“I grew up very religious, and I was taught to think that people with alternative lifestyles were just ‘confused.’ But now it seems to me that gender and sexuality are so bendable and flexible. I’ve been going to a lot of poetry readings lately, and people present themselves in such raw forms. And they don’t seem confused at all. They are being so honest and transparent in their poetry. How are you supposed to object and say that ‘who they are’ is wrong?”
I read this statement on Facebook this morning and it so clearly communicates the current mindset of younger generations in many parts of the world.
“How would I respond?” I ask myself. Part of me feels like Jesus standing before Pilate, who when faced with a multitude of accusations and questions remained silent. Nothing Jesus could say would have made any difference.
“What would you say, how do you respond?”
The truth is that we in the Christian church have to respond; we are not Jesus and silence is not an option. It’s almost a cliché to say that the world has changed so much in the space of one or two generations. Evidence of the change is visible in our small town of Port Alberni where once-thriving churches have been sold off in the last ten years. They are now funeral homes, fish and chip shops, fitness centres, or even demolished. The ‘old ways of doing things’ have clearly been rejected – whether we agree, approve, or not.
In a book I’m presently reading around this topic the author describes the cultural mindset voiced on Facebook this morning…..
Changing entertainment has had a huge effect on the harvest field. The Internet, movies, music, television and even sports are quietly and effectively infiltrating Western values ideologies into people’s thinking, shifting the worldviews of entire cultures. Kids today spend a great deal of time indoors on the computer. They communicate through instant messaging, watch movies and play video games in place of traditional larger-group activities that are more active and involve more face-to-face collaboration. As a result, the mindsets and though processes of this emerging generation are very different than those of their predecessors.
As a culture, our worldview has changed. The emerging generation has been raised in an absence of absolutes and clear definitions of right and wrong and is consistently wounded by a barrage of victimization and sin. In the meantime, relativism and New Age values have permeated our culture and created an environment that is hostile to Christian beliefs. Christianity and Jesus are perceived to be irrelevant, outdated and narrow-minded. No one is interested in “old” thinking. This strong, almost drastic shift toward this entirely new way of viewing truth has become one of the greatest challenges to the Church….The emerging generation is typically young, urban and uninterested in Christianity. (Revival Culture – Michael Brodeur and Banning Liebscher)
This could be very depressing reading causing us to despair, but take heart. Basically what is being rejected is an institutionalized religion where it is perceived that some have the answers and declare to everyone else what to do and how to think. The younger generation is quite right to reject conformity and old traditions – without question. They are right to seek for deeper answers and to demand that all people are loved and accepted for who they are. It is responsible to question the judgemental and often cold ‘Bible-based’ directives that trample over human beings in pursuit of obedience to a distant God and adherence to ‘The Ten Commandments’. All of that is ‘religion’ in its most unattractive form.
The problem is that “I grew up very religious,” describes everyone’s childhood. Religion is a belief system informing worldviews and values. Everyone has a worldview/belief system – even if we regard religion as worthless. It’s still a value system through which we interpret life and according to which we live our lives. It is healthy to stop and reflect at some point in one’s life and question the ‘religion’ of our childhood. “Why do I believe this, or reject that?”
If I’m going to debate the issue of sexuality and God’s truth it’s probably not going to be helpful to declare the ‘answer – in my opinion’ so much as discuss who is God? When Jesus revealed himself as God so many people were taken by surprise precisely because he didn’t argue many issues or point fingers at particular lifestyles. Instead he befriended men and women in the context of their lives. It was the quality of his integrity, friendship and love that shone a light which caused them to reconsider, reflect and even ask questions of themselves. They too rejected ‘religion’ but were hungry for authenticity, acceptance, and relationship.
No, I don’t believe that gender and sexuality are bendable and flexible. Neither do I believe that because I experience something sincerely and deeply it means that it must be universally true. I suppose I could dredge up facts and figures to produce a compelling argument supporting my beliefs but who will be listening? Probably only those who agree with me. The people I really want to engage will have switched off because they ‘know what’s coming’ from a typical Christian pastor.
Answering the question is relatively easy. Being heard is the challenge. So I’m learning from Jesus that at times it’s best to be silent and allow friendship, acceptance, and love to step out first and build a bridge where perhaps in the future we can communicate better around more controversial and sensitive topics.