Q: Millenials are the highest rates of defection from church. How do you understand your relationship with organized religion?

Richard Rohr: I believe that absolute sin-centeredness is uninteresting. What most millenials are facing is not sin. The real problem today is the loss of meaning; it doesn’t mean anything. And the soul can’t live without meaning.

Millenials have a certain honesty that my generation did not have. For so many you see today it’s just fire insurance; you can tell there’s no honest belief there; it’s just along for the ride, fire insurance religion. My generation have in fact left, but we didn’t have the honesty to walk out. Millenials are on a more honest search. Their questions are more honest, and more sincerely seeking.  They don’t have the practical atheism of baby-boomers. They pretended to believe but it’s clear they didn’t.

Cynthia Bourgeault: The church is standing in the role of holding the denying force, the resisting, the breaking force. And remember “denying” doesn’t mean evil; it’s a necessary role in the transmission, so we’re not running out and reinventing the wheel. There’s beautiful juice that has flowed through these structures and without it we’d be lost.

I also believe that the Christian religion how ever it go here, probably by accident, has a piece of the puzzle that is precious. Teilhard said, if Christianity isn’t seen to be the most realistic and organic of religions, nothing has been understood of its so-called mysteries. The integration of the human and the earth plane and the Spirit plane in one is so powerful and the heart-presence of Christ so persuasive. I would hate to see the vessel that celebrates it in all its beauty and all its history, in all its gravitas, simply disappear off the face of the earth. However, I don’t see the juice flowing through organized religion at this point. I think that what’s happening is that a new shape and a new format is reformulating. I think the best place to be is right on the outside of the inside, right at the edge of the inside. And from that position all sorts of wonderful stuff can happen.

William Paul Young: I think institutions have less life than rocks. They are only a figment of our imagination. Coz they’re not eternal. The issue with institutional systems and structures, I tend to go with the Book of Revelation, is that it looks like a lamb but has the voice of a dragon. But we live in a world that is full of them. How do we be in this but not of it?

We as human beings are the ones who energize institutional structures and systems. Don’t confuse the church with an institutional structure. When I was growing up you couldn’t even ask a question about the system. To ask a question was tantamount to confronting God because God did this. But so much of it is not good – the way it treats women, the hierarchy, the whole thing; but here we are in a world full of them.

How do we be in them but not of them? What are you hearing the Holy Spirit telling you?

I’m with the millenials, in a world full of institutional structures, they are looking for something that actually transforms. They are drawn to meaning and authenticity, things that actually change things, not just in their own heart but in an outward kind of flow.

I’m not so upset that institutional structures are shaking. I think this is a really healthy thing. We live in a world where fifty years ago the reason these institutions were able to maintain their power was that no one knew there was anything else outside of them. You were so locked inside of them that you didn’t even know that other people thought differently than you and, if you did, they were “them”, coz you knew you had the truth so they had to be “them”. Now with a swipe of your iPhone you are in a world where people see the world differently and that crosses your boundaries. And that means, either you entrench yourself and this is the shadow side of the millenials’ openness. They’re in a position where, if they don’t be on guard, they can get sucked right back into some form of fascism because they’re so change-fatigued that they just want somebody to tell them how to think.

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