True (to me) Impressions of Why the Church is broken from someone who is very new to this
I would like to take this opportunity to offer my objective opinion on what I have noticed about churches since being officially grafted in as of about 10 months ago. I am talking about the Evangelical/Presbyterian/Methodist/etc. side of things. I know that is a mashup. But that is what I know. For the most part, I am going to be talking about how the Church engages younger audiences.
Let me give you an example. At some point along my journey with God, I somehow internalized a stereotype of what “Good Christian Girls” should do, and I don’t even know how that is possible, given how relatively short my tenure in caring has been. “Good Christian Girls” are humble, patient, and kind, and from what I gather, that has never changed.
Now, to accumulate any kind of humility, you have to fail. To accumulate patience, you have to learn to listen to God. To accumulate kindness, you have to practice it across contexts.
What baffles me more than anything is that the failures, listening, and kindness I have miraculously accumulated from God only suddenly become disqualified when I drag in the reasons they exist or the meaning behind them. My past is beautiful, and it isn’t even that screwey. But I am special, and I had to defend that in the same way as before when I survived, the only difference between that and some Sundays is whether or not I am free to talk about it.
If I speak the truth, I have to give it some context. It is not my jurisdiction if you ignore me, the logical thing to do is to ignore you right back and keep doing the things I had to work to earn, and hopefully I will do them progressively better. I don’t understand the “Good Christian Girl” stereotype. It’s like all of the benefits of earning something immeasurably valuable simplified into something so apathetic that can even occasionally be offensive. It shows in terms of gossip when someone doesn’t respect you, and both genders gossip.
To have a pure heart, you have to understand why it matters. I can’t help that the churches I have been to and filtered in and out of failed to teach my peers why any of those things matter. The generation of Pastors Children and Peers that made my life a living hell way back when still don’t get it at 20.
They certainly aren’t going to listen to me unless I’m just nice and provide the context, and to me, that is enough. But the weird thing is that many people who are older than us hate that I would give that context because they are somehow afraid that it makes them look worse to have candid conversations about sin and the negative consequences it can have when it becomes poorly explained to people my age.
That is not fair. All of the things that people guilt us about, we live through constantly. Most of the things that matter to us, we have to hide that to a certain extent. There is an ever increasing amount of social limits and burdens and boundaries as we grow connectedness with media in one way or another, and sometimes I think that older people drastically over-estimate how well we cope with all of that. We cope with large quantities of alcohol and meaningless sex and we cope with insecurity and anger and misdirected addictions to things we don’t appreciate and the list goes on and on.
No one is going to like me for saying this, but we learned judgment from somewhere, regardless of if your parent’s went to church. We are without this great gift of common knowledge that has been whittled down by being compromised in every possible way literally everywhere there are humans. If we have no “common sense”, then please provide it, we’ll teach you how to use Google Calendar.
But this is where we are at. We have the choice of God or literally everything else in the world that seems awesome, and no one explains anything well enough to actually make any kind of sense, and I only came into this recently, so I am going to attempt to tell you why. I think it helps because I feel like the rest of it could be very easy to overlook if you weren’t paying attention, and I’ve only had less than a year to get acclimated, 5 months stateside. Still, I think ignorance is a gift on this one.
First, most people that have microphones in churches don’t share them. My church isn’t like this really, but so many are. The reason that you have no young people is because we’re bored. Seriously. Help us get involved.
Second, practice what you preach. This is common sense. We all have friends who are gay or “weird” or would not pass in your circles, and if we don’t, then we probably overdosed on your Koolaid. I don’t want to hear about how some of my friends are going to hell; I want to hear about what practical steps you have personal taken to uphold the gospel when you disagree with someone in situations of conflict you cannot control. It is the logic behind “put your money where your mouth is”.
Third, please, you do not know everything. Church means so much less to “my generation” because you don’t care to make it relevant in any way that makes sense from the pews and not the pulpit. In every generation of people, no one gets along between young people and those currently in charge. Join us or shut up, we like technology. We like individuality, but we are doing our best to salvage the scraps of decency from personhood and the jaws of consumerism and fake meaning that we’ve inherited. It’s like a hand me down pair of jeans, we could do without the grunge grease and dirt stains, but we are doing our best to accessorize, and we could use a little help with the method of how you bleach and or tie die.
I don’t know how any of this knowledge could possibly new or coveted, and if it is true and shocking, it is because it has always been there but people thought they were too good to change with the times and they never asked for help, understanding, or the common sense that is unique to us. It’s very basic. Sharing. Collaboration. Kindness. Sharing the truth honestly. Why is that so terribly hard? I don’t get it, but at least I’m not too ashamed to say so.
The thing about it is that the divisions in the church are getting big enough to where I am really not afraid to be honest here because the cream is going to rise to the top no matter what any one person says. That was always going to happen and it always has since the Garden. I don’t understand how these divisions could be so large and yet, most of the leaders I have ever met are so terrified to relinquish bits of control to the people who are best positioned to help them: younger people.
Not only will we inherit all of this regardless of anyone’s failures, but we will repeat the same mistakes as we make them bigger if we don’t realize what is wrong, and funny thing, most of us haven’t been taught. If you want the quickest way to spiral into an ungrateful apocalypse, starve us for meaning on Sunday and then stone us for our decisions on Monday. That is very obvious.
No one hates you for your failures unless you teach us to hate you, period. If you respond with anger and cruelty towards the failures of other people, we will know to do that and do the exact same thing to you, unfortunately. We are all people. It makes sense that without guidance, it will all fall to shambles, and from what I can tell, it has. That shouldn’t scare us; that should strengthen us into humility. But it doesn’t so often that at this point, most of my peers have run to places where we can make things just as simple as the hypocrisy older people dish out. I believe that is a mistake because it diminishes from God, and you can see the directly obvious consequences of running from God in literally every area of your life you can think of if you decide to look. Imagine that on the broad scale of human history, and all of that Revelation stuff begins to make sense. And yet, most people still don’t let us help.
Nobody asked me to say anything on this, but the thing is, if it is necessary, I would like to help. That is how many of my peers think, but many have left the church permanently because their ideas were insulted or ignored or genuinely wounded in a way that will make it hard for them to trust any organized religion for the rest of their lives. It is so bitterly stupid, because those are typically the people who are most happy to help, to risk rejection knowing that they have something legitimate to offer. And yet, we are forgotten. It makes sense, but it shouldn’t.
Please, just let us help you. Make it easier. Make it possible to help on no spare notice or at times we actually might be able to, and let us donate our talents that are rapidly going to no use anyways. If we care then we probably have fought to care at this point; honor that. If we don’t, you should think long and hard about why that is after you talk to some of us that will tell you we don’t care to your face. As in, leave the church and talk to some people who aren’t like you in the most drastic of ways. To rebuild this, we need to work together. And apart from that, please let us help you.