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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Fellow Christians, THIS Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

this is why we can't have nice things

Nice things like respect and social admiration. Nice things like good radio and romantic novels that aren’t pre-cycled TP. Nice things like a fair historical analysis (are you sick of “Hitler was a Christian!” yet?) nice things like positive perceptions in the media.

It’s because of things like this:


That’s a handwritten lawsuit from a certain Nebraska resident who claims to be representing Jesus Christ and God in a lawsuit against- and oh, how I wish I was kidding- all homosexuals.

Yeah, uh:


The self appointed plaintiff goes on to: “Contend that homosexuality is a sin, and that they the homosexuals know it is a sin to live a life of homosexuality. Why else would they have been hiding in a closet.” (punctuation and word order as per the original). As evidence for her proposition, the plaintiff presents passages from Leviticus, Romans and “Jenesis”.

Thankfully, the lawsuit was thrown out without so much as a hearing. Said Judge John Gerard: “A federal court is not a forum for debate or discourse on theological matters.”   

This is beyond embarrassing. Its beyond an eye-roll and a sigh. Because, unfortunately, its sickeningly diagnostic.

What is it about the issue of homosexuality and the American church that makes us look so buffoonish? What is it about the topic of homosexuality that leaves us perpetually (but remarkably unknowingly) putting our feet in our mouths?

We claim to listen to Scripture, but instances such as this make that a hard claim to purport (cf: 1 Corinthians 6:1-20 & John 8:7). Additionally, the problem is continually revealed to be that we don’t listen to culture. We don’t listen to culture and so we don’t have the slightest clue of how to address culture . We listen to our Christian subculture- yes- and from thence we attempt to blast our intellectually incestuous rhetoric into ‘the world’. Which goes over like a pork pizza at a Bar Mitzvah.

It is not the calling of the church to conform the world to our standards; its the calling of the church to conform ourselves to God’s grace. There’s no room in said job description for applying diagnostic morality vis a vi legislation. None. Nu-uh.

Jesus said that the world would hate us because he is not of the world. But- generally speaking- the “world” doesn’t hate the American church; hate would signify some level of adversarial respect. Culture doesn’t take us seriously enough to hate us.

Uh…^^^^^…. can you blame them?

Please take note of the pronoun here: “we.” I want to be clear that I consider myself to be in the same camp. For, as my pee-wee football coach used to say: we win as a team, we lose as a team. My fellow Christians, we sin as individuals but we lose as a church. Doesn’t matter if its sexual sin or social sin- all of Egypt suffered even though only the Pharaoh told Moses “no”. God is concerned with broken systems just as much as he is concerned with broken people- his redemptive power is not limited contrary to our narcissistic notions.

And as a group we bear the following indictment: we don’t listen, we talk (he blogs, ironically). And because we don’t listen we can’t hear the laughter generated by our own absurdity.

The issue of homosexuality is not black and white. It is complex. Because it is a matter of sexuality. And sexuality has a lot to do with personhood and human beings are anything but black and white. And they certainly don’t fall under the label of “issues” nor should they ever be handled as such.

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy O’Toole profiles a man by the name of Ignatius J. Reilly. Ignatius is a poignant character by any standards. He’s fat, repulsively unkempt, given to unashamed bowel movements, loud, selfish, narcissistically arrogant and incestuously intellectual; he spends his days berating his mother and writing his uncompleted works of self-designated genius while bemoaning the ‘mongoloids’ that have overrun society. Examined theologically, Reilly serves as a startling portrayal of the state of the American church.

At one point, Reilly self-righteously bewails the moral decay of the miscreants with whom he finds himself forced to interact. In between audible bowel movements, Reilly proclaims:

“A firm rule must be imposed upon our nation before it destroys itself. The United States needs some theology and geometry, some taste and decency. I suspect that we are teetering on the edge of the abyss.”

Wait…was it Reilly– or did I read that in the handwritten lawsuit?

My point is that American Church is indeed on the edge of an abyss. But that abyss isn’t “the gay agenda”, it isn’t liberal disregard for Biblical authority or abandonment of loyal translations and submissions to church tradition. The abyss is that of our own making, the corner we’ve backed ourselves into, the mountain we’ve sworn we’ll die upon.

