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The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy

Colleen Carrol

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Church leaders would do well to listen to young orthodox believers about what new initiatives are needed. If they do, they will hear that churches need to be bolder in proclaiming Christian doctrine -- particularly the reality of sin and the need for salvation -- which is absent from so many mainline churches but attracts converts by the thousands to so many evangelical ones. They might also hear that conforming their churches to the world repels the young, but challenging the young to conform to Christ inspires and attracts. Just ask the leaders of conservative evangelical fellowships that attract students by the throngs on secular campuses. Or ask Pope John Paul II, a man who convenes young adults by the millions for World Youth Day festivals that celebrate sacrifice and sanctity.

Catholic leaders in particular should reassess the power and promise of orthodoxy for youth ministry. In an age when worldly values have largely overwhelmed Catholic identity among the young, orthodoxy accentuates that which is most distinctive about Catholicism -- its rituals, tough teachings, and traditions.

This grassroots orthodox movement has arisen spontaneously among young Catholics battling to save their faith from secularization. Older Church leaders should resist the urge to view the movement through the liberal-conservative lens that dominated their day. They should foster its growth with solid catechesis. And they should be sensitive to the creative, communal instincts of orthodox Catholics, who are eager to establish such events as praise-and-worship eucharistic adoration sessions and small-group catechism studies in their parishes.

Some young believers crave tradition. Others want contemporary worship. A large majority seek more meaning in their worship, and many are finding that meaning in the Eucharist -- the case of deep, profound conversions for a great many Catholics and Orthodox Christian. This generation craves mystery and a connection to the traditions that the modern world has stripped away. Those yearnings bode well for the historical churches in general, and the accompanying desire for moral guidance from a trusted authority figure portends a positive future for the Catholic Church in particular.

From the Library Journal:

With the help of a Phillips Journalism Fellowship, St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalist Carroll traveled the country to interview young adults to ascertain how religion fits into their lives. Most of her interviewees were Catholics or evangelical Protestants, along with some Orthodox Christians. Carroll found a turn to the Right in the religious lives of her peers, born between 1965 and 1983; not everyone in this age group is religiously oriented, but those who are have more often than not turned to traditional beliefs and morality. Among Catholic priests, for example, the youngest are as traditional as the oldest, with the baby boomers falling in between. It is not unusual for married couples in this age group to embrace natural family planning as opposed to artificial birth control and for singles to reject premarital sex. These young adults are seeking authoritative guidelines and meaningful commitments. Carroll's journalistic skills are evident in this very readable volume about a tendency toward traditionalism that she predicts will spread. Highly recommended.

From Amazon.com:

Born between 1965 and 1983, the young adults of Generation X grew up in an era of unprecedented wealth and consumerism. Rebelling against the liberal family, social, and academic environments in which they were raised, some have made strengthening their faith a priority.

This is a groundbreaking new book that examines the growing trend toward religious orthodoxy among today's young adults. Author and journalist Colleen Carroll offers strong opinions on how this movement might transform an American society steeped in moral relativism and secularism.

Blending investigative journalism with in-depth analysis, Carroll seeks the reasons behind the choice of orthodoxy in a society that often denigrates traditional morality and rejects organized religion.

Read this article on the PBS website.



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Copyright 2001-2014 OrthodoxyToday.org. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article is subject to the policy of the individual copyright holder. See OrthodoxyToday.org for details.


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