Do Denominations Matter? (4 of 6)

The rise of generic Christianity
What is emerging is less a culture of “disbelief ” than the rise of what can be called “generic Christianity” – Christianity floating free from a particular denominational tradition.

Increasingly, young adults are inclined to say something like “I’m spiritual, but not religious” or “I believe in God, but not the church” or “I can worship in nature just as authentically – maybe even more so – than if I were in the pew on Sunday morning.” Young people talk a great deal about spiritual life. Yet allegiance to traditional denominations is almost not on the radar.

A second and fast-growing form of “generic Christianity” has been the rise of so-called “mega churches,” almost all of which are either explicitly “nondenominational” or take pains to downplay their denominational affiliations.

Still others have been frustrated with traditional denominations because they have not taken a clear enough stance on “hot button” social or political issues like abortion or homosexuality or opposition to the war.

In short, for the average Christian today denominational distinctions seem to be increasingly irrelevant. We are less inclined to assume that religious authority should be entrusted to experts in some distant seminary or church headquarters. In an age of mass media, global connectivity and aggressive marketing, we have come to discover that there are lots of denominational options out there, many of which are presenting their programs with more sophistication and appeal than our own.

And finally, even though recent immigrants and the elderly may still count on the church to preserve ethnic identity, younger people are far less inclined to appreciate the social or cultural role that churches once played. Few people look to their denominations as the carrier of a distinctive culture, the primary source of marriage partners or the hub of ethnic activities.