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Laura Merzig Fabrycky

The Young and the Restless

The next generation rediscovers orthodoxy

As cultural élites wring their hands and rat-a-tat press releases on the erosion of civil society and the increasing irrelevance of the church, their children are entering adulthood kneeling before altars, reciting recently learned common prayers. Sated with material abundance, the generation society calls "X" is making headlines not for being even more jaded and cynical than their parents but for a surprising turn to orthodoxy, confounding the dire predictions so fashionable just a decade ago.

Sweeping generalizations about the direction of entire generations should always be received with skepticism, whether the would-be prophets are gloomy or cheerful. But something is unquestionably afoot, a convergence of two trends. The first is a widespread disenchantment with the gospel of secularism and its dogmas. The second is a movement specifically within the church, a hunger for tradition—for all that which has been stripped away in modernized worship and teaching. Two recently published books—one by a young Catholic journalist and the other by a senior evangelical Protestant scholar—are valiant first attempts at trying to get a handle on this convergence.

In her first book, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy, Colleen Carroll draws on interviews of young adults from New York City, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis to flesh out reports we've been hearing for some time now about a religious turn in the up-and-coming generation. Carroll's subjects are attending daily Mass and talking about Jesus in bars. Some have left the high-paying jobs that originally brought them to the city to make religious commitments to celibacy and service. They are deeply committed to living faithful lives, even if that means living by the Benedictine rule instead of by the measuring stick of worldly success.

While she acknowledges the variousness of the young people she studied, Carroll identifies some key features that many of them share. They grew up affluent, lacking ...

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