37 Signs That You Were a Christian Kid Born in the 90’s

Christian kid

Growing up in the Christian subculture was a unique experience. As was growing up in the 90’s. Those of us who emerged from a blend of these two backgrounds share common-experiences, cultural bonds and traits that make up who we are- and what we believe- today.

Here’s just a few of them:

1.) All you need to know you learned from:

2.) You seriously questioned whether or not you should read the Harry Potter books when they first came out…because witches.

3.) This was what you watched at every youth-group movie night for, oh- about sixteen years:4.) Most of the anxiety in your life can be traced back to the Left Behind series:

Will YOU be??

 

6.) Avalon, Steven Curtis Chapman, Plus One, OC Supertones and, lest we forget:

7.) Speaking of which: you know all the words to “Jesus Freak.”

8.) …and your first AOL screename was derived from the title (JSUSFreakgurl3599)

9.) Today, as an adult, you sometimes feel as though the faith of your youth propagated an us verses them mentality against the culture and ‘the world.’

10.) When you started dating you learned the meaning of a DTR

11.) But then you kissed dating goodbye:

 

    (…and that hat too, I hope.)

12.) You’re not sure what Jesus would do..but he sure as h-e-doublehockeysticks would wear this bracelet:

13.) …and ironically (though not until now) your entire conservative, non-denominational youth group all wore rainbow versions of the above-mentioned.

14.) You had a lot of great experiences at church as a child, but sometimes feel like God was missing from them; and now you struggle to see how that faith is relevant to this life.

15.) You weren’t allowed to watch the Simpsons…because they make fun of Christians!

(though it does justify your previously mentioned anxieties about Harry Potter).

16.) You didn’t shop at Abercrombie and Fitch but did buy:

17.) You wanted (and tried) to vote Republican– at age 9.

18.) You can finish this bridge: “Scanned the cafeteria for some good seating / I found a good spot by the cheerleaders eating…”

19.) The first time you went to Mexico was on a missions trip the second time was on an all-inclusive cruise…sometimes you get the two mixed up. 

20.) You didn’t date your first love, you courted them… and it’s about as awkward as it sounds.

21.) Sometimes you long for the days when faith (and life, really) was black-and-white.

22.) You think Nicholas Cage is a poser, because:

23.) The first rapper you listened to was Kirk Franklin.

24.) You remember visiting the Creation Museum for the first time- you wondered then (and wonder now) if faith always has to come at the cost of science.

25.) It’s not Christmas without Amy Grant and it’s not Christmas (evidently) unless you’re in Tennessee.

26.) Your first kiss was at the youth group lock-in.

27.) Your first broken bone was at youth group, during a game of red rover.

28.) So was your second.

29.) That youth pastor was fired.

30.) You’ve done communion with Surge and Cheese-Its.

31.) That youth pastor wasn’t fired.

32.) You got a purity ring on your 13th birthday:

33.) Today you are fearful that members of your church might find out what you did while wearing it.

34.) The phrase “Touched by an Angel” prompts nostalgia, and this never seemed weird to you….until now.

It’s like a face-off with the board of Planned Parenthood

 

35.) Harvest parties not Halloween. Done.

36.) You accepted Christ nine times- usually at church lock-ins. Today you often wonder about those in the world who don’t get a chance to accept Christ. “Is the Christianity orf my youth really the only hope?” You’re not entirely sure. And you’re not sure who to ask.

37.) But what cheers you up is when you read the Bible and encounter a story you’ve definitely heard before… on Veggie Tales:

In a research project titled Faith That Lasts the Barna Group looked to identify the reason why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) walk away, either temporarily or permanently, from their faith after the age of 15. Their conclusion, after five years of interviews, surveys and case studies, was that

“No single reason dominated the break-up between church and young adults. Instead, a variety of reasons emerged.”

The most prevalent of these reasons being:

  1. Churches seem overprotective.
  2. Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
  3. Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
  4. Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
  5. They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
  6. The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.

