How Facebook Killed the Church

According to Richard Beck at Experimental Theology, it’s nothing new that Millennials find the church hypocritical, judgmental, and unChristian. Young peole have thought that for at least half a century. What’s new is Web 2.0 relationality (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.). Young people are more connected than ever by the new media, and they no longer need the church to enhance their social relationships. See Beck’s argument here: “How Facebook Killed the Church.”

12 comments

  1. Richard Beck wrote that Generation X people did not leave the church whereas Millenials are leaving it. I find his post an enormous oversimplification, a pirouette, a shot from the hip… Maybe it’s Theology Light?

    I see people from all ages struggling with the Catholic Church. I have Catholic friends worshiping at a Lutheran parish or an Anglican parish. Many of us tend to go where the parish is life-giving. And when we don’t find one, we look for God in other places than the building of a church. Some of us go to the margins because this is where we’re pretty sure of finding Jesus getting his hands dirty.

    Look, God is everywhere in everyone… Still, it is true that the day the Catholic Church lives another aggiornamiento many of us may return, Facebook or no Facebook 🙂

  2. Does the new Confession app help or hinder the facebook or church’s dilemma? Some bishops favor the former.

    In a recent presentation on stress management, Sister Ann Bryan Smolin indicated that the technology of facebook, twitter and the like contributes to a sense of loneliness, which can, and often does, spiral into stress followed by depression.

    This begs the question: are these social networking devices and avenues indeed truly connecting young people and substituting for the church (or any other organization) “to enhance their social relationships”; or, are they really providing cyber and artificial “social relationships” while living in a “nowhere land, making all their nowhere plans for nobody”? (Lennon/McCartney).

    Let’s hope (and pray) not.

    As for facebook killing the church, it probably isn’t. The church is doing a very good job of injuring itself.

  3. Young people have been leaving the Church in great numbers ever since they began to go off to college in great numbers in the sixties. That happened to correspond to the beginning of great changes in male-female relationships, the job world, and the political world. Not only parishes but families and community organizations were ill prepared to cope with these changes in the larger world and still are. So it was natural that young people began to look to their own generation and their own networks for solutions to the problems of their generation.

    However, once the baby boomers had gotten jobs and started to raise families they came back to the Church because parishes as institutions and networks were all set up to help with these age old challenges. I suspect that the young Facebook people today will find parish and community networks just as valuable when they start raising families. While they may use Facebook to manage these networks, they are hardly going to have time to reinvent the wheels of family support.

    Even the phone and e-mail have given people a great deal of freedom to network outside of existing institutions such as the family, business organizations and churches. However, people tend to use this new technology to supplement and manage rather than replace existing networks. All the institutions that manage existing networks need to do a better job to make their networks more attractive.

    As for the history of generational differences American Grace does a good job of analyzing them. The bottom line is that each generation starts off in a different place because of the issues they encounter in their teens and twenties. See post http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2010/11/05/american-grace-how-religion-divies-and-unites-us/

    The only technology that has really changed how we live is television.

  4. When I first read this (I was pointed to this article last week by someone on Facebook) I kept thinking that this sounded like the way my evangelical and/or protestant friends look at church. Any mention of sacraments, the priesthood or any kind of ‘obligation’ to attend is completely absent from the piece. I suspect that Beck was largely not thinking about Catholics (or Orthodox or other communions where sacraments remain a prime focus of worship) when he wrote this. Still, are ‘Millenial’ Catholics following similar trends? I’ll wait for the data on that one, but the fact that sacraments cannot be confected via technology kinda pokes a little hole in the whole “Facebook killed the Church” thing.

    Maybe I just live in a Catholic ghetto, but the Millenials around me seem more likely to take things like ‘Sunday obligation’ seriously than their parents’ generation, and they use things like Facebook and Twitter to reinforce those beliefs with each other. But I know that’s just anecdotal and doesn’t necessarily indicate a wider trend.

    1. Hi Ben,

      Thanks for yoru comment. You and I both assent to sacraments, priesthood, and Sunday obligation. Obviously I don’t want to undermine or diminish any of those! I posted this article because there is so much data showing that young people in the US, and young Catholics in particular, are separating themselves from organized religion like never before. I don’t know that this article’s explanation for why is that convincing. But I’m so interested in finding out why young Catholics are drifting away that I’m willing to listen to any possible explanations. I’m glad you know Millennials who are committed. So do I. The data shows, alas, that this is not representative of the general trend.

      Pax,

      awr

  5. I think he is on to something. Where do young adults find a community that accepts them the way they are? I truly doubt that the new translation with its akward language will excite that generation or any generation. As a Church we had a wonderful opportunity to produce prayers that would be beautiful and give inspiration to our people. Instead we held up literal adherence to Latin as a priority. I think young adults and many of us realize that the church is often perplexed in responding to the needs of its parishoners. It is disheartening to see so many people leave the church and a church unable to ask itself ‘what do we do.’

  6. Adrian Michael, you have sighted the real tragedy of this new translation — as with so many church failures since 1965 it is a case of lost opportunities. The translation debacle is only one in a long series of symptoms of a church disconnect from contemporary people. It is an epiphany of how far we have drifted into stagnant irrelevance.

  7. Thanks Joe

    Kenny, I appreciate your insights. I said we had an
    ‘opportunity’ for beautiful prayers. We missed it. Yes, I like the present translation, but I would have been excited to see something better. I suppose you like the 2010 text. I must be missing something.

  8. I welcome any changes that get closer to the original Missal.
    We are denied even an occasional EF Mass in our Diocese by our Bishop. So any return to the lovely language of the Old Missal, or even close to it, I do indeed welcome.

  9. This article (and some of the posters) ignores the fact that everyone is at almost all age levels (except those over 65) are leaving the church in the U.S. To blame this on social media is silly. From 1937 until the year 2000, the percentage of people in the U.S. who claimed to be members of a church or religious congregation held steady at around 73%. However, since the year 2000, this percentage has declined to 63%. Except for a few denominations who practice very active evangelization and/or have high birth rates, church membership has experienced a precipitous decline in the U.S. The Notre Dame authors of American Grace blame this on the politicization of the church–I’m not so sure though. Nevertheless, social media didn’t have much of a presence in 2000.

  10. I aqm the eldest of 9 siblings brought up as Catholics by loving parents. It is a great distress to my morther to find that there are just one or two of her children who still go to mass regularly, ony 2 of 27 grown-up grandchildren who go to mass, and only 2 of 12 greatgrandchildren who have been baptised. And the primary reasons? The church just does not connect honestly with them. My siblings were largely unable to cope with the official ban on artificial contraception; those who stayed ignored it. The grandchildren, especially the granddaughters can’t accept the glacial change in attitudes to women. And the new translation isn’t going to help there either. My son left because his local church was just too dull, and didn’t leave him a role; he goes to a Pentecostal church where they are delighted to use him and his wife.

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