This is written in response to "3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don't Leave the Church," as found on the Faithit site, here. I came upon the article through an FB post by a friend. I could not help but notice how the article was itself demonstration of the causes behind that migration which the article is addressing. Which is a kind phrasing for what for me is the central issue of the contemporary Christian religion.
It is imperfectly written. In a great part because I had thought to write a more formal response to the article. But I need to stem that desire to write "more formal responses" to everything. Nothing's getting done because of it. So I wrote this. The evidencing could go into more detail; but, the points made are sufficient to the simple purpose of this post (and response to the FB post). I may come back to this. (I certainly will comeback to its ideas.)
I read this article and can only laugh at why Protestant Christians can't understand why people like me laugh at them, when we are not shaking our heads in embarrassment for them. Or turning away in disgust. This is demonstration of why youth is leaving the church. And that because this is a spot on description of indoctrination as written from within the indoctrinated. It is demonstration of why people like me look at mainstream Protestantism and see a cult, in the very negative connotation of the word.
“Three common traits of youth who do not leave the church": the opening title should be clue enough as to the nature of the belief being presented in that it is inwardly directed, in that it puts the church as the center of the religion.
1. They are converted. Another dead giveaway in its inward-turned mindset, in its defining and defending the insularity of a cult. Two key points within. Notice how the idea of what makes for good "church members" is moved to something non-material, non-substantial, non-active: "[. . .] all the while praying fervently for the miraculous work of regeneration to occur in the hearts and souls of our students by the power of the Holy Spirit!" The responsibility of spiritual development is taken out of the hands of leaders and turned into an abstract grant. This is cultic leadership: the leaders do not develop the minds or souls of the members they simply get the members to identify with the cult: they “convert” them. The converted know they are converted when they themselves are preaching to – converting – the unconverted.
And, of course, the primary purpose of conversion? “It is converted students who go on to love Jesus” – a complete abstraction which is given definition by what follows – “and serve the church.” Wait. WHAT? The converted serve the church? Can you have starker demonstration of the psyche of cultic insularity?
2. They have been equipped, not entertained. Notice the opposition that is set up here. First, “equipped”: “If I have not equipped the students in my ministry to share the gospel, disciple a younger believer, and lead a Bible study [. . .].” Notice again the inward direction. Everything is about (1) creating new converts and (2) training people to create new converts. It is insular cultism. What is this opposed to? “Christ gives us—teachers—to the church, not for entertainment, encouragement, examples, or even friendship primarily.” It is directly opposed to encouragement, example-hood, and friendship. First, to reaffirm the cultic aspect, those are three outward pointing acts. You do not want that in a cult; you want people who “serve the church” and think about everything through the lens of “serving the church.” But beyond that, this dolt explicitly states that church leadership is not about three qualities exemplified in the life of Christ, if not to the core of the teachings of Christ. The article makes it clear: the church is the center of everything. Not Christ. Not his teachings. Church first.
3. Their parents preached the gospel to them. Never mind that within the context of the whole this as might as well read “Their parents indoctrinated them into the correct life of the cult.” Let’s just get to the meat of the moment:
“The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church. They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.”
Just look at the actions here: “made them go to church”; “punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious”; “read the Bible around the dinner table every night.” I won’t comment on “but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace,” etc. etc. nonsense other than to say that that is precisely what is being mocked by the joke “the beatings will continue until morale improves.” Instead, I will simply ask: What is missing from the the above and the following sentences, and from the article as a whole?
“In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church.”
Let’s start with what is present: the circularity of an insular cult. Children who stay in the cult do so because (1) their parents are completely devoted to cult (and “love” the cult’s icon – an abstract demonstration of loyalty to the cult); (2) the parents serve the cult completely; and (3) the parents saturate their home with cult ideology so that there are no alternatives of thought (see “punish rebelliousness” above).
What is missing? I’m choosing something a bit hastily, but it will serve well:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
What is missing is the outward direct soul of the teachings of Christ. (“Youth pastors, pray with all your might for true conversion; that is God’s work.” Really? That doesn’t scare the hell out of you?)
Can you find Christ-likeness anywhere in this article? Can you demonstrate anywhere that this was written out of a philosophy or morality of Christ-likeness? What is it that speaks most about how this article is not about the teachings of Christ but about cultic indoctrination? What it does not say. It does not say this (I muddle through an example here):
“Three common traits of youth who follow Christ: 1. love in all their actions with others; 2. humility in their going into the world; 3. understanding that spiritual development is an ever-ongoing endeavor.”
Rather, we have here how to indoctrinate your children to being good servants of the church. Which is probably why, by my experience, church-oriented young adults (notice what I said there) are more aptly described by these characteristics: 1. willfully ignorant, if not incapable of depth understanding; 2. fearful of, if not terrified by, any challenge to their worldview (and unable to handle such except through insular withdrawal); 3. spiritual shallowness hidden behind a naive if not vacuous self-righteousness.
To note, it is not defense of the article – or its presented mindset – to point to moments like the closing “Parent’s, preach the gospel and live the gospel [. . .].” They are abstract code words, happy phrases that have to be defined, ultimately, in context. The “gospel” here, in this article, is about the church. It is conversion to the church. There is no love to be found there. Only the fear evidenced in the opening lines.
So, to go back, why is this demonstration of why youth are leaving the church? Because it is demontration of a spiritually dead cult.