Note: Can I Say This at Church is produced for audio listening. If able, I strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which has inflection, emotion, sarcasm where applicable, and emphasis for points that may not come across well in written word. This transcript is generated using a combination of my ears and software, and may contain errors. Please check the episode for clarity before quoting in print.
Welcome to the first episode of The Can I Say This At Church podcast. I'm so glad that you're here. I think it would be wise to start with a bit of history and set some context. We all have a bias. Or to view it a different way. We all have a lens that we view the world through, our own rose colored glasses. For me, it was a far right leaning, evangelical upbringing. Put it another way, evangelical fundamentalism. So what changed? I left home, and I got new perspectives on thoughts and ideas that I just left uncontested before. And these thoughts were scary. The foundations of who I was at my core began to shift and I realized that I had a few options to move forward.
One, I could do nothing, just keep calm, stay the course. We don't rock this boat. Our boats are not made to be rocked to fall apart. Our world shatters, and we just don't know how to pick up the pieces. What was a beautiful set of rules and commandments and structure for society ceases to be.
Civilization moved, the world shifted, and no one told you, your friends deny you, your church, possibly shunned you. And so we fall deeper into ourselves cascading until we begin to lose faith, faith in God, faith in each other, faith in goodness, or we pivot, we let the free fall happen. And we lean into that we learn to embrace the unknown, and in the process grow a bigger capacity to trust and an empathy for the world that we see every day. Our rose colored glasses, they begin to change color. life becomes more vibrant, more moving. And if we look closely enough, God gets bigger. There's so much more to all of our stories. But over the last few years of my personal relationship with God, I've learned that it's okay to question God. But for a while, I felt like I was slipping and I lost friends. I had countless debates with people I respected greatly. And I wrestled with God in ways that I thought and I was taught were not allowed.
So what was the shift? Well, it's hard to pin down. And it will be different for everyone. For me, I think it was when my children born. It's odd how kids will give you a new perspective on everything that you thought was true. Another of these moments happened just a few days ago, when I finally learned to let go of another piece of my foundation, and was able to reconstruct that foundation in a new way - I found a new way to view Christ.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Think back to your earliest memories of church, Royal ambassadors, Vacation Bible School, tent revivals, Awana Cubbies and the list can go on and on. None of those things are bad or wrong. And all of them have had a great use and a purpose in the way that our lives have been lived. And the way that our faith has brought us at the day. And if we're honest, we still use those views of right and wrong to impact the way that we scale, the way that we judge everything today. Right? Wrong?
Those same rules, though, they aren't yours. They are the sum result of what's been handed down since the Protestant Reformation came to America. You know, I think with Luther and 500 years that you saw advertised everywhere over the last few weeks. Those views we held and hold are not inherently bad but they can be dangerous if left un-questioned.
Picture it like this, your parents go up into the attic, and they dig deep back. And they bring down a huge set of Legos. These Legos are worn and they're solid. They're well used and there's so many of them. And you dig through the box eventually you find the instructions.
It's huge. It's ancient, it's tested. And so you just follow them. You read through methodically building this huge network of structures, and sub structures and mountains and rivers and streams and valleys, and life based on these instructions. And they work, you are rewarded with something that you're told to be proud of something that should stand the test of time. And you come to find that this right here. This is the right way to build with these blocks. So you just follow these rules, you build your work of art, you look back and you're proud. And this will make sense until something happens.
You visit a friend's house.
He's got the exact same box. But he's been told, he has been made to question, he's been made to build. “Here's the blocks. Let's see what you do.” And his worldview, it's beautiful also. And it's similar in small ways and drastically different and others. In his structures. They're similar to yours, but different. And when you walk away from his house and what you saw him build with his you shaken. And you begin when you get home to look at your was your house, examine the foundations, you begin to take it apart one piece at a time. And in doing so you wonder…”was this wall ever even straight? Was my view ever truly plum? Is this the right way to build my life.”?
And I think that this is where Millennial’s are, where I am and where I will most likely continue to be for some time. And it might be where you are. In 2015 the Pew Research Center released a study showing that millennials have been leaving churches of every denomination in huge numbers since at least 2007. However, they don't necessarily lose their belief in God. More than half of that same age group say that they're still religious, or spiritual. And to quote that Pew study, as the millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches than older generations. Fully 36% of young millennials, those between the ages of 18 and 24 are religiously unaffiliated, fewer than six and 10. Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity at all, compared to a seven and 10 of all the older generations. And in a separate study, Millennials cite their reasons for saying that they're leaving the churches and say churches are too concerned with the money, too concerned with the structure in the building. There's not enough looking out for missions, and they focus way too much on rules and politics.
Now, please hear me. I know some churches do this right. And I'm not trying to start a fight, I'm here to suggest that we might just be as blind as those to whom we're trying to give sight. We as the church need to wising up because the next generation is rising up and they're finding their prize in the things of this world. Because of their eyes, we haven't given them a better option, running away from the church like a toxin, because some of us are locked into a system of judgment and dismay, hate you if you're struggling, different or gay, why would anyone want to stay when they're just viewed as a project on which we can project a list of rules. And the more we try and protect the children in this way, the more we reject what God is trying to project through them. And that is his project of authentic love.
Millennial’s want to be mentored not preached at, they don't want to hear hypocrisy, they want to see you live life with them. They want to give in the pool, and they want to be honest, and they want to be allowed to question. So again, I asked why does this matter? millennials, my generation, change this planet. And we will most certainly change the face of the Church as we know it.
But for this to happen, we have to be able to question to poke at the Bible, to test its teaching, and to weigh if the instructions that we were handed down are good, and accurate and true. As with almost everything, there will be two sides, if not more, for the arguments. When we talk about God, and salvation, and hell, and sanctification, and family and marriage, it matters more than almost anything else can. The one thing that I've come to learn the most is we cannot continue to be a church that divides people. We cannot continue to be a church that elevates dogma over people, it will be difficult, and it will be painful. But that is the work of Jesus’ taking apart so and ideas held dearly, and breaking them up rearranging those pieces.
That is the gospel fundamentalism, specifically in America gives us a nice tight clean box and a lens to view live through. But it really gives you a chance to think for yourself. Over the next few episodes, we will begin to discuss that to deconstruct that and it might hurt and it might stretch us all and it will most certainly be uncomfortable. Author Kaitlin Curtice put it better than I ever could. She says to get to the questions, we have to know that there is no shame and wanting to ask. And the asking means that we ask everyone, all kinds of people. So the full mosaic of the kingdom of God can be understood in our time and our spaces. Maybe if we start with the one we'll get to the actual asking. And there will be hope for our country, our faith, our relationships for shalom to do its work in three us. The only way to reconstruct things toward a closer image of the kingdom is to deconstruct what once distorted the gospel of Jesus. And that's where we go from here, Lou yet and amen for the work of deconstruction.