Book Review: “Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials Are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home”

I started reading this book some time ago and put it down. I picked it back up a couple days ago and remembered why I initially took a break from it.  From my published review on Goodreads:

I have personally walked away from evangelicalism. I picked this book up curious to see if it addressed the issues which caused me to do so. It didn’t.

Rather than investigate why so many gen-x and millenials are leaving the Church, the book assumes those who abandon their faith or emigrate to others simply don’t understand Jesus. I have to admit, I was slightly rebuffed and moderately insulted by the notion that my status as a former Baptist is due to not having a proper understanding of the faith.

I moved up to mainline Christianity from low-church evangelicalism for a number of reasons. As a former Southern Baptist lay minister, I can assure you it wasn’t because I didn’t have Jesus properly explained to me. Rather, it was due to the inconsistencies between faith and action. Inconsistencies like criticizing behaviors as sinful then electing politicians who embody (and brag about) engaging in the same.

If your twenty- or thirty-something child has strayed from the faith you raised them in, it’s very unlikely to have been caused by poor explanation. In fact, you probably explained and lived your faith perfectly and that’s exactly why they rejected it.

It’s true – the generations of Americans born between the early 70’s and late 90’s have a drastically lower interest in Church than generations prior.  It’s a multifaceted issue that can’t be solved with the thesis of one book.  Increase in working hours and the correlated decrease in leisure time, the decreasing interest in group social activities (see Putnam’s Bowling Alone for more on that), a dwindling sense that one has to go to church to be “good”, etc.  This book doesn’t tackle any of those angles.

Instead, it places the blame solely on parents of those disinterested youth for not explaining Jesus well enough. Oh if only we’d spent the extra $200 on a VBS kit with costumes, little Traegan would understand salvation better and not stay home on Sunday. Members of my generation aren’t abandoning Christianity, or to be specific, evangelicalism, because of a lack of proper understanding.  We’re fleeing because we understand exactly what it is – a nationalistic political movement with Jesus as a Trojan figurehead.

Matthew 7:15 tells us “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (NRSV)  I ask you this: Who is more likely to be a false prophet of Christ: The church that welcomes in a could-be sinner with open arms, or the church that lowers that person to a pariah and condemns them to hell?  The church that fights for justice and equality for all God’s children, or the church that tells them it’s their own fault?  The church which feeds and clothes the needy, or the church which abuses its pulpit to stump for those who cut social aid programs?

Modern-day evangelicalism has less to do with Christ and his message of hope and forgiveness and more to do with power and control of the very government they claim to distrust.  Evangelicals will do anything it takes to make political gains, even endorsing and electing politicians who are the very antithesis of everything they stand for.  Then they throw in the flying elbow drop of hypocrisy from the top rope, claiming that said politicians aren’t as bad as they appear to be.

Do you understand the message this sends to your target group of so-called lost sheep?  You support leaders who are everything you warned your children against being and associating with, then criticize them when they refuse to toe the line.  And you wonder why they want nothing to do with your hollow faith?  You literally train them up their entire lives to be stalwarts of Christian faith, then when your political power is threatened, you essentially throw your hands up and say “eh, sometimes God gives us bad leaders to do good.”

Children of Baby Boomers are leaving evangelicalism, yes.  Unfortunately some reject the tenets of Christian faith altogether.  The rest of us realize the error of our parents’ ways and simply switch to a true Christian faith, one which is centered on Christ’s love and not trickle-down theology imposed from upon high.  It certainly isn’t because you didn’t explain your nationalistic, jingo-infused, blab ‘n’ grab, “vote your values” bastardization of Jesus.

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