Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Question for a Tuesday Afternoon

Why is it that, for young people bent on moving out of their sheltered evangelical upbringing, the next stop on the train is so often cynicism?

We live in a world in which many people are asking many good questions about the assumptions of the past century's christendom. Many are rightfully calling the church to task for errors we have made in our past. The Rob Bells, Erwin McManus's, Brian McLarens, and Donald Millers of the world are pushing the church into some new areas it needs to address. And part of that process is opening up to places we've been wrong in the past. Perhaps we did allow the trappings of modernity and white european males to dominate the Church for too long. Perhaps we did make some mistakes in attempting to create christianized versions of all-things worldly back in the 1980s (note: this tendency is still alive and well).

But where I hear Bell and Miller and McManus and McLaren poking and prodding in healthy directions, I keep coming across angry young Christians who are into full-blown cynicism. It's like they get the critique of the emergents or the postmoderns or the (insert critiquer here), but they stop there, right at the "here's everything that's wrong with the church" part. They don't seem to take the next step of "But the Church is the Bride of Christ, so I will do all I can to make her beautiful"

When MLK jr decided enough was enough, he set out to make a difference. When the Dalai Lama decided enough was enough, he began to work for change. But istm that many young Christians, when they tire of the Bibleman Jesus junk and schlocky Christian Music, simply give up, preferring to hang out at bohemian coffee shops and complain about "the church is just so hypocritical, man. It's just too modernistic for a pomo like me."

Is there something about Christianity that breeds cynicism? Or is it just kids these days?


Chad said...

quite frankly, sir, i don't think i'd worry about it - people are what they are and if the Church can't stand up to criticism from within, maybe those cynical voices are needed.

as to why cynics don't offer constructive criticism - those angry young people haven't (yet-?) taken ownership of the Church - it isn't "theirs" and they suffer no compunction to "fix" it. this may be due, in large part, to their culturally designated identity of "consumer" - these kids simply expect everything to be made right for them and don't know how to react when things aren't perfect, so they disengage and complain (like most people do when their consumer experience has been less than stellar)

i know that cynics can be won over (i offer myself as evidence of that), but i truly believe that is the work of the Spirit and i say: let things run their course, have faith in your God and things will work out in the end.

Kim said...

I think Chad's got a good point - that "consumer identity" is hard to shake. It's not just kids, Dan - people our/my age are right there with them!

I'll take it a step further and say that I believe cynicism is not such a bad place to be for a while. The hope is that eventually, those caught up in it - through the Holy Spirit - realize where they are and are then ready to make the choice to step out and be the bride of Christ. Unless you've wallowed in cynicism for a while with others, it's hard to help those still caught up in it.

I also think cynicism is normal in any circumstance where we've been profoundly disappointed by something or someone we truly believed in. My prayer, though, is when it happens, we don't stay there long. It gets pretty stinky after a while.