Actress Alyssa Milano opined in USA Today some months ago that “the religions that held up 50 years ago don’t really hold up for the younger kids today. They want something new to believe in.”
By “they” we suppose she means she herself. And at 27, she has of course the wisdom of age on her side. But she no doubt puts her finger on something brewing in the culture – and it’s an intoxicating beverage.
These thoughts in response from a middle-aged, old-religion guy – a paid Christian, no less:
First, religions don’t hold up across time, they hold us up. They do not depend upon public opinion as much as public opinion depends upon them.
The right to private property did not come from wealthy land barons in search of a religion to back them up. Thou shalt not steal came to a former slave people who could easily have had wanton designs on what they didn’t have. Same with adultery, and murder, and honoring parents, et cetera.
Moses didn’t dream these things up for the younger kids of his day. They were revealed to him, and they have congealed in Western culture ever since.
Religions are less the product of human crafting than humans are the products of crafting religions.
Second, truth doesn’t need support from celebrities to hold up in our day any more than it had needed the church or the courts or the college or the Congress. What makes celebrities experts on everything from public policy on the environment to the viability of religion?
Truth is democratic only in that it appeals to all equally; whether it holds appeal to anyone is a matter of personal responsibility, not taste. Truth is not a wind that blows this way and then that. Truth is the ground under our feet that keep us steady in the wind.
Last, wanting “something new to believe in” could well be an indictment on those of us old believers who are hardly believable. Rather than be dismissive, we should note her dismissiveness and repent, where appropriate.
Repentance takes more than a change of heart, though. It involves new behavior. We may begin by resubmitting ourselves to an authority outside of our own heads. That will take a different set of practices for each religion, but for all religions, it will involve some set of practices.
You cannot be a faithful Jew while disregarding the Law. You cannot be a faithful Christian without following Jesus. You cannot be a faithful Muslim and ignore the Koran.
Does Ms. Milano realize that in another 27 years her something new will be something old by her standards.
I’d rather stand on the shoulders of giants than on my own tiptoes.