A Generation Who Wants to Know the United Church of Christ

by Jim Antal


By The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal
Minister and President of the Massachusetts Conference
Here’s something that stopped me in my tracks.  In his thick new book,  American Grace, Robert Putnam (of Bowling Alone fame) has a message for the UCC.  Here’s my takeaway:
  • The rejection of organized religion by young adults is unprecedented in American History.
  • Their disaffiliation is not driven by unbelief. 

To use Putnam’s words: “they see religion tied up with conservative politics, and their aversion to the latter has led them to reject the former.”  I prefer to say: a great many people under 30 think that the “religion” they see represented on FOX news (pastors burning Korans; pastors condemning gays and lesbians; people of faith denying science and denying climate change) is actually what Christianity is.

Putnam makes it clear that these young adults are no different from young adults through the centuries: they long to connect with communities of faith, pursue deep questions, commit their lives to a higher purpose. But the public image of religion portrays people of faith as closed minded, judgmental, convergent thinking, have-all-the-answers ideologues.

 You and I know: the United Church of Christ is nothing like this!
To put it another way: Among American young adults, the values and beliefs of the United Church of Christ are generally unknown.  And if Putnam is right, our understanding of a Still Speaking God whose Son manifest such inclusive love as to be salvific. . . this is precisely what people under 30 are longing for.

Jim Antal

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