Because America is on the verge of entering the post-Christendom era, whence Christianity is being increasingly separated from matters of the state and quickly dethroned from its temporary role as a cultural authority. The icons we continue defending in the midst of so-called “culture wars” are not the gospel- after all, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword. What we’re defending is our own religion, the grip we have on Christianity as we know it, the grip that doesn’t allow for conversation because we’ve not stopped talking long enough to hear what the other side might have to say.

The posture of the American Church towards culture needs to be one of listening. Simultaneously, we ought not listen to Scripture- we ought to live it. And living in Biblical truth means living with great concern for how we portray that truth to those around us, for the stories we tell with the lives we lead.

It’s laughable to reduce that story to a handwritten lawsuit filed against someone else’s moral decision. Nor should we allow our story to be conveyed in anyway that it might be taken as such. The imperative is on us, not the culture; the teacher cannot blame the students for her shoddy communication.

If a 66 year-old lady from Nebraska can teach us anything (besides how ‘Genesis’ really should be spelt) its that it’s time we took a moment to listen.

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Hey Christians, Why Do We Suck At Apologizing?

Or: Against Crank Christianity

I recently came across an article about a church in South Carolina. According to the post, a South Carolina church is under fire due to the pastor dropping a racial slur in a recent sermon. Specifically, many in the diverse community of Newspring Church we’re angry because of how they believed Pastor Perry Noble jovially dropped the n-word during his Christmas Eve service.

The above recording of the video shows how – while not blatant- it’s contextually believable that Noble actually used the slur. And yet the church has denied responsibility, refusing to apologize. The church’s public relations director stated:

“We…stand by the message Perry gave to our church on (Christmas Eve). In regards to your question about the ‘N’ word, Perry doesn’t use that word and doesn’t address anyone in his life by such a word.  He did not use that word in his message and what you perceived as him doing so was [a] matter of words getting jumbled as can happen with anyone who is speaking.”

Now it’s understandable that the pastor may have misspoken. And it’s possible he was misheard. Even if the pastor had dropped the slur on accident, or even purposefully (in an incredible lapse of judgement), I still don’t think this would be as big an ordeal if it’d just been followed by a sincere apology. As one (ironically) atheist blogger said about the incident:

“The smart thing to do would be to apologize, even if it was, as his people claim, a misunderstood stumble.”

I couldn’t agree more. Is it really that difficult to just say “I’m sorry”?

Apparently it is.

Christians have earned a reputation of being quick to defend and slow to apologize. I want to here ensure that I emphasize my intentional use of the royal “we” throughout this post. For I am no different. In marriage, in work, in church and certainly in blogging, my immediate reaction is to throw punches, not apply neosporin to wounds I’ve already inflicted (upon all two of you who follow this blog regularly, bless your souls).

I’m not alone in this; it is the human tendency. And, with the onslaught of virtual communication, culture as a whole, and Christianity within it, has forgotten the impact of harsh words on a fellow human. We do not see tears, downturned eyes or tortured expressions when we launch a tirade against others online. In person we are exposed to the damage our words cause. But from behind a computer screen we are shielded.

In the wake of Mark Driscoll’s retirement and the disintegration of Mars Hill the evangelical community has witnessed the whiplash of abrasive pastoring. What has consistently made the situation infinitely worse is Driscoll’s well-earned reputation for half-baked apologies. When confronted with pages of disturbingly angry and chauvinistic blog posts from his first few years in ministry, Driscoll didn’t apologize. Rather, he noted that these comments were part of his “angry-young-prophet days” (Driscoll was 30 at the time). Even when Driscoll resigned from his position, he hardly apologized. Instead he made thorough mention of how hurt he was by the whole ordeal.

And the Driscollean method of pseudo-repentence is disturbingly present among Christians. Over the past 50 years, Christians have adopted an increasingly defensive stature towards culture. The onslaught of relativism has resulted in us viewing secular culture as a constant threat to our sanctity and even the validity of the gospel. Because of this, we have grown to adopt combative techniques of interacting with culture figuring that anyone who is turned off to our message by abrasive methods (such as Answers in Genesis’ recent Times Square advertisement addressed “to our intolerant liberal friends”)  is necessary collateral on the road to conquering culture for Christ. But the “culture” that threatens us is not an inanimate evil object. We don’t exist in some Tolkienian version of Middle Earth, waging war against the orcs and trolls of dark powers. Rather, the culture we seem intent on combating is made up of children, mothers, brothers…people. And the collateral of our combative nature is not conquered evil, but ugly defacing of Christ’s church.

