Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Whoa that lovin' feelin'...
By way of Mark Byron, a blogstud, I found out that Something Understood doesn't understand something, namely, the modern young evangelical movement (for lack of a better term), especially among bloggers.
He notes that "the bulk of these sites are from fairly young people, 16-24 years old, and from that particular profile... does it have a name? Non-denominational, Biblically literalist, listening to lots of CCM, attending huge Christian rallies, singing what one 60 year old Episcopalian friend calls "lots of 'I' hymns", fairly anti-sacramental, anti-catholic, anti-mainstream, and anti-homosexual." I fit at least some of most of these descriptions. I'm 21 and usually attend non-denominational services at NLCF, at Navigator Rallies, or at McLean Bible Church, though I know my way around Liberal, Evangelical, and Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian/Anglican services. I believe that one's "default" position for interpreting the Bible should be to assume that something is literal, though it is good to remember that there is also a lot of allegory and metaphor present as well (one problem is that there isn't much awareness of even current idiom in our culture today, much less that used by the ancient Hebrews). I do listen mostly to CCM, though I'll admit that a lot of what's out there is dreck and that there are plenty of good mainstream songs to which I'll often listen. More often than not, it's actually the personality of the DJs and the constant commercials that keep my radio off. The praise songs do tend to be more self-focused, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as most Episcopalian hymns are pretty awful (Mighty Fortress is notoriously bad). If you don't like songs such as Take My Life (Holiness), You Are My King (Amazing Love), My Glorious, Shout to the North, or I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, then in my opinion, you're probably not the person to ask about young people (I'll leave out ones like the Happy Song and CCM songs like Jesus Freak and Wilderness for the sake of not freaking the mainliners too much). I'm down with sacraments, though that's probably due to in large part to my Anglican background. I don't have anything against Catholics, but I do think the Roman Catholic Church has some serious problems right now which they need to sort out. We tend to think of mainliners as "tares among the wheat" unless demonstrated otherwise, and there isn't much of a distinction in our minds between them and "Easter Christians." As for being anti-homosexual, there is very little debate that homosexuality practiced is a sin. Whether it's a big sin or a little sin, we're against it.
Now, Spivey doesn't understand what makes the movement (or as Dr. Byron calls it, pardoning his German, the zeitgeist) "tick." Several things seem to do so. Firstly, a lot of Millenials were raised by parents who, while good and decent folk, basically viewed church as something optional, or at best something to be left to Sunday mornings, before the football game. You go, there are various ceremonies which you don't fully understand, a brief lecture, some singing of hymns you find boring, and then hanging around for a little while in your dress clothes. You'll notice that most teenagers and young adults aren't huge fans of doing things they don't at least think they understand, being lectured, listening to music they don't like, and wearing dress clothes. There have been an awful lot of times when I went to traditional services at a mainline church, only to find myself the only young person there, sometimes by several decades. Everyone seems sedated, and very few people seem like they really want to be there. The minister/priest/rector uses things that you don't really encounter in your daily life as the basis of his sermon, and then you've got organ music and hymns that are decades or centuries old (and often originally written in a foreign language). If you're an Episcopalian, you notice that your denomination doesn't seem to be all that serious about following its own doctrine, and even after years of attendance you still don't really know what separates you from Methodists, other than that they tend to have better hymns and don't have kneeling benches.
At these non-denominational churches, the most dressed-up you'd get is a sweater and khakis. There's music that you like (often rock music), a sermon about issues you're dealing with such as sexual morality, what to do with your life, and living a Christian lifestyle given by someone not more than twenty years older than you. Afterwards, you and your friends, and possibly people you met that day, go out and have lunch together. There are often evening services, which are also nice. There's typically a whole network for getting involved with small Bible studies, social outings, mission trips, and there are people there to help you better understand Church beliefs and clarify your own.
Whether fairly or not, mainline churches are viewed as undersincere, stodgy, and boring. Young evangelicals are sick of denominational infighting, of secular society making fun of Christians and endorsing anti-Christian attitudes and ideas, of pretending to be something you're not instead of coming as you are, of having church be a chore instead of a joy, and having people who are older and who should be wiser pussyfooting around important aspects of the faith. We want to give our time to mentor a child, go on a mission trip to help out in the Ukraine or Tanzania, or build houses for the needy. We don't want to go to chuch picnics, serve on the Building and Grounds committee, or be told to be joyous because it's the third Sunday of Pentecost or Koinonia or whatever. There's room for a little more sacerdotalism, I think, but sacerdotalism is also what twice caused the destruction of the Temple, of Moses' rod, and the Reformation, so it may be better to err on the side of caution.
UPDATE: Although new to the Land o' Links, Post-Modern Pilgrim has some thoughts on this subject.