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Reconciling Christianity and Modernity: Australian Youth and Religion Teresa Davis, University of Sydney Jeaney Yip, University of Sydney ABSTRACT The growth of New Christian Movement Churches (such as the Pentecostal movements) in Australia is explored against a backdrop of falling attendance among the more 'traditional' churches (Catholic, Anglican etc). The powerful appeal of these New Christian Movement Churches (NCMs) to young people is studied through a series of interviews with young Australians using a phenomenological approach. The common threads from the enquiry are drawn together and mapped onto Lambert's (1999) secularization of religion model. A 'consequences of modernity' (Giddens 1991) argument is used to understand how these NCMs fulfill the need that these young people feel to reconcile aspects of modernity with their religious beliefs. INTRODUCTION: This paperexplores the seeming contradiction of the exponential growth of young Australians (15-29) engaging with 'New Christian Movements' (with a particular focus on the Pentecostal churches) and the growing numbers of 'nominal' or 'non-religious' Australians (ABS Census 2001). This growth in NCMs is clearly visible on City University Campuses in Sydney and other cities in Australia. The Evangelical Union of the University of Sydney for example, claiming to be the largest student union body on campus (Evangelical Union website). The reasons why the youth of Australia are attracted to these New Christian Movements (NCMs) is explored through a series of phenomenological interviews.. The motives articulated by these young people in the interviews are studied for common threads and the reasons are compared to Lambert's (1999) religion and modernity model in an attempt to better understand this 'consumer segment'. This youth segment has been found to be notoriously difficult to reach by traditional churches (Kaldor 1987). This paper also attempts to understand better the primary characteristics of such NCMs and the power of their appeal to the youth segment. The rationalization of these movements and the close resemblance they bear to commercial/marketing bodies is explored in the context of 'outcomes of modernity' (Giddens 1991; Dobbelaere 1981; Dobbelaere and Jagodzinski 1995). BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT: Young University students abandoning Mambo and Billabong for black t shirts with 'Absolut God' emblazoned on them were a common sight in Spring of 2002 on a major Sydney University campus. Cheerful young people wearing green and white 'Evangelical Union' T shirts were more visible than college (on campus fraternity-like organizations) colours during orientation week. University students who spend Saturday nights not in the local pub or nightclub, but crowding onto buses to attend a church in the suburbs is becoming a commonplace sight. Australian University Youth are spending a lot more time in church and church related activities than ever before (Sydney Morning Herald: Good weekend magazine). Religion and young people are often viewed as an unlikely combination. The National Church Life Survey (NCLS) in Australia which conducts surveys every five years across most major Christian denominations provides a snapshot of church demographics in Australia. Their latest study (2001 ), has documented the common under-representation of young people in church (only 14% church goers are between 15-29 year olds). Kaldor (1987) noted that since the 1960s, it has been observed that young adults in Australia are less likely to be church attenders than those who are older and this gap appear to be widening as years go by. Age profile of church goers by majority, are in the 40-49 year olds (18%), 5059 year olds (18%), 60-69 year olds (17%), and those in the 70+ age group (21%). Some denominations appear to be more appealing to young people than others. In the 15-29 year old group, some 30% attend Pentecostal denominations, 23% the Baptist church, and 22% the Churches of Christ. This is a stark comparison to the 12% who attend the Catholic Church, 11 % the Anglican Church, and 8% the Uniting church (2001 National Church Life Survey) As highlighted by Horsfield (in Ballis & Bouma, 1999), the youth segment is a particularly difficult to attract segment among all denominations most churches have difficulties attracting and keeping youth within their ministries. However the NCLS (2001) data clearly show that some types of churches (depending on the denomination) seem to be able to target and position themselves and their ideologies better than the more traditional churches. Are these differences in response to people's changing spiritual tastes and needs or part of a fundamental shift in religious ideology? As revealed by the latest national census in 2001, the two major denominations in Australia are Anglican and Catholic, which accounted for 46.5% of the population. Interestingly, the 'no religion' group has increased from 0.4% in 1901 to almost 17% by 1996, and around 25% in 2001. 