I’ve been noticing something lately and it’s pretty disturbing. I keep running into young adults who have some degree of “Christian” background but now they want absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. Absolutely NOTHING. I’m talking specifically about a sub-set of those who are twenty-something (and certainly not ALL twenty-somethings!). They’ve survived high school and many are in university or have already graduated from university with an undergraduate degree and a pile of debt. Or they're out working and dealing with bills and kids and the realization that there really are limits and life isn't always captured in Facebook status updates. They’re often pretty astute in some things. They have a “survivor” mentality. You don’t have to convince them that it’s a rough world. They’re all about alliances and looking after themselves. They’re hard – they’re into horror movies – the more brutal the better. They’re not like the hippies of the 60s with a culture of peace and love and non-conformity. No – they’re more about brazen cynicism and naked individualism. Whatever Christian influence they had as kids has largely been de-bunked and exposed as a fraud along with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
I get it that they don’t find Christian churches very appealing. I get it that most expressions of Christian faith offend their post modern values. Christianity’s meta narrative, call for commitment, truth claims, judgmentalism, exclusivity – these are all totally counter cultural in their enlightened and educated circles. I get it that they feel entitled to a good dose of cynicism – after all, there are LOTS of issues that make optimism and faith in a sovereign good God seem more than a little naïve. And I get it that Christianity often seems to be more part of the problem than part of any solution to the injustices that abound. I get it. But it bothers me.
It bothers me because they aren’t just sceptical – they’ve completely closed their minds to Christianity. And In so doing, they’ve broken one of their own values. They will – in fact, they MUST - be tolerant and open-minded about just about EVERYTHING. But for some reason, it’s ok to dismiss Christianity. It’s ok to mock and pity Christians for their foolish faith.
I suppose they think that they’ve given it a chance. After all, they went along to church and Sunday School - when they didn’t know any better – maybe even liked it. They learned the stories about Noah’s Ark, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, David and Goliath, the birth of Jesus, the miracles of Jesus (stories about feeding thousands of people with a little boy’s lunch, or raising Lazarus from the dead, or healing lepers), the brutal crucifixion of Jesus and the claim that he rose from the dead. Those stories were pretty impressive when they were kids, but now they just seem to have lost their lustre.
So they walk away.
I respect everyone’s fundamental right to believe – or not believe – whatever they want. But I’m looking at a generation of young adults who, I think, have shut their minds a little too quickly. I’m sad for them and I’m sad for the church. I’m sad for them because I think that in the midst of their pain – and let’s not even get into an argument as to whether or not they are in pain! – they are turning to all kinds of destructive, toxic influences. They may self-medicate with drugs, alcohol and other addictions – materialism, sex, high risk adventure – all of which may give temporary reprieve to their personal and social pain, but what if these are actually very dangerous idols that have the potential to totally suck the life out of them?
And I’m sad for the church because we desperately need the perspectives and critiques and brutally honest questions of this generation and the more of them that walk away, the less likely we are to get them. As I write this, though, faces flash through my mind – faces of young adults who haven’t given up on Christianity – at least not yet - but who are wrestling with all kinds of questions and issues. I fervently hope that they hang in there – that they keep pushing and keep questioning…
Maybe I’m just getting old. Maybe I’m being a hypocrite. After all, haven’t I closed my mind to certain worldviews? How can I criticize someone for closing their mind to Christ, when I’ve essentially closed my mind to all worldviews that aren’t centred in Christ? But I’ve also argued that certainty can be dangerous. I do recognize that I hold a lot of what I believe to be true fairly loosely – and I might be criticized by some for being TOO wishy washy in my thinking. But the truth is - I don’t have it all figured out. I know that. In fact, I love the uncertainties. I love the questions. I love trying to figure out what I've missed or where my thinking has taken a wrong turn.
And maybe I’m too stressed out about this. They'll figure it out. Or not. Either way, all I can do is keep on trying to put my faith into practice in a way that is real and honest and transparent... and I can pray that God, in his sovereignty, will open our eyes.