“Beyond the desert of criticism, we wish to be called again…the same passion which leads us away from God can also lead us back to God and to our true selves.”
Richard Rohr, as cited by Sarah Bessey
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:
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:
34.) The phrase “Touched by an Angel” prompts nostalgia, and this never seemed weird to you….until now.
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:
- Churches seem overprotective.
- Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
- Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
- Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
- They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
- 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.