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Why is the Millennial Generation Not Receptive to the Christian Faith?

By Gary F. Zeolla

 

Addressing this topic is important, but it is going to be hard to write, for several reasons. First, there are many contradictory opinions on this subject, beginning with what exactly is a Millennial? In general, it's a reference to a young person today, but ideas on exactly what are the starting and ending birth years for this generation vary. But for the purposes of this article, I will define Millennials as those born between 1980-2000. So at this writing (3/1/2014), we are talking about people who are 14-34 years old.

Second, surveys on how "religious" this generation is vary greatly. Some polls state that as few as a third of Millennials attend religious services regularly, while others put the number as high as 75%. And responses to other poll questions, like, "Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?" also vary. But whatever the exact numbers, polls are consistent in showing fewer Millennials identify themselves as Christians than earlier generations.

Many opinions are given for these statistics. But my opinions on why Millennials are not receptive to the Christian faith will come from a wide variety of information I have read or viewed online or watched on TV. I am talking about Internet news articles, comments from readers that are now often included at the end of such articles, Facebook postings, YouTube videos and comments thereupon, plus depictions of Christianity in TV series and movies, along with email and Facebook discussions I have had with Millennials.

Given my health, I have little real-life interaction with Millennials (or any people for that matter), but my niece and two nephews and their spouses are in this age group, and I have some personal interaction with them. But otherwise, I am writing this from a "distance" if you will. But I still think from all my reading and viewing and Internet interactions with Millennials, I can offer some worthwhile opinions. And many of these points would also apply to people in older generations that reject the Christian faith.

 

Schools and Colleges

 

Public schools and colleges are secular, by law. The atheists have been very successful at getting any mention of Christianity (or any religion for that matter) banned in public schools. It is to the point that you cannot even say "Christmas" or "Easter." These are now called "Winter Holiday" and "Spring Holiday" respectively. Some schools won't even celebrate St. Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day, since those holidays have a Catholic background, being named after Catholic saints.

But more importantly, in science, history, social studies, English, or any other subject, Christianity is never allowed to be mentioned. Never mind that Christians and Christianity have had a big impact on all of these, a child will go through school with never hearing about any Christian influences in these or any other areas of study. So by high school graduation, Millennials will have been subtly taught that the Christian faith has no relevance to "real" life.

Colleges can be even worse, where Christian views will either not be mentioned at all, or it they are, it will only be to attack them. For instance, I clearly still remember taking psychology as a freshman. And on the first day of class, the professor very confidently pronounced there was no such thing as a human "soul." And no one in the class even challenged him on it. Not being a Christian at that time, I just wrote it down in my notes, and answered as such on tests. And such anti-Christian dogmatism has gotten worse and more widespread in recent years.

As a result, as young people progress through college, they will again be subtly or even overtly taught that Christianity is irrelevant or even outright ridiculous.

 

Evolution and Global Warming

 

Related to the preceding, evolution is taught as being an absolute "fact" in schools and colleges. No mention of creationism or intelligent design is ever mentioned, or even allowed to be mentioned. If a student mentions God's hand in creation, they will be lambasted by the teacher.

And this indoctrination in atheistic evolution will be reinforced in young people if they watch just about any TV show on stations like the Discovery Channel or Science Channel. In shows about the universe, biological life, dinosaurs, psychology, and other subjects, these stations will base all of their ideas on evolution, with again, no mention whatsoever of God having anything to do with any of these subjects. The same goes for many Internet articles and YouTube videos.

Now global warming is not a "Christian" topic per se, but again, the idea of man-made global warming is taught as "fact" in schools and colleges, and on TV stations like the above. And any objections are summary dismissed or even ridiculed.

But young people have the impression that all Christians are opposed to evolution and to the idea that humans are altering the climate of the entire planet. And this is compared to the Catholic Church condemning Galileo and his proposal that the earth was not the center of the universe. So the impression Millennials have of Christians is that they are and always have been "anti-science."

However, many Christians do believe in evolution and global warming, and those that do not have sound, scientific reasons for not doing so. But Millennials have never heard any of this scientific evidence. They just know from their indoctrination that Christians are "wrong" on these subjects, so they assume they are wrong on all other issues as well.

 

Misconceptions about the Bible

 

Most Millennials have never actually read the Bible. And they have never been taught any accurate knowledge as to the background of the Bible, when and who wrote the various books of the Bible, the reliability of the manuscripts of the Bible, and why certain books are included in the Bible while other books were not. But what they have heard from one source or another are complete misconceptions about what the Bible actually teaches and these background issues in regards to the Bible.

For instance, I remember one time in talking with a 20-something female that she said she did not read the Bible because "someone" once told her that the Bible taught "women are wicked because they have periods." I was stunned by this claim, and I tried to explain to her that the Bible teaches nothing of the sort, but I found it difficult to get her to change her attitude as I wasn't prepared for such an absurd claim.

On another occasion, I had someone tell me that the books of the New Testament were not written until the fourth century. I was completely flabbergasted by this idea as is so wrong. There is overwhelming evidence that the 27 books of the New Testament were all written in the first century. I tried to explain this evidence to him, but he was still skeptical as it contradicted what he had previously heard.

