Today I am taking a day off from blogging, truthfully to get a few days ahead in the prep work. But I did come across an interpretive interview on recent research about the religious beliefs and practices of millennials vis-à-vis their elders from the good folks at PEW. So you won’t be alone with your coffee today.
I found a number of points of agreement with the author, Dave Masci, though I think the research needs to look a little more closely at the internal dynamics of religious faiths, to see what trends and practices within faith communities might be leading to a progressive disinterest in church commitment.
Anyone who knows me is probably well aware of my strong belief that religious education in American Catholicism is presently woefully inadequate, if not terminally ill, and it is only getting worse. In short, each successive generation of Catholic parents and catechists are less prepared to share the faith with their children than the previous one. This has been a problem long before the priest abuse scandal that Masci references.
Back in the late 1990’s, when I was teaching a college course on world religion, I assigned Alan Dershowitz’s 1997 work, The Vanishing American Jew. (It was one of my first review submissions to the new Amazon site, and it was refused, incidentally.) In this book Dershowitz describes Jewish youth formation for bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. “The kids typically hate it, but they want to be bar or bat mitzvahed because it is a rite of passage and it comes with a party and presents. The “deal” usually made between parents and their children is that in exchange for “giving up” several afternoons and Sunday mornings, the children would get the party and a promise of no more Hebrew school." (295)
Does that sound familiar?