'No religion' also implied people who chose not to answer the question as this is a voluntary question in the census. Several reasons can be attributed to this downward trend. The influx of migrants from South-east Asia and the Middle East has seen the growth of Buddhism, Islam, and other religions in Australia. People also seem to be moving away from 'traditional' religion into New Age beliefs and values. Ireland (1999) noted a noticeable increase in Australia in new religious movements which offers altemative spiritual practices such as horoscopes, astrology, clairvoyants, psychic healing using crystals, and Eastern meditation. While religion diversity begins to make a presence in Australia as well as the increase in the 'no religion' group, the proportion of people identifying themselves to a Christian denomination has decreased except for the Catholics, the Pentecostals, and Jehovah's Witness. Of all Christian denominations in 1991, the most rapidly growing one are the Pentecostals. This trend is reflected worldwide as well. Brierley (1998) argues that Pentecostal ism is a 20^*^ century religious phenomenon whose rapid growth into the 21 ^t century is unprecedented of any Christian denomination worldwide. It only represented l%oftheworld'sChristian population in 1960,butwill have grown to 8% by 2010. As traditional denominations experience a decline in Australia, contemporary churches which are Pentecostal or charismatic in nature are thriving. Between the 1996 and 2001 census. The number of Pentecostals were up by 10%, double that of the Anglicans or Catholic(ABS figures cited in Quinlivan, 2002). THE NEW CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT CHURCHES An example of these New Christian Movement (NCMs) churches is the Hillsong Church in Sydney which attracts over 113 Advances in Consumer Research Volume 31, © 2004 tt4 / Reconciling Christianity and Modernity: Australian Youth and Religion 10,000 people in its 6 weekend services with an annual growth rate respondent's reality of the consumption experience was allowed to of 40%. The church engages in multiple business ventures. It has lead the interpretation and analyses. Frameworks and structures of wide tele-evangelical services as well as a thriving music business. interpretation were therefore those suggested by the shape and tone Unusually an album (Blessed) produced, written, and recorded by of the interviews themselves. the Hillsong church was hit no. 4 at the ARIA (Australian Record Industry Association) charts in July 2002 outranking the likes of THE RESPONDENTS: Shakira, Kylie Minogue, and Roñan Keating. A gospel album to be These were chosen on a selective basis, picking subjects who ranked with the likes of Eminem which was the no. 1 album at that have been through the particular consumption experience (affiliatime says a great deal about the popularity of such music among tion with a New Christian Movement Church). Australian youth. Five young people between the ages of 17-22 were recruited, The Hillsong church appears to overturn all traditional percep- comprising two males and three female respondents. They were all tions of a church. The church building is more corporate centre than Sydney residents. One was in high school and one had been in the cathedral. The services are usually shorter, featuring live 'praise workforce for about a year; the other three were all at University. All and worship' (which often can be mistaken for a music concert!) of them could be described as high achievers (judged by the with plenty of 'performance' elements. The pastorean be mistaken University/school and degree courses attended or the type of job for a motivational speaker or talk show host (as one member of the held). church described it "going in there and seeing this man in a purple The interviews were carried out on campus of a major universuit instead of a dog collar working the crowds., it blew me away ! "). sity in Sydney, Australia except in the case of the two who were not The style belongs more in the American South than urban Sydney, currently University students. The interviews ranged in time from with faith healing, speaking in tongues and dramatic baptisms, but 40 minutes to more than 2 hours in one case and were al 1 audio-taped with a very 'trendy' modem theme to it. These churches have slick and later transcribed verbatim. Three of the interviewees belonged websites, some offering 'online shopping' of their books, CDs, and to or were affiliated to a single Pentecostal Church in Sydney. The other Christian resources. interviews once transcribed were analysed for 'common threads' Many of these churches have built websites which range from by identifying key 'cue phrases' were found. simple informational brochure sites (usually only giving basic These were related to or mapped onto the 'religion and information such as the location of the church, service times, etc) to