This fall, blogger Matt Walsh published a post titled “Sorry, but its your fault if you’re offended all the time.” The post was a brash critique of what Walsh calls “the dexterity and athleticism with which we get offended.” Walsh employs pubescent doses of sarcasm to critique the tendency of contemporary culture to take offense. While there is certain validity to his point, Walsh’s methods of engaging culture aren’t exactly as ‘gentle as doves.’ Walsh is the same blogger who published, within hours of the beloved actor’s death, a post stating that “Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice.” The post went viral(surprise, surprise). And it produced many angry responses. Walsh did not post an apology for the insensitivity of publishing critical commentary on someone’s death within minutes of their passing. Instead he ran a second post, defending previous statements. Throughout his work, Walsh’s defensive and disarmingly passive-aggressive attitude appears with uncanny frequency. And it is all too symptomatic of our Christian culture. We love employing techniques that encourage us to defend first and only apologize if irrefutably necessary.

Samuel James, blogging at Patheos, has labeled this rhetorical movement as “crank conservatism.” I’m hesitant to adopt this label because I’ve seen the same techniques utilized by Christians across the spectrum. But the label “crank Christianity” is absolutely applicable to the current trend.

Often methods utilized by those like Walsh and Driscoll are then justified with biblical extrapolation. Some point out that Christ offended people too, so it’s obviously okay to step on culture’s toes. Other’s make an argument that goes along the lines of “the gospel message will offend those who aren’t saved.”

In response to such thinking we Christians need a heavy dose of humility. For one, we are not Jesus. Jesus was fully God and perfect in every way. So for him to verbally offend someone is entirely just. But it doesn’t give Christians permission, let alone mandate, such behavior. Just because a parent does something doesn’t mean a child can follow suit; the child rarely has the maturity required to properly mimic adult behaviors. To pretend otherwise is pretentious and often sinful on the part of the child.

Secondly, it ought to be noted that the group of people Jesus most readily offended were Pharisees, the religious elite if his time. For modern Christians to lob grenades of offense into culture and then turn around and say “well it’s okay that we offended people… Jesus pissed off the Pharisees” is inexcusably ironic and backwards.

Culture is not a fort to be taken, and the gospel is not a weapon to win it. Rather the gospel message is a city on a hill who’s governor has commanded it’s people to tear down the walls. But instead of destroying the walls, or even opening the gates, we have a tendency to build them higher with careless words, insensitivity and an unbiblical “us verses them” mentality. And when people are uninspired or incapable of building ladders to scale these walls, we scoff at their retreating silhouettes on the horizon and think: “Good riddance, Jesus did the same thing.”

But he didn’t. Jesus smashed down the gate. He tore open the curtain. He demolished the walls of his city. He invited everyone to his wedding feast. And the pen he used to sign invitations was the Cross.

As Christians, we’ve been commanded to do the same.

I understand that sometimes people can be unnecessarily offended. I know that culture can play the victim. Unjust accusations can and have been made. But I also know that human-beings aren’t collateral. Every person on the planet is someone that Christians have an obligation to love. They’re someone we’ve been commanded to care for, walk with and guide to the Cross. If our words demean them, if our techniques act as a stumbling block to someone else’s desire to hear Christ’s kingdom proclaimed, then we are not to be commended and certainly not to just shrug if off. As Paul once said: so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). And should we be accused unjustly, our reaction ought not be defensive but rejoice in the blessing Jesus himself promised (Matthew 5:11). Such joy should look like gracious interactions with culture- apologizing even when unnecessary- not a “NU-UH!!!!”-ish retort.

I hope Pastor Noble apologizes and soon. And I hope spotlight Christians such as Walsh and Driscoll are increasingly convicted by Christ’s invitation to all and offense of a few. We cannot please everybody. But we should be weary of offending the majority by empowering the select and elitist minority.

I hope and pray that my words do not come across as demeaning, hurtful or slanderous. But if they do, I pray for the humility to promptly and sincerely apologize. With such an attitude, it’s possible that “crank Christianity” may one day see its end.

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