When it comes to high-profile moral issues, younger evangelicals seem more at odds with older evangelicals than with secular culture.
And with that statement, so begins a new blog series: “Younger Evangelicals and the Culture Wars.”
THE INTER-GENERATIONAL CHASM
The May 8th vote on Amendment 1 in North Carolina punctured a high pressure system that has exploded into the blogosphere. You can almost hear the un-stitching of the fabric binding older generations of Christians with younger generations. Tearing free from our forbears feels like an urgent necessity. The growing distance so poignantly sensed between 20-/30something Christians and those in their 40s and beyond just got wider. And this inter-generational chasm is now highly public fare.
“You are losing me.” That twist on David Kinnaman’s latest book may sum it up quite well.
But maybe “We are leaving you” is more to the point.
We are not all just lost or stranded. Many of us are willingly heading for that red glowing “EXIT.” But not necessarily from the church (which is more the focus of Kinnaman’s research). Many of us are explicitly vocal that we are indeed Christians… we just want to make it clear that we are The Next Christians (title from Gabe Lyons) who are finding A Faith of our Own (title from Jonathan Merritt). A conscious inter-generational divorce seems to be steadily underway.
From what I have seen of their material, Kinnaman, Lyons and Merritt have given us some intelligent and ultimately edifying material to guide us through this volatile territory (I certainly mean no ill-will in my reference to their fine works!).
It is worth wondering though, if, at the popular level, the situation seems akin to the embarrassment of a teenager on family vacation at the beach—you know, when hanging out with newfound friends in the same peer group is awkwardly interrupted by a socially un-savvy aunt who calls you by a juvenile nickname you did not supply to your new friends and tells you it’s time for supper.
Of course, the stakes are much higher than the vain insecurities attending a teenager’s reputation among peers. The culture’s perception of Jesus and the Gospel is at stake. And for many of us, the “EXIT” to which we rush leads not so much to the sanctuary’s back door; it just leads to a different room from where all the older adults are having a potluck in the fellowship hall.
But potlucks can be awesome. And awkward aunts can actually be quite enjoyable….
In this new series, co-blogger Joel and I are exploring the complexities of the war on the culture wars. We want to listen carefully to the melange of voices. And we want to ask the right questions. Here is one to start with:
IS THE CALL TO END THE CULTURE WARS A NEW WAR, BUT ONE THAT PITS CHRISTIANS AGAINST CHRISTIANS?
The post opened with this observation: younger evangelicals seem more at odds with older evangelicals than with secular culture.
We should ask, do young Christian adults identify better with non-Christian peers within the social sphere of young adult culture or with older Christians within the social sphere of the church?
Distancing ourselves from older Christians is, to a large extent, missionally motivated. We cherish the Gospel so much that we regret its unfaithful depiction by our (living) forbears. For the young evangelicals who have been so vocal since May 8, it is axiomatic that engaging culture through legislative and political means is at best a dangerous strategy. Jesus himself seemed quite ambivalent toward the political machinations of his day: “render unto Caesar…” (Lk 20:25).
But less noble motives may be plaguing this intra-church war against the culture wars. It is worth checking those motives carefully. Because if we are laying down arms once arrayed against the culture to take up new arms arrayed toward our own church family, then that is something over which Jesus is certainly not ambivalent: “keep them in Your name… that they may be one” (Jn 17:11).
CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT: MEANS OR VALUES?
This post will end with another question to be taken up for further consideration presently: is it the means of cultural engagement with which we are at odds… or are we also opposed to the actual values? In other words, is our ire directed solely against the way (means) older generations in the church have addressed the culture, or are we upset because we have now embraced the values those generations have attacked?