This post about church really resonated with me. I’ve been interested for the past few years in the mass exodus of my generation from organized religion during our 20s. I became keenly aware of the problem while I was a grad student living in an unfamiliar place, looking for a church home. I stuck out like a sore thumb at the church I often attended, and it was deeply troubling. I didn’t have a place there. I was not really a college student (or at least I felt much different from the fresh-out-of-high-school crowd), and I was unmarried. I’ve mentioned the phenomenon of the quarterlife crisis before. My emotional experience of church during those years had a lot to do with my personal quarterlife crisis. Between leaving your family of origin to go out and make your way in the world and settling into a career, buying a home, etc. (with or without a spouse)…we often feel like we don’t belong anywhere. We are floating in a sea of possibilities and might find ourselves struggling to connect with a church family. I kept going by claiming the dear aunts, uncles and cousins of a college buddy as my own and sitting with them on Sunday mornings. They took good care of me and made me feel less out of place. I got involved with the children’s ministry and was eventually able to feel more useful.
This church was full of loving people, but I never quite got over feeling out of sync with the environment there. I know that I am too sensitive, but I felt this pressure under the surface to somehow apologize for my status as a single woman over the age of 23 with no boyfriend and no prospects. Have you ever met a cohort of social work graduate students? There are not many eligible bachelors to be found. Looking back on it now, I’m so thankful that I was unattached. I had a very demanding schedule that would have made a serious relationship a huge stressor for me. But in those years I wasn’t aware that I would meet my someone a few months after finishing my degree. I had no way of knowing that I would ever find a person who would click with my particular brand of weird. It was hard to even hope when I felt pitied by these well-meaning Christians. And, really, why should hoping to find a man be my goal? The desire for marriage and family is a holy one, but in no way should it be our ultimate desire. I was studying social work because I wanted to serve others like Jesus did. It’s that a better focus? Wasn’t I a whole person who deserved to feel acceptance just as I was in that time? How many of my single adult friends are experiencing this frustration now? It’s not okay. I often ask myself what we as church families can do to communicate acceptance to this huge group of people who are leaving because they graduate from college and don’t see place for themselves in churches anymore. Some are leaving earlier than that.
Jen Hatmaker addresses the issue from a different angle. She writes fervently about the troubling conformity she has witnessed. This passage in particular made me want to “Amen!” my computer screen.
Jesus remained politically neutral, unswervingly, despite the teeny tiny fact that the Savior was expected to engineer freedom through political upheaval. He never once pandered to the powerful and prominent. He was called a drunkard and a fool for the company He kept. Jesus committed His kingdom to the most unlikely: the sick, children, women, the poor, the marginalized. Everyone else? Blind, deaf, according to Jesus…If you’ve been around me at all in the last six years, you’ve heard me pushing for reform, asking the church to stretch, to become the new wineskins my generation is begging for. I’m hungry for a church less known for sanctimony and more for their shocking intervention for hungry babies and human trafficking and racism and injustice. Christianity is too thrilling to reduce to middle/upper-middle class First World Problems, encapsulated in issues and gauged by a nebulous moral compass that lost its bearing decades ago.
Love it. I hope you’ll go check out the rest of this brilliant post. These words speak to a rising trepidation that I’ve had since my husband started applying for jobs in the Big City. Now that he’s accepted a position, we will be moving in a couple of months and looking for a new church home. I don’t want to end up somewhere like this church that Jen describes. I don’t want to settle into a safe bubble of materialism and selfishness. I don’t want my kids to grow up only knowing that lifestyle and only interacting with other kids that are just like them. I don’t want them thinking our way is the only right way. Basically, I want this…If I were having this conversation with Husband right now, this is the point at which his pragmatic self would jump in and tell me gently that I’m getting a little ahead of myself. But, as he knows, I’m an INFP, and that’s just how I roll. It’s a good balance we have going. While I need someone to bring me back down to earth sometimes and temper my wistful thoughts with logic, my concern is a valid one. I’m thankful for others like Jen Hatmaker who share it.