Christian heritage is a wonderful thing. But it comes with its share of baggage. One of the great challenges for those of us entering adulthood is rectifying the realities of faith with the questions of our world. How does Jesus matter outside of Vacation Bible School? Is the notion of ‘purity’ we learned as kids truly pertinent to faith? Is there room on the straight and narrow for our wide and over-bearing questions? Where do I belong? 

What we have to remember- what we’re coming to learn- is these 37 things are not the cornerstone of our faith. The foundation of Christian faith is not what we do, how we identify ourselves or the way we grew up- the foundation of Christian faith is grace. Grace that permeates our homes, childhood and new beginnings; grace that opens up the gates and invites all to enter; grace that answers our questions with a gentle smile; grace that confronts our doubt with outstretched hands; grace that reminds us that we are caught up in it every minute of every day.

Maybe we can come to see our upbringing with all its traits, flaws, debaucheries, guffaws, legalities and nuances– maybe we can come to see these, not as relics of our disillusionment but as the quirky means of ordinary grace.

If we can accomplish this then maybe, just maybe, our reasons for leaving the faith can become the transformative means of God’s grace in this ongoing journey. Maybe we can take the good and the bad, knowing that Christ sees all of it as somewhat peculiar (at best) and yet loves us anyway. Maybe we can reform our hearts instead of leaving our traditions. Maybe renewal is possible and redemption- even of the most idiotic aspects of our backgrounds- does have a chance.

Maybe. Just maybe.

If nothing else, it’s worth a try.

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To My Non-Christian Friends: What You Should Know

non-christian

I am a Christian. As a Christian- particularly one of the Evangelical bent- mine is a tradition that has a reputation for abrasive condemnations of those who aren’t Christians: screaming brimstone and judgment from street corners, condemning alternate viewpoints and pushing legislation in an attempt to perpetuate our own beliefs. We’ve not exactly painted ourselves in a good light.

But the flag under which Christians are called to die isn’t one of religious propaganda, nor is the heart of our gospel a ‘turn or burn’ story. That said, there are things I- as a Christian- hope, want, pray, desire and truly want all non-Christians to know.

Here’s a few of them:

 

1) You are a person, not a project.

When I look at you I don’t see a box to be checked, a sinner to be saved, a victory to be won or a task to be accomplished. I see a person: a person with insights, thoughts, hopes, dreams, pains, and desires; I see a human-being, a human-being with a human story.

And sharing stories is a nebulous task. It requires time, trust, coffee, late nights, long emails, tears, laughter, life together. It takes relationship.

Projects require work, but relationships flow from love. If I see you as a hash mark on the inside of my prayer closet, then I don’t see you as (I believe) God sees you. I’ve dehumanized you; I’ve reduced you to a one-dimensional reality that I can print neatly on my Christian resume. That’s not what I’m trying to do. There’s no agenda behind my interactions with you. I’m not saying my intentions are always pure.

I’m saying that- at the end of the day- I’ve nothing to gain from you but what I hope to give.

And that’s love.

 

2) I don’t think you’re stupid.

While I may not believe what you believe- and I certainly haven’t the experiences nor the frame of mind with which to totally understand or relate to your views- I don’t think they’re idiotic or absurd. I don’t think you’re stupid.

Stanley Hauerwas, a Christian ethicist and theologian, once joked that he wasn’t smart enough to be an atheist. And I think there’s truth to that. Likewise, I have not the patience to be Buddhist, the courage to be agnostic, or the devotion to be Islamic. I am a Christian because I pass Jesus’ entrance exam: I come broken, sick, looking, hungry, sinning, repenting, and believing by grace. I’m incapable of any other qualifications; so I certainly don’t think you’re stupid for meeting them.

 

3) I think you’re wrong about God. But I might be wrong.

There simply is not empirical evidence to prove or disprove God. There exists no factual proof that leads us on an undeniable path to one religion over another. Thousands of years of philosophical and theological thought fall on either side of the Chrtistian viewpoint. It’d be either a lie or “I know without a doubt that God- as revealed in Jesus Christ- exists.” Indeed, for the Christian I would say this is impossible.

