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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Godzilla just ate the Ten Suggestions, and Millennials are leaving the church

The disappearing leap of faith
 
An answer to Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN

A friend sent me a good Op-ed on the church and its relevance to young people which hit me close to home. I spent thirty years working with youth in the church and have watched this painful process as it developed, within the auspices of Young Life and three different Protestant denominations.  It has been headed for a train wreck most of that time. And I raised my daughter during this same period and watched her spiritual development, which has become a textbook example of the fruits of the church today. I found the article to be pretty objective, but I think Rachel Held Evans may have found too much fault in the character of modern Christians, even Christianity, while ignoring the 500 pound Godzilla in the room.
 
I offer up the re-purposing of this name, once a goofy rubber lizard which portrayed a scary monster on the big screen, who might give King Kong a bad whoopin,’ and now a different kind of monster, just as impotent, that would reshape God if it could.

I do give Evans credit for not citing the symptoms and instead accurately attacking at least half of the disease. But just as she claims to identify with the “millennial” generation, she has made some of their typical assumptions.  Millennials will never accept the blame for anything. And if you read on, you will understand why, because we always do. When asked why millennials are leaving the church, Evans offers it is because of their perceptions about the church, citing several hot issues in secular society, where the church is thought to be out of step…

This is the hallmark of stereotypical millennials. They are unable to back off, and see the larger picture: The church has been the representative and proponent of God’s Laws and standards of righteousness for thousands of years, but it is supposed to implement drastic changes because, NOW,  it is all about them. As have the systems of education, business and society at large modified themselves to be acceptable to millennials, so must the church, or suffer what millennials are best at, disaffection.
 
Millions of Christians are supposed to embrace Godzilla, because millennials are unhappy, while they forget what they have all proclaimed and even printed on bumper-stickers for decades; “God said it, the Bible teaches it, and I believe it!” As Godzilla gums the Ten Commandments, millennials are ready to re -dub them as the Lame Suggestions. 

What a surprise! Millennials reject the moral authority of the church, and its source for this, the Bible. And without offering a scintilla of where their new standard of morality they propose comes from. We know where it came from; Media hypnosis has trained them to accept this new social paradigm because this is “what everybody wants,” as seen on television. We are the generation that will probably see our ancient Faith changed by popular demand. Millennials will lead the way of this cause, to reform all bastions of conservative convictions.
 
And they have always had their way.

After all, surely God is ready to make adjustments in his old, irrelevant order, just for their sake, just as every other institution in this Century has done.
 
Evans proceeds to spank the church on several counts which I agree. She claims that the contemporary music, which has been such a divisive issue in the modern church, is not the issue. She says the music is not what attracts so much as our doctrines and practice repulse. And she spears modern Christianity to the wall with a most serious claim; that millennials are missing from today’s church because the church is not authentic, in fact Christ was missing before they were.

OUCH. But my friends know that I had already come to this conclusion myself ten years ago. Even worse, Evans says that following the accepted teachings of the Bible in modern times conflicts with their “intellectual integrity.” She infers that the church, in its present state, is at odds with intelligence, science and compassion . Strike three and you’re out.
 
But Evans and millennials have combined the woeful shortcomings of the followers of Jesus with their even more woefully short-sighted and yes, narcissistic millennial mantra to necessitate a revolution inside the essence of the church, starting with a revamping of the church’s attitude towards marriage and sexuality.
The nuclear family and its purpose, children, are OUT. Homosexuality, bi-sexuality, trans-sexuality are in. Birth control, abortions, IN. Personal indulgence, expensive vacations and technology, in. The survival of our Christian, family-oriented culture... out. The god of this movement, the Internet, is infested like a rotten carcass, rife with good-looking young people who get naked and have sex for entertainment, sharing their experiences on videos and live cameras in an unprecedented international display of immorality, as if determined to end all sexual boundaries once and for all. No wonder millennials are skipping church. There is no porn there...  in fact people there do not like it and even condemn it.

Our negative popuation growth tells the story quite clearly. Even TIME Magazine recently had to acknowledge the new American paradigm; Serving Oneself. Pundits defend the new value system as something noble; now parents no longer feel obligated to have children they do not want... and that is considered better than, heaven forbid, unwanted children. (This thinking, had it been popular in previous times, would have wiped out half the world's population!)

