If you’ve been under a rock (or perhaps a thick layer of snow, if you’re in the Midwest) and haven’t already done so, please take a moment to read this profoundly excellent post, written by blogger and university student Dannika Nash. Her piece, entitled “An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation” is a sharp observation about the unfair and unjust position young generations of Christians have been put in lately. Go read it. I won’t be offended when you leave this page, honest.
Of course, I’m referring to the choice between living as a disciple of Jesus (the radical Jewish rabbi who preached love, who taught mercy and compassion, and whose sacrifice earned the greatest gifts of grace and forgiveness) and being trapped in illogical and contextually sloppy theology based on misinterpretations of biblical scripture. I like to call this perspective “Sound-Byte Theology”, because it reminds me of pundits on cable news.
As the “Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministries” for a mission start Lutheran church, I have a vested interest in posts like these, especially when they’re coming from other young Christians who aren’t pastors or church staff.
In her observations about the “millennial” generation’s predominant attitudes about social issues that divide religiously political Americans, I think Ms. Nash is actively tapping into the very core of some questions mainline churches are facing: where are young adults, and why aren’t they coming back to church when they get older, like they’re “supposed” to?
These questions are being asked at a time when sobering statistics about “The Nones” are being revealed through extensive studies done by a variety of research groups.
Here’s a short list of a few of the most notable studies and books I’ve been paying attention to:
- Pew Research Center’s 10+ year study through the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
- The Barna Group’s conglomerate of national surveys of young Christians and why they leave the Church.
- Barna’s list of 5 Myths about Young Adult Church Dropouts (this should be a wake up call)
- The National Study on Youth and Religion‘s report, “Are American Youth Alienated from Organized Religion?“
- Kenda Creasy Dean’s “Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church“
- Diana Butler Bass’ “Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening“
See, this isn’t a new idea. Mainline Protestant and Catholic parents and grandparents across the Western world have been lamenting the fact that their children and grandchildren don’t view “The Church” in the same light as previous generations. This is a reality, and I think it’s in large part because we (myself included) have been put in a position to either follow Jesus’ command to love each other without condition or succumb to the noisy demands of hatred and despair, masked as Christianity. Personally, I’m noticing a significant semantic difference between being a disciple and merely being a believer.
As a single, young man who is called and employed by a church and truly believes that Jesus meant what he actually said, I have a confession: if forced to choose between fighting for the rights of my gay friends and family or believing that our God disapproves of love– romantic, physical, and spiritual love based on sexual orientation– I choose the former. But I also believe that is my mandate as a decent human being and as a Christian.
That being said, here is a most excellent excerpt from Dannika’s post. May it be the intellectual gristle you chew on for the time being.
We want to stay in your churches, we want to hear about your Jesus, but it’s hard to hear about love from a God who doesn’t love our gay friends (and we all have gay friends). Help us find love in the church before we look for it outside.
Best of luck, and be good to other humans.