Why aren’t Millennials engaged in religion? And if young people are breaking away from religion, why do they embrace Lenten practices? CRCC responded to these two queries in articles timed for Holy Week and Passover.
“They don’t feel like they have traditions, and they want to reinvigorate that in some fashion,” said Richard Flory, director of research at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California. “This link back into history gives structure and … a sense of something around which you can gather with other people.”
The process of giving up luxuries — or repenting sins — during Lent has long been a way for Christians to get closer to Christ. Only 57 percent of millennials said they were aware Lent was happening last year, but more of them planned to fast than Generation Xers or Baby Boomers, according to a survey by the Christian polling company Barna Group. Overall, one-third of millennials claim to have no religious affiliation, according to a separate survey released Friday, and Lent can be a chance to dip their toes in the water. It’s a defined, easy-to-remember observance, so it’s popular with millennials who pick and choose which parts of religion they want to endorse, Flory said.
For example, many youth who consider themselves Catholic don’t have the time or desire to attend church regularly. But when Lent rolls around, they see it as a “yearly opportunity to demonstrate whatever that Catholic-ness is,” he said.
Managing Director Brie Loskota, meanwhile, told AARP that religious identity is not the same as practice or belief. “Young people might self-identify but don’t go to services,” she said. “But when it comes to prayer and belief in God, those numbers are still fairly high.”
She also pointed to young people’s interest in service groups, regardless of their affiliation with religion. “Millennials are forming communities around radical notions of love and service, and I think that that signals good things about the future of religion in America,” Loskota said.