My Generation isn’t Leaving Christianity–We Just Don’t Have Time For It

I read an article the other day about how my generation is leaving Christianity. The way this was framed caught my attention.

I came of age in the height of the Evangelical movement. I had not been raised in an Evangelical church (I’m a confirmed ELCA Lutheran, thank goodness), and yet, most of my friends were attending these more “trendy” churches, so I was curious.

When I lived away from home, I got swept-up into these mega churches. I even got baptized (again) because I thought my infant baptism wasn’t right. And I participated in a Bible Study that continued to devalue women.

My experiences were so profoundly nauseating that I turned away from church for several years–but not Christianity. At home I read my Bible–all of it–and prayed daily. It wasn’t until we moved back home and I could once again return to an ELCA Lutheran church (where love is the message and everyone is welcome) that I started dipping my toes back into regular church attendance.

My experiences growing-up in a church were valuable to me. I loved my years in confirmation, of learning about the Bible deeply and within an appropriate historical and cultural framework. That time is why I found so many of the messages during my years away nauseating because they’re just plain wrong.

Many in my generation did this heel-turn. So I would argue that it isn’t Christianity we’re leaving, it’s the dominant form of Christianity being practiced in America. It’s what people associate with Christianity. It’s how we have to sneak we’re Christian into a conversation only once we’ve proven with our actions over time we’re not racist, homophobic, judgemental people.

But that isn’t really what this post is about. What triggered this moment of writing was the several (well-meaning) emails I received this week from people asking me if I’m going to be at church today.

You see, we haven’t attended in awhile. At first it was all of our time and attention going to finishing home renovations so we could put our house on the market. I still don’t think people fully understand 1) the extent of work we had to do and 2) yes, we HAD to do it because job insecurity for years and historically low wages from having entered the job market during The Great Recession combined with, well, life and all it kept throwing at us had made our financial situation quite dire. I’d been juggling living expenses across credit cards during the pandemic because Brian’s income was unstable (he had lost his job in Spring of 2019 and had tried to start a business. It was gaining traction until he got early COVID, landed in the ER, and then the world shut down). As a higher education teacher, I made $36,000 annually (but please tell me how I’m an educated elite).

Then, I lost that low-paying, high-stress but VOCATIONAL job. It was what I had always wanted to do, what I’d been trained to do, what I’d spent years building-up to do, and I had no intention of leaving it, which is why I didn’t go searching for a higher paying job when Brian lost his. It just never even occurred to me, quite frankly. I lost the job I thought I’d retire from in the same month we sold our home of a decade after all the work that took and moved into a new home that was supposed to signal a fresh financial start. The new not-recession coincided, once again, so our interest rate jumped before we could close, upping our previous “top budget” monthly mortgage figure I’d carefully calculated out bu $300 a month and then Brian’s truck finally kicked the bucket, forcing us to cough-up our hard-earned equity that was supposed to be our nest egg (after we finished paying off all those credit cards, thank goodness) to buy a decent truck right at the moment used vehicle prices were RIDICULOUS. All in, we now need even more money per month as a result, not less. Super. I love trading debt for debt.

If you put Brian’s annual salary into an inflation calculator, he makes no more than he did a decade ago, despite all of his years of experience. I do not think this, or any of the experiences I’ve just shared, is singular to us. I think this is simply the reality of being our generation in America: we came of age post 9-11, we entered the workforce as the housing bubble burst and wages were super low, and we can’t seem to ever recover because wages have stayed super low even while the cost of a middle-class lifestyle has skyrocketed. We will never not be paycheck to paycheck despite all the scrimping and saving we do.

This places a lot of pressure on us. Brian is essentially working two jobs right now: his regular job and side jobs to help compensate for the loss of my income. He’s barely sleeping and yet still manages to chop firewood for our wood-burning fireplace for winter (after cutting down the tree in someone’s yard so he can get the wood for free), fixes our vehicles, and does home repairs (such as our foundation in our new-to-us home that required him to place heavy steel beams (free cast-offs from his work) into our crawl space one back-breaking Saturday.

Meanwhile, thanks to supply chain woes, I literally grocery shop almost every single day, spend an inordinate amount of effort meal-planning to maximize our dollar, am constantly shuffling kids to vaccine appointments (or so it feels) and testing for illness, while still trying to make their lives as normal as possible, or at least some version of “new normal” that allows them to be teenagers. They each have anxiety disorders that manifest in vastly different ways, and so there’s therapy appointments, 504 plans, guidance counselors, and just a lot of communicating I do on the daily to even keep them in school. There’s all the activities they want to do and need to do (and occasionally, because of anxiety, I have to “boot to butt” them to do), plus school work, which took some time to steady because they basically missed a year of instruction. Liam is obsessed with skipping a grade right now, so if he misses two questions on a test, he melts down.

I also am in charge of managing our budget, which as you may have guessed completely sucks. I use premium tools from trusted sources. I spend a great deal of effort and energy to plan our cash flow and make sure we can pay bills on time. It’s stressful because for a long time there wasn’t enough, and then there just *just enough* and now there’s way not enough. Without my monthly income and the jump in payments due to inflation, we currently experience a $3,000 monthly shortfall (but please, State of Indiana Unemployment, please do shame me for trying to draw unemployment to the tune of $900 per month. That was such an awful experience I stopped drawing it).

While I’m managing all the life stuff, I used to be working a full-time, demanding job with low pay. Now I work a full-time job trying to find a job. The amount of hoops and work it takes to find a job is pretty silly, to be honest (but I’m sure all jobless people are simply lazy who don’t want to work). The average amount of time it’s taking to find a job in 2022? 5-6 months, and that’s if you’re not switching industries, which a lot of us (ahem, educators) are. I’ve spent more than 40 hours per week on my job search for months now and still have things I could be doing better to increase my chances.

All of which is to say, my generation is completely tapped out. We have too much to do for too little pay with too little leisure time. Our leisure time is spent caring for our homes, running crazy amounts of errands to simply keep the household running, and trying to squeeze in some kind of family life in the cracks.

It isn’t that we don’t want to come to church and find community and fellowship, or that we don’t want to volunteer for that Habitat for Humanity build (because, my God, we super believe in providing housing for people who need it). It’s that we are so completely overwhelmed with life there is no more room.

When we receive well-meaning emails from people asking us if we’ll be in church or hoping to see us this Sunday in church, all it does is reflect back to us how little time and energy we have. It makes us feel bad and guilty. Church becomes a thing we should be doing–another thing on a very long, unmanageable list–instead of the thing that could help us most, because *that* is what Church is.

While these kinds of communications aren’t intended to have this effect, they do because they feel like we aren’t being understood from our perspective. It isn’t encouraging so much as signaling our lack of presence has been somehow noted and needs to be corrected. It isn’t “is everything ok?” It’s “why aren’t you here?” Those two phrases have different subtexts even while logically they say similar things.

My generation is tired of being made to feel bad for not being where our parents were at our ages. We’re tired of being mocked in the media and in some pervasive cultural narratives. But mostly we’re just plain tired. And right now, the only thing I can do is to continue to take care of myself because very few other people or systems are actually invested in taking care of me.

And today, I need a long walk and then time to do chores so I can regroup before I hit the job search again tomorrow and Brian is currently working.

Published by kelinmchull

Wife, mother, teacher, dreamer/doer, adventurer, wannabe farmer, writer, and all around curious gal.

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