Wednesday, July 11, 2018
The latest issue of Notre Dame Magazine (which is, I have to say, head and shoulders above any University/alumni magazine I've ever encountered) has essays by, inter alia, John Nagy and Kenneth Woodward on keeping, and losing, the Faith. Both draw heavily on the work of my friend and colleague in sociology, Christian Smith. These are not, strictly speaking, "legal theory" pieces, but they do prompt thinking about the ways that culture (which is, of course, shaped by law even as law is "downstream" from culture) creates the conditions and context within which the Faith either is, or is not, transmitted and in which young people are formed.
Here's just a bit from Nagy:
Here’s the core of Smith’s findings: The religious identity that young Catholics establish as children living in their parents’ homes is probably what they’ll carry with them through life. One’s faith practices remain stable from childhood into adulthood. Less frequently, they decline. Late bloomers are a rare third, religiously speaking. The point is that most Catholic kids aren’t going to Mass now and they won’t start when they’re older.
Interesting, though, is what your generation hasn’t lost. Other studies of trends in American religion have found that, churchgoing aside, people your age retain their wonder, their spiritual wellbeing, their belief that life has meaning and purpose — at levels indistinguishable from their parents and grandparents. Smith disagrees with some of that but notes that you all are slightly more likely to pray daily, to believe in an afterlife, to affirm the Bible’s sacred character. That doesn’t mean you’re reading it, or getting to know the God who is revealed in it. Which means your friends are less and less inclined to talk about religion, the sacred, the eternal — or even life’s purpose — in articulate and meaningful ways.
That to me suggests we’re losing something essential to what it means to be human — and that’s why I worry. . . .