modernity' model suggested by Lambert (1999) to see if these more sophisticated content sites offering extensive information, instances of religious affiliation represented the rise of rationalized resources, online shopping, sermon audio downloads in MP3 and commercialized 'modem' manifestations of religious commitformat, and email subscriptions for regular newsletters (for ex- ment. ample, Kenneth Copeland Ministries at www.kcm.org). The congregation of NCM churches mainly consists of people COMMON THREADS: under 50 (73%), of these 30% are in the 15-29 age group and 43% In each interview six common threads were identified. These in the 30-49 age group. This differs greatly in comparison with can be described as follows: traditional (such as Catholic, Anglican, and Uniting) churches where only 8-12% of its congregations fall in the 15-29 age groups. 1. / consciously chose my church: This took various forms. These NCM churches also have thriving youth ministries, and often All interviewees were nominally Christian (bom or socialrun specific programs and conferences (for example, ized in the first few years of life into families that were www.planetshakers.com.au, www.youthalive.org.au) targeted topracticing but not intensely Christian), but not committed wards the youth. These churches also seem to have revolutionized Christians before they 'chose' their current church. The the Gospel music genre by developing contemporary style praise element of freedom to choose and having compared churches was clearly articulated by all the respondents. and worship sung by groups such as Delirious, who look like any R(M21) for instance described this phase in his search as modem rock band. follows " I went shopping around for a belief; I looked at These churches have many of the features of the 'Seeker' Islam and Buddhism, but Christianity was what did it, not movement in the United States where the philosophy is "Just as in that it has not increased my respect for other religions.." the marketplace, you think of products and services that people need and how you create that; to some extent we're looking at and recognizing spiritual needs that people have" (Richard Anderson of 2. My relationship with God: This was a personal thing-not the Willow Creek Ministries, South Barrington, Illinois in Buss and necessarily mediated by the church, but facilitating it. The Dale 2002) term 'relationship' appeared to be key with three of the interviewees repeating the phrase. R(M 21 ) described it as METHOD: 'its not a social thing- many people see church as a way of socializing. For me its about knowing God, God got in These New Christian Movements (NCMs) have been espetouch, it was a personal connection.". J (F 22) describes it cially remarkable in their ability to attract and retain the youth as "Makes me understand the big picture through having segment or 'future consumers' .This aspect of targeting and attracta relationship with God" S (M 17) said "the church is a ing youth bears closer examination. friend". JA (F 22) went further "it's a relationship at Hills This exploratory study attempts to understand some of the (church)" " for me its not a compromise (referring to reasons why such churches attract these young people while tradigiving up Saturday nights drinking with friends at nighttional congregations appear to be losing younger members. A clubs), its what I want to do, its about being passionately phenomenological approach to understanding the religious /spiriin love with the church, its been 6 years now and my tual consumption experience of these young people was taken. A spiritual needs are met and continuously being met, it setting aside of assumptions and researchers own understanding keeps taking me to the next level'. " It's a personal (and biases) of the phenomenon was consciously adopted. The relationship with God". research purpose was seen as trying to understand the subject's 'lived experience' (Goulding 1992). The recognition of the Advances in Consumer Research (Votume 31) 1115 3. My spirituality not Religion : This was quite a strongly held view amongst the respondents. JA (F 22) says "I was religious, but this is so different from the Anglican (church) its more relevant, the message was about real life, not about solemn singing in church". R (M21 ) says "Religion(corrects himself) spirituality is something people use as an alternative to religion." 