Religious Beliefs of Youth

Religious Beliefs of Youth

This is a title of a book which tells of a survey made by Social Scientist Murray G. Ross. This survey was made by send­ing eight page questionnaires to American youth from the ages 18 to 29, including Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. Nearly two thousand replied to these questionnaires. The conclusion of the author is given in his own words, “that most young people have a passive feeling about re­ligion, and are confused about its place in their lives.” It is further stated that Ross found, “that almost three-quarters of the people questioned do not feel that their individual lives are very important in the larger scheme of things . . . Few share deeply in the life of a group dedi­cated, and actively devoted to the high­est goals of mankind.”

First of all our interest is immediately drawn to such a book because it concerns the religious beliefs of our fellow Ameri­cans. Still more interesting it is that this concerns the youth who presently shall become future American parents.

In the second place we can be still more disappointed in the results than the author. Or rather it confirms our own opinion, the opinion of many of our own youth who have come into contact with American youth in the armed forces and in the daily contacts that we all have. It is almost impossible to obtain accurate information of the country as a whole from results of a questionnaire. That is true of any information we would desire, but especially true of information re­garding the religious beliefs of Ameri­cans. The only value that such a book has is to give us some answers about some individuals’ religious experience. For we notice immediately that only about 2,000 replied to the questions. If the percentage of these shows, for ex­ample, as is given in the book, that about three-quarters of them believe that the Bible is the revealed word of God, that less than fifty percent went to church once a Sunday, that less than half prayed daily, then we cannot con­clude that the percentage of American youth is anywhere near such percent­ages of the two thousand who answered. It is to be very readily seen by anyone that among those who did not answer, the percentage of those who are at all religious is very small indeed. It is to be understood that those not interested in religion would also lack the interest to answer the questions.

This provides us with questions about our own Protestant Reformed youth life and it also gave me an occasion to drop a few comments about our “mission”.


Our Mission

This is to be interpreted in the deep and broad sense of our task in our Ameri­can world.

First of all it implies that we all, and especially our youth must become con­scious of our Christian principles with respect to this life in relation to the life to come. Together  with our calling to become conscious of our principles is im­plied our calling to live and confess these principles and seek to have them made known wherever it pleases the Lord to put us. That includes all our personal and collective work, prayers, gifts, and labors, in our churches also.

In this connection I want to pass on some interesting remarks that I heard from a Dutch immigrant couple whom I visited last evening and stayed with till past midnight. This well informed couple who came from the “Hervormde Kerk” in the Netherlands about two years ago began to visit our services a month ago. The interesting way that they heard about our church cannot be told now. But in the conversation about our call­ing with respect to politics they made this remark. In the Netherlands every­one concerns himself with politics. The school children are even able to express themselves about important subjects. But after coming to America it struck them that the Netherlander does not have an understanding of what he is talking about. He has no world conception.

This remark may offend some of our Netherland brethren, but I pass it along as a remark of a fellow Hollander with­ out comment, in the hope that it may have a sobering affect.

Another remark was about their con­tact with the Reformed Churches in this community. What particularly irked them was the question which was invar­iably put to them and the further com­ment. The question was, what church do you come from? After hearing the answer, the remark was always made by every color of church, “You belong in our church.” There was the effort painfully evident to pull them into their church by the hair of their head, they said. You can imagine my appreciation when I heard that they were pleased that that was not the case in our church and that we left them to arrive at a full understanding with their own convic­tions and that we showed the dignity and courtesy becoming to the Gospel in allowing them freedom to attend our church without the fear of being prose­lytized.

There is room for much more interest­ing discussion about these things. We all ought to give this our careful con­sideration. It reminded me of Jesus’ ministry. When preaching about the healing of the blind man near Jericho I brought out the Divine dignity in Jesus’ ministry, especially when He commanded that the blind man should be brought to Him. This differs radically from the present-day methods to campaign America, to revive it somehow, even though by artificial stimulation, from the “hawking of the Gospel”.