Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Angels Weep

Online NewsHour: Report | Young People Speak Out on Faith | January 3, 2007 | PBS

Among young people in this most recent survey that we've done, we do see -- I'm hesitant to use the term "polarization," but clearly we see an over-representation of evangelicals among the young and a significant over-representation of the young in the unaffiliated category.

ADORA MORA: ...I believe in personal relationships with God; I don't really believe in church. My mom doesn't like me to say that, but it's the truth. I believe my church is sitting in my house, writing a letter to God about what he's done for me, or about good and bad things that have happened with my life and how we'll overcome them together.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As we traveled across the country, we often heard young people talk about their "personal relationship" with God, which was more important to them than congregational loyalty or the structure that it provides.

DAISY COOPER: I'm not into religion. I have a relationship. Religion is -- that's what's like -- that's what sparks confusion, and God is not the author of confusion. So a religion is what blocks people from getting the real.

Here's a Newshour segment that I didn't manage to, so, to me, depressing. Judy Woodruff, being upbeat, notes that these young evangelicals aren't necessary either politically or socially conservative. That's good. But what's depressing to me is that they're evangelicals, that they see religion personally rather than institutionally, without any connection to history, culture or art, and psychologically, as part of life experience hooked up with their various life problems and concerns.

I'm still skeptical as to whether the kids interviewed are really representative: the pitch is that this style of religiousity is the going thing so, as a journalist, you look for representatives.

Yet still, not a one, neither the evangelicals or the dropouts is anything remotely like was--their whole take just doesn't connect with anything I can understand. Those who claim that religion is very important in their lives don't seem to me in any way religious: they're absolutely remote from the impulse in myself that I understand as religious. I don't even understand the "relationship" business--I quite literally don't understand what they're talking about. No wonder there's "an over-representation of the young in the unaffiliated category." If this is religion, who wants it?

On the one hand, I'm happy that I've got so much more, that I can get so much more, and so much more intense pleasure (I'm listening to the new CD of the Bach B Minor Mass my son and daughter-in-law got me for Christmas--good, good performance!) But it's disconcerting that I'm so far out and maybe even more so that while I've always thought I was religious I can't even get what they're talking about, can't make any connection. (Ah, the Gloria...turn up the volume). Meanwhile Dawkins and Dennett are high on the charts and the militant atheists on the net are crusading and predicting the end of religion in 25 years.

It isn't even the end of religion as such but what seems to be the end of a whole grand cultural package and an attitude (very good Laudamus--creamy, not operatic, and very technically proficient on the ornaments). I've been soaking in books on my favorite time and place--Hellenistic through Late Antiquity in the eastern Mediterranean. I'm not sure whether the nomenclature is right--I mean Alexander to Julian the Apostate. Near the end, the men of letters watch the whole of high culture end--ossify, erode and then crumble--the gods, the art, the literature, the ethos, everything that matters, everything that touches the soul not, as it did in the West, with a bang but with a whimper and write things like, "even in these days Alexandria is still a center of learning." They knew it was happening, knew their world was dying. Why did it happen, and why is it happening now?

I suppose this sounds both pretentious and melodramatic. So be it. Technology at least is doing fine this time around. I can listen to Bach whenever I want and as often as I want, read reviews of books online and order them instantly from Amazon and worship my own gods.

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