I have a feeling there may be a few things my generation does not fully understand these days.
This may be particularly true when it comes to considering the 20-Something demographic in North America. Witness the Iowa primaries for the leadership of the Democratic Party. The Los Angeles Times reports:
In Iowa this week, women 29 and younger voted for Clinton’s challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders, by a stunning margin of roughly 6 to 1, much as young men did, according to the poll of voters arriving at precinct caucuses conducted for the television networks and the Associated Press.
Instead of flocking to Hilary as she no doubt expected, young female voters appear to be coalescing around a 74-year-old male Democrat.
Commenting on how uninspiring the post-teen women of our day find Hilary Clinton, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, makes the penetrating observation that they,
are already inside an order that has changed as a result of the feminist movement.
According to Nichola Gutgold, a professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State
Young women cannot remember a time that Hillary was not a household name, and it confuses them what she stands for. Rejecting her is a way of rejecting the establishment.
LA Times Contact Reporter, Evan Halper, suggests that Hilary’s problem among young voters is that she apparently represents
an establishment many young liberal voters have come to loathe.
I fear my generation may not fully understand, or take seriously, the degree of disillusionment 20-Somethings have with “the establishment.” So-called “Millenials” do not find themselves reflected in mainstream organizations. Even when these institutions attempt to reflect their values, 20-Somethings do not feel at home in their embrace.
This is challenging news for the church. We have not begun to plumb the depths of youthful disconnect from the way we go about business in the church. We have not heard the degree of disaffection that exists in the demographic many of whom are now younger than my children.
We have not heard because we have not listened carefully. We have not listened carefully because:
1. In the church, we are preoccupied with servicing the traditional demographic who have supported our community over the past half-century. They are the people today who pay the bills. They are the ones who still show up on Sundays and who may remember us in their will, leaving a legacy for a future generation who will be unlikely to take any interest in what we have to offer.
We love these faithful supporters and they deserve a church in which they feel at home. But, it is a delicate trick to balance the needs of those for whom our traditions are familiar with a younger population for whom they are utterly foreign.
2. We don’t listen because we do not want to hear the answers. We fear the answers because we feel we may be unable to implement the changes the answers may require.
Most mainline churches are small eccentric gatherings of people to whom particular anitquarian practices appeal. People under forty are not interested in our obscurantist dogmas; they deride our hierarchical leadership, ridicule our quaint titles, and completely fail to understand our elaborate symbol system. They find much of our language incomprehensible, and our endless battles over sex contemptible.
There will only be a church in the future, if the church in the present is willing to do some serious listening to those young people who are moving into adulthood and preparing to shape the institutions that will serve future generations. This may require that those of us whose hold power in the church today are willing to surrender some of our comfortable familiarities and look to a future we can only barely imagine.
Having said all this, I just asked my eight-year-old granddaughter, who is patiently waiting for Grandpa to stop typing, what she wants the church to be like when she is a grown-up, she replied, “I want it to be just like it is now.”