Feeling of not having really converted, desire for sexual freedom: young Quebec evangelicals leave their churches

Feeling of not having really converted, desire for sexual freedom of young Quebec evangelicals leaving their churches

In Quebec, young people born to first-generation evangelical parents are disaffiliating, unconvinced of being converted despite their efforts or because they are no longer in tune with the churches in matters of sexuality.

Benjamin Gagné is the author of a master's thesis at the University of Montreal entitled "Disaffiliation among second-generation evangelicals in Quebec: unattainable conversions and sexual purity". His conclusions were published last January in the journal Religious Sciences.

The author selected only six men and six women, between 18 and 35 years old. Due to the small number of subjects, the study does not aim to be exhaustive but to obtain a meaningful understanding of "some of the social logics in the process of evangelical disaffiliation".

While the last census placed evangelicals in 2011 at between 150 and 000 individuals, the departures of young people from evangelical assemblies do not go unnoticed. The difficulty in recruiting them for a study lies in the fact that the disaffiliates are not located in specific locations. A call on Facebook and the help of a church association and a congregation made it possible to find some.

The worry of being born of converted parents

The parents of these young people are first-generation converts, during the revival in the 1970s, breaking with family tradition by choosing their own beliefs.

But in the following decade, “great collective ideals, like the evangelical movement, [lost] steam. population and "better retention of young people in the environment".

However, while the parents bear witness to their conversion, marking a profound break between their past and their new life, the young people who grew up in this environment do not necessarily know how to date their conversion, describe it, and may experience anxiety when they compare to the first generation:

"What we heard in the church [. . .] the discourse that was put forward and that had a platform at that time, was the discourse of the first generations of Christians. everything was going wrong in their life, and they came into contact with Jesus, and then there is evangelism and that was the revolution in their life! (Fannie, 32 years old)"

Tormented "by the lack of conversion experience", the participants say that they have multiplied the "conversion prayers". However, only three of them did not manage to reassure themselves in their childhood. Before 14 years old, Fannie always wondered before: "OK! But I am converted?"

Sexuality and disaffiliation

Nine of the participants state that sexuality was determined by their disaffiliation, having lived in the context of the purity culture imported from the United States where a very strong emphasis is placed on sexual abstinence outside marriage and the distribution of roles in the couple.

Gagné underlines that it is not the "criticism of a strict morality" which surprises, but "its overrepresentation in the accounts of the interviewees". The ideal of sexual purity "acts as one of the most powerful mechanisms of evangelical belonging" ("all or nothing"), and the choice not to follow it implies a fundamental rupture.

These young people are frustrated by the purity culture which, unlike other strict approaches to sexuality, conditions happiness, especially spiritual happiness, on chastity. As adults, some disaffiliate and live their sexuality as they see fit. Three of the four who married were disappointed in their ideal, divorced and broke with the church.

Three of them saw their departure as a liberation, because "they no longer have to negotiate with this trajectory of purity culture, nor to seek to produce a significant experience of religious conversion."

 Jean Sarpedon

Image credit: Shutterstock/JoaoCachapa

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