The Christian believes on the basis of faith; in faith I believe God to be real and revealed in the person of Christ. But I am gambling my chips and I’ve yet to see the final cards overturned. “Blessed are those,” says the Bible, “who have not seen and yet believe.”

Part of faith is the humble acknowledgement that it I could be wrong.
4) You are not my enemy.

I am not against you but for you. Too often, we Christians draw lines and ready ourselves for battle. Don’t get me wrong, as a believer in the one, true, God of love and peace, I also believe that there is an enemy- an anti-God, or Satan, if you will. I believe evil exists. And I do believe it has influence over people.

But I don’t think you’re hell’s minion just because you follow Richard Dawkins, wear a turban, believe in reincarnation or refuse to read the Bible.

Across the ages, wars have been fought over religion; and too many of these have been fought in the name of Christ. I’ve no desire to wage another one- and the Jesus I follow never asked me too.

What I want to do is invite you to a feast. I want to open the doors and invite you in to life with a God who went out into his creation to reveal himself to us. I want to dance with you in the tension of doubt and faith. I want to hear your story and see it as part of the story. We may not believe the same thing, but what if we’re both asking the same questions? Might that be a possibility?

We’re not that different, you and I. There’s nothing special about me that’s not matched by something beautiful in you. And we may have disagreements; but I hope that doesn’t mean we can’t talk.

Because there’s a conversation to be had. A conversation between creation and created, a conversation between you and me, us and them, they and we, God and us. And, at the end of the day- no matter what you believe, my desire is for us to enter the conversation together.

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Are ‘Liberals’ Really Destroying the Church?

Are Liberals Really Destorying the church

David French, an attorney and staff writer for the National Review, recently wrote an article titled “If You Want to Destroy Your Church, Follow Liberals’ Advice.” It goes downhill from there.

The article was a rebuttal to an editorial by Rachel Held Evans in the Washington Post. French finds apparent frustration in Evan’s critique of contemporary Evangelicalism. Evan’s main point, French proposes, isn’t an attempt to reform the style or face of the church but rather its “substance”;  Evan’s pushes reforms that are not theological but really just “a progressive writer’s wish list.” He further categorizes Evans (and presumably all ‘liberal’ progressives) as desiring to unlock the “Millennial spiritual energy found in the old ways- not its actual beliefs, mind you, but the trappings of the faith. To (Rachel Held) Evans, the answer is combining high-church traditions with no-church theology.”

French goes on to make the claim- based on statistical data- that mainline churches that have adopted progressive beliefs are “committing slow-motion suicide.” His conclusion is that Evans’ approach to church is not only theologically fallible but that “theological liberalization and cultural conformity” are paths to certain extinction.

“Yes, there are liberals who ‘long’ for the church to change,” French states. “But that’s because they long for it to disappear.”

It’s hard not to discard David French’s article as a straw-man tirade against progressive Christians and/or any Christian who’s ever registered as a Democrat. He uses the word “inclusive” like profanity, conveniently notes that President Obama’s denomination has seen serious decline in recent years, and attributes the demise of mainline denominations to their adoption of gay marriage (while overlooking the recent decline of the Southern Baptist Convention as mere happenstance). French doesn’t exactly invite open discussion on the topic at hand. Which- from a mere glance at Evans’ new book- was kind of her point.

But there is- at the heart of French’s fear-mongering- a pertinent question: is “liberal” theology destroying the American church?

In the aforementioned book Searching for Sunday, Evans joked that “you don’t have to believe much to be an Episcopalian.” (That’s the beauty of self-deprecation; Evans beat French to the punch.) This seems to give further validity to French’s point: Millennial Christians are looking for wide paths on ground that can only support narrow gates. 

Or are they?