1. My family and my beliefs: All the interviewees had concerns about the way their parents viewed their involvement with the church or religious organization. J (J 22) said "They (parents) were a bit cautious with my involvement in the EU (Evangelical Union), thought it's a cult that's taking over my whole life, after my cousins explained what it was they didn ' t mind". S (M 17) says " They support me, my sister is getting more Christian, but my parents don't go". JA (F22) sees more resistance "My parents are wary of it K (sister) loves it, I am trying to get them to go, mum does sometimes but not dad. For themselves that's not what they want- its no problem for them I attend". R (M 21) feels saddened by it "they (family react) differently my mother is indifferent, the opposite of love is indifference not hate. She does not care, she is never curious about it (my faith). Its not just happiness, she is indifferent because I am happy in it- its about my relationship with my mother really" 5. My church is successful and that is not necessarily a bad thing: This was particularly true of the three respondents who had affiliations with the Pentecostal church. Each of them felt obliged to explain the money raising aspect of the church's activities. One respondent (121) described it as 'anyway money I would have spent at a nightclub drinking with friends' and that she was getting a lot more out of this and the music and dancing were very much a part of it and the atmosphere of a 'nightclub without alcohol ' and where there were no concerns about other people's motives in being friendly. The church was about being 'relevant' to young people. The church organized skateboard contests and had games to attract the young teens on a Friday night, while the young 20s crowd were pleased by the nightclub atmosphere and social aspects of the later evening gathering. Many members entered into business ventures with co-members and the church- the philosophy being one of "give and it shall be returned to you tenfold" (Meares 2003) 6. My belief is rational: This aspect was particularly highlighted for the sample (four of these respondents were in a leading Australian University in courses that required a 93% or more school leaving score-putting them in the top 10% academic achievement group in their cohort). One of these respondents addressed this issue with a Descartian logic -(God created man with reason so that this reason (as manifest in a religion cleansed by reason) would lead him back to God). R(M 21) articulated this as "My friends question it, but philosophy can reconcile the (divergent) aspects of religion and science". The Evangelical union on the campus of a major Australian University staged a debate between leading academics on the reason versus religion question this series called 'Absolut God' tapping into the cult status associations that Absolut vodka has among this target segment of urban youth. MODERNITY AND RELIGION: Lambert (1999) identified, using the arguments of many religious scholars (Nakamura 1986; Melton 1998; Bellah 1976; Tschannen 1992; Hervieu-Leger 1986; Champion 1993, Kurtz 1995) and many religious movements (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Christianity etc) some overlapping characteristics from newer forms of religious movements. He identifies the following as common characteristics among such new and changing movements as shaped by the forces of modernity. 1. This worldliness: This indicates the movement of focus from the 'next world/reincarnation' to this world and man as the focus with a stress on 'human love', including the increasing value placed on the human body, moving away from asceticism (at the expense of fear and damnation). As Kitagawa (1967) says " all classical religions tended to take negative attitudes toward phenomenal existence and recognized another realm of reality" (p.62).This is exactly that which has been overturned and as Lambert suggests instead that all religions are compelled to "find the meaning of human destiny in this world-in culture, society and human personality". This focus on the material, present world was repeated in many forms among the respondents: The description of the churches business ventures often took this form, the sale of CDs in the church foyer before and after the service was seen as acceptable The images of Jesus clearing the temple of commerce or the worshipping of the golden calf that the traditional churches point to as anti-materialistic teaching are not focused on in these NCMs. The Chief Pastor in a leading NCM church in Sydney is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend Magazine ( 25'h January 2003) as saying "If you believe in Jesus, he will reward you here on earth as well as in Heaven" and " anyone who puts the Kingdom of Heaven first (rich or poor) can expect Bible Economics to work in their life now!". The argument is that the money they (the churches) make comes from the promotion of Christian material and not worldly goods. In some cases it helped these churches seem more 'relevant'-"they need to make a living" or "being successful is not a bad thing" and the quote of 'give and it shall be returned to you tenfold' offered as a sort of'fidelity in return for prosperity ' pledge, which was very much at odds with the traditionat Christian churches stand on materialism. 