Generation Ex-Christian: Goodbye, God
by Drew Dyck
Chapter One (Generation Ex-Christian)
My friend Abe was raised as a Christian, but abandoned his faith during college.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said with a shrug. “I just left it.”
When I heard about Abe’s “deconversion” my mind jumped to the last time I’d seen him. It was at a Promise Keepers rally the year after we graduated from high school. I remember being surprised to see him there; neither of us had been strong Christians in school. But watching him standing next to his father in the coliseum, it was clear something had clicked. As the voices of 20,000 men lifted in unison, Abe squeezed his eyes shut and extended one slender arm skyward. He seemed solemn yet peaceful, totally absorbed in God’s presence.
It was a powerful evening. I can still hear the words of one of the event’s speakers. He wasn’t the most eloquent in the lineup, and he had a slight speech impediment, but his passion for Christ was palpable.
“I don’t know about you guys,” he said. “But I want to run the race so hard that when I reach the end, I fall exhausted into the arms of Jesus.”
After he spoke, the stadium was silent. In that moment I think we all felt the same way. We didn’t want to just hobble through our spiritual journeys. We wanted to sprint. When we came to the end we wanted to collapse, into the arms of Jesus.
I’d considered myself a Christian ever since my dad walked into my room one night in 1983, knelt beside my lower bunk, and led me in the sinner’s prayer. I was five years old when that happened, and probably didn’t understand exactly what I was saying. And yet, it was real. It wasn’t until my late teens, however, when I carefully read the gospels, that the faith truly became my own.
When I saw Abe worshiping at the rally, I assumed he had undergone a similar transformation. We were both pastors’ kids. We had both gone through the proverbial rebellious phase, but that didn’t mean we didn’t believe.
That’s why I was shocked by his decision to leave the faith. I was a little curious too. What had prompted Abe, who was my age, and from a remarkably similar background, to defect? How could the guy I’d watched lost in worship turn cold toward God?
It’s a question that’s being asked a lot these days. Young adults are fleeing the faith in record numbers. Abe may be a riddle, but he’s not rare.
Religious beliefs are elusive targets for conventional research. No survey or study can fully probe the heart of a person, much less the mind of God. So when it comes to assessing how many people are joining or leaving the faith, we’re dealing with educated guesses. To steal the Apostle Paul’s beautiful phrase, “we see through a glass darkly.”
Still a number of recent surveys give us important clues about the emerging generation’s patterns of belief. And it’s not a pretty picture. Among young adults, there’s a major shift taking place–away from Christianity…
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