Thu 16 Jan 2014
The American Conservative has an interesting article entitled “Why Millenials Long for Liturgy.” You can probably guess what it’s about. A very brief selection:
America’s youth are leaving churches in droves. One in four young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion, according to a 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll, and 55 percent of those unaffiliated youth once had a religious identification when they were younger. Yet amidst this exodus, some church leaders have identified another movement as cause for hope: rather than abandoning Christianity, some young people are joining more traditional, liturgical denominations—notably the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox branches of the faith. This trend is deeper than denominational waffling: it’s a search for meaning that goes to the heart of our postmodern age.
My question for readers is this: why don’t more of these young Christians looking for liturgy end up in Lutheran churches? As the article notes, most seem to go Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican.
Now it’s understandable why so many might end up Catholic. Assuming these Evangelicals are looking for a church that takes seriously the history of the Church, then Roman Catholicism is a fairly natural fit: with 67 million Catholics in the USA (about 23.9% of all Americans), they are certainly the most visible church. But why are Anglican and Orthodox churches such a drawing point where Lutherans aren’t? Anglicans and Orthodox Christians make up only 1.5% and 0.4% of all Americans respectively (2.32 million Anglican, and less than 1 million Orthodox). Lutherans, by contrast, more than double Anglicans and Orthodox put together (5.1% of all Americans, or 7.86 million people). Heck, there’s as many confessional Lutherans in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod alone as there are all Anglicans in the United States. So why don’t more Evangelicals-going-liturgical become Lutheran? Could it be that, despite having smaller numbers, Anglicans and the Orthodox have nevertheless presented more coherent denominational identities to the wider public? Have Lutherans been so insular that wider Christendom in North America isn’t clear who we are and what we believe?
If you’re a young Christian who went liturgical, why did you end up where you did? Had you even heard of Lutheranism? Did you (or do you even now) know what Lutherans think?
UPDATE (December 22): This post has roused interest elsewhere on the web. Gene Veith picked it up over at his blog Cranach, where more than 300 comments have accumulated in just over a day. And Anthony Sacramone provides his own go at an answer over at Strange Herring. To sum up his answer: “Lutherans are boring.” You’ll just to check out his (very good) post to see what he means by that.