This is not just your garden variety selfishness, where young people refuse to grow up, make stupid choices, hurt the ones they love, no that was OUR gig. This is a new hybrid of that temporary foolishness we used to call a "phase," now combined with financial independence (sometimes provided by the government), and the PC: Personal COMPANION. Or better; Pandora's Cult. There has never been anything that so completely absorbed and redirected a whole generation as the technologies available today.  And these high-tech Pandora's boxes are stopping our culture, dead in its tracks.

And they are here to stay, as they preach their values all over the world, 24 hours a day... something like a man-made, all-knowing god, who now has sent his /her disciples out to change the world.. from within.

Meanwhile, Evans explains that these young, enlightened Americans want a church where youth can safely ask questions, and even have doubts. As if they never had that. As far as I can remember, they were allowed, albeit carefully, to have doubts. And I believe that most Christians want space made for questioners and doubters as well. We went through that struggle ourselves. Millennials were probably treated with more respect and more liberality than ANY preceding generation. It's just that the WORD of God never changed, and they did not like that kind of ... inflexibility. 

And now, while they are challenging the ancient institutions of God, custom retrofitting right and wrong, they are also expanding an historic abandonment of almost all of our culture’s sexual morays, which has led to the present crisis of fatherless children and the disintegration of the nuclear family. These are challenges as old as man himself, and this is not the first generation to question and even obliterate the assumptions and sexual customs of our forefathers.  But that leads me to the millennials’ present goal, one very accommodating to them and their dislike of ultimatums, to have almost no authority over them, their choices, and especially concerning sexual boundaries.
 
They are ready for us to just leave it to them to make up comfortable morals as they go along. This sounds just like some of the church retreats I went on while in High School in the beginning of the “sexual revolution.”  We would have loved to have made up our own rules for proper conduct.  And actually we did.  But that’s not church, that’s just an orgy.
 
And Evans wants a church where it does not waste time trying to compete by being “cool,” warning that millennials have very sensitive BS meters. She explains that “church as performance” is a turn off. I am with her on that as well. But old geezers like me have our own “BS meters.”

If Evans would only see herself, since she has taken on the job of being their spokesman (and they need one, they hate contention) as having dipped her own toe in the proverbial BS as well. My BS meter shot through the roof when she slipped in the popular new ubiquitous cause, “social justice,” suggesting that the church was not aware of this great promise on the horizon; As if the idea of pervasive economic fairness, or spreading opportunity and prosperity around, was alien to the modern church. She and millennials ignore the generosity of this country, which through its churches not only takes good care of them but sends millions of dollars abroad every year to fight poverty and disaster.
 
“Social justice” is the back-handed millennial way of calling all of us bigots and brutes.
 
This all suggests that the organized church does not want social justice, since millennials do not sense the effects of it, or more realistically, just repeat what they hear from the new judge of righteousness: themselves...  But few millennials are out in the streets helping the poor, or getting involved with other human beings in any way, to know if there is social justice or not.  They believe and blame these generalizations, when they do not know us, talk to us, or listen to us. The "establishment" is the bad guy.

Sounds familiar doesn't it? It's pretty ironic that the most rebellious, radical reformers this country has ever seen went and raised children that now see them as prejudiced, corrupt and ignorant, as our revolution peaked and went over the slippery slope into anarchy.

Millennials have taken a different stance from their activist parents. They see and detest the same things we saw and protested, and blame us and declare us and our world unworthy of them. We are not even worth arguing with or fighting. Instead they have turned their backs on the whole mess. They use banners like "social justice" and trans-gender rights as excuses to treat most adults, especially their parents like they have one foot in the grave or have already died. We will never come around... so we are in effect dead to them.

Besides amazing intellect, millennials also have reached new levels of intolerance and their subsequent cursory style of communication. Emails were condensed to texts, and then texts were reduced to abbreviations. Then, for many of us, all contact was lost. This generation, raised in the most open and free and prosperous nation on earth, has become the most introverted, inconsiderate and ungrateful race to ever grace the halls of the shopping mall, while they stroll and ignore our calls.

The ugly truth is that they give very little back to humankind. For them, it is more blessed to receive. They are their own favorite charity. They have spent all of their money on the latest technology, probably a cell phone gadget. Meanwhile churches all over America admit they survive on what the old fogies give to stay alive. But why should millennials give, when others have always made everything so nice for them?

Recently a surfer bum drew great attention as he lived on the beach and shamelessly took government assistance to eat, while he essentially played every day. He saw no great moral crisis, as the country has lots of money and he was just doing what he has been told all of his life he could do.  Social justice has come to mean everybody getting what they want, even being subsidized for irresponsible behavior...

