditionalist” and “stagnant”.
The report has prompted an “urgent” wake-up call from the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who writes of a large “mismatch” between the Church and the views of those aged 15 to 25. He says: “The research suggests young people are happy with life as it is, that they have felt no need for a transcendent something else and regard the Church as boring and irrelevant.”
… The number of young people attending has been halved since 1979. Fewer than 7 per cent of those aged 15 to 19 and 5 per cent of those aged 20 to 29 attend church. The number of children in Sunday school is less than a tenth of what it was in 1930.
The authors began their work believing that even if the young had little knowledge of Christianity they would still have religious or spiritual yearnings. They were shocked to find that they did not.
In the pilot interviews they included a picture of Salvador Dalí’s Christ of St John of the Cross but had to drop it from the main interviews because it failed to produce any response at all except one: “Oh, my grandmother has that picture.”
… Nevertheless, young people do not feel disenchanted, lost or alienated in a meaningless world. “Instead, the data indicated that they found meaning and significance in the reality of everyday life, which the popular arts helped them to understand and imbibe.” Their creed could be defined as: “This world, and all life in it, is meaningful as it is,” translated as: “There is no need to posit ultimate significance elsewhere beyond the immediate experience of everyday life.”
In other words, when they’re not under siege from American-style theocrats, people tend to be humanists at heart. The report’s authors, unsurprisingly, don’t get it:
In their advice to the Church, the report’s authors say that the first thing to do is “avoid panic”. It recommends means of reconnecting with young people such as through alternative worship forms, traditional buildings, church schools and civic occasions where Anglican clergy often officiate.
… The authors conclude: “We live in an instant culture, which cannot be reached by instant missionary tactics.” And the desire for happiness is valid and should not be criticised by clergy. “It can only be outclassed by a Christ-like way of life, for in him alone is true happiness to be found.”
Nope, wrong on both counts. The Church should be panicking: its adherents are dying out, and they’re not going to be replaced. As for “a Christ-like way of life,” forget it. As one of the teens quoted in the Times puts it:
“I don’t believe in God and I don’t live according to any religious rules. Religion is a waste of time.”
You can buy the report on Amazon UK.
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