Millennials have quickly become a central focus for faith leaders, due in large part to quantifying reports that highlight their exodus from organized religion. Worrisome as these statistics may be, they are not entirely accurate, or at the very least, over-simplifications of an incredibly nuanced cultural shift. Regardless, the numbers are real, and faith leaders are clamoring to find ways to get the unaffiliated masses back in the pews.
Interestingly enough, the problem rests in the question, 'why are Millennials leaving the church?' Rather than ask why young people have gone astray, perhaps we should ask, 'what am I doing to retain them?'
One way that faith leaders have maintained fellowship is attributed to their guidance on issues of social justice. Pope Francis, who recently completed a whirlwind tour of the U.S., saw millennials (Christian or not) come in droves to catch a glimpse of His Holiness passing through the streets. How did he garner such overwhelming support?
Pope Francis remains attuned to the issues that concern young people today, such as climate change. In past studies of millennial opinions and concerns, climate change ranked incredibly high on the list, rivaling cancer, and education reform.
How are you responding to the concerns of young people of faith? Comment below!
Akisha Townsend Eaton | Huffington Posts: Religion
As the frenzy around the recent papal visit to the U.S. winds down, my husband and I are still remembering our own unique encounter with Pope Francis not so long ago. While on our honeymoon in Europe last year, we were among several excited couples to receive a papal blessing and face-to-face greeting from the Holy Father after a General Wednesday Audience at the Vatican. It was unforgettable.
Prior to trekking to Rome, we had been captivated by Pope Francis's appeal to young people and his advocacy for the protection of all creatures, an issue especially close to our hearts. As it happens, we had just attended a summer school on animals and religion at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. A number of young adults were there -- not surprising, given that millennials have ranked animal protection concerns as one of their top causes, right alongside cancer and education. Yet millennials of faith who care about animals have traditionally struggled to find a receptive ear in the church. When faced with the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the Holy Father, we felt as though we were standing in their shoes.
Considering Pope Francis's statements on creation care, especially in his encyclical on ecology, Laudato si' (Praise Be), we now have powerful support to affirm that our concerns about animals are not theologically misplaced. With numerous references to humanity's treatment of non-human creatures, the encyclical contains some of the strongest statements ever made in a single document in the history of the Catholic Church, even addressing controversial issues such as animal experimentation and rejecting the notion of dominion as absolute denomination over non-human creatures. This message of compassion is just in time-- never before in history have animals been subject to abuse by people and industries on such a massive scale. But to be sure, in many instances, Pope Francis is simply re-emphasizing the parts of the gospel and Catholic social teaching that have either been overlooked or misinterpreted.
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