Making the rounds in the paste-a-link world is an editorial by a young religion blogger, Rachel Held Evans: "Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church." The reason for its frequent pasting is that she mentions how unimpressed the Millennials (those born from roughly the 1980's into the 2000's) are with the trappings of today's hip churches—the "contemporary" music, but also the coffee bars and groovy speakers, etc. Those who argue against these things and the thinking behind them are often eager to show proof that they don't "work."
Miss Evans goes on to note that "Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions—Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc.—precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being 'cool,' and we find that refreshingly authentic."
Indeed, "cool" has a short shelf life, and anyone who watches cultural trends should not be too surprised. But what Evans claims about her generation and its desires ought to raise some red flags: "What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance. . . . We want an end to the culture wars. . . . We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities."
So, in essence, she's claiming that her generation is leaving evangelical churches and seeking out a Mainline experience—liturgy queens, Social Gospel, dogma-free. This reminds me of something the great Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse wrote on the liturgical-renewal efforts of the mid-20th century: "A liturgical renewal is impossible unless the church is prepared to take seriously the doctrine which is witnessed to and sung in the liturgy. Liturgy and dogma belong together; you cannot have the one without the other. Dogma represents the doctrinal content—and therefore the truth content—of the liturgy."
Miss Evans wants to teach our churches what they ought to be teaching. Are they prepared to teach her the Faith if she shows up?
Aaron D. Wolf (1973-2019) was Chronicles' executive editor. His writings have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. He was a frequent guest on Issues, Etc. (Lutheran Public Radio) and The Paul Youngblood Show (nta.fm), and has appeared on several other radio programs, including The Tom Clark Show (Wisconsin Public Radio) and Extension 720 With Milt Rosenberg (WGN).