American millennials and Gen Zs have a strange new obsession, says Rebecca Jennings in Vox: Catholicism. It’s not so much the religious stuff they’re interested in, but the aesthetic. TikTokers post videos lusting after glitzy, gilded Catholic churches; Instagram accounts dedicated to Catholic memes rack up tens of thousands of followers; and a buzzy, church-inspired fashion label called Praying has become a hit with young celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo. The brand’s signature item is a $100 dollar bikini, “with the words ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ on each of the boobs and ‘Holy Spirit’ on the bottom”.
Maybe this is all a rebellion against wokery: a tongue-in-cheek way for young people to push back against the status quo by being a little conservative. Maybe it’s because they’re worried about cultural appropriation – now that people understand they might get cancelled for wearing a feathered headdress or a bindi, Catholicism is the only costume they have left. “Or perhaps it’s just about the pretty cathedrals.” While Protestant churches strive to seem welcoming and familiar, “walking into a Catholic church means leaving behind everything about the secular, hyper-commercialised urban life that I and many other Americans lead”. And that sort of pageantry – “the robes, the incense, the insistence on displaying the most realistic and therefore horrifying crucifixes possible” – is fascinating. Let’s face it, Catholicism is glamorous. “And maybe that isn’t so terrible either.”