Thursday, October 01, 2009

What Angie Said

Today, my friend Angie said something on the facebook which got me thinking. Her status update and subsequent explanation are below:

I had waaaay too much to say about this than what could fit into a facebook reply box.

So I'm writing it here instead. Warning: This may not make much sense.

First of all, I agree! It does seem that the church, on a constantly larger scale, is becoming more and more anti-"stereotypical church." And exactly as she said, more and more of us talk about how bad of a job we do as Christians and how we suck at doing what Jesus told us to do.

So why is this a new problem?

Is this a new problem?

Is this a problem?

I would contend that this is a natural progression. That not only is it natural, but it is good and it is necessary. I believe that any form of change (be it individual or corporate) requires looking at how you currently behave, assessing that behavior and then deciding to continue in it or alter it. We call this repentance when we do it individually....I don't have enough terminology to know what we call it in a corporate sense, so I'm going to guess corporate repentance. Ha!

I believe this shift happens in many different scales; be they individual, congregational, denominational, generational, or when we as a species transition from one philosophical age to another.

I would argue that it seems to be prevalent right now, because so many of these shifts are happening simultaneously.

First of all, humanity has begun to dip its toes into the frigid waters of the post-modern pond. We are slowly but surely moving out of the era of modernity into post-modernity. This warrants much more of a discussion than a simple few minutes of a blog post. But it is happening.

Post-modernity is not about moral relativism, lack of absolute truth, godlessness, or anything else like that. Post-modernity is also not entirely about philosophical post modernism. You don't need post modernism philosophy to understand post modernity.

Easy eh?

Post-modernity is only the age that would logically come after modernity. Just as 'modern' could also be labeled as 'post-medieval,' so post-modern is just the generic name of the stage that comes after modernity. And we are living in it, right now. Post-modernity isn't something to fear, though it is something very much different from modernity. Post-modernity is directly affected by having gone through modernity, and is birthed  specifically from what happened during that period of time. Just as an adolescent is shaped by their childhood, or an adult is greatly influenced (at least, while shortly after leaving it) by their own adolescence, so too is post-modernity shaped and birthed by modernity.

At the same time, we have an entire generation (and a half, for that matter) that is entirely birthed in post-modern times. The younger generation that is now teenagers and young adults knows of no other experience besides post-modernity. This creates a large conflict when presented with the modern mindset, interpretations, philosophies, theologies, and behaviors of the older generations.

Quite simply, the Christianity of the past 50-60 years does not fit with the realities of life that many in their 30's and younger have experienced. Therefore, there is resistance, and there is rebellion.

This is much greater and more substantial than simply rebelling against the prevailing authority, or rebelling "like all kids do." These are not kids that are rebelling. These are older teenagers, 20 year olds and 30 year olds. These are adults. This is not a simple rebellion, this is an entire philosophical and sociological shift.

One of the ideas being passed around, and that is gaining more and more traction deals with the current recession. And that idea is that our "recession" isn't so much of a recession. Granted, by the definition of recession, it certainly is. But it's more than that. It's a new economy. Things won't go back to 'the way they were,' and by attempting to force them to do so, you are shooting yourself in the foot and holding back real progress. This is not an abandonment of capitalism or endorsement of an alternate economic system, but an understanding that there is an economic shift occurring. Just as we are not dealing with an economic recession, but an entire new economy, so too are we not dealing with a 'generational rebellion' but an entirely new pattern of thinking and living. A new pattern that will become ubiquitous, and that attempts to quell it, will end up being counter productive.

And so what happens when this occurs in the church?

Well, you get people who write blogs, books, and sermons about how the church isn't being the church. You get a continued push that somewhere we have 'lost our way' and people are attempting to reclaim "true" Christianity (which is equally a fallacy...but still). They are not necessarily trying to reclaim "true" Christianity, but a Christianity which fits into the realities of post-modernity. A message of Jesus that makes sense in this day and age.

I believe that Jesus' message is timeless. That is, it should make sense to all generations. And when it does not make sense, I believe we have added something to it which does not belong. We have encased it in the mindset of the previous age, and when that age no longer makes sense, neither does the message that is covered by it. I believe it is the additions which do not make sense in light of our current worldview, and it is the additions that need to be isolated and removed.

So back to what I said before, we're just dipping our toes into the pond. And we're not exactly sure yet how deep it is. That is to say, we can clearly see what does not work...but we haven't yet discovered what does.

We don't know precisely what Christianity looks like in post-modernity...but we know what it does not look like, and those are the things that many are trying to push aside.

So we're still in the early stage of repentance, that of recognizing the problem and removing it. We haven't entered clearly into the next part, of replacing what we have removed. We are so focused on what is wrong with what we see, but we don't quite know what to put in its place.