Friday, December 28, 2007

Preparing Our Children to Leave God?

In a study by The Barna Group in 2006, 61 percent of teenagers that attended Evangelical churches, stop attending in their twenties. As a father of 5, this concerns me a great deal.

I recently attended a video series by Ken Ham, literal creationist. What I mean (in his case) by “literal” is that he is dogmatic that the earth was created 6,000 years ago, in six days and if anyone doesn’t believe that, then he is not a Christian.

The most disturbing thing that Ken said was that evolution is the root of all evil and the real reason that kids are leaving the church.

The whole video series made me feel very sad . . . and I had a wave of hopelessness (with the Evangelical Church) spread over me again. I am still an active member of an Evangelical church. But like most of us who struggle with these issues, no church home is comfortable. You have choices between the conservative (theologically) churches, but which are also social and culturally conservative (and have bought into the American Evangelical subculture), liberal (theologically) churches or quitting church altogether . . . but that’s a topic for another Blog posting.

But to state that young people are leaving the church is due to their exposure to evolution in secular schools is so far off base that it’s not even worth addressing. I think Mr. Ham has gotten so involved with his anti-evolution zeal that he can’t see the farce for the trees.

It is interesting that very Sunday (after being so discouraged by Mr. Ham’s video) that I came home to a house full of teenager (okay, my son reminds me that he is now twenty one). I asked them point blank what they thought about Mr. Hams conclusions. A belly laugh quickly ensued. The opinion was unanimous (supporting what I had previously thought) that the reason that most teenagers leave the church when they leave home (and the same reason that I did) is that the church, unfortunately is a farce.

At church, there is a culture of pretending . . . pretending that we are holy and sweet and strong Christians, yet in our private worlds we play an emotional game of denial. Many Christian marriages have problems and they never address them, but keep on smiling and pretending. Teenagers aren’t stupid but have an insight that many of us have lost over the years.

The way the church has tried to keep teens within the fold is by guilt manipulation . . . that never works for long. Even my wife will use it on the boys when she finds out that they haven’t gone to church while they are at college. She doesn’t use these words, but they are often implied (throughout Christendom) “You should go to church, because if you don’t it makes God mad.”

So, we Evangelicals have done a lovely job in preparing our Children to leave God when they leave home. We aren’t honest with them. We teach them bogus science . . . and as soon as they see that it was bogus, then they will have no choice but to assume that every thing we’ve said about God is bogus. We pressure them with guilt manipulation and live in emotional denial about our own problems. Why would a young person want to stay with a church like that?

It will take another posting but I want to address what I think is the right way to help kids. Part of that (as a teaser) is to welcome their doubts (if their doubts are sincere). Welcome their emotional honesty, don’t shame them. Be in touch with our own sin (rather than the Evangelical fa├žade of holiness).

In closing, as an example of what I’m talking about, I recently attempted to start a couples’ Bible Study with a group of people at our church. My wife networks with many of the wives. I knew that within this group, two husbands were closet alcholoics, and when they drink they are mean to their wives. Another husband was a workalcholic and he and his wife were struggle with some major issues.

So when I started the study, to “prime the pump” I shared some of the struggles that my wife and I have (only after no one else would share when the course book asked such poignant questions.) This made all the husbands uncomfortable, and some of the wives. They didn’t see my honest sharing as an example to emulate, but were shocked that I would be so vulnerable . . . causing them embarrassment for me. One called me to the side, and expressed his displeasure that I would be sharing dirt and wanting to dig up dirt on others.

I didn’t WANT to dig up dirt, but we are all dirty! Evangelicals just don't get it. If we burry our dirt under the pretense of being holy, our kids can see though that charade like Superman looking through clothes.

This is a glimpse of why we are loosing our kids. Ken Ham is out to lunch.


Anonymous said...

She doesn’t use these words, but they are often implied (throughout Christendom) “You should go to church, because if you don’t it makes God mad.”

Check out the second row from this online horror comic page...

MJ said...

Now that was really funny.

erica_elise said...

Mike, I stumbled across your blog looking for something about "Christian grieving" as my grandmother passed away about a month ago and my heart is finally allowing myself to feel the searing pain of loss. I must say that I am overjoyed to have found your blog and am incredibly grateful for your honesty and vulnerability. It is a breath of fresh air and I just wanted to say thanks!

jmj said...

Sorry about the loss of your grand mother. That must have been hard.