You Lost Me is the title of a 2011 book by David Kinnaman, who runs a large market research company in North America. In it, he describes the widespread phenomenon of young people disconnecting from churches, and explores the reasons for their departure.
Comedian Katy Brand is pretty clear why she left the Buckinghamshire church she so strongly identified with from the age of 13. In I Was A Teenage Christian, she talks about her gradual disillusionment with leaders who banned Harry Potter, and who flatly disapproved of her choosing to take a degree in theology.
Hostility to debate is a clear problem identified in Kinnaman’s research among churches – particularly in the area of science. In Britain and America alike, there is often little choice for a young person faced with an apparent conflict between a fundamentalist, literal interpretation of the creation story, and the evolutionary science they need to pass their exams.
Yet in the early days of her church-going, Katy Brand reports feeling a delight that she was part of something that seemed important – delighted enough that she would attend church three or four times a week. She has said in interviews that she can see how fundamentalism can seem attractive and "exactly why" young people are being radicalised at the moment.
To understand why some do become radicalised is proving controversial for the UK government, however. Criticisms of a parliamentary report included a failure to define terms like radical and extreme, or to recognise the complex social factors that might cause anyone – not just Muslims – to radicalise.
But research with people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin living in the UK has revealed a mental health perspective to the debate. In his work with 600 people in Muslim communities, Professor Kamaldeep Bhui of at Queen Mary University of London found a positive correlation between extremist sympathies and being young, in full-time education, relative social isolation, and having a tendency towards depressive symptoms.
While radicalisation doubtless has many causes, this is important information for all looking to understand young people grappling with a sense that they are lost. (RM)
I Was A Teenage Christian ran at Pleasance Courtyard until August 26th - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/katy-brand-i-was-a-teenage-christian-2
David Kinnaman’s research company: https://www.barna.com/research/
Interview with Katy Brand: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/jul/04/katy-brand-teenage-christian-comedy-interview
Home Affairs Select Committee report into Radicalisation: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmhaff/135/13509.htm
Mental health aspect to radicalisation: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22630160-200-radicalisation-a-mental-health-issue-not-a-religious-one/
Depression a factor in radicalisation: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/11164182/British-jihadis-are-depressed-lonely-and-need-help-says-Prof.html