Note – This piece is meant to be read alongside Allan Carlson’s article on the decline of the natural family. We are using Carlson’s writing to make some quick conclusions about the unstable nature of social activism throughout American history.
Public opinion is a squirrely guide. With respect to the sentiments of Isaac Newton, “standing on the shoulders of giants” may help us to innovate and achieve, but it also helps us see the fickle and transitory nature of public consensus on ethical and moral issues. Great reversals within a few generations are not uncommon, and the memories of activism in the opposite direction are often either forgotten or glossed over with a brush of condescending words like “old-fashioned” or “stagnant.” Through the language of liberation, safety, and health, America has changed its mind on slavery, same-sex orientation, same-sex marriage, women in the workforce, women voting, and immigration, to name a few.
The question at hand is this: can public opinion be trusted for the long haul? For one case study, let’s look together at a piece by Allan Carlson, a historian and Catholic apologist who teaches at Cornell University. In it, he tracks the changes in the American concept of the family unit and its relation to economic and social shifts.
Finished? Let’s move forward together.
by Ryan Mayo
Abstract: Millennials have been vocal about the reasons for their disappointment and detachment from the local church. Yet their critiques of worship style, gospel presentation, and other public practices are not often accompanied by wise suggestions for reform. The local church should embrace this emerging generation with winsome warnings and offer a long and historic perspective about the deep liturgies of church involvement.
For the last 15 years there has been a mildly successful formula for publishers seeking to capture young evangelical readers. It looks like this: prompt reflective Christians in their late 20s or early 30s to chronicle the ways in which the institutional church failed them and their peers.1 There are some variables between the writings, such as the degree of disappointment or the depth of research, but the general plotline remains the same. The authors, about a decade removed from their involvement with the offending institutions, will predictably generalize their church’s particular offenses to include the near-abandonment of an entire generation. The final chapters, however, nearly always offer a ray of hope for the institutional church, as the authors outline a few steps to reconcile Christ’s church to the generation it has soured.
If churches want to retain Millennial participation, these authors have suggested that they adapt to their changing demands, which mostly fall into three categories: worship styles, gospel presentation, and public involvement in social justice activism.