"When Jesus came to Nazareth, he 'went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day' and read from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah," writes Dan Grippo in the "Preaching the News" column for Prepare the Word. "But if Jesus were to speak in a synagogue, church, or mosque in the U.S. today, how many young people would be there to hear him?" asks Grippo. "Dramatically fewer than in previous generations, according to Pew Research Center."
According to results of the Pew study, “Nones” on the Rise, one-third of Americans under 30 say they have no religious affiliation, a dramatic increase over numbers from just a few decades ago. Many researchers believe the trend is tied to religion's association with socially conservative politics.
"I think the single most important reason for the rise of the unknowns is that combination of the younger people moving to the left on social issues and the most visible religious leaders moving to the right on that same issue,” says Harvard professor Robert Putman, in an NPR interview by Heidi Glenn.
For Father Mike Surufka, a Franciscan priest in Chicago, there are indeed issues that are fundamental to the church but what seems to really matter is more basic: that the parishioner's spiritual needs are being met. . . . Surufka says he is hopeful about the future of religions in America. "There was a theologian from the mid-1900s who . . . described hope as an attitude toward the future that we cannot see, but we trust that somehow it's held by God and that there are possibilities beyond what we can even imagine."
And Putman points out that, "Even with these recent changes, the American religious commitments are incredibly stronger than in most other advanced countries in the world . . . we are a very religious country even today."
What do you think the church can do to encourage a younger generation to encounter Jesus and tap into the spiritual riches of Catholic teachings and traditions?