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Archive for Saturday, November 26, 2011

Faith Forum: In your experience, how do our current generations look differently at faith?

November 26, 2011

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The Rev. Peter A. Luckey, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:

Yes, indeed, our current generations look differently at faith.

Case in point: according to the Pew Research Center, of the generation born between 1981 and 1988, (what Pew calls Generation Next) one in five in that group say they have no religious affiliation. The proportion of young people who feel this way has doubled from the late 1980s.

The Barna Group has discovered a significant difference in how people born before 1946 view their faith versus succeeding generations. Faith for the Boomers is, according to the research group, “the foundation of their lives.”

Throughout my ministry I have witnessed this group’s deep sense of loyalty and commitment — not only to their beliefs but also to the institutions that help perpetuate those beliefs.

Baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) and even more so, the generations following the “boomers” like Generation Next, tend to see their faith less tied to one group or tradition and instead view their faith as a work-in-progress, something cobbled together among their own life experiences, the tradition in which they were born into and exposure to other traditions.

What I admire about young people today is how they are able to balance a commitment to their own roots while at the same time able to draw insights from other places. Many in this generation would nod their heads in agreement when the Christian mystic Matthew Fox says, “there are many wells, but one river.”

Take all these generalizations with a grain of salt. What I find more and more compelling in my ministry is how much we all have in common, no matter if we are 9 or 90. We are all on a search.

We all live our lives with fundamental questions like the following: why am I here? Is there a God and if so, does God care about me? What happens to me after I die? And what am I supposed to make of my life?

— Send e-mail to Peter Luckey at peterluckey@sunflower.com.

Doug Heacock, contemporary worship leader and director of media and communications, Lawrence Free Methodist Church, 3001 Lawrence Ave.:

When I was growing up in the 1960s, I scarcely met anyone who was not at least peripherally involved in a church, but as the ’60s gave way to the ’70s, more people rejected the church, along with many other elements of “the Establishment.” This seemed to me to result in a growing group of people who, in the ’80s and ’90s, did not raise their children in the religious traditions in which they were raised.

To some extent, I believe the church has also failed to help young believers develop a durable faith. A recent survey (http://bit.ly/aOK4yy) indicates young people are leaving the church at a higher rate than ever before. More and more people are identifying themselves as having “no religion” or even as “ex-Christians.”

While this is cause for justifiable alarm among church leaders, and should be treated as a wake-up call, I believe there are some encouraging signs, as well. More people in my church (and many other churches), for example, are beginning to wake up to the needs of a suffering world, and are taking seriously the Bible’s mandate to care for the poor. This is appealing to (and could be an avenue for communicating the gospel to) Generation Y — the “millennial” generation, the children of the baby-boomers ­— because they desire to be engaged in doing something positive for the world.

The rise of the Passion movement (268generation.com) among college students suggests that there are significant numbers of young people who are interested in seeing God be glorified and giving their lives to serve Christ and others. That movement has also helped drive the creation of a great deal of new worship music.

The church’s slow-but-steady adoption (and adaptation) of new communications and technology tools and strategies is also helping the church seem less “weird” to the Internet generation.

It should be noted that in other parts of the world, the church is growing dramatically — even explosively. The rise of the “leavers” may be a uniquely American thing at this point in history. And we shouldn’t forget that Jesus said he would build his church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. There is definitely hope for the church.

— Send e-mail to Doug Heacock at doug.heacock@gmail.com.

Comments

shadowlady 2 years, 4 months ago

Not on your life, your just too arrogant, and that no matter what anybody says, your the only one right and everyone else is wrong. Your just too full of yourself.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 4 months ago

I consider it to be very frustrating that the pastors and worship leaders are given a week, and perhaps more, to express their thoughts on the subject that is being discussed on the 'Faith Forum' column that appears every week on the LJWorld.com website, while I am given perhaps 45 minutes to an hour to express mine.

As a direct result of that, it seems that I cannot get my all of my grammatical and typographical errors removed before it goes online!

