Today 33% of young people are religiously unaffiliated, as compared with 12% in the 1970s. In other words: Youth as such is not the only factor in making individuals flee the churches. What is more, this flight of the young is rapidly accelerating: In surveys conducted by the authors all “nones” grew by about 18% between 2006 and 2011, but young “nones” grew by about 90%–a truly remarkable difference.
The authors of “American Grace” place the blame on the religious right and it’s hard to argue. When I was kid in the 70s Jesus was viewed as a benevolent hippie, the subject of Broadway musicals and Doobie Brothers songs. Now he’s identified with the likes of Rick Santorum and Ralph Reed. The road from sandals and beads to sweater vests and all-you-can-eat buffets is one most young people would rather not travel.
To quote Max Van Sydow’s character in “Hannah and Her Sisters,”: “If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”