It is time for America to send his kind a new message;

 An able bodied man taking from our country's limited resources is a low-life taking money away from people who truly need and deserve it. And that is Social Treason.

To me, social justice today would be punishing all the lazy, predatory, inconsiderate jerks in this land who are selfishly running our hard-earned tax dollars into the... California sands, to be washed out to sea.  
 
Social Justice is also a cheap buzz word to say, “let the government tax the rich to make life fair for everybody.”  Let the government do what we do not trust the churches to do. This is not remotely akin to Christian charity but an institutional replacement, because those who say this do not practice charity, but they understand that somebody, preferably somebody else, needs to. And this is the best generosity we will ever see out of them, as long as Godzilla is their higher authority.

Since very few millennials ever had much to do with their grandparents, they not only do not relate to them, but find most old people disgusting. There is an instant disconnect today between youthful naivet√© and true wisdom that comes with age. Elderly wisdom is a totally foreign concept. But they heard about these foolish old people, and their horrible values somewhere, or saw it in a You Tube testimonial.  Christians, conservatives, old people, whatever, are what is wrong with this country.

This is the BS which they have swallowed from an equally simple-minded Media, revealing that they are the ones who are hopelessly biased. If they truly want SOCIAL JUSTICE,  they could start by treating their families, especially their parents, and even the church they have dismissed, like human beings. Millennials have fallen victim to what they supposedly hate; INTOLERANCE. The reason they reject Christianity, which has always had a very narrow view of sexuality, and always will, is because it is a Faith of Love, Forgiveness, and Charity. These are not exactly buzz words to this generation. Love, forgiveness and charity are some things somebody else does... for them.
 
Evans thinks that Christians, and probably Jews for that matter, should let millennials reshape our social order and even our God to suit themselves. And she seems to suggest that Godzilla would carve out a much better, more just society than what we have, if only we would let go of… the silly whims of the Creator of the Universe; Replace God's ultimate justice with something more socially useful.

That stuff about God being the final judge, about us not judging each other (because none is righteous), that malarkey about the rich man and the eye of the needle, and the poor inheriting the earth, we are going to trade that in for a perfect world, where WE DECIDE.

Please God, get me out of here.
 
Millennials also do not study much history, so they are unaware that our “Founding Fathers” were also free thinkers. Thomas Jefferson was all about freedom, free thinking… free love with his slave mistress, picking what he liked out of the Bible, free about rejecting the miracles of Jesus, reducing him to merely a great teacher with bad public relations. It seems in every generation power and success produce more than corruption, but endemic, self-destructive arrogance. Still, from such minds came this amazing country, and probably in spite of them. Some of us believe that the God with those supposedly expendable absolutes chose to bless this country because of the Faith a relative minority embraced.  Now we don't need that kind of God anymore.

And it's probably a good thing, as he probably found us less than deserving a long time ago.

Millennials are unaware of the odds against them in achieving “social justice” in this life, with any other social order. They have not paid attention to many other cultures who have tried “government induced fairness,” Totalitarian ruled world orders, the most recent being Nazi Germany and Maoist China, both of which committed the worst atrocities trying to make life "fair."  There has never been a just society, or a just country or a just system. Mankind has always wanted that, but the Bible teaches that it has always turned out pretty ugly when morals and justice are left to men, and true justice will only be realized on the other side… in the afterlife.

We do the best we can. But the crux of the Bible is that man cannot do it, and that we need a Savior, to work out our forgiveness and spiritual salvation. And we have had many thousands of years of man’s inhumanity to man to prove that axiom. People were never allowed to make up the standard for righteousness, and when they did, that society crashed and burned.
 
All their lives millennials have been told they are wonderful, that they can be anything, have everything, that they are special. At the same time, our society has told them that the Bible and its religions are archaic, irrelevant and even wrong. Why should they go to church? Why wouldn’t God, WHOEVER HE IS,  just turn it all over to more competent minds?

Millennials have little respect for the wisdom in the Bible, and act as if the teachings and Laws that come from it are something we concocted like a High School science project. And they are the MASTERS of presentation. They trust their BS meters because they majored in BS- and ignorantly attribute our Faith to mere narrow-mindedness. They hold us responsible for the uncompromising Nature, of the very Words of God, some of them written down when others were building the Egyptian pyramids. We are old, but not THAT old.

