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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Polarities of Youth

Last weekend I was involved in a wedding, and due to an automotive mishap found myself traveling across the prairies of North Dakota with a 24 year old bridesmaid for 4 hours. As she attends a Bible college in California, we had ample opportunity to discuss theology and religion. The trip was delightful, and I met an young woman dedicated to finding meaning and truth through a version of Christianity, which while I do not share with her, she is at least attempting to make her life congruent between her beliefs and her actions.

What was interesting in our conversations was her focus on a person's relationship with God to a point where almost nothing else entered into the picture. That is, she has a view of humanity that is very liberal, very modern, and very much unlike my own. She believes in the autonomous, self-determining individual unfettered by any law outside of God's rule (this is the liberal stuff with Christian seasoning, but she would fit right into the 18th century). Because of this world-view, she loses perspective on how wide the world is we live in, and what all the relationships we have do to impact who we are and what we do. So whether she was talking about marriage, heaven, hell, or even her own experiences, everything was filtered into the autonomous indiviuality in which God reserves the final right to judge. Creation, for example, was not even part of her understanding of what God spends a lot of time doing--and this while we were driving through some of the most beautiful country in the world! Since, in this mindset, everything is reduced to human capability, the deer, birds, trees, water, and the wind itself are at best decorations for a life lived following God's law. But as created beings of God, the deer or even the wind, don't have much to do in her world.

Now at the wedding the next day I meet the boyfriend of the photographer who is a 26 year old guy who admits to me, as we are standing around waiting for pictures to be finished, that he doesn't like church much. When I ask why, it is because, he says, I am more focused on keeping nature and trees healthy than my soul. Great. Another liberal. He, of course, takes the "liberal" that is much more bandied about as if we know what we are talking about when we use the word than my new friend from the Bible college, but they are both liberal. In his case, the liberalism comes from an understanding of the interconnectedness of life, but this time at the expense of human aggrandizement...that is, we have to take our autonomous, self-determing beings, and understand how we are all part of this world...and when churches don't do that, well, he finds his time better spent with those who do...

But you see, for being a Christian like me, neither pole of these young persons' world works for me, because I understand that I am affected by my context more than I can self-determine my life. In other words, there are just some things I cannot do. Neither one of these young people believe that...and it is not a question of age...it is a question of how you believe God lives and moves in the world...if God is living and moving...well, then, of course there are things you cannot do, even good things like helping a neighbor or being nice...and if God's presence creates a certain amount of ambiguity, well, then, of course, you will do things that you could not have predicted.

No doubt when I was younger I too lived with the ardent zeal of my youthful chaperone and wedding conversationalist...but if I left them with anything it was-- I hope, not a belittlement of their beliefs, but rather an example of how to expand your horizons to all that God has made...which is, I guess, what church is for. Church reminds we are not alone, nor in charge...which--when you get to be my age--is a good thing.

2 comments:

Ron Amundson said...

I've now read this post 20 times over 2 days... and each time, I find I come up with more questions than answers. I dont know if such was the intent or not, but there is so much here, and yet so much not defined too. Perhaps you could elaborate a bit, or point me towards where you have done so? To me, it looks like a mix of individualistic private Christianity and a much more passive approach to the body of Christ amongst both of the young folks... but then I think within context, you are pointing towards God's soverignity, or perhaps something else? No matter what, you have me interested.

Scott Frederickson said...

Dear Ron,
You have hit on the problem that is my style of blogging. I know there is something there, but I am never quite sure what it is! My intention is to do a two-parter, if not maybe more, in order to flesh out the conversations. Thanks for reading.