Ask us Millennials what denomination church we got to, and we’ll look at you, confused. Why does it matter? So you can put us in a box, something definable? “Oh, that’s the way you think” is what would run through your mind if we picked a church and gave you a name.
“Obama didn’t salute? He doesn’t respect our military!” “Foul! Foul! Foul!” I blandly scrolled through the previous generation’s cries, shares, and likes. Surprise, a day later the rest of the clip is revealed, where the Commander in Chief stops in his tracks and realizes his absent-minded faux pas, and takes the time to shake the hand of the Marine who’s salute he barely gestured to.
I stood in a friend’s screen printing shop and listened to a middle-aged woman order shirts that said “Team Phil.” They were not for groundhog day, they were for an immensely wealthy television personality the Christian religious sector felt had been misrepresented by the media. My heart sank and the words “why do you give a shit?” resounded in my mind louder than I wanted them to.
With 23,000 employees and revenue of $3.3 billion, Hobby Lobby stood it’s own without the help of the general public and defended their religious rights, much to the relief of Conservatives nationwide. This, while thousands of illegal immigrant children flooded into the United States each week. Congratulations, you loudly protected your local store worker’s right to not have more choices while hundreds and hundreds of malnourished and terrified small children’s bodies flooded across the border.
Christians, what is it about crowd-sourcing your passions and values that’s so attractive? Stand. On your own. Two. Feet. Read your bible and see who Jesus truly was. The church, as a whole, is undeniably struggling more than it has in the previous two decades. I can’t be sure, but I have a few ideas as to why.
Firstly, your idea of community is foreign and forced. It doesn’t belong. Church as a modern-day structure doesn’t work that well outside of the religious context. That isn’t a good sign. Compare it to the ecclesiastical model, and the church building fund looks a little fundamentally frail. And can you tell me what your church does to integrate the more introverted individuals? What about people that are going through a divorce. What happens when the church community catches wind? Because I can say first-hand that people immediately pick sides, which is insane. My family aside, my Athiest friend did a better job loving me through my divorce than most of my church community did. The pervading question was “what happened? I’ve heard her side of the story, I need to hear yours.” Or “I heard this, is it true?”
So much of church is conformance to the culture. Standing, sitting, listening, laughing, reading, conversing comfortably….everything is a dance, the church building contains it’s own culture, and it is ALL foreign to non-believers. Which means it’s missing the point.
Good friends I grew up with informed me about their weekly “outreach”, and my heart hurt. They go (and this is not made up) and protest at abortion clinics outside their town. As someone who has been very close to someone who had an abortion and was alongside them during their decision-making process, I can tell you that as a God-fearing Jesus-loving Christian, the practice of protesting outside of abortion clinics is barbaric and has no place in this faith. Why? Because it focuses on fear-mongering, guilt-tripping, and threatening people who are hurting.
Two important facts to note: if you’re about to make an intensely personal decision and a stranger out of nowhere approaches you to demand your attention, it will not be taken any other way than threatening. Also, the actions of Jesus himself do not ever reflect those of one who protested in front of clinics.
Against abortion? Focus elsewhere. Either the alternatives to abortion, build into those systems and structures, volunteer there. Or go after abortion legislation. Do not “protest” outside clinics.
“So where’s the hope? What are you suggesting should be different? How do you fix it?” my Mom always asks.
Stop being petty, Christians. Stop looking for causes to champion your beliefs and point out the brokenness of the world -- that isn’t what Jesus came to do and it isn’t what He did when he arrived in this incredibly broken world. Love others in humility. Serve them. That’s what Jesus did. He told stories about people, talked with people, walked amongst people, and showed them who God was. He wouldn’t have chosen “Team Phil” or played along with the bullshit of arguing which was better: to legalize marijuana or keep sending people to jail for carrying more (or less) than an ounce on their person in public.
Jesus, if he were here today, would be no different than he was in the bible, other than probably more culturally relevant. He would say “I know you’re scared to keep the baby, I don’t think you should get an abortion, you have options, but if you do, I’ll still love you.” He wouldn’t’ve darkened the door of a church van headed to protest for a damn second.
Live your faith in and for the hope that you say it has Christians. Quit being so insecure about what you believe that you’re pointing out ghosts and agendas all over the place. Even if you’re right (and you usually aren’t), no one wants to hear or be a part of that. Start practicing what you preach and not getting people to go to church, but instead getting them to share their struggles with you so you can love them.
If you start seeing individuals as an outreach, you’ve already lost. Don’t be like that (a judgemental jackass). Jesus didn’t say “Zaccheus, come down from their so I can minister to you.” He said “let’s do lunch.”
So do lunch.
Unlike most of the older generations I’ve enjoyed talking to, I do have a lot of hope for the future. I think the world is right now bright and ripe for so many opportunities to make huge differences, and I plan on being a part of as many as I can. So just cut out the gossip, don’t make people go to church, take them to lunch instead, quit liking and sharing the junk food yellow journalism of the internet, and don’t entertain pettiness.