Spirituality vs. Religion: OEC Interview #7

We are almost three months into the Our Emptying Church blog series and I couldn’t be more grateful for the dialog that has occurred both here and on my facebook page. It’s not too late to join in if you are reading for the first time.

Tonight I’m honored to be sharing with you another interview with a Millennial. Because of the personal questions I’ve asked, I’m keeping all the interviewees anonymous. This interview comes from a 23 year old Digital Artist in the Gaming Industry; he is as kind as he is intelligent. I welcome his opinion on many things, but am honored that he agreed to do this interview. His answers were extremely characteristic of the Millennial generation, which is one of the primary purposes of this blog series. I hope you enjoy his perspective as much as I did.

–Did you grow up regularly attending a church?

Somewhat. I would go for a while, then stop for a while, go for a while, and so on. My father isn’t very religious or spiritual, but my mother is. However, I was raised on a farm; so, there was always work to be done, including Sundays. So, as a result my mother didn’t attend “regularly”. Therefore, I didn’t either. Faith, and religion, in general were common topics between my mother and I, though. So, I grew up in a very “faithful” manner and always felt I have had very strong faith, even though I didn’t regularly attend church.

–Are you currently actively attending a church?

No. I haven’t actively attended a church in quite some time.

–What is your motivation for attending/ not attending?

I have a lot of reasons for not attending. Ultimately, I just don’t feel that it’s necessary for me right now. But, also, partially because I disagree with the “weight” of church. I tend to feel like it’s something I’m supposed to do because others think it’s necessary, while I don’t personally always feel that it is. Now don’t get me wrong, in general I think church is great. The concept is wonderful. But, I don’t feel like I’m any more faithful just because I go to church. I feel like I attend mostly because others want me to, and not because I FEEL like I should or that I should for my relationship with God to be any stronger. And, ultimately I feel that is all that it should be about: your relationship with God, not everyone else. Also, the general judgment I feel emanating from many religious people is a major turn-off to me. I still remember hearing a lady talking negatively about a boy who went to church wearing shorts, and she made it sound like it was the worst thing he could have done. And, I was sitting right beside her and hadn’t been to church at all that week. But, she didn’t think anything about me not going, just that this other kid had went wearing shorts. I feel like there is simply too much focus on the material things and not enough on what is truly important and what I would consider “Godly”. And, lastly, is the general close-mindedness I have come to associate with church and the judgment I feel is bestowed on those that do not share similar beliefs. Now, don’t get me wrong, close-mindedness isn’t exclusive to church of course; it’s just one place that I tend to feel it in. I want to be very clear that I don’t think negatively of the people that go to church. I simply have an open-mind, and I feel like that isn’t always viewed well inside the average church. I like to form my own thoughts and ideas based on my own conclusions, and oftentimes those don’t align with what others think. Ultimately, that leads my views to align somewhere outside of the common denominations I’m familiar with. So, I don’t feel like I really fit-in.

–If you have one, tell me about your church experience (the good, bad, and neutral).

Overall, my experiences have all been fine. My feelings toward church aren’t really negative or positive. I just don’t feel like I belong with any particular church. Like I said, I didn’t attend regularly, though. So, I mostly went when I felt like I needed it. And, in those instances I always got out of it what I needed.

–What is the purpose of the church?

In general, I like to think of it as a place to educate in the ways of the religion/denomination and to bring those who believe similarly, closer together, while also giving them the chance to worship and be part of something greater than themselves. So, by that definition it sounds like a wonderful place. And, I honestly think it is… If it is what is right for you.

–Feel pressure to attend church?

Definitely. I think, those who attend church regularly tend to feel very sorrowful for those who don’t, which as a result creates pressure. However, just because someone doesn’t attend church doesn’t necessarily mean they are any less spiritual. On the flip-side though, I do understand the reasoning behind them feeling that way. A metaphor could be that someone who isn’t going to school, typically isn’t expected to be “learning” on a regular basis. So, in that line of thought it makes sense to feel like someone who isn’t going to church isn’t spiritual. That line of thought is flawed though because there are so many other variables that are unknown to others, and ultimately that leads back to the general close-mindedness I feel from the group as a whole.

–In 1-3 sentences, how do you perceive Christians? (i.e. loving, generous, anti-gay, fundamentalists, too political, etc.)

In general I perceive Christians to be righteous. However, I think that can also be the problem. The fact that morality is subjective means that someone can be righteous and feel their actions are morally correct, while in other eyes they may not be.

–In October 2012, a study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life revealed that thirty percent of Millennials (age 18-31) identify as having no religious affiliation. Does this surprise you?

Unfortunately, it does not. The business world is a very fast moving and diverse place. To succeed I feel like you have to be very open-minded and learn to adapt to constant change. But when I attend church, I feel like I’m forced to step back a bit. As a result I think it creates the feeling of not fitting-in. Also, the media could have some effect on that. Typically the media focus purely on the “bad”. So, the religions (and Christians) you typically hear about through the media are the ones that create very negative impressions for the group as a whole.

I can think of countless other reasons why this also may be the case, but I’ll just leave it there.

I do however wonder if those same people would consider themselves to be at all “spiritual”, even though they don’t necessarily consider themselves to have religious affiliation. I think of the two terms differently, and I wonder if others do.

–Fifty years down the road, do you anticipate significant growth in the church or significant decline? Why?

It’s hard to say. Right now I’m leaning more toward decline, just based on the fact that it seems to have declined significantly in the last 50 years already. As of late, I simply haven’t seen anything favoring growth.

–Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your experience?

I want to say one last time that just because I don’t attend church, doesn’t mean that I think negatively or any less of anyone that does. It also doesn’t mean that I think people should not attend church. Again, I think church can be great. The most important thing is simply that each of us is doing what is “right” for ourselves.

As always, I welcome graceful dialogue in the comment section. If you are a Millennial, I would especially love for you to affirm some of these sentiments? Do you feel that morality is subjective? And how do you personally differentiate between spirituality and religion?

This post is the tenth in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, Fake Smiles and Judging Eyes: OEC Interview with Millennial #1, Prioritizing Sin: OEC Interview #2, You’re Losing Us: OEC Interview #3, OEC Interview #4: One Last Chance, Our Beloved, Overly Political Church, Heroes in Disguise: OEC Interview #5, Good Church Folk: OEC Interview #6, OEC Guest Post: Mark and Tammy Edwards

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