One of the oldest stories in the bible is an event where angels visited a town and were badgered by mobs of homosexuals who taunted them and demanded recreational sex. This town knew no limits, in fact ignored God and his messengers and practiced that which they saw as reasonable.  The God of the Bible wiped this culture off of the face of the earth. But with the help of the Media, and its definition of SOCIAL JUSTICE, millennials are sure God would be more cool today.
 
And so what would it hurt to compromise some with them?

Lessoning the laws laid down by God himself to hopefully get millennials into church would be a major miscalculation, even for God. I am safe saying that, because my God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has already done more than his share to reach towards us. I’m sure he finds these protests and condemnations amusing, but he knows better than we that this generation is not seeking him, or his will, but Godzilla, a god of their own design.  If we did liberalize the Law, for church survival, to appeal to them, it would only be another unsuccessful attempt to connect with the most arrogant and aloof generation we have ever seen, who has already, via Ms. Evans, admitted that whatever we do, whether modernize our music, adopt high-tech presentation techniques, even wear tight blue jeans, they are already on to our scheme and know we are trying to win them.

How dare us.
 
And they will not be won. They have taken a lot of ground so far, by just being impervious, while schools, jobs, politicians and everything else have bent to accommodate them. The church will come.

But sad for them, and us, this is not just a bad Japanese monster movie. It is a heart breaking COMMENTARY,  a sad documentary on our parenting skills. We, the generation that protested the war and materialism and streaked naked across college campuses, and humiliated our Viet Nam soldiers and proclaimed our parents provincial and hypocritical...  At least we know that the Bible was right about one thing; As a man soweth, so shall he reap. And we were so sure we could do a better job, shaping young minds to build a better America.

We did this, we thought, by allowing our children to believe they were better, and by always trying to cushion their falls and giving them everything that made us feel good. In the process we gave birth to Godzilla by worshipping our children, trying to appeal to their intellects, while making our own negotiable.
 
Meanwhile the church began an era of the most aggressive, expensive and creative youth ministries ever seen. I was there in the trenches, in some cases for a decade or more before I had to admit I saw very little fruit from all the efforts. As one outstanding young Evangelical pastor once explained, he had been a youth leader for many years, drawing a salary, doing for parents what they could not or would not do: spend time with their kids. Finally he had to admit, the dirty little secret of American Christianity; The problem with youth work, was it did not work. There was no close substitute for parents or parental involvement, or the relationships and INTERDEPENDENCE (thank you F. McM.) forged in that process. This pastor squared away with his errors by becoming an adult pastor instead, and doing something revolutionary in his church; Age INTEGRATION.  

It may be true that sometimes familiarity breeds contempt, but he embraced a larger vision, that true love and real tolerance only come from complete integration. Perhaps young people today reject the church because they were given their own programs, own pastors, own buildings, and socked away in the youth rooms for years, and then expected to just convert to adulthood overnight. Instead they stayed home and looked at stuff on the Internet, the new moral compass.
 
We, who were going to rewrite the standards on raising children, did the worst job in shaping humans in our nation’s history.  We brought in hired guns to do our dirty work... raising our spoiled children. And it was a disaster. First we lost our appreciation for our own society, represented by our armed forces, and our parents, then we lost our senses when raising our children, and now we have lost our country and our culture with it.

I do not see Evangelicals letting go of the foundations of our Faith, as it is all we have left. I will tell millennials what I told my hippie friends back in the 70’s; If you do not accept the Bible or its religions, that is fine, then write your own book. But don’t expect people of the BOOK to rewrite theirs. Still, I’ve got to believe, if God cared and was going to make an attempt to communicate with man, he would have done it a long time ago, and not waited for my generation, or the one after, to impart truth and wisdom and the paradigms of justice.
 
Millennials may never come back, and it is not their fault.  We gave them everything but self-determination, and grateful hearts and most importantly a tangible model of right-living to build on. Now humbled and heartsick, we can still return to church- the solid foundation our parents gave us, even with all its flaws, and humbly pray for our own well-meaning but misguided souls. For we utterly failed to pass on the character, love and charity our parents gave to us.

And that is the big difference between the two generations. And that is why our youth eschew the church.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Russell,

Every generation has thought that the one following it is taking the world to hell in a handbasket. My father told me that his father told him that in 1915 HIS father (my great grandfather) told him that the current young generation of the country would be the death of America. All it did was go on to win World War I, father the Americans who won World War II, and build the greatest economy the world has ever seen. I understand the impulse, but please realize that you're painting with a mighty broad brush, amigo.