Tuesday, August 19, 2014

We Reap What We Sow

It's an oldie, by social media standards, but it's a goodie, and it began another round up and down my Facebook news feed as several of my friends posted it:

Jeff Daniels' righteous (and mostly true) rant as Will McAvoy in The Newsroom.  If you haven't seen it, it's worth the three and a half minutes of your life that it demands.  Go ahead, I'll wait.

Anyways, when Daniels's character goes off on how America is not the greatest country in the world anymore, you could almost cut and paste that sentiment for how Christianity is no longer the most influential source of morality and spirituality anymore.

Because this is not the age of believers, this is the age of agnostics.  This is not the age of religiosity, this is the age of "spiritual, but not religious."  And really, you don't need me to tell you that.

But speaking as a member of, as Daniels (as Will McAvoy) would put it, "The least religious, period, generation, period, ever, period," I have to get this off of my chest:

We Christians deserve every ounce of skepticism that gets thrown our way these days, and then some.  We deserve to be faced with the challenge of reaching out to the least religious, period, generation, period, ever, exclamation point.

Because we can complain about agnosticism and atheism all we want (and Lord knows, we do).

But agnostics and atheists aren't the people who used televangelism to defraud faithful Christians again and again and again.

We can complain about same sex marriage and "the gay agenda" all we want (and Lord knows, we do).

But gays and lesbians wanting equal protection under the law aren't the people getting found out for harboring child molesters and systematically covering up their crimes (and anybody who equates being gay to being a pedophile is committing nothing short of hate speech).

And we can complain all we want about "God being taken out of the schools" via bans on public prayer (and Lord knows, we do).

But those laws aren't the reason why we come across like complete jerks whenever a mass shooting at a school happens yet again and we wonder where God is in all of it.

We can bemoan the lack of churchgoing that we see in the millennial generation all we want, but if we fail to recognize that it's our own damn fault for sucking so badly at our faith, then honestly, we don't deserve to have those folks back sitting in our pews.  We don't deserve the profound privilege and honor of walking alongside them and guiding them in their own respective faith journeys.

So here's the deal, fellow Jesus followers:

We are holding a winning hand, not only for the next life when we go to be with God and Christ in heaven, but for this life as well, because we still sit at the right hand of privilege in this country.  We inherited this privilege by at one point being an institution people could trust, and we have used that privilege to do some really quite amazing things in our time:

Christians were among the abolitionists who rid America of slavery by speaking out for those whose voices we had brutally and systemically silenced.

Christians were speaking out against human rights abuses during times of war long before "human rights abuses" ever became a household term.

Christians marched in the Civil Rights Movement, chanting "We Shall Overcome" in the same spirit as our Savior who overcame everything, including death itself, to bring us liberation from evil.

Today, though?  Today, we are like the prodigal son who demands his inheritance and promptly squanders it.  We come across as fighting hardest not for peace or for equality or, God forbid, for Christ, but for our right to deny access to birth control for women or for our right to discriminate against same sex couples.  Because somehow those got all rolled in with love of God and love of neighbor for us.

But you know what?  Back in those moments when history was being made, we were fighting for the preservation of human life (ALL human life) rather than fighting against women's health.

We were fighting to eradicate slavery, not same sex marriage.

We were fighting to condemn poverty as a worldwide evil, not to condemn poor people as moochers.

We acted, as Jeff Daniels would have said, for moral reasons, not for selfish reasons.

We didn't put our rights ahead of the rights of others, we didn't cry persecution every time the government made a decision we disagreed with, and we didn't condemn those who disagree with us to hell so easily.

Believe me when I say that when I chat with my friends (or just about anyone in my generation) about why they don't go to church, they bring up stuff exactly like that.

And the sad thing is, if we were paying attention to Scripture, we could have seen this coming from a mile away, because as Paul famously exhorts the Galatians in his letter to them, a person reaps what they sow.

This precipice we are staring down of having a thoroughly unchurched generation waiting in the wings is a precipice entirely of our own making.  It is not "their" fault.  We drove them away.

And if our Christian humbleness is still intact, then we will shut the hell up and listen to what they have to say.

And, hopefully, God willing, that will represent the first step in sowing something different for us to reap: respect rather than ridicule, harmony rather than hatred, and, if we are so blessed, the growth of our great church rather than its seemingly inevitable, inexorable decline.

There, my chest feels much lighter now.  Thanks for  listening.

Yours in Christ,

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