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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Dear Indiana, This Is NOT Religious Freedom

bigstock-Indiana-USA-flag-waving-on-t-57892469

 

Dear Indiana,

You’re a nice state. I mean, you’ve got Bloomington and the Colts, dunes on Lake Michigan, cornfields, windmills, country concerts and the world’s best funnel cakes at your county fairs. You have a lot going for you.

But if there’s one mark against you, its last week’s signing of ‘The Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ by Governor Mike Pence. The act allows for the citing of religious beliefs as a defense for anyone prosecuted by a private party for discrimination. The main concerns with this legislature regard treatments of same-sex couples. Because Indiana business owners now are legally protected from ramifications for their refusal to serve, sell, aid or cater to gay persons on the basis of personal convictions.

“I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Governor Pence said in a very private, quiet ceremony last week.

Which is ironic. Because this is not religious freedom.

The legislative mandate that I am able to deny someone else goods or services because I judge their beliefs as being in opposition to mine, creates a dangerous paradigm. As a Christian, I am now protected in openly and publically refusing mechanical assistance, food services, and even banking to someone, just because they are gay. Take a moment to tinker with that sentence; remove the words “Christian” and “gay” and insert “Aryan” and “Jewish” in their stead. Try it with “white” and “black.” Are you nervous yet?

This is why history books will one day recognize the gay rights movement as another sad chapter in the story of the American Church.

Because we, as American Christians, have proven once again that we will go to great lengths to avoid our oppression. We’ve proven that our knee-jerk reaction to the slightest scent of persecution is to rise up and pull whatever political strings are necessary to ensure that we are safe. It doesn’t matter who isn’t protected, just so long as we’re left unscathed.

Thus, in an effort to avoid being oppressed, the Church willingly takes on the role of oppressor.

This is not religious freedom. And it certainly is not Christian.

We would be wise- in debates such as these- to reconsider our earthly role as the body of Christ. Because the calling of the Christian is not to legislate our beliefs. The Biblical mandate for Christian relationships with earthly kingdoms is not to force them into alignment with our personal journeys of sanctification. Rather, God commands that the church be a city on a hill, a vibrant example of Christ’s love in contrast to the world’s corruption, evil, oppression and hate.

We ought not say: “let us ensure that our’s is a Christian government.” Because it never will be.

Rather, what we should be saying, what we should be living, is a life that tells the world: “Look at how nations go to war and kill each other- we Christians love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. Look at how the kingdoms are enthroned with power and money- we Christians share possessions openly with everyone. Look at how governments close borders to refugees in need- we Christians open our houses to anyone. Look at how people discriminate and hurt, we Christians love and cherish the marginalized, broken and yes- even the sinful. Lest we forget the log in our own eye.”

But we cannot say this. Not right now, anyway. We’re too busy protesting, arguing and advocating for our ‘rights.’ When we’ve accomplished that, we might see to those of others. Maybe.

Which is to say every Christian in Indiana and the rest of America should look upon this law with ominous shudders because of the precedent it establishes for those Christians across the globe who really are facing persecution. Today, thousands of Christians live under the oppression of radical religious rule (have we forgotten the plight of Iraqi Christians under ISIS who are forced to pay a hefty tax or convert?). Christians live in fear, many unable to attain basic services or earn a living. They are boycotted, robbed, beaten and sometimes killed. All this because a radical Muslim’s expression of their religious convictions is protected by their judicial law.

And that’s not religious freedom.

True, refusing to serve someone at the local diner doesn’t equate to beating them and taking their wallet. But history tells us- again, Germany circa 1935- that its not too far behind. And it’s a slippery slide.

To many of us, this law will be of little concern. We will never feel its ramifications. Maybe this is because we don’t live in Indiana. Maybe it’s because we’re part of the religious status quo. Maybe it’s because we’re too busy making sure that religious freedom means: “I’m safe and I’m free.”

But -if we’re being honest, Indiana- we know that this is not religious freedom. It’s the tyranny of self-interest. And it’s been the go-to reaction of American Christians for far too long.

The issue of homosexuality is a real one. It is an issue of moral and theological implications that all Christians should grapple with. But someone else’s conviction regarding their sexuality has nothing to do with Christ’s mandate that- above all else- I am to show love, hospitality, generosity, empathy and care.

We must come to value the freedom of Christ more than our ‘freedom of religion.’ The freedom of Christ moves us to find new ways to love all others at all times. And it certainly doesn’t allow us to go on a legislative binge whenever we get the sense that culture is treading on our toes.

My hope is that one day the American Church will be known, not for the legislature we erect in self-defense, but for the dividing walls we destroy with our love. It can happen. And in the grand scheme of things, Indiana, you’re not a bad place to start.

After all, you have funnel cakes.

