The American Conservative‘s Rod Dreher has been writing for a long time about how Christian parents, pastors, and teachers need to stop assuming that our secular culture will do anything but fight their efforts to pass on their faith to the next generation. Despite America’s deep Christian heritage, younger Americans are increasingly drifting away from Christianity. Surveys consistently show that the oldest Americans are the most religious and the youngest Americans are the least religious. And if historic trends hold, the number of people who have walked away from faith will only increase as millennials and Generation Z grow older, Pew says:
It is possible that more Millennials who were raised unaffiliated will begin to identify with a religion as they get older, get married and have children, but previous Pew Research Center studies suggest that generational cohorts typically do not become more religiously affiliated as they get older. And the new survey finds that most generational cohorts actually are becoming less religiously affiliated as they age.
These trends are not only grievous for young people’s souls, but also to our greater society. Besides eternal salvation, which is of course the most important aspect, a deep faith in Christ gives people meaning in life and networks of support, both of which promote their happiness and well-being in this life. A lack of faith is bad for souls and society, as America’s founders said, because it makes a people worse at self-government. People who cannot govern and control themselves demand welfare-state and totalitarian policies that spell the end of freedom for us all.
So the continued decrease of Christianity in American life spells deep trouble for our fellow Americans’ bodies and souls, and building the infrastructure in our churches to offer parents an alternative to develop the next generation is every Christian’s duty, not just the duty of those with school-age children. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing at Redeemer Classical School.
As a prelude to his new book, The Benedict Option, Dreher recently gave an interview to Plough magazine discussing similar themes. Here’s an excerpt, but read the whole thing and think about it.
The currents of culture have become so antithetical to Christianity that if we’re going to form ourselves and our kids in the authentic faith, we’re going to have to have some kind of limited withdrawal.
What do I mean by that? I mean to put your kids in an authentic Christian school, for example. I mean things as simple as turning off the TV. Don’t be so quick to open the door to popular culture. Growing up, I experienced how television wrecked any morals my parents were trying to teach us – they were fairly conservative, but the TV was like a sewer pipe into the home. Today it’s smartphones. Even in my small Louisiana town, fifth-grade boys are watching hardcore pornography on their smartphones. The parents of these boys just choose not to see.
But it’s not just running away from what’s destructive – it’s running toward something good. Our kids go to a classical school here in Baton Rouge. The teachers are trying to show the parents of the students: You may have the right instinct to get your kid out of the cesspit of the mainstream by sending them to this school, but it’s not going to help if you just shelter them. You have to show them something good and beautiful and true to build their souls up.
That’s what I think the Benedict Option ideally should do. It should show the good fruits of a countercultural life in Christian community, and in that way be evangelical. If you’re not evangelical in some sense you’re not Christian. It is a missionary faith. But that doesn’t mean that we have to throw ourselves in the middle of everything when we’re not even properly formed. I know a lot of Christian parents don’t want to take their kids out of the public schools because they say, ‘Well, our kids need to be salt and light.’ I’m afraid that’s incredibly naïve in many cases, when you have third and fourth graders already talking about transgenderism and bisexuality.