Monday, September 12, 2016

The Commentariat Speaks (4)

Broken Arrow asks a perfectly sensible question:

“Pretend for a minute you are a 28 year old, white male, Millennial. Your current girlfriend had an abortion when she was 19, owes $24,000 in student loans for a worthless degree, and works as a receptionist for $16 an hour. You owe a little less but have been in and out of work since 2008. You have a college degree in Computer Science, but most of your money has been made in manual labor after your job was outsourced, which is pretty good money when you can find the work. You have no health insurance, but are paying the Obamacare tax.”

Sounds like an eerily familiar scenario so far.

In fact, I had a fairly lengthy conversation with a young couple at a barbecue only a few weeks back looking for a Christian “in” (and not having much success). The differences between them and Broken Arrow’s couple are only in the details.

But there’s more:
“You tried a contemporary church service last year as a friend of yours finally got you to go. It was effectively a Christian soft rock concert with low lights and a laser show for the first 30 minutes, then a guy with a beard, blue blazer, and jeans came out to tell the people for 30 minutes that they need to ‘Get under God’s Umbrella of blessing’ with a long checklist for everyone to do that week. The only other things you remember were that the good coffee was free, and that enjoying pornography is apparently the worst thing you can do. Before that you went to your Catholic cousin’s first communion and they said a bunch of stuff in Latin you didn’t understand and somehow the priest managed to bring up abortion which made your girlfriend cry afterwards. You don’t dislike God or the church, but neither has ever really helped you from what you can tell.

You actually do live in your mom’s house, as your parents were divorced years ago, she works a lot as a nurse and has a boyfriend she stays with, so you have the place to yourself most of the time. Most days are spent on computer games and porn.

Now it’s election season, and the Conservatives tell you that the biggest problem is there’s too much government and regulations, we need lower taxes, if you oppose immigration you are a racist but we need to secure the border, they will fix Obamacare somehow, we need to fight a war in the Middle East, Israel is the greatest ally the US has ever had and needs billions in support, the Constitution needs to be saved, and the 2nd amendment is under attack. You agree with the last one as you own a shotgun, but barely care about the rest. You also remember that you went to a wedding of a gay friend of yours just last month and that the Conservatives wanted to deny them that ability.”
Okay, so here comes the question. Ready now?
“In all seriousness, what does ‘Conservatism’ or a contemporary Christianity have to offer the above man?”
Ouch. That leaves a mark.

If this sounds like your neighbour’s kid, your son’s best friend or the guy you paid to paint your living room last summer … well, it probably is. Broken Arrow’s portrayal seems on the nose to me.

Let’s forget the “Conservatism” part, since we can’t fix that and it’s really not our problem. Still, I’ve left the reference in because while it is perfectly clear to you and me that political ideology and Christianity are two completely separate things, that distinction is remarkably hazy to most millennials, who are prone to view us (initially at least) as an undifferentiated mass of moralizing middle-agers.

I also leave it in because for the young man in the example (and for many in the real world), it seems the modern church experience and traditional conservatism are equally irrelevant to the issues of life.

If so, here are a few questions I find myself asking:
  1. What features of your local church life stand in contrast with the church in this example? Are these features more likely to attract or repel inquirers?
  2. Does your church take a strong stand on the political issues of the day? If so, do you think this enhances or detracts from its appeal to outsiders?
  3. Is it possible that trivial or irrelevant church programs work against the efforts of individual witnesses (like the friend who finally managed to get the young man in the example out to church) rather than supporting them?
  4. If church meetings are primarily for the edification of believers and the worship of Jesus Christ, should we be overly concerned about how our gatherings appear to a casual visitor, or should we just expect them to ‘get with the program’ eventually?
  5. If we are really honest with ourselves, do our own local churches offer anything more substantive or relevant to millennials than the experience described in the second paragraph?
  6. If, through some miracle, a young couple like this gets saved at such a church meeting, what areas of their lives most urgently require addressing, and how would your church seek to meet those needs?
Something to think about.

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