However, I believe that the meanings that I express are clear, if you ignore my very obvious grammatical and typographical mistakes.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 4 months ago

3) But if you are educated enough to read any media that covers people in other parts of the world, you will find that is certainly not the case elsewhere. Religious fundamentalism is running rampant in other parts of the world, and for anyone that doubts that, I can only suggest that they read more about what is happening in other parts of the world.

However, the fundamentalism that is running rampant in other parts of the world today certainly appears to be rushing the world backwards in time, back to when their religious texts were written, about the year 700 AD.

So in summation, I suppose the answer to the question: "In your experience, how do our current generations look differently at faith?" depends entirely upon how you define "faith", and what parts of the world you are looking at.

Do you mean "Faith" as fundamentalism" In that case, it is running rampant in other parts of the world, but it appears to be on the decline in the United States, although many denominations are growing at a phenomenal rate, as many are looking for answers and reassurance that they cannot seem to find any other way in these uncertain times.

If you mean "Faith" as religious affiliation? In that case the picture changes. Many choose their religious affiliation in the same way that they select which social group to identify themselves with. Rather like a selected tribal affiliation.

If you mean "Faith" as something that you use as a guidance for your daily life? I'm not sure what the portion of the population does so, but many do consider the precepts of various faiths in order to determine what their daily actions should be.

If you mean "Faith" as some sort of fantasy that is only for others, and you yourself are the supreme authority on what is right and wrong, perhaps you are looking at is as many commenters on this forum do, and then it is likely that you think of it as being alarmingly on the increase in the United States.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 4 months ago

2) First off, in Jewish thought, G-d cannot be described at all, that is totally impossible.

In Jewish thought, only aspects of G-d can be described, and nothing more. So anyone that thinks that a Jewish person thinks that G-d is "an invisible man in the sky" is suffering from a terrible delusion akin to schizophrenia, in that a total rejection of the truth is being expressed. There are therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists available to help people that are suffering from such delusions, but they are of no assistance unless the person first expresses a desire for help.

I don't believe that the various concepts of what G-d is in Christian thought in the many dozens of denominations can be generalized that way, since they vary a great deal.

Some believe that G-d Himself intervenes in our everyday lives by regularly performing miracles. I don't believe that, but I know that some do.

Others believe that he sends angels to perform those duties for Him. That could be the case, I would not want to argue the matter, I believe that is certainly possible, but I'm sure they certainly won't do it unless asked or allowed to.

Back to the original question: "In your experience, how do our current generations look differently at faith?"

It's quite obvious that we live in an increasingly secular age here in the United States.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 4 months ago

1) "In your experience, how do our current generations look differently at faith?"

That is a very, very interesting topic.

If Astrology is the faith being discussed, one could only conclude that the current generation's faith is growing by leaps and bounds. This is quite obviously so, since almost ten out of ten Americans know what their zodiac sign is. And they tend to categorize each other according to their zodiac sign by picking their friends, dating, and marriage partners by their zodiac sign, and in many cases, they also make their daily decisions based upon what they have read in their daily horoscope.

In fact, this faith is growing so rapidly that the 'Horoscope' column runs every day in the LJWorld.com, but 'Faith Forum' runs only once a week.

But, if the subject is restricted to spirituality, religious faith, or religious affiliation, the situation is very different. First off, many seem to have a great deal of confusion distinguishing among those three things, although all are an expression of personal faith. But the distinction between those three things is totally lost on many.

"Faith" to many represents "an invisible man in the sky", or "an imaginary man in the sky", or some such, as any regular reader of this column is aware. It is absolutely amazing how many demonstrate their ignorance by making such a claim.

In no case in the Tanakah (the Jewish Bible, more or less the Old Testament) or the Bible is G-d ever described as being a "man in the sky", but since the people that think of G-d that way have never educated themselves upon the matter of what different religions describe G-d as, they espouse their ignorant opinions upon the matter of that they "think" the texts say by announcing their own "inspired" version of what they "think" the texts claim.

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