Friday, March 30, 2012

The Titanic Church . . . A Coming Lost Generation

I'm taking a break from my series an why I still believe in Christianity. I want to come back later and talk honestly why I considered pantheism, but didn't walk that path. I will also discuss why even Christianity is difficult to believe at points, but it is my best choice. Once again, no road out is easy and obvious.  Christianity has an answer for this . . . our minds are finite or fallen.

But another topic is once again on my front burner, is related to the previous topic and that has to do with the youth leaving the Church (big C) for good. These are kids raised in the evangelical church.

What brought it to mind were two things.  First, my wife had my Jeep for a couple of days and  had the station on the local "Praise Radio" station.  I was driving and trying to turn back to NPR.  However, the announcer was talking about the issue and a new book that addresses the problem in an "exciting and provocative new way."  I had no clue (until I looked it up) that it was a Ken Ham book, Already Gone.

Then, I keep running into a kid at Thrive, who I knew at my old evangelical church. I know that he has left Christianity, and his  mother told me rolling her eyes, "Because he wanted to search for truth."  I've tried to talk to him many times but he sees me as the elder of the old evangelical church and he is very defensive, "Sorry I haven't been to church lately, but I work on Sunday mornings . . . yada, yada, yada."  I don't care if he ever darkens a door of a church again.

Anyway, a couple of days ago I got a toe past his defensive door.  I would love to sit and let him tell me honestly about his journey and let me gently tell him about not throwing out the baby with the bizarre bath water.

I have several other stories to tell but I will stop there.

I have a  huge heart for the youth who are leaving and not coming back, because it is a disaster . . . manufactured by the evangelical culture.  A culture that is so entrenched that they would rather see their kids fall off the philosophical cliff than change that culture.

I've never been a youth leader nor could I. I've attempted. But, because I do these odd things like discussing philosophy, culture, logic . . . instead of reading from the church playbook, study only the Bible. Teach only what they MUST THINK (to be orthodox) not HOW TO THINK, is the church way.

So, like watching the Titanic crashing into the iceberg in slow motion, 75-85% of the kids raised in the evangelical church are pitching the whole think out the window as soon as they are liberated from their parent's grip.

I go further to suggest that out of the 20% who stay, most of them do for dysfunctional reasons. Many of them were taught so sternly that they must comply with their parent's wishes, that even as adults, they can not dare (emotionally) to do anything that their parents might disagree with.

Just like the young woman who was under mind control by an abusive husband for 20 years . . . once she is out of the relationship, she must have a hot dinner on the table at 5:20 PM, have her make up on at 6:00 AM, never buy anything for herself, and I could go on and on, because that husband had brain-washed her so sternly.  If she attempted to break the pattern, even if the husband was gone, she would feel nervous and guilty.  Guilt manipulation has been the most useful tool of the church since Peter.

Another part of those who stay, do so out of nostalgic reasons. They grew up sitting in a pew, singing hymns, doing the Christmas stuff . . . that they have a general good feeling to keep those traditions. Some of them stay for decent reasons. Christianity is real to them, in their private world, satisfying their aspirations for meaning that nothing else can. But even those who stay for the wrong reasons, aren't bad people. Once again, if they do the right thing, for the wrong reason they still win . . . it is just dangerous. These same kids wouldn't have left the mosque, the synagogue, the Christian Science reading room . . . or any other group for the same reason . . . wanting to please their parents. 

But I suspect the entire generation will be lost. Like, (who was it Einstein?) who said insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.  Ken Ham is a proponent of saying do the same thing we are doing, but do it harder and at an earlier age.

The kids are leaving the Church for two major reasons.  The first is intellectual dishonesty.  That is where they take a church dogma (different from a Biblical mandate) and dress it up as conclusion to logic. For example many of Ken Ham's positions.  He didn't believe that the dinosaurs lived with people because he is a scientist and spent years studying the fossil record. No, he is a theologian who, for too many reasons to discuss here, decided that the earth must be 6,000 years old. So then he wraps that in pseudoscience and propaganda, giving it the appearance that he reached his position through careful thought.

But I don't mean to get side tracked on the age of the earth issue.  That's not the point. The point is that anytime we lie to our kids and then later they find out we were lying, they have a strong natural inclination to walk out the door of our belief system.

The other area is emotional dishonestly.  It is hard from me to be around evangelicals anymore (had a long conversation with one two days ago) because they are constantly telling me things that I doubt are true (I heard God's voice coming up from the basement the other night) but they are out of touch with the fact that virtually everything they are saying and doing is because they desperately want to feel good about themselves.  We all do it. I think we are better if we have insight why we want to paint ourselves in such positive light.

My wife talked to an old friend at her evangelical church. He e-mailed me and invited me to a men's Bible study. I know that he has honorable intentions. But I've sat though thousands of them in my life.  I know it would be a loose-loose situation. First of all, they are inviting me because they assume that I'm back-slid-den. This is because I left their church. Then, each week I would hear things that I know aren't true (supernatural encounters with God in the washroom at the Hilton) and they would put intense pressure on me to make up the same lies.  I've done that. I've repented from lying and don't want to anymore. If I don't lie, then they will continue to assume I'm back-slid-den.

I would love to talk about what we know about God who is there, about the wonderful universe I believe He has created, including art and science. I love to sit and talk about our personal problems . . . when we talk honestly. But the pretending is enticing me to sin, by lying, and I don't want to go there.

This is what our kids go through. Most of them, like the young man at Thrive, leave the Church, not because they are bad people. They leave the Church for honorable reasons. They want to know truth. That is a good thing. They want to be honest. That is a great thing. They want to share openly about their messed up lives. That is a healthy things.

I might come back this topic . . . I'm not sure. I would love to write a book about it . . . but where's the time?


Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of this is because churches are desperate to attract middle-class suburban types with kids. Those people are poison to an honest church. All they want to hear is stuff that makes them feel better about their lives, how to have a happy marriage and better kids in 5 steps and all that.
The only honest church I ever went to (where the pastor would discuss all sorts of strange topics--it would have been your dream church) was an old downtiown presbyterian church which was 80% old people whose families had gone there for generations (which meant that they had outlasted prior pastors with odd interests and figured this one would be gone soon enough and anyway, their bridge club made its arrangements on sunday morning) and 20% college students who were amazed at what they were hearing. It didn't last, obviously.
The other problem with appealing to middle-class suburban types is people like me (I'm 28) look at that and think, if that's Christiaanity, why bother? I can have a unhappy meaningless marriage without bothering with being emotinally blackmailed over tithing every week!

Tapji said...

JMJ: you should listen to "Nirvana - nevermind". Consider it like the audio version of catcher in the rye.

jmj said...

I was going to listen to nevermind before commenting but now I realize it is a whole album. I will have to down load it and listen when I get the chance.

Anonymous said...

Ken Ham is a proponent of saying do the same thing we are doing, but do it harder and at an earlier age.

Just like the Communist Party of the Soviet Union when their system was crumbling. "INCREASE POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS!!! INCREASE POLITICAL INDOCTRINATION!!!"