And on the Internet, you will see absurd claim after absurd claim, but none of it backed up by any actual evidence. And even when critics correctly mention about something the Bible does say, they often take it out of context, or simply blatantly misinterpret it. They have no conception as to how to go about correctly interpreting the Bible.

And you will see comments on the Internet or TV about the Bible being transcribed and translated so many times that we have no idea what the Bible actually originally contained. However, textual criticism strongly disproves this misconception. The documents we have today are very accurate and reliable, as I detail in the Chapter on Textual Criticism in my Bible versions book.

Moreover, Millennials have been "taught" that the Bible is an old book, filled with myths and legends that have no basis in actual history, and that it is filled with contradictions, while promoting horrid things like slavery. I disprove such misconceptions in my Scripture Workbook.

But the point is, Millennials not only are Biblically illiterate, but they have many misconceptions about the Bible. And this illiteracy and misconceptions cause them to be critical of a Book that they have never read. So Christians need to be prepared to clear up these misconceptions.

 

Depictions of Christians on TV and in Movies

 

You could watch TV or movies for hours on end and never know that a sizable proportion of Americans are practicing Christians. People in TV shows and movies are never shown going to church, attending Bible studies, reading the Bible, praying, listening to Christian music, engaging in works of charity in the name of Christ, or doing anything that would in any way identify them as Christians. There is simply almost never any mention of God or Christ on TV or in movies. So again, Millennials are left with the impression that no one takes Christianity seriously and that it has no relevance to real life.

The rare times that Christians are depicted on a TV show or movie, it is almost always to expose them as being hypocrites. For instance, if you are watching a crime drama, and the police interview a minister or priest, you might as well stop watching, as they just showed you whodunit. Almost always, the minister or priest will turn out to be the criminal. You never see ministers or priests doing what the great majority of them do, faithfully shepherding their flocks.

 

Christian Atrocities and Hypocrisies

 

The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials. These three things are constantly mentioned on the Internet to "prove" how horrible the Christian faith is. And yes, these are true black marks in the history of the Christian Church.

However, they all happened hundreds of years ago, and no Christian today would approve of any of these things. And more importantly, people's conceptions of the background and extent of these events are completely skewed. This is because such misconceptions are repeated over and over again on the Internet, TV, and movies.

For instance, in the first two episodes of The CW series "Sleepy Hollow" common misconceptions about the Salem witch trials were perpetuated, namely, that the only reason for them was "Puritan hysteria" that came out of nowhere, that they lasted many years, that hundreds of people were executed, and that their trials were "kangaroo courts" with basically everyone accused of witchcraft being found guilty and executed. But none of these things are true.

In reality, the Smithsonian's Web site states, "The Salem witch trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft—the Devil's magic—and 20 were executed" (A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials). The Smithsonian article goes on to explain the series of tragic events that led to the trials, and how the Puritans rather quickly recognized the errors of their ways and repented. But none of this is ever explained when the Salem witch trials are mentioned. Similarly, the extent and reasons for the Crusades and Inquisition have been distorted.

But there have been more recent atrocities that have turned off the younger generation away from the Christian faith. Foremost among these is the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church. It's bad enough that in recent decades many priests have been exposed as being child molesters, but the Catholic Church's former practice of covering up the abuse rather than turning the guilty priests into the authorities has also been exposed.

However, the Catholic Church has now acknowledged its mistakes in this regard, and is now working diligently to correct the problem. But the media will still harp on the abuses and cover-ups. And again, if a priest is shown in a TV crime drama, he will almost always be exposed as being a pedophile, and Millennials are left with the impression that all priests are pedophiles or involved in covering up such abuse. But the reality is that there are thousands upon thousands of priests worldwide that engage in their priestly duties faithfully, with no such abuse or cover-ups ever being perpetrated by them.

Protestants are not innocent in this regard either. Starting in the 1980s, just as the Millennials were growing up, there have been many well-publicized scandals surrounding TV evangelists and other notable Christian leaders. And again, the media will really harp on such scandals, so Millennials are left with the impression that all Christian leaders are money-grabbing, sex-crazed hypocrites. But again, this is far from the truth. The vast majority of Christian leaders are faithfully serving God and ministering to people.

But to try to correct all of these misconceptions can be difficult. So Millennials are left turned off of the Christian faith by true but exaggerated problems that have occurred in Christian history.

 

Pre-marital Sex

 

The Bible teaches without a doubt that sex outside of marriage is wrong. I document this in my book, The Bible and Sexual Relationships Issues. And most Millennials know of this moral stance of the Bible. However, Millennials have been indoctrinated through the schools, media, and Internet that such notions are outdated, ridiculous, or even dangerous.

You simply cannot watch a TV show or movie without seeing pre-marital sex depicted as being "normal" or even "good." I discuss this in depth in my article TV, Sexuality, and Christianity, so I won't repeat all of the examples here. But I will say, it has gotten worse since I wrote that article. For instance, I've recently seen TV shows where parents actually encourage their teenage sons and daughters to engage in pre-marital sex.

