Saturday, August 14, 2010

Response to "The Perils of a 'Wannabe Cool' Christian"

I am so sorry to make a second post within a few short hours of my last post, but I just stumbled on an article that I feel needs to be discussed.

The article, written by Brett McCracken in the online version of the Wall Street Journal, is entitled, The Perils of a 'Wannabe Cool' Christian, and is Brett's attempt to explain why the youth within the church are "losing interest in the Christian establishment."  

Brett seems to place the blame of the mass exodus of young adults from the church on a backlash against the hipness factor which has been adopted by the modern church.  He sites many "marketing" techniques such as a cool new appearance driven church, tech focused congregations, and "shock" sermon topics like sex, which I can only assume he sees as disingenuous, as sparking the revolt, but I think he is missing something in his analysis.  

Brett references a 2007 study performed by Lifeway Research which claims that 70% of 18-22 year olds in the protestant church stop attending church when they leave home.  Now it seems remarkable that Brett does not even mention the most obvious reason for a break in fellowship for youth between 18-22, college.  I do concede, however, that if the church were doing a bang up job investing in youth BEFORE they left for college these numbers would be significantly lower, but I do not think the reasons they are leaving have anything to do with a turning away from some sort of perceived falseness within the church.  

I would be much more inclined to say these are youth attempting to live a life, or experience a part of life, they may not have been able to before perhaps due to church or familial pressure.  I would also wager that a portion of these students are being confronted, perhaps for the first time, with the conflict, or rather perceived conflict, between scripture and science.  

The church has done a poor job preparing its youth for this clash.  Anecdotal as it may be, when I began to have issues with what I was learning in school and what I was learning in scripture I was told the following, "If its in the bible you have to believe it."  This left me feeling evil for having questions and alone for lack of someone to help me during this struggle.  Now, I do not want to have an argument on the the many theories for the creation of the universe, but I just want to refer to a quote, and book title, from Arthur F. Holmes which was also quoted in Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis:

"All Truth Is God's Truth"

If we truly serve and follow God, who Himself is truth, then we must acknowledge that ALL truth in the universe is God's truth.  Furthermore, lets not elevate these peripheral topics as fundamental to one's salvation.

How many of these students would stay in the church if the church allowed them some freedom?

Now to speak briefly on the importance placed on cultural relevance, I do agree with Brett on this point.  Changing one's appearance for the sole purpose of becoming "relevant" to the culture does nothing to help the cause.  I will assert the following claim, albeit with absolutely no empirical evidence, cultural groups are much more capable at identifying BS than those outside of the group understand.  

I know this guy, a church going guy, that I am pretty sure has never sworn in his life, but he once dropped an "F" bomb around some of the younger hipper people in the church to "prove" he was one of them.  The moment was completely awkward for all involved and just stressed this guy's position outside of the group.

As far as tech goes, some like it some don't, but no one is fleeing the church to escape the microchip except maybe some of the blue hairs.

Lastly, Brett comes down hard, including pointing the finger at some prominent church leaders, on what he terms "shock topics" being covered from the pulpit.  He seems to be saying that these subjects are pushing youth away and are just being used to put butts in the pews.  I vehemently disagree with Brett on this point.  

I have been reading several blogs from ex-christians, atheists, and others who are de-converting from religion in general but more specifically from the christian church.  The common thread amongst these people is hurt, and pain.  For years, in what I guess must be some sort of attempt at keeping those feeble minded amongst of safe, we have regressed the church into some sort of neo-judaic legalistic religious institution.  We have exchanged grace for legalism, love for justice, freedom for slavery.  We have become a religion of no.  

Why is it important to talk openly and often on these "shock topics"?

We need to reclaim the truth.  We need to talk about sex because many out there think we teach, and maybe some do, that sex is bad and should only be used for procreation and it should NOT be fun!  I know that for me, if I thought that no sex or boring sex was a tennent of the christian faith there is NO WAY I would have ever stepped foot in a church.  Lets be frank here, sex is pretty much God's best creation and to live without it, is well, at least to me, a sin.

Finally, here is where Brett and I completely agree, the church needs to stress the fact that "Jesus himself is appealing."  Those of us who call ourselves christians need to fully understand the ramifications of the title.  As followers of Christ we are called to conform to His likeness, to be LIKE Him.

How much do we teach about Jesus, the Christ?

How much do we know about Jesus, the Christ?

Unfortunately, many of us limit our study of Christ to Sundays and maybe a midweek bible study.  Equally as sad, more often than not the message coming from the pastor is some vaguely biblical principal about life or love, maybe even about finances, but Jesus needs to be the focus.  I mean, the whole bible is about Him, its not that hard.

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