My first church was Episcopal, but the priest was more pastor than ideologue. The congregation was progressive, but so was the neighborhood. Badly catechized, I had no way of knowing that the actions of some of these progressives could cut me off from the sacraments. I did leave, however, when an activist priest replaced the old one. At this time, I also moved for college, and found an Anglican parish in town. The vicar encouraged me to consider a vocation. Like many vicars nowadays, he answered my theological questions by sending me to an Orthodox bookstore staffed by converts, whose kindness didn’t conceal the deep brokenness they seemed to share. When I returned home for Winter Break, I found an Anglican parish in my home town as well!
I also joined my university Christian club. There, I was introduced to pop evangelicalism, the dominant faith on campus. I wore a necktie to the first meeting of the semester, and was shocked to learn that a rock band led their liturgies. Established club members took one look at me and thought I was a joke! When they learned that I was “high church,” they told all their friends that I was a cult member who had come to spread my belief in works-righteousness. In fact, I was “Catholic, not Christian.” That charming rumor ruined my reputation among the few religious people my age. Raised in a post-Christian city, I learned the hard way that this was acceptable behavior in much of the country.
Outside of the campus Christian club, things were different. When a social work major mentioned having a minor in substance abuse, one had to ask whether metaphor was being used. Christianity is the only hope at that point. It is not therefore an acceptable topic of conversation. Then friends graduated. Like many people my age, I heard about people who couldn’t hold down a job because they never learned how to behave in the office, or couldn’t stop partying. Something much bigger was going on than people ignoring church. How had basic norms (even secular ones) been erased so totally that people weren’t rebelling against them, but had never learned how to behave at all?
Meanwhile, the bigotries of some of my professors almost prevented me from graduating. In fact, large parts of this blog were lifted from a thesis that was spiked for political incorrectness. Around that time, the gentrification of my college town also tripled the price of rent, forcing me to return home early and finish class online. I never had a chance to say goodbye to my friends. I lost multiple job connections. Some time later, my college parish swam the Bosporus under the influence of the bookstore. I received only a phone call. The new website claims that the entire parish converted.
Then I thought about the future. I considered completing a master’s degree just to give Viaticum to old people from a store front? It would be better to let Anglicanism die gracefully than to turn its corpse into an idol. I even learned that people call our churches “Prayer Book burial societies” because some were founded with no intention of survival. My community knew it had no future, but expected me to make lifelong vows to an institution that would leave me alone and jobless once more! Clearly, those spoiled Millennials deserve to be treated like objects. Someone should have raised them better.
Now, like many young people, I’m angry. Leaving the Episcopal Church and publicly acknowledging my religiosity continue to cost me prominent connections and lucrative employment. I made that sacrifice for a dying tradition. Older generations have complained for decades about the secularization, vulgarization, and commodification of our society, and those who live in it. You haven’t responded in a lasting, meaningful way.
That now falls to me.