I’m weary of any discussion on the state of the American church that draws lines based on “liberals” and conservatives.” But, if we’re dealing with the categories as French has arranged them, then we must also say that French represents a facet of American Christianity that is unwaveringly stubborn (or at least tone-deaf) to Millennial calls for reform. We have an arrogant belief in our own flexibility: “unity in non-essentials” we like to say. But who decides the “non-essentials”? In French’s world, it’s the conservatives. This, naturally, means that any congregation which supports gay-marriage has crossed a line from whence they can only return with sackcloth and ashes. That’s hardly flexible. And it’s as ineffective in promoting a theological way forward as was the Diet of Worms.

David French’s approach to the next chapter of the American Church is old and cliche. The use of statistics to measure the health of the church may be practical, but its not theologicalAnd it’s ridiculous- but thoroughly conservative- to quantify theological health with statistics; “well, churches who support homosexuality are shutting down, so obviously it’s decrepit theology.” We’re a religion begun by one man who gathered a small group of people and, with them, defied the religious majority of his age and the most dominant empire known to man. Jesus didn’t win the numbers game; but conservatives like French love to think they should and will. 

What is equally cliche is for conservatives to hang the fate of Christ’s church on a single, politically charged issue. Christ’s gospel does not hinge on preservation of traditional family values, pro-life movements, or Reformed Theology any more than it does on hymns and liturgy. The gospel of Jesus Christ hangs on a cross and pours out of an empty grave. French may decry the “inclusivist” mentality that’s seeping into American churches; but its equally valid to decry the moralistic agendas that attempt to roll the stone back over the grave.

And if we’re really trying to move the church forward, then fear-mongering is an unhealthy way to go about it. French operates under the belief that liberal notions, like the “gay-agenda”, will overtake and destroy the church. So Emperor Nero couldn’t wipe out Christ’s followers but the gay couple on my block will see it through? Thinking such as this is why most theological circles can’t take Evangelicals seriously.

Perhaps ‘liberal’ churches are too lenient. And that’s nothing to disregard. But conservative churches, if we’re playing off stereotypes, have a tendency to kick you while your down then slam the door in your face. Don’t get me wrong-if you fix yourself, then they’ll gladly let you back in. The prodigal son sent a wonderful precedent for church potlucks. But some scars don’t fade. As many know all too well.

So which would Jesus abhor? The wide gate or the harsh Pharisee?

It’s not for me to say. But I think we ought to at least be fair in saying- be we “progressives” or “conservatives”- that the other side, though maybe not right for us, isn’t authoritatively wrong. I’m sure this notion makes David French’s skin crawl. But a dose of practical humility would’ve helped things in 1521. And it would really help things now.

I don’t consider myself a progressive. I don’t consider myself a traditionalist either. I consider myself a Christian and an Evangelical one at that. Yet I feel myself being pushed out of my pew. And I don’t want to leave. But it’s increasingly difficult-especially when encountering voices like Mr. French’s- to find reason to stick around.

Unless, of course, I care less about my theological agenda and more about the church

David French might find it absurd that I could allow a gay person to become a member of my church. That’s fine. I find it absurd that he would see this as a threat to Christ. On the other side of the coin, Evans might find it absurd that I support pro-life movements as opposed to advocating for women’s rights and women’s health. That’s fine, too. Let’s all go to Christ’s table together.  

Because it’s within the questions we ask, within the disagreements in humility, that the noise fades and we can hear when Christ calls us to the table. And he calls us to stop quarreling, stop drawing lines, stop slapping labels and making moral diagnosis; he calls us instead to sit and eat and drink and maybe even laugh. He calls us to realize we’re all human and we’re all feasting on his grace together. 

Are liberals really killing the church? I doubt it. And even if they are, even if all the hordes of evil should assemble on red and blue donkeys, I still maintain that Christians shouldn’t be worried. After all, as Rachel Held Evans reminds us:

“Death is something empires worry about, not something resurrection people worry about.”

Which is to say that- worst case scenario- if ‘liberals’ do manage to kill the church, they might prompt the resurrection we’re all are together waiting for, the resurrection we all truly need.

It’s not likely. But it’d be nice.