Tonight I went to Mass on campus and there were about ten people there. The priest said that it was the most people he had seen in Mass since the semester began.
It had always been my intention to attend Mass. The priest is a nice and inviting man. However, going to Mass today just validated my assumption that there are not too many religious young people at the school I attend, and possibly in my generation.
This might seem like a rash assumption to make, especially coming from someone who spent two years in a Christian school where students still identified themselves with the Religious Right and were even more convicted in the values of Conservatism. But even at the college that I previously attended, there were many students who wanted a break from old religious institutionalization of rules and ideas.
For example, when I began school in 2007, the issue of whether social dancing should be allowed on campus was highly debated. And when dancing was finally allowed, it caused various debates between both sides of the argument: those who believed that allowing social dancing was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the school’s religious values and the ones who argued that allowing social dancing had nothing to do with downplaying religious values and everything to do with acknowledging that we are living in different times and trusting that the student body was mature enough to make wise decisions. The same argument could be made about alcohol. Should the school make rules to restrict students from drinking or give them the choice to make their own decisions, trusting that they will make the right ones?
Students also wanted the freedom to make their own decision concerning whether the school should require them to attend chapel. While many students acknowledged that chapel in many case could be educational, they resented the idea that they should be forced to go, desiring instead to have a say in the matter.
So it seems that the students were more concerned with being granted the choice to make their own decisions than to depart from religious norms altogether. However, what accounts for the fact that of the over 15,000 students that go to the public university that I now attend, the average church attendance on a given Sunday is less than ten people? Is generation X less religious than its predecessors?
I started asking myself this question a while ago. When I became a Christian at 15, I often believed that I was the only Christian in my high school. I went to a diverse school so I knew that there were other students my age of various religions who also sometimes questioned if they were the only ones who attempted to practice their faiths and not compromise it for the status quo of being a teenager.
As I began to go to church more, I realized that the people my age that I went to religious events with did not seem to take their faiths seriously. My theory for why this happens is that religious leaders sometimes underestimate young people. They cut us too much slack. They tell us that when we are older we will learn to be more religious. That there is too much peer pressure within our generation.
I read a book a called Unchristian–by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons–a while ago that confirmed the theory that I had that young people, or young Christians in particular were not as religious as older generations, partly because they had such a negative perception of what Christianity actually is. And apart from the world of Christian education, I noticed that a few churches that I went to was lacking in a youthful population.
Is it just me, or is generation X not as religious as older generations? Do you agree or disagree with me and what is your rationale for either agreeing or disagreeing? Do you notice that there are not too many young people attending worship services, or do you think otherwise?