3 Reasons Young Folks Are Getting That Old-Time Religion

Sep 11, 2017 by

by Owen Strachan, The Federalist:

The young Catholic writer Matthew Schmitz recently published an article that quickly went viral. In “The Kids Are Old Rite,” Schmitz argues that many younger Catholics do not want an accommodated Catholicism; they prefer the older forms of worship, taking a kind of clandestine joy in the Latin Mass, for example.

As an evangelical theologian, I read this dispatch from the post-Vatican II wilds with interest. Modernity, or what some call postmodernity, declared war on traditional religion, and even the religious joined in the fray. Out with the old ways, in with “If you like Secular Artist X, you’ll love Christian Artist Y” culture.

In many Protestant churches, the traditional hymnbook is long gone, the order of service is as casually stated as open mic night at the local gastropub, and the pulpit—lovely hand-carved wood, sturdy, signifying the enduring authority of the Word of God—molds in a basement somewhere.

Here is the strangest thing: I see among young evangelicals what Schmitz sees among young Catholics. The kids want that old-time religion. They’re showing up all over the place, including at seminaries like mine in Kansas City. Here are three reasons behind the recent resurgence of young travelers on the old paths.

1. Modernity Has Detonated Tradition

Our society, which thinks it is an emergent techno-utopia, seems more and more to resemble rebellious, roiling, late eighteenth-century Paris. Religious types are targeted; monuments to cultural history are removed; everywhere we hear frenzied talk of progress and equality. What was it that Lafayette said in 1790? “Insurrection is the holiest of duties.” We pursue insurrection today with religious zeal. Religious groups—and religious individuals—receive punishment for abiding by their beliefs. When we study history, we study it primarily to overturn it, rarely to learn from it.

This kind of mentality has affected the church. Many evangelical youth have little connection to their Christian heritage. But they are doing their part to recover it. They want to be part of something ancient that reaches way back. They actually like liturgy, whether the strong or softer version. They have been encouraged to make everything up for themselves, to believe unceasingly in their own brilliance, but they seem to distrust these exhortations, rightly understanding them to be anything but freeing.

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