2. The spirituality within: This is largely related to the idea of 'individualization' that is expressed by Bellah (1976) " Each individual must work out his own ultimate solutions, and the most the church can do is provide him a favourable environment for doing so, without imposing on him a prefabricated set of answers"(p309). Thomas Paine's "my mind is my church" symbolizes this most clearly. Among our respondents this is articulated by R (M21) when he says that 'spirituality is something people use as an alternative to religion'. This respondent's reconciling of the reason vs religion (specifically the Creationism vs Evolution debate) reveals this need to have worked out the detail and having satisfied that philosophy can indeed reconcile these two issues 'he grappled with' in his mind convinced him of its validity. 3. Informality: Bellah (1976) points to this reduced distance between the faithful and God and between the faithful and 116 / Reconciling Christianity and Modernity: Australian Youth and Religion the church. Dobhelaere (1991) refers to this as a dehierarchization-the hringing closer of the human and the Divine. Lambert (1999) refers to the French Catholic Church allowing the use of the 'tu' form when addressing God in prayer rather than the formal 'vous'. This is illustrated hoth by J (F22) "It helps me understand the big picture through having a relationship with God". JA (F22) speaks of "being passionately in love with the church." and R (M21) speaks of God having got in touch, and it being a personal connection. The descriptions use language that is significant- these are words these young people would use to describe relationships with other people their age. This is a God and Church that is young, contemporary and relevant to them. 4. Freedomtochoose.Roof(1993,1995)inhisstudyof 1400 Americans found that 76% of them chose "going to church /synagogue is something you do if it meets your needs" not "it is a duty and an obligation". Two thirds of this group were 'bom again/ pentecostal' Christians. The seeker church philosophy referred to earlier uses this idea to great advantage in their 'market oriented approach' to growing their ministries. Among the respondents of this enquiry, each of them articulated the idea of choice- none of them are presently affiliated with the church they nominally belonged to (bom into, parents belonged to). There was a conscious decision about their original churches 'not satisfying needs' JA (F22) explained this as 'the Anglican church was so Anglo-Saxon- everybody knew each other and anyone new got looked at; it was hard to break into; (not for me, for newcomers) not very comfortable (for newcomers); here (church of choice) you slip in and become part of it'. R (M21) 'I shopped around for a belief..Islam, Buddhism...but this was it' showed a certainty about the choice, and the exercise of conscious choice. 5. Ritualism and Symbolism Transformed: This refers to some of the earlier discussion of bringing the human and the Divine closer. Much of the ritual and symbolism of religion is intrinsically tied up with this need to demystify. However in many cases the shift has been from mystery to performance. The theatricality of faith healing, speaking in tongues or of public baptisms in a swimming pool suspended above a 3500 strong crowd creates a dramatic element of performance. Other rituals are more mundane and involve the focus on human interaction. Social interaction is a function the church has served for centuries, the rituals are transformed, but still have the same purposes. The Friday evening meetings now simulate the nightclub without alcohol instead of a community meeting place it was in the past. The opinion of Giddens (1991) that "rather than entering a period of post-modernism, we are moving into one in which the consequences of modemity are becoming more radicalized and universalized than before" appears to hold for the Christian religious movement in Australia. While post modemism has entered other social movements in Australia, one could argue that the NCMs do not display the hallmarks of post-modernity such as the 'disqualification 'of the great narratives. Tliere is rather a reverting to an adapted, rationalized and transformed narrative of Christianity that is more compatible with the modernist's ideology of endless progression rather than a postmodern tearing down of old mythologies and narratives. In some instances it is marked by the return to some aspects of religious fundamentalism such as a conservative attitude to the homosexuality and ahortion (Meares 2003). In many ways this may be seen as no more than an echo of the rise of the Pentecostal brand of Christianity in other parts of the world. In fact going by global figures, Australia lags far behind that of North and South America (Brierley 1998) in the growth of the Charismatic or Pentecostal church. Many of the NCM churches in Australia are linked to the 'Assembly of God' governing body which is hased in the USA. These may explain some of the common features of philosophy and worship that appear in both the North American and Australian NCMs. Insights The one dominant theme that runs through all the interviews is the idea that these churches (NCMs) were