So young people are left "knowing" pre-marital sex is okay, even good, while the Church teaches it is wrong. So if Christians are "wrong" on this point, they must be on all others. And most of all, having been so indoctrinated, Millennials are very reluctant to swear off of premarital sex in order to embrace the Christian faith.

Now what most churches have done is simply to avoid this issue. In all of my years of attending church, I never once heard a sermon on pre-marital sex from the pulpit. And only twice was it discussed in all of the Christians singles groups I attended. As a result, the vast majority of professing Christian Millennials have probably engaged in pre-marital sex, but this still doesn't keep non-Christian Millennials from using pre-marital sex as an excuse for not becoming a Christian.

So the Christian Church has a choice: either continue to downplay its stance against pre-marital sex to attempt to attract the Millennials, or to begin to more strongly but compassionately teach the reasons why it is not wise behavior and the damage it can do, and thus why the Bible forbids it. The latter makes more sense since the former is not working anyway.

 

Homosexuality

 

This is a very big issue. Some surveys I've seen say that many Millennials cite the Christian stance against homosexuality as one of the main reasons why they reject the Christian faith. And this issue is now similar to that of pre-marital sex. The media is doing everything it can to indoctrinate the younger generation into believing that homosexuality is perfectly normal behavior.

As with pre-marital sex, you can barely watch a TV show without there being a homosexual character and/ or homosexuality being promoted in some way. It doesn't matter if it is a drama, sit-com, reality show, the news, or sometimes even a sporting event.

For instance, "The Biggest Loser" is a show that has nothing to do whatsoever with sexuality. It's supposed to be a reality show and competition about losing weight and getting healthy. But in the past two seasons, there have been homosexual contestants. In 2012 the contestant's "sexual orientation" was mentioned, but not much was said about it.

But then in the 2013-14 season "Bobbie" and his homosexual orientation became a big issue throughout the season. In a scene they showed over and over again, Bobbie and his trainer Bob Harper discussed at length the emotional struggles that Bobbie had gone through due to his homosexuality, and he blamed his obesity on these struggles.

Then in a big surprise, Bob Harper himself "came out" as being a homosexual. He's been a trainer on the show since its inception in 2004. No hint of his homosexuality was ever given before, but after a decade, NBC decided it was time to let all America know about it. Then during "Makeover Week" one of the makeover men talked with Bobbie about his own homosexuality. And at one point when Bobbie went home, they showed him "coming out" to his dad. It all was done in a manner as to make the audience sympathetic towards him.

So young people today are bombarded with homosexuality and simply cannot understand at all why Christians continue to take a stand against it. So as with pre-marital sex, the Church has a choice: either downplay its stance against homosexuality to attract young people, or try to educate people in a compassionate manner as to why the Bible teaches it is wrong.

 

Christians and Politics

 

Related to the above, is many Millennials are turned off by Christian activism in political issues. Foremost among these are Christians being opposed to same-sex marriage. They see this as bigotry and as Christians trying to "force" their views on others.

This is a complex issue that would require an entire article in itself. But suffice it to say, Christians need to be careful about intermixing the Christian gospel with political issues, or becoming too entwined with one political party, namely the Republican Party. This is causing liberal Democrats to reject the Christian faith due to the perceived union of Christianity and the Republican Party and conservative political viewpoints.

 

Modern-day Life vs. Life in Biblical Times

 

Millennials take today's technologies and all other modern-day conveniences for granted. So when they read the Bible it's like reading about an alien world. The way people communicate over distances, travel, attain and prepare food, attain clothing, work, fight wars, and simply live their lives on a daily basis is so different from today that young people simply cannot relate. As such, if they do try to read the Bible it comes across as being irrelevant to today's high-tech world.

Yes, technology has changed immensely since Bible times, but human nature has not. So along with encouraging Bible reading, Christians need to become history teachers and help young people understand what life was like before today's technology, but how the moral and spiritual issues in the Bible are still very relevant today. People are sinners and need a Savior. That was true in Biblical times, and it's still true today.

 

Conclusion

 

The Christian Church has a lot of work to do to become relevant to the Millennial Generation. But it can be done. Deviating from the Bible's teachings to accommodate the modern world's viewpoints is one path, but I think it would be a misguided one. A watered down Christianity is no Christianity at all.

Christians need to remain faithful to the Bible and all of its teachings. But we need to be prepared to reach out to those with contrary views with knowledge and compassion, not in a judgmental or self-righteous way. As Peter put it, "But sanctify [the] Lord God in your* hearts, and always [be] prepared with a defense to every[one] asking you* an account concerning the hope [or, confident expectation] in you*, with gentleness [or, considerateness] and respect" (1Peter 3:15; ALT3).

 

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

Why is the Millennial Generation Not Receptive to the Christian Faith? Copyright 2014 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).

The above article was published in Darkness to Light newsletter
and posted on this Web site March 1, 2014.

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