Religious Upbringing

According to a 2001 survey, only 18% of 18-29 year olds attended religious service every week. Jeffrey Arnett’s book Emerging Adulthood revealed that only 23% of young people considered themselves “conservative believers” while the remaing 77% were agnotistic/atheist, deist, or liberal believers (or people who believe in a religion but questions some aspects of it).

A recent study published noted that religious identification has fallen 10 percentage points in our country since 1990 and, behind Catholics and Baptist, the largest single identifying group is “None.” There could be many reasons, of course, for the decline in religious identification in our country, and especially among millennials, some of which include the overall value of “self” in the millennial generation and identification with social and political values that put themselves at odds with many churches, such as gay marriage and reproductive rights.

No matter the case, my wife and I form a mixed Christian couple. She is Roman Catholic, I am Protestant. This day in age, mixed couples are not uncommon, and in fact are becoming increasingly prevalent amongst Catholics. I know that a fair amount of mixed couples have chosen to raise their children in both churches, but we feel that, since my wife identifies more with the Catholic Church than I with any Protestant church, it would be best to raise our child Catholic.

I feel that, in a way, millennials have become more open to religion, rather than choosing to identify with any one religion or denomination. Beyond the advent of  ‘non-denominational’ churches, it seems that fewer and fewer millennials are relying on religion to base their personal beliefs on a variety of social and political issues. Rather, Christian millennials are making religion personal, and seeing it more as a direct link to God, and less as a ‘guide to life’.

As my dad once said to me, “Christianity fails when believers start getting in arguments about the little things, rather than seeing the the big picture.” We bother with the little things, like the age of the Earth, the theory of evolution, and how the Bible views issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and women’s rights, or how we can use the Bible to justify our positions, rather than worrying about what really matters.

We hope that is it in this spirit that our child will grow in his Christianity and learn that religion isn’t meant to be followed blindly, but rather questioned and fostered in his own way.


3 responses to “Religious Upbringing

  1. Thank you for a very thoughtful piece…I myself am Catholic and I am married to a non-Christian woman. As for a subtle clarification, the Catholic Church only approves of mixed marriages only if (among other things) it is understood by both parties that the children will be raised Catholic (which is to say it is a requirement).

    As far as Christians being particular about what the Christian stance on issues like abortion, homosexuality and Biblical interpretation are, I would respectfully argue that these are vital questions for Christians and shouldn’t be glossed over for the sake of ecumenical accommodation. To be Catholic – unlike many other Christian communities – means to believe in a very specific body of knowledge, and to not pick and choose according to one’s personal tastes.

    Having said that, I thank you again for the blog and wish you and your family all the best.

    God Bless

    • millennialdad

      Thanks for reading!

      I attended Pre Cana classes with my wife (then fiancee) as we were preparing to be married in the Catholic Church. We signed a form saying our children, to the best of our ability would be raised Catholic. Other than that, our classes were very generic. It was clear I wasn’t becoming Catholic, we decided not to have communion at our wedding (as nearly two-thirds of our wedding goers were non-Catholic), etc.

      In response to ‘Christian’ stances on certain issues like abortion and the like, in a Pew Research poll less than a year ago, Catholics were nearly split on gay marriage (44% favored, 40% opposed), that number drops for civil unions (only 31% of Catholics opposed). I don’t mean to harp against Catholicism, but for being a community that “believe(s) in a very specific body of knowledge”, it seems pretty clear that a lot of Catholics still identify as Catholic even though some of their personal beliefs essentially fly against what the Vatican advocates:

      The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.

      I, for one, hope our child, even as a Catholic, understands that it’s okay to not only approve of homosexuality as a lifestyle, but also support equal rights (including marriage) for gays, instead of relying on the Church to decide all of his positions for him. Because (and maybe this is only me personally) I believe that, in the end, God is going to care less about how you aligned yourself on social issues during your life (especially on a issue like gay marriage), and more about your belief in him and Jesus Christ, as I don’t believe these things are mutually exclusive.

  2. This is great! I myself was raised Catholic and if asked I will still say I am, mostly because I don’t want to take the time to explain how I really feel. I don’t like that the Church is so political. In fact, even though my boyfriend and I are both Catholic, and have talked about marriage, neither of us really want to be married in the Catholic church. I would have to find a very liberal one to feel comfortable with it.

    That said, I completely agree with you that God is going to care a lot less about social issues than if you believed in him and did what you thought was right.

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