helping meet their (young Australians') need to reconcile or in someway bring the traditional Christian faith they were socialized in and their contemporary lives together. This reconciliation of modemity and Christian teaching, achieved through some broad reinterpretations of the 'old' church teachings and with an overlay of social accessibility and an element of 'entertainment' has put the NCMs in the position of seeing their young ministries grow in ways the traditional churches have not. The NCMs in Australia are no longer being dismissed as irrelevant to the spiritual and material needs of young people as they may have been in the past (by their parents' generation) (Brierley 1998), there are significant numbers of young people being attracted to these churches. It is unclear however how many of these people will stay with the church in the long term. Some of them are positioned primarily as 'young churches and therefore may lose current members as they grow older and move away. This is particularly true for the sample looked at. University education over, these young people will move as careers take them elsewhere. Thus retention rates may beasmuchofa problem as with traditional churches. It may even appear to be a 'positioning' and 'segmenting' strategy at work here. Young people being attracted to the NCMs early in life but who may in different stages of their life , move onto traditional churches or drop out of church and become nominal or non-attending members of churches. REFERENCES Australian Bureau of Statistics (2001) 2015.0 Census of Population and Housing: Selected Social and Housing Characteristics, Australia, sourced from www.abs.gov.au Bellah, R.N (1976) Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a posttraditional world. New York Harper and Row. Bellamy, J., Black, A., Castle, K., Hughes, P., & Kaldor, P., 2002, Why People don't Go to Church, Open Book Publishers, Adelaide, Australia. Brierley, P., 1998, Future Church: A Global Analysis of the Christian Community to the year 2010, Monarch Books and Christian Research, London. Buss, D (2002) 'Peddling God' in Sales and Marketing Management Vol 154 Issue 3. Cimino, R and Lattin D (1999) 'Choosing my Religion' in American Demographics Vol 21, Issue 4 Dobbelaere, K (1981) Secularization: A Multi-dimensional concept in Current Sociology 29(2): 1-213. (1995) Religion in Europe and North America in Values in Western Societies, edited by R. de Moore. 1-29. Tilburg, Tilburg University Press. Advances in Consumer Research (Volume 31) I 111 FIGURE 1 Modernity and Religion Reconciled . and Jagodzinski W (1995) Secularization and Church Religiosity (chapter 4); Religious Cognitions and Belief (chapter 7) and Religious and Ethical Pluralism (chapter 8). In Impact of Values, edited by J.W.V Deth and E. Scarborough. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Giddens, A (1991) The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press. Hervieu-Leger, D (1993) Present day emotional renewals: The end of secularization or the end of religion? la A future for religion New Paradigms for social analysis, edited by W.H Swatos, 129-148. London: Sage Horsfield, 1999, "Churches and Electronic Culture", in Ballis, P.H., & Bouma, G.D., (eds). Religion in an Age of Change, Christian Research Association, Victoria, Australia. Ireland, R., 1999, "New Religious Movements in a New Australia, in Ballis, P.H., & Bouma, G.D., (eds). Religion in an Age of Change, Christian Research Association, Victoria, Australia. Jaspers K (1953) The origin and goal of history. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Kaldor, 1987, Who goes Where? Who Doesn't Care? Going to Church in Australia, Lancer Books, Sydney, Australia. Kitagawa, J.M (1967) Primitive,Classical and Modem religions. In History of Religion- Essays on problems of understanding, edited by J.M Kitagawa Chicago 111. University of Chicago Press Kurtz, L (1995) Gods in the Global Village: The World's religions in sociological perspective. London, Pine Forge Press. Lambert Y (1998) The scope and limits of religious functions according to the European value and ISSP surveys. In On Secularization: Homage to Karel Dobbelaere, edited by J. Billiet and R. Laermans. Leuven: University Press of the Catholic University (1999) Religion in Modernity as a New Axial Age: Secularization or New Religious Forms? in Sociology of Religion, 60:3 303-333. Meares, A (2003) "Praise the Lord and pass the chequebook" in the Good Weekend magazine supplement of the Sydney Morning Herald (January 25'h) Melton J.G (1998) Modem Altemative Religions in the West in A New Handbook of living Religions edited by J.R Hinnels. Harmondworth:Penguin UK National Church Life Survey, Initial Impressions, 2001, Open Book Publishers, Sydney, Australia. Quinlivan, B., 2002, "Holy Rock 'n' Rollers, in Business Review Weekly, Aug 15, pg 66 Roof, W.C (1993) A Generation of Seekers. San Francisco, CA: Hart.

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