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Sincerely,

A Christian in support of freedom

 

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P.S. And, by the way, what exactly is a ‘Hoosier??’

 

 

 

The Truth Doesn’t Have To Shame

The Truth Doesn't Have To Shame

I’m a student at an evangelical seminary. One of the classes I’m required to take is a course on sexual ethics. We recently had a class discussion about the following case study: at a youth group meeting, one of the students-a young woman- was asked to share some words regarding her personal beliefs about God and sex. So, in front of all the other youth, she stated that she was sexually active with her boyfriend. At first, she said, they fought through guilt and sought forgiveness from the Lord. But eventually they came to the decision that since it felt good and made them happy, then it must be what God wanted for them. And so they planned to keep having sex.

We were asked, as a class, to analyze and discuss the ethical framework and worldview that undergirded her words. We were also asked how we would respond if this young woman came to us for moral guidance.

A twenty-something male student raised his hand and gave the following answer:

“When counseling this young woman, I would start by telling her that her behavior is totally outside the Christian worldview of sex.”

The discussion continued and class eventually ended. I went on with my day and returned home that evening. But, even after several hours, I still couldn’t get this statement out of my head.

It occurred to me that this statement represents a common attitude among Christians, one that is pervasive but also problematic. The statement made by my colleague reflects, not just a flaws in his approach to ministry, but amendable flaws that exist within the evangelical brand of Christianity.

The first flaw is that this approach begins with telling, which is neither helpful nor Christ-like. A Christian should be quick to listen. So often we hastily arrive at a spiritual diagnosis and immediately move forward with our prescribed course of treatment that we forget we are dealing with a human-being. In my social work education, we were continually reminded that the core conditions that must be present in order to help anyone are empathy, genuineness, and respect. If you aren’t willing to start there, then you shouldn’t be surprised when you can’t get anywhere. I wondered if that girl would have access to any of those in an evangelical church.

An analogous biblical example is the woman at the well. Empathy is seen in Jesus’s thirst. He begins his interaction by asking her for water. The great and powerful Messiah has humbled himself to the point of relying on another to provide for one of the most basic human needs. If sympathy is feeling for, then empathy is feeling with. “We’re both humans living in the desert. It’s hot. Care to share a drink together?” That’s empathy.

Jesus goes on to speak frankly with her about her marital relationships. The conversation is open and honest, or shall we say, genuine. He offers intimate parts of his own self as he requests the same from her. His authenticity doesn’t mean that he avoids the real truth issues. Far from it, his genuineness helps creates a context in which transformative communication can occur.

The second flaw in the student’s comment is the notion that Christians exist to give answers. This superiority complex is pervasive and damaging. We hide behind the assurance that walking someone through what the Bible says fulfills the responsibility we have to them. Our primary motivation becomes not helping but ensuring our viewpoints have been adequately expressed.

In the professional world this is called “covering your ass” and the attitude is all-too prevalent in the church. But we like to spiritualize it: “I told her what God thinks. Now it’s on her. My hands are clean and I’ll sleep easy tonight because I just scored another truth point for the gospel.” Walking someone through what “the Bible says” falls short of our full and true ministry calling, which is to walk with others through life. When we sacrificially offer ourselves to others, then we can hope that they will trust us enough to listen to what we are called to teach.

The final flaw with the statement the idea that, as Christians, we are authorized to speak to whomever about whatever, provided that it’s “in the name of Jesus.” At times it is neither prudent nor tactful to address a situation. And there are often other people whom are better equipped to speak into someone’s life. Is it even appropriate for an adult male to address and educate a teenage female on sexual matters? As Christians, I hope that we can instinctively call such circumstances into question.

Because we all play certain roles in the lives of those around us. The role of a parent has greater permission to speak into someone’s life than the role of a neighbor. And Christians need- especially when it comes to issues regarding sexuality- to discern how to identify and best operate according to the limits of the role we have in another’s life. We don’t need to play the prophet and intervene in every situation, especially when socially unwelcome or inappropriate.

As Christians, we carry a message of truth. But, being followers of Christ, we should be weary if not entirely avoidant of using this truth as a means of casting shame upon those around us. Jesus calls us to be as wise as serpents yet as innocent and gentle as doves. Discussions on personal matters of sexuality demand such a posture. When we lose our gentleness and wisdom, our truth does nothing to help people. Instead, we inadvertently heap burdens of shame where we should be pouring grace.

Let us not be known as those who spread shame in the name of truth; rather, let us be known as those who freely grant grace in the name of Christ.

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Burton is a Master of Divinity student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. His educational and professional background is in social work and he intends to bring that experience to future ministry within the church. His passion is to see the church fulfill her role of being a place where those on the margins of society can find their true home. He can be followed at: instagram.com/burtola

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