Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical youth are in flight from their churches because they see them weighted down with back-breaking Old Testament rules and lacking in love for either them or their fellow man. If there is one thing children know better than anything else in this world, it is when they are being truly loved—and when they are not being loved. They also know when authority figures, including those in the church, are not listening to their concerns—and not taking them seriously in those concerns.
These disenchanted youth are also very upset about the fact—and it is a fact—that their Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches reject widely known, settled, and accepted facts in a variety of academic disciplines. These disciplines are archaeology, anthropology, geology, biology, genetics, astronomy, environmental science, clinical psychology, American history, and related fields of study. The children still see Jesus as being “the truth,” as they were taught in church, but they also see their churches actively rejecting and campaigning against all sorts of factual truth—and by so doing rejecting the basic source of all truth—Jesus Christ. It is an irony so intense that their young minds cannot handle it, and they walk away from their churches saying to themselves collectively—and I think rightly so:
My church is a center of incredible ignorance, and it has been feeding me lies and incorrect information for the last 18 years of my life. I’m out of here!!!
Many see Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism as being theologically flawed, and they see its human practitioners in this world as being spiritually corrupt hypocrites driven by hatred of their fellowman.
I have seen several recent, hand-wringing Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical news articles on what can be done to stop the youth from fleeing their churches, and they all say basically the same thing, which is paraphrased as follows:
Our youth cohorts are leaving us in droves, and the only answer to the flight of youth from our Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches is to double-down, triple-down, and quadruple-down on hammering scripture verses and our right doctrines into their heads.
Will this work? Princess Leia Organa stated it best to Darth Vader in the original Star Wars movie:
The harder you tighten your fist around them, the more of them will slip through your fingers.
The Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical establishment in the United States is slowly but surely tightening a noose around its own neck and hanging itself in the process—and if they keep it up—they do not have long to live. Without writing a book here, which I could easily do, I can sum it all up by saying that Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism have abandoned many of the key and loving sayings and doings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, while giving them mere lip service. They see evangelism alone as the whole of the Christian faith as if the faith requires nothing else of them. They doggedly refuse to understand what those loving words and deeds of Jesus in scripture really demand and refuse to go out into the world to do them in everyday life―and they do all of this refusal in the name of Jesus. This is another reason why their youth are leaving in droves. The children know what those scriptures mean and take them more seriously than their preachers and parents. This flight of youth is not going to end until the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches either die off or radically reform, including reformation of their colleges, seminaries, and parachurch organizations (and especially their embarrassing and shameful political organizations).
Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical preachers may say, “The Bible says…” They may say, “The word of God says…” They may even say, “God alone says…” However, people all over the United States are waking up to the fact that the words of the Bible are always filtered through the human brain—and that very fact alone introduces powerful potential for corruptions and errors in the understanding of Biblical text. The real truth of the matter is as follows:
Ultimately, it is not so much: “This is what God says…” but rather “This is what one man or some other man says that God is saying.”
Vast numbers of people are awakening to the realization that what Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals “say that God is saying” is in fact not what God is actually saying in many instances. The fundies may attribute this increasing mass public cognition to a wrong-headed world sinking into the mire of sin and depravity if they like (nothing is ever their own fault), but that does not change the basic fact that Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are wrong-headed and corrupted spiritual dinosaurs who have had their heads buried in the sand for the past 100 years while Jesus slowly goes about the spiritual business of reforming his churches for the 21st century and beyond.
The fleeing Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical youth are part of the current reformation process. Their preachers and parents taught them the red words of Jesus and his deeds for 18 years in Sunday school. That was their really big mistake. The kids remember those words and deeds today. They see how their preachers, parents, churches, and parachurch organizations (and especially their vile political organizations) do not live up to those Holy words and deeds in their thoughts, words, and actions—and they seek to flee from it all.
Rather than fleeing to atheism, agnosticism, and “the nones,” I hope these disenchanted youth will understand that it is not Jesus that has betrayed them and failed them. Instead, it was the all-too-fallible adult human beings and their crooked theology in the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches. As Jesus said with his own lips 2,000 years ago, the same may be said today of the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, and this is what these youth see today in their pastors, parents, churches, colleges, and parachurch organizations (especially the political ones):
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. (Matthew 15:8)
It is my sincere hope these burdened youth will understand that they have simply been the victims of false religious propaganda for the first 18 years of their lives; consider that Jesus is now reforming many of his churches worldwide; and stick with the person of Jesus Christ in a new, reform-minded church that is not a part of Christian fundamentalism or conservative evangelicalism—a new church that will take Jesus, all of his words in the New Testament, and all of his deeds seriously.
I believe God has weighed Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism on the scales, and they have been found wanting. The handwriting on their wall is clear:
If you will not let me reform your churches, then they shall surely die.
Finally, Jesus said, and we agree with a heartfelt amen:
Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:14)